APRIL--ALABASTER BAY TO NORFOLK, VIRGINIA
Oh Oh, April 1--April's Fool Day. What a day to go through Current Cut--more about Current Cut later! Left the anchorage at Alabaster Bay shortly before 7:00 AM. I was on "full alert" because there is a rock about 1 foot below the water in the middle of the bay. Carl gave me a course to steer---moving along when suddenly I saw a pile of pink rocks (just like the rocks you see in the North Channel). Immediately turned to starboard and then the rock moved and dove beneath the water. It was a manatee resting on the surface of the water.....not a rock. Made it safely to open water where the only obstacle to worry aboutr is the lobster floats. Winds from the northeast at 5-10 knots ...a motorsail day. Traveling with TILT (Kris and Craig), ONE EYED PARROTS (Leigh and Ken), and DREAM WEAVER (Pattye and Frank). About Current Cut---the cut between the northwestern tip of the island of Eleuthera and Current Island. It is important to time your passage through Current Cut because the current can flow at speeds over 5 knots when the tide is at maximum flow or ebb. Ideally, you go through the cut at slack water or with an ebb tide (traveling east to west that is). The route through the cut is also tricky. DISCOVERY arrived first---had to wait for a powerboat to come through the cut from west to east (there is NOT room for two boats). To go through the cut you stay about 50-100 yards off the shore of Current Island following the coastline until you round the last offlying rock which you give a wide berth while turning to port. When you follow the coast you stay close to ugly rocks while leaving the open water (which is shallow) to starboard. It is counter-intuitive to steer to rocks. Once you get around the last rock, the channel is wider and easier to follow. I was expecting slack water--Carl did his best to calculate our arrival but instead of slack water, the tide was still flooding but not at its maximum. Always happy to be THROUGH Current Cut.
From Current Cut we motored over to Royal Island anchoring on the southwest shore rather than going inside the harbor. Sitting at anchor off Royal Island brought back memories of our first visit to Royal Island back in March of 2006. In 2006, the island was "undeveloped"---lots of ruins from a once grand estate. One of the ruins still had a roof and a working fireplace. Cleaned up the room and had a Cruiser's Potluck with 14 boats. It was fun to explore the island. Now it is a private island with homes, a golf course and a No Trespassing sign. Yup, "They paved paradise and put up a parking lot." Since we could not go to shore we invited our fellow cruisers over for a cocktail party. Friends Bev, Arnie and their daughter, Anita, on SCANDIA arrived in time for the party.
Pictures from the cocktail party on DISCOVERY when we anchored at Royal Island. Picture one is Leigh, Kris and Pattye setting up appetizers. . Next is Bev, Carl and Craig dishing up appetizers.
The following morning, our cruising convoy left for the Abacos. The winds were very light out of the northeast so we motorsailed all the way. Lots of commercial traffic especially cruise ships including the Disney cruise ship. Entered Abaco Sound from the Atlantic through the Little Harbor cut. Anchored at the southeast end of Lynyard Cay.
On Lynyard Cay there is easy access to the windward beach close to where we anchored. Spent a couple hours Saturday morning looking for sea glass and other sea treasures. In the afternoon, SCANDIA, TILT, MOON DANCE and DISCOVERY hopped in the dinghies for a trip over to Pete's Pub at Little Harbor for lunch and to celebrate Arnie's birthday. Little Harbor was home to Randolph Johnston, who is known internationally for his wax castings in bronze. His wife, Margot, worked in ceramics. Their son, Pete does life size marine bronze sculptures and runs an open air bar on the beach. After returning to our boats, the group gathered on SCANDIA for birthday cake and drinks to further celebrate Arnie's birthday.
Pictures from Pete's Pub on Little Harbor. First picture is one of Pete's marine bronze sculpture. The second picture is a sculpture by Randolph Johnson--9 or 10 Stages (can't remember the exact numbre) of Man's Life. Picture three is the birthday boy, Arnie with his wife, Bev, and daughter, Anita. The last picture is a group shot before food was served.
