Monday, August 30, 2010

Moving up the Bay to Baltimore

Tuesday August 24- Monday August 30

Tuesday we wake to another cloudy day with a chance of rain but we are not going to hang around Reedville, we will take our chances with the weather. It is much cooler only 74º so we dress warmly and are under way by 8 AM. Once out of the creek and in Ingram Bay we are beating into 2-3 foot waves with the wind on our nose but we put the main up to try to ease some of the rocking horse motion. We do not have as far to go today, so once we clear the bay and turn north out in the Chesapeake we are still beating into the waves with an occasional 4 footer included making for a rough ride. We decide to tack our way up the Bay and motor sail to the wind. The day remains cool and cloudy but no rain for us. We arrive at the entrance to the Patuxent River, and head for Solomons Island, going in by Back Creek to Zahniser's Marina. It is hard to tell where one marina stops & another starts along these creeks, but with the help of the dock master waving us down we are docked by 3:30. This is a good size marina with a lot of boat work being done but they keep it very neat & clean. Has a swimming pool, restaurant and free courtesy bikes. As we travel north , I am finding the marinas all have their laundry rooms in the air conditioned buildings with the restrooms and showers, how sweet that is. Wish the marinas down south where it is HOT would do the same. I do some laundry and Steve washes the salt off the boat. Wednesday we get a couple of bikes and it always takes some time trying to adjust the seats, I am not real sure about mine but we head off to tour the Island, head south to “main” street, the only street with shops & restaurants. The back streets are residential but we ride along enjoying the cool weather with low humidity with the river on one side & the creek on the other. I decide my bike is too uncomfortable so as we head back, I take Steve's bike and he goes to change mine out for another one for him before we ride to the north side of the Island. Stop at the West Marine, my sail gloves are falling apart but they only have XXL so will have to wait on those, but look around at some other things while we are there and price the oil so we will stop back by later to get oil here at a lower price then the marina. Find the two grocery stores and check them out as we will have to come back later to do some provisioning. Stop and have some lunch and we have covered most of the Island. Head back to the boat and defrost the freezer, make a list of the things we need. One of the grocery stores works with the marinas and they give you a ride back to the marina, it is the smaller of the two but a closer walk to get there. Stopping at the liquor store on the way there & filling up the backpack. Do our grocery shopping and get a ride home from one of the ladies who works there. Dinner that night at the marina restaurant to celebrate 5 months of cruising, as we watch the full moon come up over the marina, life is good. Thursday we leave at 10:30 it is a beautiful warm day with calm seas as we enter the mouth of the Patuxent River to go around Cove Point turning north into the Chesapeake. The wind is just off the nose so we are motor sailing with the main up. Steve is fine in shorts & T-shirt but with the wind and the shade from the bimini I am actually cold so have a blanket around me & it feels wonderful. We have a nice ride up the bay and turn off into West River then Rhode River where we are anchored in a great spot by 5:30. Friday, after it warms up from the low of 68 overnight, we get the motor on the dinghy, and start off to explore the area. We head over to the populated side of the river and notice the motor sounds a little off, so after checking out the many little creeks going back into neighborhoods we go back to the boat for lunch and for Steve to check the motor. As we are having lunch we notice several more boats coming into the anchorage. Once the motor is running better we head out to check on the unpopulated side of the river. A few homes but mostly woods, the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center owns 3000 acres along these shores to study the effects of the coastal zone, studying the effects of development on the wild life & the landscape. It is a beautiful undisturbed area and knowing how close it is to our nations capitol makes it that much more unique & special. Which is why as we are riding around more boats come into anchor, by the end of the day we have more than 20 additional boats in the anchorage. Still NOT crowded, just some of the locals getting away from the busier ports nearby for a quite weekend on the water. Saturday morning a pump out boat even shows up winding its way to the boats to see if anybody needs his service. Saturday we decide instead of pulling up anchor and taking the boat over to West River, to go to the “town” of Galesville we will take the dinghy over. It takes us 30 minutes maybe a little faster than if we took the boat since we were able to take short cuts through shallower water. It is a beautiful day starting to warm up again but still nice, we have the time, we like our anchorage, and it will be a good test for the dinghy motor. It was a nice little excursion seeing all the boats out in the bay, and the other river and side creeks. This river is a little more developed and actually has a couple of restaurants, one of which we stop for lunch at. Walk around a little after lunch to stretch and put off our 30 minute dinghy ride back to the boat. We learned that 30 minutes is probably as long of a ride we want to take in our dinghy. When we got back we noticed more boats coming into the anchorage, earlier some had left, with all the fabulous places to anchor it is easy to just go from one spot to the next. We relax in the cockpit watching the boats come into anchor. Sunday we did not have to hurry to leave since we were not going too far, just a little closer to Baltimore. We started to leave at noon and as Steve was doing his check of the engine oil he noticed a little diesel below the fuel pump for the generator, then when investigating the source of that leak found the power wires had pulled out of their crimped terminals. He removed the fuel pump for further investigation, and after a thorough inspection and cleaning found no problems, but when he went to reinstall the pump, found the temporary plugs he'd put in the fuel lines had leaked, and now there was a big pool of diesel in the engine compartment. He reinstalled the pump, tightening up the fuel hose clamps that were a little loose and the cause of the original leak, then cleaned up the diesel pool. The cause of the power wires pulling out turned out to be the wrong size terminals from whoever had installed the pump originally. They were for a smaller wire, so the wires never were properly crimped, and were probably just barely touching and making the electrical contact. He put the correct size terminals on, and powered up the pump, only to find it didn't make the clicking noise it used to make when running. He thought the motor must have died, but a check with the multimeter showed it was working, so he fired up the generator, and everything worked fine, in fact even better than before, no need to bleed the fuel line, even though air had obviously gotten into it from the leaks. He figures the clicking sound from the fuel pump we'd always heard was actually the pump starting and stopping as the power wires connected and disconnected from the pump with the bad terminals. So after an hour of pulling tools and parts out of places that require moving large parts of the boat inventory from place to place, cleanup and replacement, we are ready to go. Just another day in the life of cruising. We are underway by 1, starting at the mouth of the river we are dodging crab pots until we get into the deeper waters of the Chesapeake. Turn north and are able to motor sail with main & genoa. Sunday afternoon on the Chesapeake there are a lot of boats out, sail boats, motor boats, jet skis, along with the big ships and barges & tows it is a busy place. Pass under the Chesapeake Bay Bridge 182 foot clearance NO scraping problems here. Turn off at the Patapsco River then into Rock Creek and are anchored for the night by 5:30. Get great internet & TV reception not bad for being on the water. Monday we are under way by 9:30 heading for Baltimore. Not far to go just out the creek up the river, under the Francis Scott Key Bridge (185 ft. clearance) and have the city of Baltimore on the horizon in front of us. It is such a neat feeling coming into a city by water, passing by ships and seeing the city from the water side is unique experience. Steve found a GREAT deal at Center Dock Marina right in the middle of the inner harbor area of the city and we are docked by 11:30. Apparently they have 4 side tie docks that are part of a non-profit organization called Living Classrooms, so for $250 a WEEK we have a dock, electric included that we have booked for two weeks during which time I will make a trip back to Texas to visit Family & Friends while Steve stays with the boat here in Baltimore.

