Friday, December 20, 2013

South Carolina, Georgia and Florida

Beaufort and Ladys Island Marina
We initially planned to stay at Lady's Island Marina for two days to catch up on some projects. On our first night we go to a dive bar next door to the marina called the Fillin' Station for their 5 dollar pork chop dinner, with Dan and Dawn from Gertie. This is our first warm evening in shorts in almost a month. Unfortunately we expect to get waited on while we have a few drinks, silly us. You have to put in your order when you arrive, so by the time we figure that out we can't get served until 8:00 PM, so we all head back to our boats for dinner. 

 The next day, Friday, we use a couple of the marina bikes and head over to Beaufort with Dan and Dawn who have folding bikes on their boat. 

Fun riding through the Live Oak, Spanish moss covered treed neighborhoods of old Beaufort.

We get to the Fillin' Station early for the $10 Friday night steak night, not going to screw ourselves out of another cheap dinner. We are the first people to put in their orders, we are practically regulars now. Enjoyed dinner with Steve, the manager of Lady's Island Marina. Him and his wife live on a boat there that Steve is making some major changes on, before they head off cruising next year. They will be hard to replace, they do an excellent job running the place.

Well, our two days of warm weather quickly came to an end, by Saturday we are back in fleece and jeans, and are happy to be plugged into dock power for heat. Steve loans us their personal car and we head off to Lowes and Walmart for some shopping. 

That evening most of the cruisers at the marina get together for a potluck hoer-derve party organized by Steve and Gloria. Steve and Gloria try their hardest to make it tough to leave.

 One fellow said he pulled in for a couple days about a year ago, cue the Eagles, Hotel California. The next day is colder so we decide to stay another day or so. There are a couple supermarkets and hardware stores in easy walking distance, just a little too convenient. Monday we rent a car with Dan and Dawn and go to Savannah for the day which is an hours drive away. Linda and I were there last March and it was rather cold then, but this time it is even colder. 

The next day Dan and Dawn leave for Atlanta for 4 days to visit his son for Thanksgiving. That day, I spend time in the marina workshop fabricating some parts to our helmsmen seat that broke. Steve had given me some pieces of starboard (plastic board). Boy he is making it hard to leave. Just as I get started the radio in the shop starts playing “Hotel California”. Gloria keeps telling us we have to stay for Thanksgiving dinner at the marina, but I tell her we will be leaving the next day.

The next day the temperatures are in the 40's and the wind is blowing 25-30 mph and there are gail warnings on the coast. Oh well ,we stay another day, oh the hell with it, we might as well stay for Thanksgiving also. I figure Tow Boat US won't be available on Thanksgiving day, might as well play it safe. Thanksgiving we have dinner with 35 people, mostly cruisers staying at the marina, we have a great time.

Potluck Thanksgiving at Ladies Island Marina

I think he has been here too long.

 Finally on Friday we leave hoping to make it to Georgia that night. Our two day stop turned into 8 days, Steve and Gloria make it awfully hard to leave, quite some business plan they have. They are the nautical equivalent of fly paper.

That evening we anchor in a creek in the Town of Thunderbolt, Georgia, just past the Savanna River. 

Prairie Schooner ? or Sloop ?

That evening I discover that NOAA has removed the Magenta Line from a couple of the detailed charts through the Georgia sea islands sections of the ICW. What is the Magenta Line you ask ? Hell, previously I didn't even know what color Magenta was or that it is a color. The Magenta line is a line on the NOAA charts that represent the route of the ICW. NOAA is concerned that people will follow it too closely and fall off the edge of the earth. In actuality, no one believes it is absolutely correct, just a rough guide, channels change over time.

If I was using paper charts this would not be a problem, but I don't. Aside from our regular dedicated chart plotter I use a chart plotting program on the i-Pad that updates to the latest charts available over the internet, via cell. And guess what on October 22, 2 of the Georgia charts were changed, Magenta line was removed. Well, the Georgia Sea Islands have a maize of channels between islands, marshes, rivers and the mainland and there aren't any road signs telling you where to turn. This was the function of the Magenta Line on the charts, so I have to plot my own “Magenta Line” prior to each days waterway travels so I know which fork in the channel to take.

