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 Norfolk...so 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 bad...it 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 loud...wow! 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 short...it 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 GA...at 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 inlet...talk 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!