Sunday, July 15, 2012


For those of you who figured we must have sunk in Norfolk, I apologize for the lengthy delay in posting the final leg of our journey (for now, anyway).

Norfolk, as we said, Tom loves it, Barb, not so much. Tom loves the activity with all the ships, tugs, barges and pleasure boat traffic. That's pretty much what Barb doesn't like about it. When you have to share a channel or squeeze under a bridge with something the size of a city block or two, it can make you feel a little vulnerable!

The anchorage at Hospital Point is pleasant, and there is good holding, so that part we can agree on. But, when one of those freaky storms comes through (like the one that Monday night), that holding thing is really, really important. The storm went through Richmond, and headed straight for Norfolk. Hit us like a ton of bricks. We did have enough warning to set our storm snubber and 150' of chain, expecting crazy winds. We got them, and the waves that came up the Elizabeth River were even crazier. We were getting tossed and pounded by wind, rain, waves, and yes, even hail! The boat was being pushed by so many strong forces, we went around in a complete circle and spent a lot of time heeled over to the gunwales. There was no visibility because the rain was a solid wall. However, at some point, the rain slacked enough to see a bit, and then the boat behind us took a direct lightning hit to the top of her mast. Fortunately, this was a fast moving storm so we could find out quickly that everyone on the boat that was hit was okay. It knocked out their electronics, and Tom said the sparks were wild to see, but we were glad everyone held and there was not greater damage.

After dealing with our own personal little perfect storm, we were more anxious than ever to head to Deltaville Tuesday morning. So, we noted the weather, and even though it was going to be choppy, we started early and headed north. Didn't get too far because choppy was a misnomer. We couldn't get out of the Elizabeth River...the waves were just knocking us all over. So, back we went to Hospital Point and dropped the hook in almost the same spot we'd left an hour earlier. Tuesday was a beautiful day in Norfolk and it was a nice night as well. Wednesday morning we set off again, and, wonder of wonders, we made it up the river, up the Bay, past Thimble Shoal Light, past Wolf Trap Light, past Stingray Light, up the Rappahannock, and into Locklies Creek by around 4:30 that evening. Whew, it felt really good to tie up knowing we'll be staying put for awhile!

Maggie in her favorite cockpit seat

Maggie is happy to be a settled, which is reflected in her milder attitude. She managed well, a little huffy some days, but we're pretty sure she will not miss the rocking and rolling.

Don't know if the weather has been nutty where you are, but several of those violent thunderstorms have hit since we've been here, and we are very glad this creek offers good protection. Of course, the lightening shows have been illuminating, but, for now, we've not seen anyone else take a hit, thank goodness. Between the 100+ degree days and the stormy evenings, it's been quite a welcome back to Virginia.

We'll be taking a break now and trying to get through some of our huge list of maintenance, update and repair items. We are enjoying time with the family, reconnecting with old friends, and recovering from all the travel. It's been a lot of fun, a lot of work, and an experience we'll treasure for years to come. Not sure where we'll head next, but keep an eye on us, because we'll start to get antsy and plan a new journey in a few months!

Thanks for traveling with us!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Stop and Go....

Ah, Alligator River to Coinjock, a great day, and, except for the weird bugs that attack this time of year, uneventful. They are called "fuzzy bills" and they are apparently what we know as blind mosquitoes. They look a lot like mosquitoes, they are aquatic, but they don't bite. They do, however swarm by the thousands and attach themselves to any surface out of the wind and direct sun. All the enclosure and both sail covers were covered with them and they went halfway up the mast. We had to shut ourselves in the cockpit as much as possible to keep them away. They would fly behind our sun glasses and up our noses. PESKY!

We made good use of the water and electricity at Coinjock...hosed down the boat, drowning the majority of the fuzzy bills, and wallowed in the cool air conditioning that night! It was a pricey stop with fuel, dockage, electricity, and a dinner out, but we enjoyed it.

Here's the thing...50 miles from Coinjock, NC to Norfolk, VA. Not a bad day, but we travel between 5 and 6kts every hour, let's just use 5.5kts for ease. At Coinjock (Mile 50) boats are docked end to end with about a foot between them, so our plan to leave by 6:30am had to be pushed to whatever time either the trawler in front of us or the one behind decided to leave. The trawlers have bow thrusters so they can move sideways like a crab. So, we were able to get out about 7:00am when the Grand Banks behind us left. Now comes the puzzle. If you can figure it out so that we don't kill half our day waiting or traveling at ridiculously slow speeds, you WIN!

Mile 20.2 bridge opens on the hour and half hour

Mile 15.3 bridge opens on the hour and half hour

Mile 12.0 bridge opens on the hour only

Mile 11.3 lock locks on the hour and unlocks approximately on the half hour

Mile 8.8 bridge opens on the hour only

Mile 5.8 bridge opens on the half hour only and not at all between 3:30 and 6:30, and one last glitch...there is a railroad bridge immediately before this last bridge that may or may not close for trains and having no predetermined schedule.

So, math whizzes, what 'ya got? What we got was a lot of stop and go!

Well, it did take awhile, but we made it, amd even managed to hit the Gilmerton (Mile 5.8) before it shut down for 3 hours. Tom loves much to look at and watch. Barb, not so much...the tugs with barges and ships everywhere make her a bit edgy. But you'll have to wait for the next post for our Norfolk experience...we seem to be trying to end our travels with a big finish!

Thanks for traveling along.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Rumbles and flashes!

Funny thing, the last two days we have not been able to get any phone service, but we have been able to pick up 3G for wireless. So, thought it would be a good time to blog a bit.

We just completed two uneventful (that's good news) days on the ICW. Last night we were in a favorite anchorage, Slade Creek. We have never seen another boat anchor there, but it is wide with plenty of water and has always been a pleasant anchorage for us.