 Cool day on the ICW

Our second day we pass through a channel called Hells Gate, nothing like the one in the East River in New York City. You will not go aground at Hell Gate in Manhattan, but is is highly probable you will in Georgia. Unfortunately, our passage coincides with low tide and there are all sorts of warnings on the web. I follow the center of the channel and never see less than 6 feet. The hard part is finding and staying in the center of the channel. The boat behind us fails to do so and runs aground twice, the second time they can not get free and has to wait for the rising tide. That evening we find a very remote anchorage in the Wahoo River far from civilization, we are in the zero bars territory, beautiful, quiet and dark. Two other boats join us just before sunset.

The next day we see few signs of civilization until late in the afternoon. After listening to, two cruising friends on different boats, disagreeing over the VHF radio, where to anchor for the night I pickup on a interesting anchorage I had not considered. It is on the Frederica River which parallels the ICW and is at Fort Frederica National Monument, which I had never heard of. There was a British Fort and town there prior to the American Revolution, an outpost, to prevent the Spanish in Florida from moving into Georgia which was a no-mans land between British South Carolina and Spanish Florida. 

  A remaining part of the original fort

The next day we head to Cumberland Island our last stop in Georgia. I had been getting pretty smug about not running aground in some of the notoriously shallow spots in Georgia, but I get my comeuppance as we are passing the St. Marys sub base. Linda takes the wheel while I am siphoning a can of diesel into the main tank. The buoys red and green switch ahead, at the same point, another buoyed channel heads to the left. I'm busy filling the tank and it takes longer than planned. Between me not looking up and Linda watching my progress we run aground. We can not back off, but the tide is rising. So we attend to some other chores for an hour before backing off, while amusing our fellow cruisers passing us by in the correct channel.

Dropped the anchor that evening and in the morning went ashore. Cumberland Island National Seashore park is Georgia's largest barrier island. 

The members of the Carnegie family owned most of the island and sold it to the Federal Government and it became a national park in 1972. The former land owners in turn lease a couple small areas back from the Government for their lifetime, which will then revert to the Park Service. There is a nice campground that was totally empty this time of year. We spent the day walking around, visiting the ruins of the original Carnegie mansion, other buildings and beaches. Saw wild horses, but only 4 or 5 other people the whole day.

Late in the afternoon we pulled the anchor and motored to Fernandina, Florida on Amelia Island the next barrier island south. Caught up with cruising friends we have not seen for awhile and had dinner in town with Gertie (Dan & Dawn from NJ), Sanderling (Roger & Chrisy From RI), Hot Chocolate (Bill & Sandy from NC).

Fernandina, View south from anchor

Fernandina, View south from anchor, slightly left of previous photo.
Pulp Mill on Fernandina, a little stinky, a lot noise

The next morning my cousin, who recently moved to Fernandina with his wife Debby, picked Linda and I up to spend the night at their new house on Amelia Island. First night in a while, that the bed we were sleeping in did not change directions every 6 hours. They have a beautiful house that has a view of the ICW in the distance. The following day we left Fernandina around noontime for the Jacksonville Free City docks just north of the St. Johns River. The floating cement docks are just off the ICW and are quite new. They are the best floating docks we have been on, free or otherwise. The floating docks connect to a pier where there was a family fishing. Their buckets were half full of some kind of fish about the size of fresh water perch. 

On the other side of the park on the ICW is a very active boat ramp and two more floating docks that did not have enough depth for sail boats at low tide. One of them was sitting on the mud at that point.

The next morning we leave to cross the St. Johns River which has lots of container ship traffic in to Jacksonville. Before we can see the St. Johns we see a towering ship stacked high with containers that appears to be traveling over land and fortunately passes by, by the time we are actually on the St.Johns. 

