NOVEMBER--Southport, NC to the Bahamas
Woke up at first light anxious to lift the anchor---wondering if we will make it out of Pipeline Creek without running aground. Came in at low tide the night before and it was real skinny (shallow). Slowly made our way out and just short of the entrance to the ICW (about 100 feet), I ran DISCOVERY aground. Knew with time we would get off the shoal--the tide was rising. However, we were a bit of an obstacle for other boats leaving the anchorage. Tried to push our way through without any luck perhaps making our situation worse. Eventually, a big trawler, SARAH B from Montauk, NY, came by and motored fast and close to us 4-5 times. Each pass generated a good size wake that helped us bounce off the shoal. On our way again. Will we anchor there again? Only if the tides are right. It is a well protected anchorage so don't want to write it off.
Still blowing like stink so using the ICW to get to warmer weather. Entered the state of South Carolina just a little north of the Little River Inlet. Saw George and Dorene on DELICIA at the dock at Barefoot Landing as we passed by. Transited the Rockpile without incident other than meeting a big, wide catamaran. Had to slow down for the Socastee (pronounced Saw-cuss-tee) Bridge which opens on the quarter and three quarter hour. On to the Waccamaw River which is very pretty. Jack and Evie on ELDRIDGE C passed us in the Waccamaw headed to Bull Creek. We followed them into Bull Creek where we anchored for the night. On the ICW from first light to sunset so after a good dinner it was bedtime. Rest up for another day.
Continued down the Waccamaw River the following day. Oh, an interesting tidbit I found in the guidebook--. The Pee Dee River joins the Waccamaw River just north of Georgetown, SC (passed this junction on our way south to where we anchored Wednesday night). Anyway, Stephen Foster wrote the American Classic "The Swanee River" (you know Old Folks at Home). In his early drafts, the song was "Way down upon the Pee Dee River". Foster wasn't happy with the cadence so he replaced it with Swanee River. Sang this song in grade school so I get a chuckle out of the Pee Dee River version. This was one of the first warm days cruising this fall. Carl even put on his shorts but kept his wool watch cap on to keep his head warm.
Cruising down the Waccamaw River. The photo of Carl was taken in the morning before he took off his fleece and put on shorts (the hat stayed on all day). The last photo shows the Inlet Creek Anchorage. Really out in the middle of nowhere surrounded by golden colored grass. Wilderness with a wifi signal!!
Had reservations at the Charleston Maritime Center for Thursday. Wanted to anchor just north of Charleston Wednesday night. Pulled into the east branch of Dewees Creek. What a great anchorage. Could see and hear the waves pounding on the shore . Lots of dolphins swimming around performing tricks I've seen at Sea World. Carl found a strong wifi signal and we thought---".Now this is living." For some unknown reason, I looked at the guidebook and noticed that the Ben Sawyer Bridge was restricted (not open) in the morning from 7:00 AM to 9:00 AM. Our plan was to be at the Charleston Maritime Center at 10:00 AM so we would have slack water for docking. Hauled anchor to move to an anchorage closer to the bridge so we would be at the bridge for the first opening after 9:00 AM the next morning. Sad to leave Dewees Creek but off we went.! Anchored in Inlet Creek Anchorage.
At the Ben Sawyer Bridge for the first opening after 9:00 AM and at the Charleston Maritime Center by 9:45 AM. Put fuel on before going to our slip. Wow, a long boat on a short dock. Had 30 feet of floating dock with no piling to tie a 43 foot boat to. Did the best we could but had to do even "better" when the current ran at maximum speed and DISCOVERY started to move around while tied to the dock. Amazing!
It was gorgeous our first day in Charleston. Enjoyed the first land shower since leaving Deltaville on October 22. Now, don't think we had not showered since leaving Deltaville!! When showering on the boat its all about water conservation---wet, turn off water, lather, then turn on water for a quick rinse. Went for a walk through Charleston's Market Place. Met Kathy & Mike (SAPPHIRE), Bev & Bob (SAVAGE SON), and Steve & Kim (FINE LION) at Pearlz at 4:00 PM. At Pearlz we met Steve and Kim's friend, Jonathon on SUMMER LOVE. Pearlz is an oyster bar that is frequented by the SAPPHIRE/FINE LION entourage when they are in Charleston. One of the guys who shucks the oysters is quite the entertainer constantly exchanging quips with Steve. I am not a fan of raw oysters so I had the maui maui tacos which were delicious. Thanks to Mike for inviting us to meet them at Pearlz.