Today was a short day to the south end of the Alligator River. It consisted mostly of a 20+ mile stretch of, what must be a man made, canal between the Pungo River (wish I were making up these names, but I'm not) and the Alligator River. The canal is straight, not too wide, not too narrow, devoid of any trace of humanity, doesn't carry a strong current or dramatic tide change, and would be lovely except for the fact that after the first couple of hours, it gets really boring! Takes about 4 or 5 hours to travel it so you have to take shifts like on an overnight to keep from dozing off. Okay, it's not that is pretty and it's an easy passage.

Besides, you know what happens when you complain? We do!

So we get all anchored and set in to relax and enjoy the evening. Saw a few ominous looking clouds lurking, but afternoon thunderstorms are not unusual, so, not to worry. By yiminny if those few clouds didn't turn into one, no, two, actually, up to three now major thunderstorms. It got dark except for the lightning striking around us, and! You just knew after the big streak of lightning there was going to be a huge clap of thunder, so you'd draw up your shoulders and cringe waiting for it. Still, one of those big ones can shake you 'til your teeth rattle. With each squall, the shore, only a few hundred feet away, completely disappeared. Before we decided to disconnect everything because of lightning, we measured 32knt winds. Not devastating, but took us by surprise.

Evidently wifi is not that strong, so maybe this will post tonight, and maybe not. Oh, well, it's worth a shot. Thanks for sticking with us!

So, a day late and a dollar decided not to let us post last night!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Last offshore day this trip!

Last minute this morning we decided to go offshore from Wrightsville Beach to Beaufort NC. It was a good day. It was a long day...about 11 hours.

As the predictions showed, the waves increased as we neared Beaufort so the last few hours were a little rough, but not too bad. The channel, however, was a nightmare. Tom says the worst we've experienced. Barb thought it was on a scale with Charleston the last time we entered there, but Tom was at the helm both times and he said this made Charleston look like a cakewalk! It really didn't help matters that we arrived at the time of day that every sport fisher and head boat was returning from offshore as well!

But, we're safe and snug at Town Creek and saved a day of travel while missing a couple of difficult spots in the ICW. Who could ask for more? Well, we might ask that the Navy warship we were trying to stay clear of might have stopped changing his direction so that he was barreling toward us at 20kts no matter what course adjustments we made! Good thing is we didn't get close enough for him to send out the patrols to shoot us, and he waited until we were finally clear of him to get on the radio and tell everyone to stay out of his way! They were doing helicopter landing exercises so were changing course for wind direction.

Tomorrow, back to the ditch...yay! Not many skinny spots left and we're in the home stretch now!

Thanks for traveling with us!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Progress... it's not all pretty, but it is progress!

Inch by inch we're making our way. Tuesday we had some notable advances...we passed the 200 mile marker (200 miles from Norfolk), we entered North Carolina, we traveled up the Cape Fear River (slowly, as the flow was slow and the ebb was persistent), and we anchored at Wrightsville Beach (a favorite spot) where we stayed an extra night, walked the couple miles to Harris Teeter for a few grocery items, walked down to the beach to see the ocean, since we can't seem to get the boat out there, ate pizza (yet again) and ice cream and just enjoyed stretching our legs.

Let's see, when we chatted last, we were on our way to Charleston...killer day! It was a long tense day with so many shallow challenges, all recommending waiting until half tide on a rising tide to tackle. In case you are not familiar with tides, can't be done and make any headway. So, we hedged our bets and ran most of them at low or near low and saved our rising tide for the big ugly, the Dawho River! We arrived near there just about at the peak of low tide. So, after contacting our ever faithful friends at TowBoatUS for local knowledge, we found a little spot off to the side and anchored for a couple of hours to get a few more feet of water under us before Dawho. TowBoat did tell us they had someone near the entrance to the river just in case that didn't work out for us. By the time we cleared that, both of us were wound pretty tight...Tom's shoulder was cramping up and we were exhausted. Ready to ease on into the Stono River just south of Charleston and set the hook.

But what to our wondering eyes should appear...not a jolly old elf and 8 tiny reindeer, but dozens upon dozens of Saturday river revelers all in one place on the Stono River between us and our anchorage! There were people swimming, standing in the water, zipping up and down and around in small boats of every shape and color...the beer was flowing freely, lots of hooting and giggling, and very little watching out for anyone else. All of this fun was happening next to a bridge we were heading under when (as if someone blew the whistle for "everyone out of the pool!") scores of boats swarmed for the ramp on the other side of the bridge. Only 3 boats can go out at a time, so the rest of them just meandered slowly (or totally stopped) in the channel in front of us or zipped around throwing fair sized wakes in all directions. Well, that frayed Barb's last nerve...just sure someone was going to get pulverized at any moment! Thankfully it was a good anchorage and a good night.

One small corner that was under the net - Tom
smashed a handful before we puled it off
Whew, out of Charleston, and another day of skinny water. It was another tense day, but we made it through and anchored in a favorite spot...only 1 other boat around the bend. Beautiful and peaceful evening until the point when the most mosquitoes we've ever seen in one place descended on us. We had the bug net over the cockpit, but they were vicious. So many got inside we are still killing them 3 days later. Hundreds were trapped in the net when we took it off the next morning.

Our hope from there was to do an overnight offshore, and everything looked good the night before. But the next morning, winds and waves were predicted to increase and it was a new passage for us, so we made the decision to continue inside on the waterway.

Elephant out for a stroll by the boat ramp.

Had a beautiful easy day after the mosquito attack, through a lovely part of the ICW. For some reason, the current was with us all day, and the only thing that slowed us down was an elephant! Seriously, how cool is that! We didn't really mind slowing down for a good look and even radioed the boat behind us to make sure they didn't miss it.

Scratching an itch!
Golf and an amusement ride!

If golf is your thing, you may like the course that's split by the ICW. You have to ride across the ditch in a gondola...we caught this one going by with the bags hanging off the side.

Cozy duckling

Stayed overnight in a marina for the first time this trip...more fuel, more water, boat hosed down, pizza delivery and fireworks to top it off. All in all a good day! And, a warm fuzzy moment...a baby duck in an exhaust pipe. Mom was nearby, but distracted with the crackers folks were throwing her way.