Castillo de San Marcos

By late afternoon we are at St. Augustine and plan to stay for a couple days on a mooring at the St. Augustine Municipal Marina. There is a fair amount of current here, but they have excellent moorings.

The next morning (Saturday) we head into town for breakfast and discover there is going to be a Holiday parade. I am not sure what the locals called it, but since there were a bunch of singing (chanting) Hare Krishnaers in the very long parade it had a broad charm to it. Luckily the place we pick for breakfast faces the parade route. After breakfast we pick a spot and watch a good part of the parade go by. 

Then we head off to our main goal for the day, The Sailors Exchange, a second hand boating supply store. Interesting place, somewhat between a junk store and a sailing museum. I was looking for a replacement stainless steel water tank deck cap that disappeared a while back. I have been using a plastic deck cap replacement that I had on board for such an event. I find a lesser quality SS one and for $5.00 I bite. We had a hard time getting our friend Dan out of there. Not often the men can bore the women to death in a store. They had an even junkier section out back, outside. Dan overlooked that and his wife told me under no circumstances was I to point out that over-site to him. That evening we meet up with our expanding group of sailors for dinner in Old St. Augustine.

Sunday my goals are to walk to the St. Augustine Lighthouse and visit Castillo de San Marcos, the Spanish built fort. Since we woke up to a very foggy morning we decided to go to the fort first. St. Augustine was an important last port to Spanish ships laden with gold and silver returning to Spain. The British had burned down the first couple wooden forts before the Spanish built the current masonry fort using a quarried stone called Coquina (co-keene-a) which is made of ancient small shells that have bonded together to form a limestone like material. Coquina out croppings can be seem along the beaches in northern Florida. This materials softness had the unique ability to absorb the impact of cannon balls without fracturing as with hard stone forts. This enabled the Spanish to fend off sieges by the British although the buggers did manage to burn down the town numerous times, sore losers.
 Shooting a cannon

That afternoon it is still foggy as we walk to the Lighthouse over the Bridge of Lions to Anastasia Island. We get all the way to the lighthouse without actually seeing it because of the fog. Standing at the base we can now see the top. We decide to pay the entry fee and climb up (219 steps). My wife the account, counted them.  At least on the inside, it wasn't foggy, had a clear view up the stairwell. At the top I have the guide describe the various views as if we were blind. We walk back, still in the fog.

Monday morning we leave after the fog lifts and head for another buck-a-foot marina, Marineland. Just before we arrive at Marineland we pass Fort Matanzas a Spanish micro-fort on the Matanzas River that was built to keep the British from sneeking in the backway to St. Augustine.

Fortunately we made reservations in the morning and get the last available berth. Unfortunately we find that we are “persona non grata” at the Marineland Aquarium. There has been a large number of dolphins dying on the east coast this year from a virus and there is a concern that boats traveling the ICW may pass the virus to the Marineland dolphins.

Tuesday we delay leaving because of the weekly farmers market at the marina. So much for the buck-a-foot, our stay is now up to about three-bucks-a-foot before we leave. But we do leave with lots of seafood and vegetables. We head for Daytona Beach. We had planned to stay at the Halifax River Yacht Club, 75 cents a foot for Yacht Club of America members which MBBC is. I get a call back late afternoon, but because of our late start I don't think we can make it through the last bridge opening before 5:00PM. The dock master offers to hang around until 6:00, but I said thanks, but don't bother, we will anchor out. We make better time than I thought we would and make it through the two Daytona opening bridges, before the restrictive opening time 4:45 to 5:45. Made it through the last bridge minutes before 4:45 and did not have to slow down for either bridge. If you can't be good, its good to be lucky. We anchor out with Gertie and Sanderling who are already there. The anchorage is exposed to the north and south and it gets a little choppy at night.