Top left is DISCOVERY--a long boat tied to a short dock at Charleston Maritime Center. Top right is a photo of a very cool bridge just upriver from the Maritime Center. Middle left is a funny sign warning people to wade in a fountain at their own risk! Bottom left was taken at Pearlz (Mike, Kathy, Kim, Bob and Bev. Where is Steve? ) Bottom right is Carl's half dozen oyster.
The next couple days in Charleston were cold and rainy. A strong cold front moved through. Had gale force winds in Charleston Harbor at the marina so we stayed fairly close to the boat both days. On one of the cold days I did laundry which is free (included in slip fees) at the Charleston Maritime Center. The only glitch with the laundry facility is....one washer, one dryer and only open from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM.. I was at the laundry door at 7:30 AM and within 5 minutes someone shows up with 4 loads but I was first!!! The second cold, wet windy day we walked to Harris Teeter grocery store which is only 3-4 blocks from the marina. Bought some good stuff for dinner.
From Charleston we headed down the ICW to Beaufort, SC. Made it through the South Carolina shallow spots---Fenwick Island Cut and the Ashepoo Coosaw Cutoff without any problems. Big decision to make after anchoring south of Beaufort.......do we wait four days for the weather window to go on the outside OR just continue down the ICW? Decided to proceed down the ICW into Georgia.
Many cruisers avoid the ICW in Georgia because of the skinny water and the ICW snakes around the state making it a long passage (Georgia has a 100 mile coastline--it is 138 miles to use the ICW). I went on the internet to find all the trouble spots and wrote down the "advise" for transiting. The first day we transited Fields Cut at low tide without running aground or seeing anything below 8 feet. The next tight spot was Hells Gate---the name sounds bad. All day cruisers were talking on the VHF radio about how low the water was and how narrow the channel is at Hells Gate. By the time we reached Hells Gate we were at mid-tide so we passed through easily. Anchored in Red Bird Creek with one other sailboat. Saw a pod of dolphins swimming along the very edge of the channel. Perhaps they were scratching their back on the sawgrass as they swam by!
The worst spot on Georgia's ICW is a stretch called the Little Mud River. Heard boats ahead of us on the VHF radio reporting 5 feet of water in the middle of the channel. One trawler told us to stay closer to the green than the red. Reached Little Mud River at dead low tide (just to make it more exciting). Ran this area at idle speed searching for the deepest water. Saw 7.5 feet but mostly 8 feet. No problem in the Little Mud River still it was nerve-racking. Anchored north of Lanier Island on the Frederica River. Saw KILISSA (Richard and Carol) in the anchorage but their dinghy was gone and no answer on the VHF radio when we called.Talked to Richard the next morning. They were away from the boat all day visiting friends.
Up at first light. The plan was to continue down the ICW to Fernandina Beach. At the first fixed bridge shortly before 7:00 AM and the stage markers read 63 plus change. Carl inched DISCOVERY up to the bridge and I watched finally requesting "Back-up, we are not going to make it!" Pulled away and anchored close to the bridge where we could see the stage markers. The tide finally dropped enough by 9:15 so we could pass under the bridge. The good thing about Georgia is the tide (8-10 feet depending on the lunar cycle). This means if you run aground at low tide....you can get off on your own. At low tide, the fixed bridges are a breeze but at high tide the fixed bridges are less than 64 feet.
With the delay at the bridge---we changed our plans. Decided to use the St. Simon's inlet to go out on the Atlantic for a short hop to Fernandina Beach. Finally, a chance to sail. We sailed from inlet to inlet. It was a little lumpy. Winds were northeast at 15-20 knots. Saw quite a few dolphins and lots of cruisers out on the ocean.
Saw this cute (perhaps weird) tug at the dock in Fernandina Beach. It was drawing a lot of attention. Photo top right shows the main street in Fernandina which is a really cute town. Lots of good restaurants. The bottom photo is a chalkboard posted outside a shop. I suspect the owner is a Tea Party Member.