We called this goat island

Tuesday was not a bad day, but another long one. It is a veritable zoo along the ditch. This time it was goats! No alligators this trip, but wild horses in GA, an elephant in SC, and goats in NC...what awaits us in VA?

I promised a couple of pics from our good offshore day...the only one that came out was the shrimp boat. Makes me think of the Flying Nun! These guys travel in packs of about a dozen, and at night they're kinda' freaky looking! This was a beautiful day in the ocean...almost looks like a lake!

Graceful from a distance, gangly up close!
Tomorrow...what will that bring? Maybe an offshore day (think we've decided to continue inside), an ICW day with all good things (would be nice), or another skinny water tense day (hope not). In any case, we appreciate your hanging in there with us!

Friday, June 15, 2012


I think we left you in Georgia, well, finally, we actually left Georgia today! Woo-hoo! Let's see, we only spent seven days getting through this rate, we'll be in VA by, say July? UGH! As usual, the best laid plans....

There is no accounting for weather. After the dreadful day we spent offshore from Jax to Cumberland Island, we were really hoping for a good weather outlook to have a good experience offshore. It just didn't present itself. We actually headed out the St. Mary's channel and had to turn back it was so rough. As for the ICW not being an option in GA, sometimes there's just no other way. So we have been inching our way through the shallows, one low spot after the next. We did manage to go offshore one day, from St. Simons Island to Doboy Sound...altogether about 36 miles, but we avoided Mud River which is a messy little spot to get through. It was a beautiful day and restored our faith a bit in the offshore experience. Have some pics that will follow.

I could list the "CAUTION" spots we've had to traverse, but it wouldn't mean much to most of you following along with us, and it would make this a very, very, very long post. Suffice it to say that we have spent every day checking tide charts, reading updates online, consulting guides, timing distances and holding our breath through one skinny spot after another. Some days start at 5 am or shortly thereafter to try to catch the tide, others (like today...along with the early start) include motoring around in circles for 2+ hours waiting for a bridge to open or anchoring for a couple of hours waiting for the tide to come in to a known problem area.

We are celebrating several things today! In addition to leaving GA, we stopped for fuel and water. This may sound fairly commonplace, and generally would be, but, although we had plenty of fuel, we had not filled the water tanks since leaving Jax. WATER WAS LOW! Hot showers are available again! It was Nirvana! We set foot on land (well, docks anyway) for the first time in 10 days, rinsed the salt off the dodger, unloaded the huge bag of trash accumulating and residing in the dinghy, and chatted with some very helpful marina workers. Of course, being so out of practice, Barb did try to fill one water tank that was not technically a water tank. It started with a "W" so who looked closely enough to know it was the waste tank. Filled up really fast! No real harm done, but we will need to get to a pump out to take care of that soon!

A few missteps along the way just keep it interesting, right? With all the information, updates, charts, guides, and electronic marvels, some things just can't find a category to fit into. How one could miss the ICW entirely and head up some limited channel would be one of those. Tom ran below for a few minutes and left Barb at the helm. While trying to decipher just where the turn came in for the approach to the bridge, she realized that Tom had us headed up a channel that was not part of the ICW. Turns out, the electronic marvel totally neglected to mark that part of the ditch, and, if not for the paper charts and a little curiosity, we would have had a very different outcome to our day! Tom recalls that being an issue 5 years ago in the same spot...only difference is that we didn't have the updated electronic marvel then. Of course, that recollection came after the fact.

Today we managed to hit every single skinny spot at nearly low, or low tide. It was a tense day, but we actually made it through all of them. If Jupiter aligns with Mars tomorrow (and pigs fly), we may make Charleston. We'll be starting very early, but will probably have to wait for the tide to turn at Dawho River, making it pretty nearly impossible for us to make Charleston. So, keep your fingers crossed for us...we need all the help we can get. Meanwhile, we are looking for good offshore days that coincide with our proximity to a useable about pigs flying!

Are we having fun yet? Some days you have to laugh to keep from crying, others are just too crazy for anything but a good laugh. Keep smiling, and thanks for traveling with us (even though you may have gotten the better hand in that deal).

Sunday, June 10, 2012

And again we wait...

We can really pick 'em! Weather has decided not to be our friend right now. From Exchange Island we went 12 whole miles to anchor at Blount Island (still in the St. Johns River). We determined it was best since we had 25 knot winds and 3' seas in the river! Met up with another boat there who said the Coast Guard suggested he not go offshore that day, so we didn't feel too wimpy not pushing on. Well, next morning, off they went on a long leg to Charleston, much further offshore than we planned since we were just going as far as Cumberland Island (St. Mary's GA). It should have been an indication of the day to follow when we were pulling up anchor and our depth went to 5'8"...since we draw a full 6', that's not something we like to see. Barb just couldn't seem to get the boat moving but we seemed to be slowly drifting into a bit deeper water. Finally dawned on her she hadn't engaged the transmission. We hope things were better for our fellow traveler further out, since it was probably one of the worst, if not the worst day we've had! The reports called for NE winds 10-15 kts with 2-4' seas. They got the wind direction right. We had steady winds over 25 kts, which was not really a problem. Seas, however were a problem! They were at a minimum, 6-7' with some swells well over that, and they were coming close together at an angle that restricted the direction we could proceed. We needed to go north to north-northeast. With those waves we were fighting rolls gunwale to gunwale and going into or in front of them just set us straight out to sea or right back to land. As we crashed into wave after wave, the water was swamping across the bow and against the enclosure. Our secondary anchor was pushed out of its cradle, and had it not been tied off and the chain clamped would have been swinging loose against the boat. Tom persevered and little by little worked us north. We ran with our running lights because it was dark and squally all day as well. What a miserable day. Barb was ill, and no help with the helm, Maggie was wedged into her carrier, trying to maintain her dignity (she fared better than Barb) and Tom was exhausted, sore and hungry by the time we made Cumberland Island. But, we did make it! Forgot to turn off the running lights until we went to turn on the anchor light. Just as well since we then checked the status of our lights and the starboard (green) was out. Tom replaced the bulb and all is working again. We're not sure what it's like out there today but the reports show a bit more favorable in the next few days. It's a drizzly calm day inside this protected area and we are staying put for now. Did a lot of weather surfing and route crunching last night to add plans C, D, and E to our original plans A and B. Since going inside through GA is not really an option, keep your fingers crossed for calm seas for us! Bet you're glad you're snug at home, but thanks for following along with us!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

We're off!