Link to pictures;

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Portsmouth & Norfolk Virginia

Friday August 20 – Monday August 23

We have a great view from our anchorage looking across the Elizabeth River at Norfolk and being able to see Portsmouth behind us. After anchoring we spend the afternoon relaxing on the boat. Winds have died down and it is hot & humid so we are waiting to go into Portsmouth to walk around & find a place for dinner when it cools down a little. We go to the nearby Tidewater marina and tie off by what passes as a dinghy dock. A nice marina with a floating pool, restaurant & ships store that we stop at to get a map of the town and a visitors guide book. Walk into town through the historic district, passing by some neat old homes & buildings on beautifully tree lined streets. Stopping to read some of the history plaques & notice there is also an old mildew smell to the area. The area is clean but with all the shade, moss & mildew grow along the sidewalks. We go to High Street the “main drag” checking out the different restaurants. We notice there are no crosswalk signs telling you when to cross, that is because It is a very pedestrian friendly city where pedestrians have the right of way. Both Portsmouth & Norfolk have a long history with the Navy & ship building. A lot of battles were fought in these waters between the two towns, and it is strange being anchored in the same area. Saturday morning we are alerted to a cruise ship docking across the river by 5 loud blows of his horn, he is turning in the river and looks like he is getting close to the boats anchored closer to the channel. He has escort boats blocking the river froward & back, guess he just wanted to make sure no one else got in the way. The Cruise ship docking interferes/blocks our internet connection. We get great signals in places we think we won't get any signal, and in a big city where we think we should get a good signal we get a weak one or none. Learn that is because there are so many signals out there it makes it harder for our antenna to connect. Saturday morning we head across the river to Norfolk. We had called ahead to the Waterside marina to see if we can use their dinghy dock and they say yes for a $3 charge, they even meet us as we come in to help tie up the dinghy (pretty funny). Get maps & visitor guides from the marina and walk past the Town Point Park area on our way to Norfolk’s “main drag” Granby St. Find a place for an early lunch before going to the Nauticus Naval Museum that includes the Battleship USS Wisconsin. It is a very interesting museum and they kick us out at closing after spending 5 hours viewing the different displays. Wander around the streets for an hour checking out restaurants. Go for an early dinner as we do not want to go back across the busy river in the dark. Get back to the boat just before another beautiful sunset with a breeze & a cooler temperature than the night before. Norfolk is a neat city that we hope to stop at again on our way south in the fall. Sunday we have the alarm set for an early awakening as we are planning an early departure for a long day up the bay. It had started raining in the early morning hours and it is still raining heavy when the alarm goes off at 6, there was a 80 % chance of rain but we were hoping it would be like the trip up the ICW where we missed it. Steve gets up and checks the weather and it does not look good so we delay our departure until Monday. Around 8:30 Steve goes out to see how the weather is looking and calls down to me that the Staten Island Ferry is going by, sure enough it is under tow escort coming down for repairs we guess. The weather is actually looking a little better, still a few threatening clouds around and since we had a long distance to go we stay put. Hind sight is 20/20 if we knew the bad weather would be over so soon we would have started out in the rain or gone into town again. As it is we have a relaxing day on board reading, playing cards & backgammon. Monday's forecast is much better so we will travel then. We wake Monday to a beautiful morning and are underway by 7 AM passing thru Hampton Roads channel to the Chesapeake. Passing Naval Battleships along the way and WOW are they big & impressive. Just as we get to the end we here one announce over the radio that he is preparing to be underway. Hope to see him go by us but I guess they take a lot longer to get under way then we do, probably have a few more lines to undo. By the time he is out we can see him but too far to get a good picture. As he is heading out an aircraft carrier is coming in and they pass each other, even more impressive seeing them moving on the water than tied up at the docks. We get to be a sail boat for a little while as we head east to avoids shoals but then we have to turn north and the wind is on the nose so we become a motor boat again, It is a Beautiful day to be on the water making our way up the Chesapeake, an amazing body of water with more rivers, sounds, bays, & creeks then I can count. We made good time and reach our stopover town of Reedville, passing by an extremely smelly fish processing plant famous for the UN-edible fish Menhaden used for fertilizer and Omega-3 oil, and are anchored for the night by 5:30.

Link to Pictures;