The next day we visit Daytona and head to another used sail equipment place, “Surplus Unlimited”, which is a long walk to the west of town. This place had a mix of new and used stuff. The women make the foolish mistake of pointing out, to me, that this place also had an outback section which all the guys had overlooked. I head out there and pick up a piece of ¾” thick starboard for a future project. As I walk back in the store, with my starboard, Dan catches me coming back through the door. If I wasn't carrying the starboard I would of pulled up my zipper and told Dan I was using the bathroom, but since I was caught red handed I fess up, Sorry Dawn. So the back section eats up another half hour. We have lunch in town and head back to the boat before dark. The wind has picked up and we have a damp dinghy ride back, fortunately we are running with the wind and waves.

The next day we all head for Titusville to pick up moorings at the Titusville Municipal Marina. We have lots of wind out of the northeast and are initially doing 9.2 mph, with a partially furled jib and near idle speed on the engine. Because of the wind we are back in foul weather gear to keep warm even though the temperature is near 60. We get to Mosquito Lagoon which has a long fetch to the north and the waves start to build up. We start to get a little surfing action.

We furl up the headsail before we turn down Haulover Canal for an opening of the Allenhurst Bridge just north of the Cape Canaveral and the Vehicle Assembly building for the Space Shuttle. We start to head into the Titusville Marina. We call ahead to Sanderling who went in ahead of us to get fuel before going to a mooring. The wind is now blowing so hard out of the northeast they are pinned to the dock. Since it is late the dock manager lets them stay overnight on the fuel dock. We quickly turn around and head back out the fairway in the mooring field. Watching all the moored boats, hobby-horsing, we decide to go a little south and anchor behind the causeway leading to the Max Brewer Bridge (65 feet). This gives us protection from the waves, but not the wind. We do have a comfortable nights sleep, but even with the wind we can hear music from a local bar/restaurant under the bridge. Whomever is playing is actually quite good. Some other friends that were on a mooring that night said they had to move midships as they were just about getting tossed airborne in their berths in the bow.

Overnight the wind moderates. We head in to fuel up and pump out in the morning. Sanderling has since left and has headed to another marina a couple miles south to leave their boat for a month or two while they head back north. After we fuel up, I wash the salt off the boat with fresh water and suddenly I notice this snout sticking out of the water under our rail scupper, where the water is running off the boat. I am looking face to face with a Manatee. We have seen many at a distance, the last couple days, but this is the first one eye-to-eye. 

Although they can absorb fresh water through their skin, while in salt water, they still like an old fashion drink occasionally and have learned where to get it here. Starting the engine in neutral, they know it is the signal for them to leave. No problem today, because we have to wait our turn at the pump out dock, and the water runs out and the Manatee leaves. Even though the wind has dropped we have the same problem with the wind holding us on the dock. We leave the bow line tied and motor forward. The stern kicks outward about 30 degrees from the dock as we push the bow anchor close to the dock using the curve of the forward half of the hull. A quick switch to fast reverse and we back away successfully from the dock as Linda pulls in the bow line. Move to pump out dock and repeat the exit procedure.

We pick up a mooring and spent most of the day ashore in Titusville and head in town for lunch with Gertie and Dragon Dance (Capt. Ron and Carol, who we first met in Beaufort, SC and are on their return leg, being Floridians). The marina has a fairly well supplied store and I pick up two items I have been looking for, a can of T-9 Boeshield and a dry bag. I have been looking for the T-9 since the Seven Seas GAM at the end of September. It is generally used on mountain bikes (not much mountain biking in the Low Country) because it is a waterproof lubricant for moisture displacement and penetration. Good for use on turnbuckles, screws, fittings, etc. The dry bag was only $10. That evening we meet up with Sanderling and Gertie for a very good dinner at Dixie Crossroads and have Rock Shrimp and Oysters. Sanderling must like it they ate there the night before while the wind was holding their boat on the dock. We say our good byes to Sanderling and will hopefully see them again this winter in the Bahamas, when they come back and continue their trip.