On Sunday (April 3), Carl started getting ansy about heading for the US. From my perspective, there was still plenty of time for us to enjoy the Abacos and get to Deltaville, VA by the middle of May (anytime between May 10 and May 15). This difference of opinion became a sore spot between us for a week. Enough said.
Our next stop was Man-O-War Cay dropping anchor in Dickie's Cay. Invited for dinner onboard TILT. Our traveling companions SCANDIA and ONE EYED PARROTS went to Hope Town. The next morning we could see the launch of the shuttle, DISCOVERY. At first saw a long tail of orange flames shooting up the horizon and then it looked like a large, fast satellite passing overhead. Can only imagine what it looked like from an anchorage near the Space Center in Florida. Later in the morning we went to shore with Kris and Craig. Man-O-War is quite developed and more "upscale" than islands in the south and central Bahamas. It has been a center for boat building for years--home to Edwin's Boat Yard and Albury Brothers Boat Building (Albury boats are also built in Florida for the US market). Man-O-War is home of the Sail Shop where canvas bags are sewn (every size from coin purse to carry on duffels)---very nice and quite pricey. On our walk we stopped at a bakery located in someone's kitchen for cinnamon buns. I loved all the colorful signs on the various shops. One aspect of Man-O-War that isn't positive is that it is an all white island. Don't know how it is enforced in an country that is primarily black!
Loved the colorful business signs on Man-O-War. Too many to post so I selected the two best ones.
Great cinnamon buns. Interesting place to enjoy them--between the cemetery and the beach (022, 023)
Man-O-War is famous for boat building. The following pictures are Albury Boats--in business since 1952.
Sailed with TILT from Man O War to Great Guana Cay. Raised the main sail while we were anchored allowing us to sail away without starting the engine. Winds were from the northeast at 12-14 knots--we were on a broad reach. Such an easy and pleasant sail. Had to turn the engine on for 15 minutes to get into the anchorage at Fischer's Bay. ONE EYED PARROTS arrived from Hope Town. Played Sequence onboard DISCOVERY.
The next day we went onshore to check out the island. Great Guana has a wide 5-1/2 mile long ocean beach. It is also home to Nippers--a popular beach bar on the ocean side of the Cay. The cay has a beautiful marina, Orchid Bay, located in Settlement Harbor. There is development underway at Baker's Bay on the northeast tip of the cay---golf course, marina and resort. When we were in Great Guana Cay in March of 2007, locals and cruisers were actively protesting this development. Looks like the developers won the battle. In 1989 this same area was developed for use by cruise ship visitors--it was called Treasure Island. However, the facility closed down in 1993 because there were too many cancellations. Cruise ships had to use the Loggerhead Channel to get to Treasure Island--rough seas (northerly swells from storms in the Atlantic) often make this channel impossible to pass through. Back to our shore visit--walked to Orchid Bay Marina, stopped at the grocery store to see what they had, walked to Nippers and then to the beach. Did not find any sea treasures. Had lunch at Grabbers. Made plans to go to Green Turtle Cay the following day. Very excited to go to Green Turtle for the first time. It has Memorial Sculpture Garden--bronze busts of people who played important roles in Bahamian History. After Green Turtle we would go to Manjack Cay to visit the oceanside beach.
In the Abacos...golf carts are often used for transportation around the island especially Man-O-War and Great Guana. The second picture was taken on the beach not far from Nippers.
Well .......plans do change based on the next morning's weather forecast. A low pressure system moving ENE into Lake Erie would trail a cold front off the southeast coast of the US. The front would arrive in the Vero Beach area by Friday at noon (today is Wednesday). Now the bad part of the forecast, on Saturday a frontal trough would move into the Bahamas and form a compression zone with strong ENE winds at 25 to 30 knots sustained with gusts and squalls to 40-50 knots. This compression zone would stay in place for 3-5 days. So...we could take the window (48 hours) to sail to Fort Pierce or we would need to sit out the unsettled weather in the Bahamas. Carl hopped in the dinghy to discuss the weather with TILT and ONE EYED PARROTS. He returned to DISCOVERY with a gleam in his eye--the decision was to go. Yes, I would have loved to stay in the Bahamas but heading to Florida was the right thing to do. Before leaving Great Guana Cay, Craig made a run to the grocery store to buy bread for TILT and DISCOVERY. We had decided not to buy groceries until Green Turtle Cay--that was not going to happen.