Stayed in Fernandina two nights. Anchored next to Tim and Linda (MATSU). Went into Fernandina the following day for lunch. Planned to get together with Tim and Linda later in the day to discuss a run to Fort Pierce. However, the cold front rolled in and whipped up the water so we talked on the radio instead. Planned to leave at first light. We were a little late leaving Fernandina because the single side band (SSB) radio malfunctioned. Carl worked on it and got it going about 7:30. Pulled anchor by 7:50 AM underway. The winds were northwest at 20-25 knots with gusts. Seas were 6 feet from the chop and there was a big ocean swell with a short interval. As a result, the entire ride we rolled from side to side. Had 8 hours of pure sailing but then started to motorsail in order to keep our speed up so we would be in Fort Pierce by daylight the following day. Left Fernandina Friday morning and arrived in Fort Pierce Saturday afternoon. The ride into the Fort Pierce inlet is one that I don't care to repeat. Carl asked me if I wanted him to take the wheel because it could be rough. I said that I've handled rough stuff before. Well....not like this. We went it at maximum ebb current----current rushing out of Fort Pierce against those waves coming in from the ocean. We rolled from side to side. I had my legs spread out so my feet were anchored against the side of the cockpit. Used every ounce of strength I had in my arms to steer the boat. Water was rolling into the cockpit from the stern--had water up to my calves. When we were safely anchored Carl said, "You are getting really good at handling the boat. Good job". He doesn't compliment me very often. It was tough but I did it All of this could have been avoided if we would have slowed down to delay our arrival closer to slack water. Oh, forgot to mention, it was Saturday so the pier had lots of people fishing or relaxing. I was part of their entertainment and suspect part of their stories about what they did or saw on Saturday.
Headed to Vero Beach on Sunday where we stayed for two weeks. Every day, I rode the bus to Publix, Wal-mart or Sam's buying only what I could carry onto the bus. Twice Carl went along to as my pack mule. By the end of two weeks, every storage cubby was full as well as the freezerl and the refrigerato. Don't know if I have everything but what I have will "have to do". Ordered a new mainsail from Mack Sails. The mainsail had been repaired a half dozen times. Last year part of the leach line was repaired. This year while underway from Fernandina to Fort Pierce noticed frayed cloth streaming off the mainsail. Bit the bullet and replaced it. Ordered it on a Wednesday and it was delivered 10 days later!
While in Vero Beach we met up with cruising friends at various times. Out for dinner with Keith and Rose (CAMELOT) before they headed to Connecticut for Thanksgiving. Jan and Dave on ZING came over for Happy Hour and a round of Sequence (the guys won). Went over to RUNAWAY (Matt and Marti ) for cocktails one evening. Happy Hour on PERSEVERNCE II with Tom and Kathy plus John and Mary from MARYLEE. Kris and Craig (TILT) invited us for Happy Hour along with Dave & Jill (JILLY Q) and Tom & Kathy. Attended a Vero Beach Happy Hour with included music and two Sunday afternoon "Sing along sessions". Went to Riverside Cafe with SCANDIA (Bev and Arnie), DELICIA (George and Dorene) and PASSPORT (Dave and Carol) to celebrate George's 66th birthday.
Vero Beach is very popular with cruisers. Up to three boats raft together on one mooring. There is a free bus that runs Monday through Saturday from around 8:30 AM to 5:30 PM. Wednesday morning cruisers meet for breakfast at the 2001 Restaurant. Many past and present cruisers have purchased homes in Vero Beach. It is a must stop for us. Below is a photo of the north mooring field and the south mooring field. DISCOVERY was at a mooring in the south mooring field.
Thursday late afternoon in Vero Beach is Happy Hour . People are encouraged to bring whatever musical instrument they play for a jam session. One night there was some great music. Two guys play together on a routine basis. This night a third what I call "a wild and crazy guy" joined them. This wild and crazy guy carries his harmonicas in a WWI ammo belt and drinks his Sailor Jerry's Rum straight out of the bottle. A good singer and great entertainer.
Pictures taken on TILT. Dave and Jill from JILLY Q had not arrived yet when I snapped these photo. Photo of the appetizers, then Carl and Craig, Kathy and Tom and in the last photo is Kris.
Vero Beach has a Farmers Market on Saturday. Kris and I walked to the market. Bought some red navel oranges which are so, so good; fresh grapefruit juice to go with rum; two fish spreads (marlin and smoked maui maui); and some fresh vegetables. It was tempting to buy some more butterscotch bread and cheddar cheese with jalapeno bread (had some last year) but I resisted the temptation.
Two big events in Vero Beach---Thanksgiving at Jim and Ann Catchicks and the DELICIA/SCANDIA Raft Cocktail Party. Jim and Ann have a great Thanksgiving Feast for current and past cruisers. Everyone helps by bringing food but Ann and Jim the work to set everything up. Tables are set up in the backyard with linens, placemats and name cards. Christmas lights are strung up on and between trees. Jim greets you with his special Bloody Mary's. This year they added a dee jay so we could dance under the stars. Had a good time and ate way too much good food. Now for the party on the two sailboats DELICIA and SCANDIA which were rafted together at the same mooring. About 30 people attended......half in each cockpit. Lots of good appetizers and great conversation with old cruising friend and met some new cruisers as well.