Friday, August 20, 2010

ICW to Virginia

Thursday August 19 – Friday August 20

We have an 8 AM departure from our anchorage off the town of Manteo, on a gloomy cloudy day calling for an 80% chance of rain. Traveling north around the tip of Roanoke Island seeing the stately homes whose driveways we crossed over on our bike path travels. From Roanoke Sound we enter Albemarle Sound, for 12 miles where we then enter the North River. We will be taking the ICW path also known as the Virginia Cut, aka Albemarle & Chesapeake Canal connecting the Chesapeake Bay with the coastal waters of North Carolina. By 2 we reach the “town” of Coinjock, after scraping our antenna on the 65' bridge, and with only one little 15 minute shower. This is considered a mid way stopping point between Norfolk & NC, at the time we can not imagine why as it is only 2 PM and we have plenty of time to go further. We top off the gas tanks with 65 gallons of fuel and are on our way. There are NOT a lot of places to stop along the next leg of the trip, but we are pretty sure we can make it to the Great Bridge where there is free docking available for overnight. We press on up through Coinjock Bay into Currituck Sound and then to the North Landing River where around 4:30 we cross over to Virginia curving our way north. Passing a swing bridge that we only had to wait 5 minutes for the opening on the ½ hour, and another 65' bridge with no problem then another swing bridge that opens on demand. By 7:15 we are in the straight away of the ICW that was carved out to connect the North Landing River to the Southern Branch Elizabeth River, reaching the dock south of Great Bridge, tied off at 7:45 as the sun is setting. A long 12 hour day but we covered a lot of ground, as now we are just 12 miles south of Norfolk. Friday morning we are not in a big rush as we only have to go 12 miles. But we have bridges and a lock to navigate, so we catch the 10 AM opening of the Great Bridge. As soon as we are through we have to tie up on the other side as there is a huge tow southbound who has entered the lock and is waiting on the 11 am bridge opening. He comes out of the lock and under the bridge and we head for the lock, pass out the south end into the Southern Branch Elizabeth River by 11:30. Around a couple of bends and we come to the Steel Bridge that will be opening at noon so we wait and talk to another southbound tow to see how to pass. Next up 65' bridge, pass with NO scraping, very noisy as we pass under as it is also a bascule bridge that can open with 24 hour notice. We are now in a very industrial part of the river, feels & looks like we are traveling up the Houston Ship Channel. Next up a RR bridge that is open only closes when a train is coming and another bascule bridge that sees us coming so opens for us. Another RR lifting bridge that is open next bridge has been removed then one last RR lifting bridge that just came down for 15 minutes to clear debris off the track. We just drift in idle until the bridge goes back up and we pass under and into the Elizabeth River with Norfolk up ahead on our right and Portsmouth up ahead on our left. We are anchored just north of Olde Towne Portsmouth and right across the river from waterside marina in downtown Norfolk by 1:30. With all the bridge navigating this 3 ½ hour day feels almost as long as Thursdays 12 hour day.

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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Ocracoke & Roanoke Islands

Sunday August 15- Wednesday August 18

Sunday we go into shore at 10 AM stopping at the visitor center to get an island map & info, making sure we we tied off the dinghy in the right place. Walk down a little way and rent bikes to tour Ocracoke Island. The island is 16 miles long BUT the main part is on the south tip, about 4 miles long & 6 miles wide, NOT very big. The main hub of the island centers around Silver Lake where we are anchored. We rent bikes for the day and start out for the lighthouse, a short ride. A shame it is not open to the public as it would be a great view from up there looking out on the Sound, the Ocean & Lake with all the boats. Next we head for the beach, a little longer ride out the main road to the turn off, the beach is part of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore. Once we turn off, the road leading to the beach is hard backed smooth sand. Good thing otherwise I never would have made it as the road turns out to be 3 miles long. The big thing here is to drive your car, preferably a 4 wheel drive, out onto the beach and set up your home base. That would be the way to visit this beach, wish we had our kayaks as it would be a great place to play in the surf with them. No riding bikes on this beach, as it is very deep soft sand, the cars have trouble when they go out of the “tracks” such as they are. The trucks & jeeps all come with their coolers loaded on the back one jeep we saw even had a Bar-B-Q grill fastened on. But we are on bikes with just a little basket to hold a bottle of water, towel to wipe the sand off our feet to be able to put our shoes back on, and my fanny pack. Ride back down the 3 mile dirt / sand road & find a place for lunch. Get the map out & realize it will not take us long to see the sights, now we know why the rent bikes and scooters, and golf carts by the HOUR. Off we go going up & down all the back streets, one thing we notice is that just about every house is either for rent or for sale, the ones for sale saying how much rental income comes from the home. Guess it is a big vacation destination for North Carolina. After riding around we wind up back to where we started after just 5 hours, so we turn the bikes back in early as we rented them for 24 hours/a day thinking we would need them later in the day & or in the morning. The rental place was nice enough to give me a partial refund since we did not keep them for a full day. Walk around checking out dinner menus and to see where we can come back to tie up the dinghy close to the restaurant. Back to the boat, shower & relax before going back to the Island for dinner. Monday morning we leave Ocracoke at 9:30 heading out the channel a ferry passes us and we watch him run aground trying to get around the dredge working in the channel. The Dredge is working right in the spot where we could see the shoaling on the way in, but we will have to pass him on the shoal side, we call ahead to him and he lets us know he has dredged that side and we will be okay to pass him as long as we stay close. This channel is keeping the Army Core of Engineers busy, we are glad they are doing such a good job. Once out in Pamlico Sound we have a nice breeze but it is on the nose so we are motoring. We start to notice a lot of shrimp boats but they do no appear to be trolling and we can not figure out what they are doing. Over the next couple of hours we pass at least 25 shrimpers all around the Sound, all just anchored. The best guess we have is that they are just waiting for night to start trawling for shrimp again. By 4 PM we turn into the channel that will bring us into Roanoke Sound traveling up between Bodie Island to our east and a lot of small little Islands just spits of land then Roanoke Island to the west. A very narrow channel sometimes less then 100 feet wide with 1 – 3 foot depths just outside. By 5:30 we are approaching another 65' bridge, not much of a tide here only ½ foot and we are at low tide, we make it under with no scraping. By 6:15 we are anchored just outside the town of Manteo on the northern tip of Roanoke Island. Tuesday we head into town around 11 am, the city has a real nice pier with a lighthouse on the end with several finger piers that you can tie up for free for a day so we bring the dinghy in there. Go to the main street and they have a “news stand” with free town maps and guide books & papers. Close by is the North Carolina maritime museum. A lot of history on the NC Shad Boat and a workshop where they build small wooden boats. Next we walk over to the festival park where they have an American Indian town, and an English Settlement town and a replica of a 16th century sailing ship, and a little movie about the American Indians who the Island towns are named after. After the park & lunch walk along the waterfront boardwalk then go see about bike rentals and the place that rents them is also a dive shop. We talk to them about their dives which are off the beach on the next Island over – Nags Head. They are wreck dives where you swim 100 yards off shore and dive 20 feet to your choice of wrecks. Apparently the legend lives on as there are plenty of old wrecks and even some new ones to choose from right off the shore. We talked about the current out there and were told it is unpredictable until you get there. I was concerned about being able to walk across the beach with all my dive gear on, I have trouble just getting the few feet to the back of the dive boat carrying all that equipment on me, then to have to swim out 100 yards in possible waves & current I figured I would be exhausted by the time I got there IF I got there. So we opt to just rent the bikes. There is an outdoor theater that we read about that has an ongoing play since 1937 about the Lost Colony of English settlers here on Roanoke. By this time it is close to 5 and the play starts at 8, BUT if you go to one of the participating restaurants before 6 you get 20% off your dinner entree. So we go back to the boat a quick change for me, get bug spray & our head lamps for the bike ride home and then back to town for an early dinner. After dinner we have a nice bike ride out the 4 miles to the Theater, they have a nice paved bike path along the road leading out there. For such a small Island they have a first class outdoor theater. The play is good, we now know the history of this area as well as any local. The bike ride back in the dark is easy enough with our headlights and the light from all the cars coming back from the theater. The occasional car coming towards us causes a glare in our eyes but we make it back to town & are back on the boat by 11. Wednesday is a lazy morning for me, then we head back to town to do some more sightseeing by bike. Head back out the 4 mile bike trail to where we were last night at the theater to Fort Raleigh and the Elizabethan Gardens which are all located in the same area. Well Fort Raleigh is NOT a fort it is just where the fort use to be, part of which is now the theater grounds which are very beautiful. So we go over to the Elizabethan Gardens and what a fabulous landscape job they did here. The gardens are truly beautiful and we enjoy walking around in the shade. Next stop the aquarium which is off on a side road on the way back to town just did not realize it was 3 miles down that side road with NO bike path. Make it there safe & sound & for me a little tired, rental bike is not the best fit for long rides! They have a replica of one of the wrecks off shore in a tank with off shore fish, so we get to see what we might have seen if we did a dive only we stay dry. After the aquarium we ride the rest of the way back to town & return the bikes. It has been a busy day so we decide to have an early dinner knowing if I go back to the boat chances of me getting back out are slim to none. Find a restaurant at a little before 5 when they start dinner so have a drink while we wait. I wanted a Margarita, but we find out there is no liquor allowed on the island, only beer and wine. They have a great beer menu, so Steve is happy trying a few he doesn't know, and I have a hard cider, which is okay, but not as thirst quenching as a Margarita. Enjoy a discussion of beer brewing and food with the owner followed by a great dinner and watch as a small thunder storm forms, so have to have desert while we wait for it to pass over before going back to the boat. The storm provides a good rinse for the salt on the boat, when the rain stops make a dash back to the boat before another shower starts. Cleaned up and making plans for early departure on Thursday heading north where we will join up with the ICW to travel up to Coinjock & then to Norfolk Virginia.