Farewell and fond memories, Jacksonville, until our next visit!

Rained like crazy this morning, but cleared up just before slack tide so we were able to ease out of our slip, tie up at the fuel dock, top off the tanks,and even get all three miles down river to Exchange Island in nice weather! That we weren't expecting! Now that we are all snug at anchor, the weather has again caught up with us and it's raining cats and dogs. It's a good day to sit in the cockpit and read. Looks like we may have a bit more wind than we had hoped for our offshore tomorrow, and a chance of chunkier seas, but we'll see how it goes. If it's too much, we'll come on back into the St. Johns and wait it out. Each day holds a new adventure.

'Til next time, thanks for traveling with us.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Hanging in Jacksonville...


We've rented a car for a week and we are enjoying the flexibility it offers. Our friends have been very generous with their time and their vehicles, but we hate to wear out our welcome! We're getting everything set for the next leg of our journey. We've gotten the charts we ordered, printed up bookcharts for some areas where we just need reference info, replaced the jib sheets, started our provisioning list, and planned our preferred courses along with alternates. Still to do: enter waypoints into the chart plotter and set routes and alternate routes, restitch the canvas strip on the jib, purchase provisions, say our so longs, and finally, Tom's doctor appointment. Then, we'll wait for slack tide, leave the slip and top off the fuel.

Matthews Bridge from Exchange Island
Hart Bridge from Exchange Island

We'll stay the night at Exchange Island, and the next morning we'll go offshore to Cumberland Island. That is just a day trip, and usually pretty uneventful...we're hoping that's the case this time as well.

From there we plan to go offshore to Charleston, an overnight stretch. Two days in the ICW, then we'd like to go offshore from Winyah Bay to Wrightsville Beach, or if it looks good and feels right, on to Beaufort, NC. We're inside from Beaufort to points north.

South bank St. Johns at Jax
North bank St. Johns at Jax

We're sad to leave friends here, but ready to be on our way, get back to the Bay and see friends and family there!

We'll post along the way as availability allows. Weather and all other contingencies permitting, we'll be ensconced in a slip at Regent Point Marina before the end of the month. While there we have a whole laundry list of projects to complete before embarking on our next adventure. Thanks for following along!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Talk about weather...

Welcome to Jacksonville!

It felt good to get back to our familiar digs, but we didn't really welcome Beryl. Beryl, however, crashed our party uninvited. We are very fortunate that it didn't quite reach hurricane status, 60+ kts is bad enough! Anyway, we pulled down all the enclosure and bimini, removed all the cushions, wrapped the sails, secured all loose items, added extra lines, gathered a few things including Maggie and her necessities and headed for dry ground. The marina here has floating docks, which make a big difference in a storm, but they are in need of repair and some sections are a bit iffy. With the wind, storm surge and rough, choppy, rolling seas, going to land seemed the best course of action.

We spent a couple of nights ashore where we followed the storm and caught up on what comes on TV these days. Gotta' say, we're not missing much having no TV on the boat!

Our friend, Kathy, has ferried us all over the place, which has been huge, and our friend, Russ, has leant us his car for other errands...much appreciated. Being without a car is not too bad in good weather, but it's a bit more of a challenge in heavy weather. Thank goodness for friends! The high winds have calmed to a manageable level and we came back aboard Monday afternoon. Tuesday morning, even with the rain still pelting away, we put the bimini and enclosure back up. We feel whole again! In hindsight, I wish we had taken some pictures, but that didn't really even enter our minds at the time. The river is still swollen, choppy and bouncy, the winds are gusting a bit still, it's raining buckets, and there are all types of debris bumping by (mostly boards) but we're all tucked in, snug and dry.

We hope everyone had a nice Memorial weekend as we remembered those who sacrificed all to guarantee the safety and freedom we cherish.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

A short stop before the Bay

Hello, there. We left Vero Beach Sunday, 5/20 and made it to Titusville. Beautiful most of the day, then the wind started kicking up around 24 kts. Before quite so much wind came along, we put the jib out to boost us along. Well, one of our sheets blew so that put an end to that for now. We'll replace the sheets in Jax. Waves were building as well and the Sunday boaters were busting it to get home. We found a good spot just south of the bridge so opted to anchor instead of picking up a ball at the Titusville Marina. The next morning we went into the marina to refuel. That place is just lousy with manatees! One was between us and the fuel dock, but moved on before we were ready to leave. They are not pretty, but very cool!

There are a number of shoaling areas on the way to Daytona, our next stop. We were really happy to hear a boat (with a 6' draft) in front of us calling TowBoatUS to ask for the better option in one area. We followed the advice offered (opposite of what ToeBoatUS told us on the way down) and communicated with Steve and Lynn on "Celebration" through several more areas of concern. At one junction, we almost took a wrong course, but Steve gave us some good direction and we proceeded on fine from there. We anchored in a lesser used spot in Daytona since we ran aground in the main anchorage there on the way down and the charted waters are not accurately charted. Good choice for us, and a nice night.

St. Augustine was our next stop and all went well. We caught up with "Celebration" there and took them a bottle of wine to say thanks for the help! They will be hauling in Deltaville to work on the boat some, so we hope to catch up with them there. This being our second stay on a ball in St. Augustine, we've decided we'll anchor nearby in the future. The current is strong there and if the wind and current are opposing, it's a bit of a battle with the mooring ball. We were keel hauling the ball and all the lines every few minutes for awhile and had concerns about the lines holding up. Fortunately, the wind settled and the tide changed and we were okay for the rest of the night.