Left Great Guana Cay at 10:15 AM on Wednesday (04/07). Sailed through the Loggerhead Channel and the Whale Cay Channel. This passage can be difficult (as previously mentioned it is susceptible to a rage when ocean swells come from the northeast) ---this time conditions were perfect. Continued sailing to Powell Cay where we anchored for the rest of the afternoon and night. Ken and Leigh (ONE EYED PARROTS picked up Craig, Carl and I for last beach walk in the Bahamas. Powell Cay is an uninhabited island with a great oceanside beach. After the beach walk, TILT and DISCOVERY went over to ONE EYED PARROTS for dinner.
Cruisers often collect trash that floats up on the windward beach and then tie the trash on a tree. The first picture is Ken, Leigh, Carl and Craig standing next to the trash tree before we walked the beach. Each of us picked up something from the beach to tie on the tree after our walk--the last picture is Ken adding his contribution.
Left Powell Cay at 6:10 AM. Winds were southeast at 10 knots ....increasing to 20 knots by sunset. By 8:30 AM we turned the engine off and sailed for the next 20 hours. Lots of dolphins swimming around the boat while we were crossing the Little Bahama Banks. Into the gulfstream by sunset. Wise cruisers give the gulfstream lots of respect. The stream flows north sweeping the vessel north. Fort Pierce is around 295 degrees from where we exited the Little Bahama Banks so we steered a course of 272 making adjustments as the current pushed us to the north. On my watch, about 20 nautical miles out of Fort Pierce, the wind dropped to 5-8 knots. I tried to continue sailing---real slow because wanting to delay our arrival into the Fort Pierce inlet until first light. However, I could not maintain a cours....the push north was greater than the boat could move west so I turned on the engine. Abandoned the plan to enter the inlet at first light---we were way early and didn't want to wait any longer. The challenge of going in the inlet is the lights on the channel markers blend in with the city lights. The positive part of going in when we did was a flooding tide so we had a favorable current pushing us in. TILT and ONE EYED PARROTS were about an hour behind us. TILT anchored in Fort Pierce to wait for low tide so they could pass under the fixed bridges at Vero Beach (their mast is 64.5 feet so they need a low tide to get under most fixed bridges). ONE EYED PARROTS had not traveled on the ICW up to Vero Beach so we waited for them so they could follow us. Arrived in Vero Beach on Friday at 9 AM (the front was supposed to come through in the early afternoon which meant we would have to motor into gusty north winds).
Tied to a mooring at Vero Beach and took a nap. TILT made it to Vero Beach before the front arrived. We shared the same mooring ball. ONE EYED PARROTS were assigned to a different mooring. Saturday night Keith and Rose (CAMELOT) picked us up for a street concert on Ocean Drive--a great band. Saw George & Lois (formerly on Scott Free) and Linda and Ron (formerly on Water Music) at the concert. After the concert we stopped at Keith and Rose's house to play Sequence. Sunday Carl and I went for a walk down to the beach and stopped for ice cream (the shop sells ice cream by the weight not the scoop).
The next two pictures were taken during the street concert. The first one is Carl and Keith--two Saga technocrats that even dress alike! The second picture is George and Lois who we met our first year in the Bahamas. George and Lois are now full time CLODS (Cruisers Living On Dirt).