Link to Pictures;

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Moving up the Coast

Tuesday August 10 – Saturday August 14

We catch the outgoing tide at 8 AM Tuesday from Charleston, on a beautiful sunny morning, giving us a nice 1.5-2 kt boost down the channel. The city looks beautiful with the sun coming up and shining on it, much nicer then our gloomy entrance a few days earlier. The jetties are almost totally submerged as we go out the channel, thankful for charts & GPS. Between that and all the natural obstacles of shoals & rocks the east coast is a challenge for a 6'3” draft boat, we are having to go out quite a ways off shore before being able to safely turn north towards our next destination. On the positive side, the water is much cleaner out there, it is still a beautiful feeling sailing along (even if the motor is helping) in the blue/green waters off shore. You can tell as soon as you enter the channels as the water turns from green to brown you can see the line. By 4:30 we are turning in the channel to Winyah Bay, between South Island & North Island, by 6 PM we are in a nice little isolated anchorage off Cat Island where we spend the night before a sunrise departure on Wednesday to head up to Bald Head / Cape Fear River Inlet. Long day ahead of us, Have light winds and a slight chop to the water as we head out, winds are right behind us but too light to fill the genoa, so we roll it up and leave the main out to dampen the rolling action of the boat. By 1 the winds are strong enough to hold the genoa and the swells are building. Later we can turn the engine off and sail wing on wing by this time the following seas are 4-5 feet it is a beautiful day on the water. We are in the channel passing Bald Head Island by 5 PM, our original plan was to anchor out, but we did have a couple of marinas in mind in case the anchorages did not look good. The tide & current were still strong and we did not see any other boats anchored out so we decide to go to a marina. By 6 we are tied up at Southport Marina. We had wanted to do a short trip up the ICW to Wrightsville Beach to go out the Marsborough inlet but talking to the dock master we all agree it could be a little tricky. We would have to travel up river with the incoming tide (at 5 knots) which would put us at the 65 foot bridge at high tide. Later walk into town for dinner and decide to skip the inland trip and go back offshore. Thursday we sleep in a little as we will be waiting for the outgoing tide to give us a boost going out the channel, we are under way by 11 for another overnight trip up to the Morehead City / Beaufort Inlet. Getting away from the dock took some doing as the wind had us pinned to the dock. We were glad we had room to maneuver, as the wind and the current were pushing us all over. We are heading out the channel beating into 5-6 ft. waves but doing 7 knots with the outgoing tides help. By 12:30 we veer off Southeast, from the channel to run parallel to the shoals for several miles. We have 20 – 25 knot winds at 40º angle, so we put double reefs in both sails and we are at a better angle with the waves. Good news is we are having an exhilarating sail, bad news is we see a tear in the main sail about 2/3 up right along the seam. We leave it up until 2 when we turn east/northeast at which time the wind is behind us on the quarter so we sail under genoa alone, doing 6+ knots which is actually too fast as that will get us to the inlet before daybreak. At 6 PM a weather alert comes over the radio warning about a thunder storm heading Southeast right towards us. We have been cruising for almost 5 months now with NO bad weather during trips, now within 1 week we have 2 overnight passages with bad weather. At least it is still daylight and we can see this one coming, it is an amazing sight seeing the storm move across your path (SEE PICTURES), once again our main concern is the lightning. This storm passes quickly with only a 30 minute shower. By 8 PM we put the genoa back out and are having dinner before starting 3 hour shifts at 9. Sailing right along downwind, hoping the winds die down and slow us down so we do not get to the inlet before dawn. At about 2:30 the wind dies, and we start the motor, motoring slowly to time our arrival at pre-dawn light. 5 AM we are almost to the channel so we do a little 15 minute turn around and then by the time we get to the channel we can see our way in the inlet. We have also timed our arrival with low tide as we have to pass under another 65' bridge, we make it with no problem and by 7:30 we are tied up at the marina in Morehead. The marina office does not open until 8:30 so we use the time and still air to take down the main sail. Steve goes to the office to ask about a sail repair shop, and is given a name & # that he calls but the guy is too busy to be able to get to our sail until the following Monday. He gives us a name & # of a guy up in Oriental 20 miles up the ICW. We call him and he can work on the sail and he is located right in the marina, solving transportation problems. We were planning on taking this route up the ICW on Newport River and Adams Creek to the Neuse River, passing Oriental on our way to Ocracoke, so since it is only 9 AM we decide to continue up to Oriental and by 9:45 we are underway again. This trip up the ICW is very pleasant, we have a cool breeze and the tide pushing us along, passing some beautiful homes and wooded areas. Noticing the different trees and the cooling temperature with less humidity. The incoming tide giving us a boost in speed is also a concern as there is another 65 foot bridge that we had planed to arrive at LOW tide, as it is we will be getting there at almost high tide. Backup plan is we throw in the anchor before the bridge & wait for the tide to go out. As we approach the bridge they have the height measurement sign indicating the different water level clearance. We have the binoculars out and can see the 65' mark is just starting to be covered, so 64'9” should be okay. We hold our breath as we pass under and hear the scraping noise of the VHF antenna that just bends back as we go under the bridge. After a quick change of underwear (LOL), by 1 pm we are tied up at the dock in Oriental, drop the sail off with the sail maker located in the same building as the marina office. Back to the boat for lunch and a nap it has been a long 26 hours. Oriental is an interesting little area, we don't get to explore much as our marina is not close to town, but there are a lot of sail boats in the area with some great boating venues. Saturday morning do a quick load of laundry while we wait for the sail which we have back by 10. Move the boat to the other side of the dock facing the wind so we can put the sail back up, by 11 we have tools put away and are underway across Pamlico Sound to Ocracoke. Wind is on the nose so we are motoring across the sound in cool temperature with low humidity. As we near the channel we see several ferries coming & going to the Island. We slow to let one pass and follow him in, grateful for his lead because we probably would have grounded on an unmarked shoal if we hadn't seen him zig around it. By 6 PM we are anchored enjoying a drink in the cockpit. Excited to be someplace where we will spend a few days exploring the sights.