We got the early opening of the Bridge of Lions before they closed for morning traffic and had a good day to Exchange Island where we enjoy anchoring before checking into our marina in Jax, as well as on nights before heading out of Jax. The dolphins were all over the place that day, jumping and tail flapping. One did a little's belly was pink! Never knew they had pink bellies. We took our time this morning for a leisurely motor the 3 miles to River City Brewing Co. Marina, and managed to arrive at a slack tide. Tom backed us in beautifully and with Lee, our dockmaster's, guidance, all went smoothly. We're here for a busy couple of weeks, then we'll make our way to the Chesapeake Bay for awhile. We have air conditioning again! Woo-hoo! Nice to be back even for a short while.

We'll keep you posted as we head to points north. Thanks for traveling with us!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Back in the USA

You're a grand old flag, you're a high flying flag...

We're back in the USA!

We had made our plans to head north of the Whale and wait for a good window to cross the Gulf Stream. The window opened up sooner than expected, so we made our way quickly over to Great Sale to get into position to execute our strategy. Of course, we were without wifi and had only one source for weather, albeit a good one. Chris Parker broadcasts 6 days a week on single sideband. On Monday, he indicated Wednesday night/Thursday, even Friday should be great. By Wednesday morning, all that had changed, and if you weren't going to get across by Thursday morning (which may be a little iffy as well), your best bet would be to wait 2 or 3 weeks. Even at that, he said there was so much going on it was just a best guess for him what was coming. Well, we had considered a 2-day to Jax or an overnight to Ft. Pierce. So, Ft. Pierce was then the only option, but we had pretty much decided that was all we were up for this time anyway.

Time to execute:
We made a couple of judgement errors in deciding the best way to position ourselves for the crossing. Instead of doing it all at once, we decided to overnight at Mangrove Cay then anchor off Little Bahama Bank to wait for the right departure time Wednesday night.

Hard to tell, but this is the anchor chain
coming from under the boat off the port stern.
First error: there is a very strong current around Mangrove Cay and it was opposed to the wind (causing us to face into the wind with the anchor behind the boat) which at times was pretty stiff along with the thunderstorms. Even though it is more open water, we might have had an easier night on the East side of Mangrove, for the current flow anyway. The worst part of that night was when the lightning struck so close and the crack was so loud, I thought we'd been hit. Tom assured me we were okay, and the electronics were still working. It was pretty spooky though. All in all that was not too bad since we later heard from someone at Great Sale that they got beat up pretty badly with strong storms that lasted much longer than what we experienced.

Second error: don't try to anchor off Little Bahama Bank. Current - crazy, wind - crazy, waves - lifting the bow so high the dinghy slapped the water from up on the davits then slammed us back down so the next wave broke over the bow. Needless to say, our plan to nap so we would be rested for the crossing that night did not go well. And, with the change in the weather report, we knew we were going to have to leave Wednesday evening rather than really early Thursday to get into Ft. Pierce by morning and avoid what Chris predicted to be some ugly stuff coming that afternoon.

Still with me?
Anyway, we started our crossing around 6:30 pm because we couldn't stand it at the Bank any longer. That was earlier than necessary, but we planned to just take our time. The crossing was pilot held a great course, no storms, it was lovely. Until, that is, about 2:00 am when we started running across some massive ships with odd light configurations and we had some difficulty in determining their paths. One actually turned off all of his lights for a minute or two several times. We've not seen anything in rules of the road to explain that, but we took a wide detour around the big stuff. It was around that time, or shortly thereafter the US Coast Guard started issuing warnings every 30 minutes or so for all vessels to seek immediate shelter from the severe thunderstorms with strong winds and possible water spouts in the Ft. Pierce area and offshore. If that wasn't just the icing on the cake! Pitch black, big weird ships, thunderstorms, strong winds, and possible water spouts that we wouldn't have been able to see a foot in front of us! Plus the fact that even at low RPMs the Gulf Stream had pushed us along so that we had to stall so we could enter this unfamiliar channel in daylight. We found ourselves navigating around fish traps, going against the current, even going further north while waiting for dawn, all in that dark rainy night.

Vero Beach mooring field
Vero Beach from the mooring field

Daylight did finally arrive and we safely navigated a very nice wide channel and made our way a few miles up the ICW to Vero Beach. We are staying here a few days to decompress before heading to Jax.

Whew! That was a wordy report, and hopefully we didn't lose you along the way. We'll keep you posted on the trip up to Jax, then to the Chesapeake Bay.

Here are a few of the pics that didn't make the earlier was beautiful and fun!

Hope Town

We enjoyed Hope Town, and even though one boat broke loose one night, we felt very secure and slept well!

Sailboat off of Treasure Cay Beach

Treasure Cay Beach is so amazing with sand so white and soft it's hard to even describe.

At anchor No Name Cay

No Name Cay was a great anchorage. We were the only boat there and that's where we went ashore and found sand dollars.

Crazy old tractor at Nippers

This crazy thing has been there for many, many years. I'll bet it was fun to decorate!

The flowers are everywhere and the colors are beautiful. What a wonderful trip!

Thanks for traveling with us!

Friday, May 11, 2012

A little break...

Bet you thought we fell in! 
We've been out of wifi-world. Well, we're back at Treasure Cay so we have great wifi for a couple of days.  Now to catch you up...

I think we left you in Marsh Harbour where we tried several times to get two different divers to come change our prop zinc.  Evidently it was not something they wanted to do.  So, we ventured to Water Cay and anchored for a little while so Tom could don his snorkel and change the prop zinc. It went quite well especially since it was his first attempt. Then on to Treasure Cay for some housekeeping... laundry, groceries, and refilling the water tanks. It's one of our favorite stops because the anchorage is good and so is the wifi!  Plus, there's a pool and good pizza.