Stayed in Vero Beach for 7 nights. The first visit to Publix for groceries was a real treat......it has been a long time since I have seen so much variety in fresh vegetables and fruits not to mention cut meat, poultry and specialty items. Also hit several thrift shops with Kris (TILT) and Pat (formerly WIND BORNE). Kris, Pat and I had lunch in a cool theme restaurant called Mrs. Mac's. The waitress grabs the flatware from a red mechanics tool chest--the flatware is wrapped in a red cloth napkins (typically used to wipe the dipstick on. The front and back of the menu is made of actual license plates. The thrift shops in Vero have lots of nice brand name/designer clothing real, real cheap. TILT had special guests--Pat & Mac (formerly WIND BORNE) and Mary and Gary (PACKET INN) plus us for dinner one night. What a great time.
Pictures from dinner on TILT with special guests Mary, Gary, Pat and Mac.
Once again, Carl was getting anxious to move. We waited a week for a window to hop in the gulfstream and sail from Fort Pierce to Beaufort, NC. By Friday the 16th, there was nothing on the horizon (perhaps in 5-7 days) so we decided to travel up the ICW to Fernandina Beach and then go outside from Fernanadina to Beaufort. TILT, on the other hand, decided to wait for that window. With their 7 foot draft and extra tall mast, the ICW is a challenge for them.
The ICW (Intracoastal Waterway) also known as "The Ditch" is nearly 4000 miles long running from Boston, MA to Brownsville, TX. The ICW consists of barrier islands, connecting bays and coastal rivers plus man-made canals--some of them hand-dug by slaves and others blasted with dynamite by the Army Corp of Engineers. The ICW was first envisioned over 200 years ago by our Founding Fathers as a critical waterway for commerce. The ICW, however, was not completed until the Depression---the necessary work provided much needed jobs. The first year that we transited the ICW, I only saw dayboards/markers, traffic both pleasure and commercial, bridges (fixed, bascule, pontoon, and swing) and locks. I concentrated so hard on the navigation that there was no time to look around at the beauty that surrounded me--dolphins, manatees, deer, osprey, eagles, homes, trees and flowers. The first year, Carl always took the helm when we were any where near a bridge. This year, I did all the work at the helm including contacting bridge tenders.
When we left Vero Beach the winds were slightly north of east around 12-17 knots so we were able to sail when the channel opened up. Early in the morning, Carl called TOW BOAT US to activate towing insurance---it is not unusual for a boat to go aground in the ICW (it gets shallow in places). Forgot that the Addison Bridge on the NASA Causeway closes from 3:30 PM until 5:00 PM for the traffic leaving the Space Center. As a result, had to slow down to burn 90 minutes. Took the headsail in and put a double reef in the main so we slogged along at 1-2 knots arriving at the bridge one minute before opening. Continued sailing to Titusville where we dropped anchor for the night. A long day (7:30 AM to 6:10 PM)--wasted 90 minutes because of that bridge.
The following day we went to Daytona--a much shorter day than the day before. This stretch of the ICW is free of any troublespots. Lots of manatee in the Haulover Canal . Just south of the George Munson Bridge in New Smyrna, we were surrounded by Marine Police--six boats. One of them boarded the catamaran in front of us. By the time we approached the bridge, the Marine Police spotted two kids standing on surfboards paddling along without life jackets which drew their attention away from us allowing us to continue on our merry way. It was Saturday so the closer to we were to Daytona, the more fast powerboats we saw. Anchored on the northside of the Seabreeze Bridge. Less than 5 miles north of Seabreeze Bridge is the Ormond Beach Bridge. Tucked at the southeast corner of the Ormond Beach Bridge is John D. Rockefeller's retirement home, Casements". Rockefeller lived here until he died at age 97. You can see the house from the ICWs but it was too far away to get a photo at least with my camera.