Saturday we head to Eau Gallie just north of Melborne and anchor in the lee of the causeway leading to the Causeway bridge. We have had a slow day motoring into a strong south wind and this is a fairly calm anchorage. As luck would have it, we are anchored in front of “Squid Lips”, and you never considered that Squid have lips. Neither did we, but this Squid Lips is one hell of a Beach bar/restaurant. Listening to a good rock band playing we head ashore with Gertie to check it out. We get a couple happy hour drinks and then decide to have and early dinner and enjoy the music. Linda and I had the best fish sandwich ever, coconut, lemon battered fried fish. After a walk we head back to the boat and listen to the next blues band playing after dark. 

 Dan and Dawn, our boats at anchor

 Warm evening, we shower off the back of the boat in the dark. Life is good.

Sunday we head to Velcro Beach, I mean Vero Beach. Velcro is the tag name cruisers have given Vero Beach, because it is hard to want to leave with all the restaurants, stores and other services. We share a mooring with Gertie at the Vero Beach City Marina. Moorings are only $13 a night and is a very popular protected spot of the ICW. At their busiest there can be three boats on each mooring. Vero Beach has a free bus service that make access to stores very easy. We run into another boat (Our Dream) we first saw in the Dismal Swamp. They come down from North Carolina every year and stay the winter at the Vero Beach City Marina.

  Vero Beach City Marina mooring field

 Manana and Gertie

Thursday, November 28, 2013

North and South Carolina

Dismal Swamp (11/3, Sunday)

Since we missed the Gilmerton Bridge opening and had to wait and hour for it to open again, we would now miss the 11:00 AM lock up into the Dismal Swamp. The lock runs three times a day and the next opening is at 2:00 PM. After we finally get passed the bridge we take a hard right turn for the Dismal Swamp and figure we will miss the 11:00 AM opening and tie up until 2:00 PM. A fast moving Catamaran passed us heading for the lock. He radios ahead and lets the lock master know we are trailing behind. They delay closing the lock for us. Normally I nearly drift into the locks avoiding any kind of significant forward momentum. Linda urges me to keep up the speed since there are boats on both walls of the lock waiting for us. I come into the lock with way too much momentum and putting engine into reverse is not slowing us down enough to avoid colliding into the boat tied up to the wall in front of us. I rev up the engine to full speed reverse and watch the gap between us and the next boat closing fast. This is not going to be good. I hand the lock tender one of our ropes and our speed finally drops. We stop with in 10 feet from our near target, with the engine still at full speed reverse. I quickly run back take the engine out of reverse, so we don't start backing out of the lock and promptly stall the engine.

10 minutes later the lock closes and up we go. 
Almost halfway from somewhere

We are the last boat to exit the lock and again the rest of the boats are waiting for us because the lock tender has to get in his car and drive to the swing bridge following the lock to open it to let us all 

past. We had a nice sunny afternoon motoring down the straight and narrow Dismal Swamp Canal with the changing fall colors and leaves dropping in the water. 

Only slow going sailboats are on the Dismal Swamp due to speed limitations, most power boats prefer the Virginia Cut which is an alternate route without speed limits. 

The tea colored water of the Dismal Swamp

After a couple hours we reach the North Carolina Visitors center which is also a highway rest stop. I pull over to the dock a little prematurely and start pruning some trees over hanging the canal, with our rigging, now I know why that guy on the dock was waving at me. Linda standing mid-ship gets a shower of nuts, pine needles and small branches. We are the second boat to tie up to the dock, which is long enough to tie up 3 or 4 cruising sailboats. 

Most of the other boats kept going to make the last lock in the Swamp. We have time to visit the Dismal Swamp Nature center and hike some of the trails that are on the opposite side of the canal. There is a floating bridge across the canal, which an operator opens and closes. Normally it is across the canal until a boat comes along. 