This is a similar picture we took of Tom years ago at Nippers!

Nippers was our next stop for one last visit then we tootled around the anchorage in the dinghy the next morning and surprised a sea turtle just about a foot away from us. The water was so clear you could see the sea biscuits all along the bottom.  Sea biscuits look a bit like a sand dollar, but they are puffy and larger.

Beautiful full moon at Green Turtle Cay

We decided to go north for a few days through the Whale Passage, which takes you out into the Atlantic for a brief time. We anchored in Green Turtle Cay and caught up again with "Sea Hawk".  Enjoyed cocktails with them and John and Cheryl on "Moon".  Beautiful weather and we even threw up the sun awning. We left our friends after 2 nights and moved on to Rat Cay.  There was a great beach there and a trail across the island to the ocean. A lot of walking!

A good book, a beautiful view and just enough shade!

Fender, float and marker collection

A note to our friends on "Riverdance": we found someone's stash of over 50 floats, markers and fenders... even some metal ones.

Met a couple on a trawler who have been coming to Abaco from FL for 42 years straight.  They make the trip across in three hours in their trawler.  That's the life! Rat Cay was a nice addition, a large anchorage and a lot of area to walk and enjoy.

These had been left for others to enjoy
Powell Cay was next and another pretty beach.  Not only were there beautiful conchs with colors like a sunset, and twisted, uprooted trees, we woke up to find a little squid on the deck.  Evidently whatever bird (we're guessing) picked it up couldn't get it all the way home!

Poor little guy
We opted to move across to Coopers Town next to wait out a couple of squally days with westerly winds.  There is not a lot at Coopers Town, but we did pick up some limited wifi for a few minutes.  The next morning we were waiting for the rain to clear and just sitting in the cockpit enjoying the quiet. After it cleared, we noticed we were quite a bit closer to a large power boat than we had been.  Suddenly we realized she was dragging anchor and moving closely past us. We tried to reach them on the radio, but didn't get an answer (of course that could be because we were calling "Sweet Betty Sue" and her name was "Sweet Exta Sea", but it was very hard to read!) so we blew the air horn a couple of blasts.  That got their attention and they got control but dragged the anchor awhile, probably trying to reset. It didn't set, so they pulled up and moved on.  Crazy excitement!  We decided to move on too, to No Name Cay so we could explore the famous sand dollar beach. That didn't work out quite like we expected, but we did find some sand dollars, so we counted it as a success. We also saw a couple of sharks in the shallows (we were in the dinghy), so we decided not to get out and wade in that area. Then, back south through the Whale Passage, and that brings us back to Treasure Cay.  So, that's it for now, thanks for traveling with us!

Happy Mother's Day!

Monday, April 30, 2012

Rain, rain go away, come again another day...

Our sister ship "Sea Hawk"  in the rain
Actually, they really need the rain here, there have been fires every week, and they seem to burn forever; you can actually see the flames sometimes at night. Aside from that, we could do without quite so much of it. At least it's been a light rain! We are sitting in Marsh Harbour waiting for the really nasty stuff we keep hearing is coming Sunday and Monday... now, today or Tuesday. The storms have kinda' stalled pushing back the forecast here. Getting a few gusts around 30 knots, but it's out of the East which makes it much easier to lessen the effect at most anchorages.

What we have been enjoying during this misty, mushy weather is the other cruisers. We ran across "Sea Hawk" (1981 41' Island Trader... gold dragons and all... and a Maggie aboard, but she's a shepherd/husky mix), and they are currently anchored off our starboard bow. We enjoyed dinner out at the Jib Room with Wendy and Burry the other night and they came over for cocktails last night. We also invited new friends Lynn and  Bill on "Outpost" (Catalina 47), so the six of us had a great time. Lynn and Bill have a place in Weems VA (near Topping/Deltaville where we spend the summer) and a place in Marathon FL (where we hope to winter next year before crossing). We went for cocktails on Outpost earlier this week, and think we may touch base often with Lynn and Bill during the year.

Red sky at dawn, squalls coming on...
In case  you were wondering what a red sky in the morning looks like, this was last week at Hope Town before the squalls there.  The yellow in the photo was actually blood red, but I just couldn't get a setting on the camera to reflect that, it kept coming out yellow. It was a beautiful sunrise.

Between Hope Town and Marsh Harbour we anchored north of Sandy Cay and took the dinghy around to snorkel the reef. We snorkeled for a short while, but were amazed at the vibrant colors of the fish and the reef. Probably the prettiest we've seen. That night and the next we anchored at Lynyard Cay. We took a damp dinghy ride across to Little Harbour to have lunch at Pete's Pub and walk the island, wandering up to the lighthouse ruins. We visited the museum/gallery which features mostly cast bronze sculpture. Nice day. Our plan was to head out and snorkel Sandy Cay reef again, but the weather pushed us on to Marsh Harbour, which brings us back to where we started this post! In a few days, we hope to cross the Whale and check out some of the areas we missed running from the weather when we first arrived. We'll let you know what we experience in that area.

Firefly Resort at south end of the island
near White Sound
Hope Town Harbour from the window
on the way up the lighthouse (100 steep

Here are couple of pictures from Hope Town and vicinity that we couldn't get posted previously...picturesque island.

This may be a bit more day to day detail than you might find interesting, but, hey, it's our blog and is a bit of a log for us to look back on and remember what makes this paradise! Thanks for following along with us.
Happy Sails!