Since starting our trip on the ICW, the US Coast Guard made daily announcements "Security, Security, Security. For information regarding navigational hazards at the Mantanzas Inlet switch to Channel 22. Serious shoaling--do not transit except at high tide." Tow Boat US reported an average of 30 boats going aground in March. Well, this was our day to find out how bad the shoaling was! I looked for current information on various guidebook websites. The river is shoaling badly on the north side of Rattlesnake Island--specifically the green marks are too far to the east. To further complicate the situation, there is a hump of mud in the center of the channel so if you get caught on the green side you can't move over to the red side. The green side is only 3-4 feet deep. We planned our passage at mid-tide rising. When we passed green 85--suddenly six go fast cruisers "flew past us". The six boats then led 2 trawlers and 2 sailboats through the shoals. To pass through you ignore the green (starboard--east) side of the channel and follow the curve of the river 50-70 feet from shore with the red markers slightly to starboard! I don't think Carl and I would have gone as close to shore if we would have transited this area alone. The good news--we made it through with lots of water flowing under the keel. What a relief and the smug thought---"That wasn't so bad." Note: This area was remarked a couple days after we passed through. Blew by St. Augustine and sailed to Pine Island where we anchored at low tide in some skinny water.
The next morning we left the anchorage at first light when the tide was slightly higher than when we entered the anchorage the previous evening. Today's destination--Fernandina, FL. As we approached Fernandina, Carl called for a mooring--much to our surprise one wasn't available (strike one). Alternate destination--St. Marys, Georgia where Carl wanted to go out for dinner. Strike two--it was Monday so all the restaurants were closed. Checked the weather forecast-- good for hopping outside tomorrow so sent Carl into the marina in the dinghy to see about fuel.---no fuel until 8:00 AM Tuesday morning and there were several boats in front of us--strike three.
Left St. Marys at first light headed back to Fernandina where we were fueled up. In the inlet at 8:30 AM on our way. Good thing we didn't wait for fuel in St. Marys. Nice to be in open water after a week of winding around in the ICW dealing with shallow water, bridge openings and motorboats wanting to give you a slow pass! About 15 miles in front of us was Skip and Cheryle on ELEANOR M so we had someone to check in with once in awhile via VHF radio. 24 hours after we left Fernandina, our friends, Kris and Craig (TILT) left Fort Pierce so we stayed in contact with them via SSB radio on regular cruisers' nets.Lots of commercial traffic around Savannah, Charleston, Cape Fear and Beaufort---love our AIS. The trip went very smooth. Sometime during the last night we passed ahead of ELEANOR M. They stayed closer to shore which was a shorter route while we stayed out farther catching some of the gulfstream to push us along. Traveled 320 nautical miles in 48 hours. Anchored in Cedar Creek around noon--enjoying some fantastic sleep.
Next stop--Oriental, NC. Once again we were able to use the "free dock". Called Sandy and Bill (LUCILLE--another Saga 43) who picked us up for lunch at their home and returned us to the boat in the afternoon. Later that evening we met Bill and Sandy for drinks at the Tiki Bar (Oriental Inn and Marina). Saturday, Sandy picked me up for grocery shopping at Harris Tetter in New Bern. On our way back from New Bern we also stopped at a fresh vegetable/fruit market. While I was shopping, Carl attended the Marine Flea Market. Sandy returned me to the boat late morning and invited us to the house for dinner that evening--burgers on the grill. I joined Carl at the Flea Market running into D (SOUTHERN CROSS). Last time we saw D was in Trinidad. Also ran into Penny (RAINBOW END)---Penny and her husband, Stephen, purchased a home in Oriental. Penny offered to take us any place we needed and she offered her washing machine and dryer! Finally ran into Dave & Peggy (DESTINY) and Dave & Mary (MON AMIE) who invited us to join them for lunch. Visiting Oriental is like attending a reunion of some type or another--constantly run into people you know from cruising. Sunday was quite the "weather day"---a low in Indiana extended a nasty squally warm front from Cape Hatteras to Bermuda stirring up gale force winds from Cape Cod to Cape Fear. It blew 25-30 knots with gusts to 48-50 knots. In this wind, a 50 foot motor yacht (with no bow thruster) came into the city marina. When it turned broadside to the wind it could not steer into the slip and was rapidly moving down on DISCOVERY's stern. The captain finally got the bow into the wind just missing the port side of our boat. I was alone on the boat with a racing heart until that boat finally made it into the slip (it hit several pilings and then used a piling to pivot into the slip--not good for their teak cap rail).