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Monday, August 9, 2010

Charleston SC

Saturday August 7 – Monday August 9

We are tied up at the Mega Dock at the Charleston City Marina by 9:30 Saturday morning after an overnight from Hilton Head. This floating concrete dock is a MEGA dock a ¼ mile long. YES a ¼ mile long, and of course we are almost to the end as we were planning to fuel up and at the end is where the diesel pump with the small hose is located. Closer in they have the pumps with the BIG hose's for the REALLY BIG boats to fuel up. So where the 80 gallons we put in seemed like a lot to us the boats further in were putting in between 800 – 2000 gallons of fuel! When we checked in at the marina office we got a pleasant surprise of a “welcome bag” consisting of a cloth carry bag with marina name & logo filled with maps & tour books of the Charleston area. A great idea that probably cost the marina virtually nothing, helped the local businesses, and saved us the trouble of gathering the information ourselves. We hope the idea catches on with more marinas. We think our boat is a pretty decent size, but the walk back down the mega dock with many mega yachts in the 80-100+ ft range has us feeling pretty small. We are feeling pretty tired after the long stormy night off shore, so decided to spend the day cleaning the boat & doing laundry, get caught up on email & rest and plan the next day's sightseeing. After dinner around 9:30 we hear fireworks, go up on deck & get to see a firework show from up river a little ways, not a bad welcome to Charleston. Sunday we catch the marina's shuttle van (yes, a free shuttle van to anywhere downtown, with stops at a supermarket and West Marine, and pickup on demand – we hope this idea catches on with more marinas too!) at 10 am to go to the visitors center to get the bus for the 90 minute tour of the city. We get off at the last stop by the city market to do some walking around in the open air market and shops along the road. They have some neat things, we just don't have any place to put them, still enjoy looking. Find a place for lunch, then walk over to the waterfront park & sit in the shade enjoying the view & breeze. There are several historic houses to visit near by and we wind up at the Victorian style Calhoun Mansion. The owner actually lives in this house when he is in the city. He is still collecting and adding things to the house. It is quite overwhelming with all the antiques and “stuff” the house has. The wood work & architecture are beautiful but a little on the gaudy side with the amount of rarities it has on display. After the tour we walk around some more just enjoying the old streets, find a place with some live music & stop in for a cooling drink. We have been lucky today with a little cloud coverage helping to keep the temperature bearable, Saturday after the gloomy start to the day the sun came out with a vengeance. We find a restaurant for dinner and enjoy a nice meal before getting a cab back to the marina. It is abut 9 pm when we get back and as we are walking back to the boat we meet the owners of the 105 ' mega yacht Champagne Cher. Cher & John are actually from Baytown Texas, this boat of theirs (they have several) has never been to Texas, it is the former Privacy owned by Tiger Woods. They stroll down the the dock with us talking about their travels & ours. They are very nice and are also heading up to the Chesapeake, the boat & 3 member crew by sea them by plane to meet the boat. Monday we are off to do another house tour that our bus tour came with, we go to one only to find out that one is not included so we walk to another one that is. This one more realistic to the time frame of 1800's . Missed our opportunity to go see Middleton Plantation as only one bus going out there & it left early morning & it is too far to get a cab, so we wander the streets and find a nice place for lunch then walk to the grocery store to get some provisions. Call the marina van for a pick up and back to the boat around 3. Time to get things put away and ready for our Tuesday departure to be timed with high tide at 8 am. The tide is about 7 feet, and the outgoing tide will give us a 2-3 kt current pushing us down the river & out the inlet with a speed of 9-10 kts over ground instead of 3-4 kts if the tide was coming in. That will save us a couple of hours of travel time. We will be heading up to the inlet to Georgetown to anchor out overnight. We'll see Georgetown on our way back down the coast in the fall, when we have more time. Will continue the following day up to Bald Head / Cape Fear North Carolina.  Think this is the first time to post a blog from the actual place covered in the blog, but that probably won't happen too often.
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Sunday, August 8, 2010