Below is a picture of my grocery cart holding bags of stuff from Sam's Club and Wal-mart. Waiting for my pack mule named Carl and the bus to arrive. On the right is Bev, Dorene, George and Arnie. They stopped at DISCOVERY on their way to Riverside Cafe to celebrate George's birthday. We joined them at the Cafe a few minutes later.
Three photos from Ann and Jim's Thanksgiving. Our table. Ann with her friends who are former cruisers. The last picture is Ann and Jim.
The new mainsail arrived Friday after Thanksgiving. Went to a dock to load the sail onto DISCOVERY then moved to an empty mooring to raise it making sure it fit..
Originally planned to leave Vero Beach on Sunday but.....Carl gave me a Kindle Fire for my birthday (they were released in mid-November). I downloaded via the internet some free books. Carl found a software program called CALIBRE to help manage an eBook library. When working with the software on Saturday, found out I needed a micro USB cable. Jack and Evie (ELDRIDGE C) offered to take us to the mall on Sunday to buy one (no buses on Sunday). Went to Office Max and ended up buying a second Kindle (it has the USB cable I need). Now, both of us have a Kindle product and one USB cable to share.
Finally left the mooring in Vero Beach on Monday. Put in a long day on the ICW---actually the problem was we ran out of daylight. Entered the channel to North Lake Worth in the dark. This channel has markers but none of the markers have lights. Challenging to see the markers ....hitting one would be a very bad thing. Ended up anchoring in the channel toward the north end of the lake for the night. Moved over to the inlet anchorage early the next morning.
Waiting for the bridge to open. Hurry and lift that road so we can pass by!
Our weather forecaster, Chris Parker, said there was a short window for crossing the gulfstream to the Bahamas starting around 9 AM on Wednesday. He didn't advise going Tuesday night because when there is a cold air mass north of Florida and the winds blow from a northerly direction, the winds funnel along the coast enhancing the gradient winds by 5 knots. Also, he thinks it is a bad idea to be in the gulfstream with northerly winds above 15 knots. This enhanced wind situation usually lasts from midnight until it starts to warm up mid-morning so he suggested leaving Lake Worth around 10 AM on Wednesday. Several boats planned to leave Tuesday night between 11 PM and midnight based on NOAA weather, buoy reports and Passage Weather. We went to bed Tuesday night not knowing if and when we'd try crossing. Carl woke up at 2:00 AM--called Skip on ELEANOR M which left at 11 PM for a sea report. Skip said waves were 2-3 feet but as he got closer to the axis of the gulfstream.....the wind started to pick up. Carl came back to bed. I suggested we get up, get the boat ready to go and leave. Carl agreed (he planned to suggest it to me). We were off by 3:00 AM. If we did not like what we saw we would head south to Miami.
As we entered the gulfstream, waves were 2-3 feet but within an hour or so they were more like 4-6 feet but fairly spread out. The winds were around 15 knots but our angle to the wind was not good for sailing so we motored and the sail provided some stability. By first light, the wind decreased a little and the waves gradually diminished to 2-3 feet. Other than having to motor all the way it was a good and fast crossing. Left the anchorage in Lake Worth at 3 AM and arrived in the Lucaya Channel at 2:15 PM. Very happy to be in the Bahamas. While Carl went to Customs and Immigration, I picked up the boat. With all the rocking and rolling at sea, a few things were scattered about. After clearing Customs and Immigration, went to the outdoor bar here in the Grand Bahama Yacht Club for drinks and a complimentary plate of appetizers. Went to bed early for a great night's sleep.
My first Kalik beer. Oh, so refreshing.
The month of November was not a good month for touching the bottom----three times. Last year, did not touch the bottom once. Well, as mentioned, I put DISCOVERY on a lump of something at Pipeline Creek when I was trying to get back onto the ICW. The second incident was when I was lined up-- in the middle of the channel headed for the Parker Bridge that had just opened for us. Was in 16-18 feet of water and suddenly DISCOVERY hopped over a bump. Could not believe it. (Note: the next day we warned Skip on ELEANOR M about the bump at Parker Bridge. Skip said he found it but passed over it with 2 feet of clearance below his keel at high tide.). Finally the third incident for me was while anchoring in the dark at North Lake Worth. Carl told me there was plenty of water to the starboard side of the lake. I headed to anchor on the starboard side of a boat when I saw 7 feet, 6.5 feet. Mentioned to Carl there wasn't plenty of water in this area. Then ....again, hopped over a bump and quickly found deeper water to anchor in. Hope this is the last of the groundings.
December 01, 2011