The next four pictures were taken in Oriental. About a dozen shrimp boats in port. The second picture is the Oriental Dragon floating in a pond next to the coffee shop. Third picture is D at the Marine Flea Market. The last picture is Dave and Carl standing around talking during the Flea Market.
The Neuse River, Pamlico Sound and Albemarle Sound do not have a lunar tide. The tide is this area is determined by wind. When it blows hard from the south in the Pamlico Sound the water moves north out of the sound dropping the tide as much as 2 feet. While we were at the dock in Oriental, with the wind blowing out of the south--the water dropped so much that DISCOVERY was aground. To get away from the dock, Carl rock the boat side to side to break the mud suction while I ran the engine in reverse. We ever so slowly broke loose.
Monday we left Oriental continuing on the ICW. Sailed until we reached the intersection of the Pamlico River and the Pungo River. Anchored in Pungo Creek just south of the Alligator-Pungo Canal. Really liked this anchorage--lots of room. Invited over to TILT for pizza. Left early the next morning heading to Buck Island just south of Coinjock. A good day to transit the Alligator River and the Albemarle Sound. This area can be nasty when the winds blow from the northeast--the water is shallow with miles of fetch. We had moderate northwest winds that had been clocking so the waves had not built significantly when we passed through.
When we were past the Alligator Swing Bridge, I noticed the channel markers did not match those on my chartplotter---primarily there were more markers. Carl quickly came up the companionway giving me instruction to move west---fast. I was in the middle of the channel with plenty of water but I followed his instructions. Earlier I had noticed a powerboat that was aground on the west side of the channel (where I was heading) and then the trawler in front of me ran aground so I moved back east. What was happening here? "The Captain"--a navigational software using NOAA charts is our primary navigational tool and used for all our navigational decisions. It had the most current chart showing the additional markers which my chartplotter did not have. However, the shoal west of flashing daybeacon #8 has been building farther to the south and east--so much that you can't follow what is called the magenta line on the current chart anymore. Once again a lesson in good seamanship---use the most current charts, follow the navigational markers and use your eyes (two boats aground is a good indicator that something is wrong). Note: The day before we heard a powerboat call the Coast Guard because they had run aground at the junction of the Bay and Neuse Rivers. Someone on board was injured--broken ribs so they needed assistance. This same boat was the first boat I mentioned! Two days of being hard aground.
Anchored on the north side of Buck Island. Could not believe the number of crab pots---so many it was almost impossible to find a spot to anchor with enough swing room. About 15 minutes after dropping the hook the first squall arrived--more arrived shortly after dark. Just another cold front was moving through.
Next stop was Great Bridge. What a cold run. The temperatures dropped into the lower 40's overnight. Had to find sock and shoes other than flip flops. I wore two sweatshirts and a foul weather jacket to break the wind. Tied to the "free dock" in Great Bridge where we finally warmed up. Stayed in Great Bridge two days--a great grocery store (Fresh Market). Managed to get my haircut. TILT arrived on the second day--invited them over for dinner.
The following pictures were taken at Great Bridge. The first one is DISCOVERY and CELEBRATION tied to the free dock at Great Bridge. We just met Steve and Lynn on CELEBRATION. Lynn grew up in Valley City, ND. There are several people from Valley City Carl and Lynn knew. What a small world it is especially in the cruising world. I took the last picture because I forget what "season it is". Sailing in the tropics it is always summer. I see little creatures following their parents reminding me that it is spring.
April 30th we moved from Great Bridge to Norfolk. Did not go to shore--will do that in the fall when we start moving south. As soon as we dropped the hook, two ducks wanted to sit on our swim platform. I chased those two love birds away at least a dozen times. Our boat is dirty enough---tannin stains from the ICW and dirt from who knows where. We did not need duck poop!
It doesn't seem possible that we were going though Current Cut on April 1 and in Norfolk by April 30! Big change in climate. Next stop is Deltaville (one day away) to pull the boat for a couple months. What a great cruising season from Trinidad to Norfolk.
May 06, 2010