Hilton Head

Wednesday August 4 – Saturday August 7 (am)

Wednesday morning off St Catherine's Island we see that it was a good choice to anchor where we were, the other sail boat was right at the entrance to the creek so going past him in the dark would have been too dangerous. Where we were was a great spot no need to travel up river for more protection. Not much to that Island & surrounding area but lots of protection and plenty of deep water, Wi-Fi, & TV what more could a cruiser ask for. By 10 am we are underway to Hilton Head S.C.. Heading east out the channel before turning north where we have just enough wind to carry the main & jib but still need to have the motor running to keep us above 6 knots. By 2:30 we turn west into the Tybee Roads Channel inlet (leads to Savannah River), wind directly behind us so sails are rolled up, hot & still. Travel west for an hour to pass a lot of shoals & some submerged breakwaters before it is safe to veer off north west to the Calibogue Sound which brings us in between Hilton Head Island & Daufuskie Island (Haig Point). Passing by the South Beach & Harbour Town sections of Hilton Head as we make our way to Broad Creek, up the creek a little way and by 4:30 we are anchored right near Palmetto Bay marina. Relax a little then take the dinghy into the marina to get some guide books and information about the Island. A friend had told me that riding bikes to see the island was the way to go, and we love to ride bikes (even with my last experience in Georgia being so bad). All the guide books agree and there are plenty of bike rental places that deliver. Hilton Head they say is bicycle nirvana and we can now certainly understand & agree with that statement. There are some BEAUTIFUL bike trails through out the Island and the sand on the beach is hard & flat so you can easily ride your bikes up and down the beach. Thursday we had the bikes delivered at 10 am and were pedaling away shortly after. Had to make a quick stop at the yacht service center across the way to see about a part, they are able to order it and have it by Friday. They put a lot of thought into planning this Island, each section is like its own little city / neighborhood, with its shopping / restaurant areas and beautiful gated communities. First we head east to the beach, entering near the shopping center at Coligny place, ride down the beach & decide to find some shade so get off in the Sea Pines area. Ride over to South Beach area for lunch, then over to Harbour Town, past some stables and by a forest preserve. All this is just one section of the Island and the bike paths are just unbelievable! I forgot to ask & need to find out but these wonderful paved bike paths were also clear of leaves & pine needles & dirt. So I am not sure if the have a HUGE maintenance staff keeping the bike paths clear or what the deal is but it sure hit us as strange. We get back to the boat by 6 and were too tired to go back out for dinner so we dine on board. Friday we were off on the bikes by 9:30. Went to the same beach entrance but went north along the beach coming out in the Palmetto Dunes area and then over to the Shelter Cove area. Both very nice with great bike paths but the Sea Pines area was nicer. You could spend a lot of time exploring the Island with their bike paths and even though cars have the right of way at intersections the drivers are very courteous and mindful of bikers. We are back to the marina by 3:30 and Steve picks up the part he ordered then back to the boat. We plan to have dinner on board as we get ready to leave in the morning to head up to Charleston thinking it is a days sail. Steve is rechecking and entering the route and we see that it is a 14 hour trip, not a “day” trip. So we make a quick decision to leave that night before dark. The weather is supposed to be the usual 30% chance of rain showers, which it has been for a while. Mostly the showers have been inland or very scattered around the coast, so we think we should be okay. But just as we leave, National Weather Service sounds an alert on the VHF radio, and warns of a line of severe thunderstorms with wind gusts up to 70 mph from Charleston eastward. Charleston is 90 miles away, and the skies are clear around us, and we have a beautiful 20 knot wind that promises a great sail, so we continue on, figuring it will die out by the time we get there. The NWS sounds several more alerts, with the area expanding to the west, and the time increasing. As we reach the Tybee Roads channel at dusk we can see some thunder clouds off shore to the south, but nothing around us yet. We're still not too concerned, and if something did come up suddenly, we'd be better off in the deep water than picking our way through the shoals in the dark, so we press on. As we turn northeast out of the Tybee approach channel towards Charleston, there is a lot of cloud to cloud lightning (helps light up the water) north and south of us and some distant cloud to ground strikes. We can see the ground strikes, and they are spectacular, but we can't hear any thunder, so we know the strike are over 5 miles away. The wind is out of the south southwest at 20-25 kts, but heeding the warning of potential gusts up to 70 kts, we decide to keep the sails furled and motor sail as the storm builds around us. This is uncomfortable since the waves are hitting us broadside, and without the sail to stabilize the boat, we're rolling from side to side quite a bit. After a couple of hours of steady winds, and increasing rolling, we decide to roll out part of the jib to try to stabilize the boat. It works wonderfully, and we enjoy the reduced rolling for all of half an hour before the temperature suddenly drops, the wind shits to the northeast, right on the nose. So we roll up the jib again and resume motoring. About 10:30 the shower starts then between 11 & midnight it rains very heavy, highest wind gust was only 29 K, and the waves are only 3-4 feet even though the wind direction did a 180 it was not long enough to cause the waves to get choppy. Lightning was the main concern, because we can hear a lot of thunder now, and know the strikes are close by. By 2 the storm is over and the sails go out and the engine off and sail the rest of the way to the Charleston Inlet that we reach at 7:30 am. By 8:30 we are passing Sullivan's Island & Fort Sumter a gray gloomy morning, turn west up the Ashley River and by 9:30 we are docked at the Charleston City Marina.