Friday, April 27, 2012

Well, we're up to our old tricks! We refueled and filled the water tanks on our way out of Treasure Cay. Everything was good until we tried to leave the fuel dock which is located in the channel.  There was not much wind, but it picked up enough to push us against the dock, and with a boat behind us, we had a devil of a time getting off the dock. But, we finally made it. That was a bit distracting, so we unintentionally managed to edge our way out of the channel and aground. We weren't sure what to do since there is no TowBoatUS here, but we knew we would have to wait for the tide to come in before we could do much of anything. So we put out a couple of anchors to keep us from being pushed further out. Of course, things got worse before they got better. As the water continued to ebb, we continued to go further and further on our side so everything below promptly slid to starboard, as did we! Maggie was a bit unsettled as well trying to get about at such an angle.
Aground at Treasure Cay
As the other cruisers passed, most hailed us to make sure we were okay, but they couldn't really do anything to help at that point. Later as the tide started to turn, the folks we met on "Sally Rose" came by in their dinghy, and then Jim came back awhile later. He and Tom managed to push and pull (Tom reeling in an anchor as Jim pushed the bow with the dinghy) with Barb at the helm helping with the engine and steering, to free us. By this time (6 hours later) it was getting a little late and we thought about going back into Treasure Cay, but decided to go on out to Water Cay and anchor there. It turned out to be a beautiful night.

Mörsan in Hope Town
Spent 2 nights anchored at Man-O-War Cay and then made our way into Hope Town. The channel into Hope Town is shallow, and we wanted to go in on a rising tide so we waited until about 5:00pm. Not a big deal, but there was a nasty squall with some hefty wind predicted in a couple of days so boats were pouring into the harbors for protection, and there is no anchoring there, only mooring balls. We were able to pick one up, then Truman decided to move us further in because of our size. That night a boat near us broke loose in the storm and got tangled in the mooring lines of the boat behind us.

Tom maneuvering the door at the top of the Lighthouse

Somehow, even sleeping in the cockpit, we missed the excitement. Truman was the hero of the hour and got out there to free the boats. We were happy we didn't get tangled up in that! Hope Town is a great place to spend a few days, so we enjoyed our visit. We walked all over, climbed the lighthouse and hitched a ride with Eric who's dad rents golf carts. He took us to the other end of the island to a great little resort area. Nice place, they even provided transportation back to town...Tonas drove us in the saddest old golf cart we've ever seen. At one point we offered to get out and push so we could get up a hill. Breathed a sigh of relief when we pulled into town!

We've been out and about since then, but we should have wifi for a few days, so I'll continue this update later. Thanks for following along with us!
Happy Sails!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Wind, wind, and more wind! I know, you're thinking..."sailboat, wind is good", right. Well, wind is good for sailing, but not necessarily for wave conditions in the Sea of Abaco, or for anchoring. It's been a breezy week, but we are looking for things to start settling down in the next couple of days, and hopefully have some good island hopping weather for a little stretch. I type these updates when time permits, then post them when we get Internet access, so sometimes things may seem a bit out of sequence. However, since we have almost no concept of time, we really don't care.

Walked down a long stretch of beach on Treasure Cay today. The sand is like powdered sugar and the water is sparkling. This was not a shell-finding beach, but we found a few small shells and many broken sand dollars. Found some tiny, tiny sand dollars whole...never knew they came that small!

I know, how much of this can you take?  Bookoos!
 Folks from our marina in Deltaville on "Moon Splash", Jim and Gretchen, are anchored nearby in Treasure Cay, so we asked them over for cocktails. While we were enjoying the evening, a boat they knew came in and anchored nearby, so we asked them to stop by as well. Jim and Bobbie on "Sally Rose" joined us for awhile. Evenings are peaceful as the sun sets, even when it's windy. When the sun goes down in an anchorage, someone on one of the boats will blow a conch horn, then whoever else out there who has one will answer. There are usually several horns ushering in the sundown.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Ah, life in the amazing. Everything really does run on island time here. On some islands the bank is only open a couple of days a week so that they can be open a couple of days a week on another island. Many places shut down 2 or 3 hours midday and if you're waiting for a delivery, you are at the mercy of the ever changing flight schedules and ferry delivery. We are currently holding out for a wifi booster which should come in on Thursday, at least that is Jermaine's hope. It should make a big difference in our access from the boat. There was a rumor that Customs was going to go on strike, but it didn't happen. We hear that comes up around election time...just like home! We are trying to take care of a few housekeeping items like laundry and filling the water tanks. We are feeling pretty good about our provisioning at present, but Marsh Harbour has a couple of excellent grocery stores, tho' a little pricey.

Barb sat up on the bow for a bit to take in the view while we were underway a day or two ago. We were in about 15 feet of crystal clear water. There is not a lot of fish activity, but you can see starfish on the bottom, and every rock and clump of sea growth like it's inches away. Of course, everyone talks about the stars or diamonds on the surface with the sun shimmering, but there are sapphires skimming across the tops of the ripples in pulsating shades of blue as well. The colors of the water are so vibrant, the sails and white hulls of boats across the way take on a baby blue hue. When we are finally able to add pictures (the booster should make that doable) they can't possibly do it justice.

Great Guana Cay

This is a shot from our anchorage to Grabbers on the beach. Great Gauana Cay is the home of Nippers. It's very shallow out front, but you can watch the skates swimming right under the dinghy on the way over.

Marsh Harbour evening

Marsh Harbour has beautiful sunsets and it can be such a comfortable spot, we can see why some folks spend weeks in the harbour.

Weather concerns are constant companions because different anchorages are protected only from wind coming from certain directions. A few of the main islands have good protection overall, but the wind blows pretty steadily here, sometimes a bit strongly, and so you make your plans with the help of Barometer Bob and the Cruiser's Net. Every morning we get a weather report, information on anything going on in the Marsh Harbour or Hopetown areas, and there is an open forum for questions or requests, like how to locate a doctor, if anyone has a spare bilge pump out there, or that someone found a kayak and is looking for the owner. They also announce or relay any emergency messages to cruisers from back home. Most of the cruisers check in and there is a wealth of information traded and shared. It's pretty cool. For more extensive weather, we try to get Chris Parker on the single sideband. He comes on at 6:30 every morning and some days we get better reception than others. He is definitely the guy to listen to before crossing!

Everyone is very friendly!