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Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Florida to Georgia

Saturday July 31 – Tuesday August 3

Saturday we are up early to catch the 7 AM opening of the bridge, as we call in to the bridge tender at 6:50 he advises us that before 7 it is on demand so he opens right away for us and we are motoring back out the St. Augustine inlet heading up to Fernandina Beach on the Florida / Georgia border. By 10:30 we are passing the Jacksonville skyline. By 1 the winds pick up enough to turn the motor off and have some quiet sailing. Then we get a short boost from an inland storm causing the winds 5 miles out at sea where we are to increase getting us up to 8 knots. By 3 we turn west into the St. Mary's inlet, sure wish all inlets could be so wide & deep and well marked. I am sure that the Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base has a lot to do with that. We turn south out of Cumberland Sound into the Amelia River passing one of the 2 huge paper mills as we go down the river to get closer to the town. We had planned to anchor but as we approach the mooring field it is almost empty and with a 7 foot tide swing along with the current we decided to pick up a mooring. See a jumping ray & learn later of sightings of flying manta rays. By 4:30 we are secured, call the marina check in & say we will be in the next morning to pay. Relax with a drink then get the dinghy out & ready before dinner on board. Sunday we go ashore around 11 stop by the marina office get a map of the Island & “downtown” area. Not that you could get lost, basically a one street town along the waterfront. Some beautiful old homes and buildings with huge oak trees covered with Spanish moss. We find a neat little restaurant Jack & Diane's with some unusual dishes and a couple of dark ale beers that Steve had never tasted (which is saying a lot). Walk around a little more and back to the boat by 3 to head up river about an hour to Cumberland Island on the Georgia side of the inlet. Even though it is only an hour trip, we put up the main sail, when we are rolling it back up the furling line (only old line left) snaps. We are at the anchorage so we anchor with the main sail out loose. After anchoring we manage to get the sail in. Now for the fun part switching out the furling line on a roller furling in mast main is not an easy job. 4 hours later the job is done and the new line works great, the old swollen line could have been part of the problem causing the main sail to jam. With the new line(s) it rolls in & out easily & by 8 all the tools are put away, so much for a relaxing afternoon. Monday morning while it is calm Steve goes up the mast with a tape measure to take exact measurements of the height above the water, since we think it is 66’ and we have a 65’ bridge we plan to go under the next day. The measurements show the tip of the VHF antenna is 65’9”, but it can bend easily without breaking, and the next tallest thing is the lightning dissipater at 64’10”, so we think we’re OK, but will plan to be at the bridge at low tide just to be safe. We take the dinghy over to Cumberland Island National Seashore, the island used to be owned by the Carnegie family. First we take a short hike over to Dungeness, the ruins of the old family mansion. All of the kids got their own mansion when they married and there are several still scattered around the island, now used as museums or Inns. They have done a great job of keeping the island in its natural state the dunes leading to the beach are tremendous, the beaches pristine the forest area mid island with its greenery was beautiful. The wildlife from feral horses, wild turkeys & armadillos to the sea life of dolphins, crabs & turtles were all to be seen. We rented bikes to go further out around the island and one thing I would recommend they DO change is their roads. NONE of the roads are paved, they are not even dirt roads that would pack down & smooth out, they are soft SAND roads that have a few hard spots but are mostly soft and rutted like a washboard making for very difficult bike riding. They had a brush fire and were bringing fire fighters over via the ferry then out to the fire site by park service trucks. These big, strong firefighters are complaining about the rough ride in the trucks on these roads can you imagine how I felt riding a bike on them. Needless to say by the end of the day at 4 o’clock I was exhausted and so glad to be off that bike. We stopped at the park ranger station / dock where we rented the bikes drinking more water & sitting in an A/C room watching a film about one of the museums while I rested before walking the 15 minutes back to the dock where our dinghy was. Steve offered to go get the dinghy and bring it up & the ferry captain said we could ride the ferry down to the other dock but after the bumpy bike ride the walking felt good, back to the boat to clean off the days dirt by 5. Tuesday we are underway by 7:30, as we will be doing a leg up the intracoastal waterway (ICW). Passing by the Submarine Base, but no submarines home, would have been so cool to see one. We decide to do 1 hour shifts since we will be hand steering the whole way as we wind our way up through the ICW. We come up to this one very tricky spot that both the paper charts & GPS show us going left of a couple of red marks which you would normally take on the right. We slowed way down, thought about it a bit. There was a lot of room on the left side, but not much on the right side, since they were close to the bank. Finally we decided to take them on the right as their color indicated, despite what the charts indicated, and crept around them close to the poles. We went from 18 to 12 to 5 feet real quick and went aground. Got off easy enough, and decided to try the left side where the charts said we should be. No luck, went suddenly aground there too. Three or four more tries on either side and further out from the markers ran us aground too. Finally a small power boat came by on the right side of the marks, and we asked where the deep water was and he said to the right where all the charts show dry land and a shoal. We were a little dubious about the quality of the information, since he drew probably only 1.5 ft, and anything over that was deep water to him. Just then a large trawler called Slow Dancer came up behind us and called us on the radio, politely asking what our intentions were. I’m sure he’d been baffled watching our slow dance in circles around the marks. We told him that we were having trouble finding the channel. He replied that he drew 5.5' and kindly offered to lead the way and give us depth readings. He took the marks close to the right, and promptly went aground in the same spot we did. We called him back and gave him the advice the small boat gave us, and after pulling himself off, he went much farther to the right, practically on the bank, and found 20’ of water where the dry land was supposed to be. Obviously they had done some dredging there and the charts do not reflect it. Slow Dancer then kindly adjusted their cruising speed to ours, and ran ahead of us for the next 20 miles looking for more thin water, but we didn’t see anything less than 15’.  As we are slowly making our way we are being attacked by horse flies, and we trade off, one steering and one swatting We must have killed 30 -40 flies. By 11 we are passing thru St Andrew sound and it does have a pass out to the Atlantic, but a long one going south so we continue with our original route inside Jekyll Creek where we have a 65' bridge to go under with our 65’9” mast. By 11:15 we are at the bridge wanted to get there at low tide but it was mid tide and it is impossible to tell from the deck of the boat if it looks like you will clear, it is a scary sight & feeling ! We cleared !! no problems good thing to know. By 12:30 we are past Jekyll Island and entering St. Simons Sound, we had originally thought we might anchor off & go onto Jekyll Island for a visit but between the constant monitoring of depth, hand steering and horse flies we have had as much as we can stand of the ICW. We pull over & throw the anchor down and re check the maps, we think we can make it to St. Catherine's Sound & inlet by dark, IF not plan C could be to continue overnight up to Hilton Head. We go off shore at St. Simmons, heading east 3 miles before turning north hoping we have enough daylight to cover the 45 miles. We do get to the inlet & are heading in as the sun starts to set, it is a long entrance very wide & deep but with several shoal areas with just a few markers. We are in the channel and approaching the northern tip of the island at dusk and round the island with just barely enough light to see the entrance to the Walburg Creek. We had thought we would go up the creek a ways for better protection but it is too dark. We can see another sail boat in closer to the creek, winds and the water are calm so we anchor right where we are before the entrance to the creek. A long & stressful day ends in a great quite isolated anchorage, that has a completely unexpected Wi-fi connection from an unprotected router on shore and several TV channels we can pick up. Life is good. Wednesday we will head up to Hilton Head South Carolina.

Link to Pictues:

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Cape Caneveral & St. Augustine

Monday July 26 – Friday July 30

Monday we spend the day doing last minute cleanup and getting the boat ready to leave port. Make a run across the highway to the grocery store for a few more provisions. Check the weather and all is good for our Tuesday departure from Fort Pierce after 2 ½ weeks the longest we have stayed at one place since leaving Kemah 4 months ago. We are not sure if we will have to wait for high tide in the morning which is not until 9 am so we are up and ready to go at 7 am with slack tide & no wind. We are sitting slightly in the mud so we are able to release ALL the dock lines and stay in place instead of the usual scramble to release them all at once as we start moving out. Then Steve just has to hit the throttle a little to plow out through the mud and once in the fairway we have plenty of water and are on our way. We are glad to be leaving before the rising tide causes too much adverse current going out the inlet, as it is we still hit several eddies one whirlpool over a hole where it dropped from 30 to 60 back to 30 feet in depth. By 8 am we are out the jetties in flat calm seas, motoring with the main up and the sun trying to burn off some of the haze. By 1 the winds have picked up a little so we put the jib out and throttle back for a little quieter ride up to Cape Canaveral. Port Canaveral is not one of the pretty port entries but it sure has a lot of neat huge military ships to see on the way in. We are docked by 5 pm we had nice cool ride up BUT coming in the channel & docking at he marina sure gets you hot & sweaty fast. After checking in we take showers, as friends we met in the Bahamas who live in Satellite Beach are coming up to go to dinner. Kay & Harold get to the boat at 7 and we visit for an hour before going to the famous Grills Tiki Bar & Grill for dinner. We enjoy a delightful evening with good food, atmosphere, conversation and company.

Wednesday we do not have to leave too early since we decided to take the slow overnight passage instead of leaving at daybreak and going full speed to insure our arrival before sunset. By 10 am we are heading back out Port Canaveral looking at all the ships again, heading east for a good 10 miles to avoid some shoal areas before turning north to head for St Augustine. Once again motor sailing in very calm seas with almost no wind. The Atlantic was so flat & calm you could have water skied out there. Once we turned north we were able to carry both main & jib but still need to motor at low RPM's, to keep at a slow gentle ride up the coast of 4 - 5 knots which puts us at the entry to the inlet for St Augustine at 8 am. As we travel out the inlet & up the coast for miles from 10 am till 6 pm you can see NASA's vehicle assembly building standing tall, an impressive sight, just wish it could have been during a launch with a shuttle on one of the launch pads, maybe on the way back down. It is a beautiful evening the moon comes out around 9 providing good visibility during the night. Around 10 we have a group of dolphins swim along with us jumping along side the boat for 15 minutes. We take turns & each get a little sleep, by 8:30 am we are going in the St. Augustine channel by 9 we are at the Bridge of Lions and it opens just as scheduled by 10 we are docked and checked in meeting Dennis & Carol on a Grand Banks trawler, who suggest a good place to get lunch and give us some info about the town. We change and walk into town going for lunch and get trolley tickets for a riding tour of the town to get the lay of the land. You can get on & off the trolleys all day long at any of their 16 stops, catching another one when it comes along. Most of the places in the downtown area are within walking distance but it helped give us an idea of where things were located. We did get off at the Castillo de San Marcos Fort to take the self tour. As we are buying tickets Steve sees the sign saying seniors 62+ can pay $10 and get a card for free admission for them and any other 3 adults to ANY National Park of which there are almost 400. A great bargain, as two adult tickets are $12, and perfect timing as Steve had just turned 62 three days prior, and we will most likely be near a few more National Parks as we work our way up to the Chesapeake. Instead of catching the trolley we walk back through downtown stopping for ice cream to help beat the heat. Checking out some restaurant menus and shops on our way back to the boat. Take showers, rest a little as we decide which place to go to for dinner. Head out for dinner on our way to one place pass by a Cuban restaurant with live Latin Jazz music playing that sounds really good so we stop to look at the menu and some ladies inside eating are shaking their heads saying it is good food and the menu does look good so we change plans and eat there. Had a great meal with some really good live background Latin music,which ended as we were finishing our meal but then a young girl was starting to play in the adjoining bar so we went and listened to her for a while. Back to the boat at 10:30 and to bed as we were running on about 3 hours of sleep from the overnight trip up. Friday I slept in a little but we are out walking into town by 10 am. Making our way the Flagler College (formerly the Ponce de Leon Hotel) for a tour passing through the old Alcazar hotel that is now the St. Augustine city hall, a museum & shops with a restaurant in what used to be the casino swimming pool. Both of these hotels were built by Henry Flagler, who made his fortune as one of the three founders of Standard Oil, and then spent a large part of it building a railroad and elaborate hotels down the east coast of Florida. The Ponce de Leon was the first of his “destination hotels”, opening in 1889. You had to be filthy rich, AND have an invitation to even stay there. He spared no expense in building it, and the complementary Alcazar across the street. They were state of the art buildings at the time, and even today they are remarkably beautiful buildings. The college dining hall, formerly the hotels dining room, has bullet proof glass on the outside to protect it's $3.5 million Tiffany glass windows. After we go for lunch then walk around some more, catch the trolley out to one of the sights a little further out then get the trolley back to the boat by 5. Showers, then some planning for our departure the next day. We head out to dinner making it to the Tasting Room a Contemporary Spanish Tapas & Wine place that we had planned to go to the night before. Have another wonderful meal with great live music in the background. It has been a very pleasant visit to the oldest town in America. We check the weather and it looks good for our departure Saturday morning up to St. Mary's inlet at the border of Florida & Georgia.
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