We are so grateful to our cruising friends who were persistent in urging us to "Just do it!" some days you almost have to pinch yourself to make sure it's all real! Thanks for traveling with us!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Well, it's not been as easy to update as we had hoped. Wifi does not have a strong signal and we don't have an antenna. But there are bars on every major island and most have wifi available, so we will make hay while the sun shines! We launched into the Gulf Stream last Sunday night, April 1, around 10pm. We arrived in Bahamian waters to a beautiful sunrise Monday morning. It was a little sketchy when we started out and the prospect of ten or more hours of that was less than thrilling. But, as the night wore on, the seas calmed (as predicted) so that we weren't hanging on with each swell, and we settled into a decent crossing. We're learning quickly what we need and don't need, and continuing to learn as we go. We do need an antenna for the single sideband so that we can get good weather reports. We do need a wifi antenna if we want to do any Internet from the boat. Mostly, we needed the anchor windlass (which we had installed shortly before leaving Jax) as Tom's back would not have held up! Took us 5 tries to find a spot with good holding at Green Turtle Cay! Thank goodness friends Rob and Lauren ("Arita"/"Southern Comfort") encouraged that purchase.
The new deck is fantastic! We don't miss the teak in the least. With the sun beating down on the deck all day, the teak would burn your feet, and our new deck is nice and cool.  Not to mention the rain does not drip on Tom's head while he is sleeping anymore...yay!
We have marveled at the color and clarity of the water, wandered through a couple of towns, gone for an evening swim, caught up with friends here, checked in with Customs (Terri was a wealth of information and made checking in a pleasure) and made our first visit to the bank. We didn't take as leisurely a time this first week as we had hoped, but we wanted to get past the Whale (cut out to the ocean and back into the more southern part of Abaco) before the weather turned. We are anchored in Marsh Harbour now probably for a few more days as the front passes. Then we plan to start island hopping in earnest! 
This truly is a paradise and we know how fortunate we are to be living our dream. You may not be aware, but this is something we've hoped to do for many years, and it is exhilarating! There are compromises with everything, like getting up to listen to the weather at 6:30 every morning, and nudging into a crowded anchorage to lay low for a weather day or two, and learning what works and what doesn't, but overall, it's pretty cool!
After nudging into our anchorage here, we determined we were really a little close to the Tianna next to us. Jim confirmed that for us as he graciously (he truly was very gracious) came by in his dinghy to see if we were comfortable with the closeness. So, after Tom fixed the hose leaking into the bilge, we nudged into another spot and we are all more satisfied with the outcome.
We are going to have a few issues posting pictures because we still haven't figured out how to do that on the iPad and we don't really want to carry the laptop to shore. So, we'll keep plugging along and figure it out as we go.
Thanks for traveling with us!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Now we wait, but not for long...

After making our way south and spending several days in Vero Beach (beautiful place), we are now in Lake Worth (West Palm Beach) at anchor to wait for a mild crossing. Vero was a great stop where we met up with friends Connie & John on "Riverdance". They have just returned from the Abacos and shared so much of their Bahamas knowledge. They also shared their transportation with us so we were able to add to our provisions and make a last time West Marine stop. We wish them safe travels as they head north to Delaware.

The many porpoise have been our constant companions and we had our own little Flipper session at one point...



There have been some beautiful evenings...

And, we're excited about our next experiences!
We'll check back in when we find a wifi spot in the Abacos!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

It's all new and fresh again...

...and we're relearning and learning anew!

Day 1: not much practice with the new electric windlass, so anchoring was less than ideal. But, now that we have a better feel for it, we are loving it! Tom's back is particularly fond of it.
Day 2: St. Augustine mooring was great. We had wind one direction and current the other, so it took us awhile to determine the best location for the ball so as not to put too much pressure against the dolphin spike.
Day 3: trying out a new anchorage, recommended by a friend, with a chart showing 14' of water, we discovered what is evidently a shallow spot! We grounded in mud that seemed to suck us down. We ended up calling in the pros (TowBoat US)and proceeded to mystify our rescuer. Took him almost an hour to free us. Turned out to be a lovely spot and we spent a peaceful night and got out without issue. What we did discover is that there is not more than about 8' of water, even at high tide in the best spots.
Days 4 & 5: we have been lazy and relaxed in Titusville. They have a new mooring field here and it was a nice little spot for an extra day. They also have a lot of space for anchoring so we checked that out for next time.

We don't really plan to post day by day, but since each day so far has had its little challenges, we wanted to make note. We're trying to get all the little adjustments out of the way early in the trip. We do plan to post pictures, but we still have to figure that out!

The great thing is that the weather has been amazing, the porpoise are swimming everywhere, seen a couple of manatees and skates, and we are enjoying ourselves. We are looking forward to connecting with friends in a few days a little further south and all is well.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

March is our starting frame...

So, February has ended and we are moving into March.  We have a new deck... the teak is gone :-( but so are the leaks :-)  Actually, we really like it... it doesn't burn our feet!  We also have a new electric windlass!  No more back breaking for Tom... it's not easy hauling up 150+ feet of chain and anchor!  Now we're into the home stretch.  Time to take the cat to the vet to get the Bahamas permit signed off.  Time to preregister for US Customs check in for when we return (may not have to make a physical appearance that way, but no guarantees).  Time to get the decal (user tax) for coming and going.  Time to order a few new charts.  Time to check all the safety equipment and make sure we have ways to secure everything inside and out.  Time to provision, provision, provision.  There's a good chance we will take way more than we need, but it is a shakedown cruise after all.  We will be taking the car up to Virginia to sit out cruising time.  All of this should be completed in the next couple of weeks, then we will mosey on down south 'til we reach the West Palm Beach area.  That's where we plan to cross, probably leaving late one night so we arrive in the morning and can see where we're going.  We plan to check in at West End, but none of our plans are written in stone, or even sand at this point.  We'll try to keep current just in case anyone would like to know what we're up to.
Happy Sails, T & B