The forecast for that evening is for temperatures to get down near freezing. Very happy to have our propane heater. We wake up in the morning and I quickly fire up the heater, the interior of the boat is in the mid-40s. The boat quickly warms up. When I go outside to take some pictures I see that our sail cover and the roof of Visitors Center is covered with frost. 

We got up early to leave before sun up to make it to the first opening of the last lock.

Leaving Visitors Center, floating bridge is open

First we have to wait for the swing bridge to open before we head into the lock. Again the Bridge and Lock tender is the same person so we wait for him to close the bridge and drive over to the adjacent lock to operate it.

Elizabeth City (11/3 Mon & 11/4 Tue)

Now that we are back down to “sea level” we are truly in a swamp. Starting two hundred years ago the first Dismal Swamp canal was dug to harvest cypress trees. The surrounding swamp was drained as much as possible to get to the trees, so now it is a little too dry to really be a true swamp any more. But the canal portion that is back down to sea level is still a true swamp since it could not be drained. Once we are through the straight canal we enter the Pasquotank river which winds down to Elizabeth City. By the time we reach Elizabeth City we are quite cold and decide to forgo the free city dock and go into Pelican Marina so we can plug in for heat. We call the Marina and the boat ahead of us got the last available spot, so we head to the City dock. Despite adverse winds we manage to successfully tie up to the docks. A volunteer, a member of the “Rose Buddies” which started back in the 80's welcoming cruisers to Elizabeth City, with roses and a wine and cheese party in the evenings, helps us dock.

We head over to the visitor center. They mention that they have a wine and cheese get together for the cruisers if they have at least five boats and it is warm enough. Well, they have more that 5 boats, but it isn't warm enough. We decide to stay another day since the museum I wanted to see was closed on Monday's. The next morning Linda heads out to do some laundry and I work on a couple boat projects. After we go to the museum and do some food shopping and return with a very loaded cart. We stop for dinner on the way back to the boat.

Typical sailboat exiting the Dismal Swamp with tree branch ornaments
on the spreaders.

The next morning we leave the dock before sunrise because we have a long sail across the Albemarle Sound.

We make it to the Alligator River (11/6 Wed) near the entrance of the Pungo River - Alligator River Canal. This is the most remote area of the ICW, there is no cell phone access or light pollution from surrounding towns, The nearest road is over 10 miles away. A very remote place. 10 or so boats anchor in the area, since it is too late to get through the canal. That night it gets amazingly dark without any signs of civilization. The next morning is rainy and foggy, but relatively warm and we are through the canal by early afternoon, when the rain stops and the fog clears. Mid-way through the canal we hear a lot of unhappy people on channel 16 on the VHF radio. We soon find out why. 4 or 5 large power boats in line are coming down the canal at full speed creating tremendous wakes. They do not slow down and ignore any requests to do so. They are all headed south piloted by delivery captains trying to get their wealthy client's boats from Long Island, NY to Florida ASAP, for the winter. If I only had a paint ball gun. For the next ½ hour we hear other boaters in front of us curse them out as they go by. By afternoon the rain stops and we get in some sailing across the Pamlico River and we drop anchor for the night in Campbell Creek (11/7 Thurs) just off the ICW, another anchorage with few signs of civilization that we have all to ourselves. The next day we get out on to the Pamlico Sound, small craft warnings makes for a good afternoon of sailing on a broad reach. 

We decide to bypass Oriental and save that town for our return trip. Back on the ICW we anchor in Cedar Creek (11/8 Fri) late in the afternoon and head up as far as we can go with our 4.8 foot draft, no other boats here. By sunset there are an additional 10 or so cruising boats, behind us. Gertie is one of them.
Cedar Creek in the morning (Gertie)

Next morning we have a short run to Beaufort (Bow-fort) and Morehead City. I over looked a draw bridge just south of Town Creek so we have to wait ½ hour for the next opening. We drop anchor on the Beaufort waterfront, launch the dinghy and row in for lunch and a walk around the town. 

Pirate ship on the Beaufort water front

Gertie missed the channel for the backside entry to Beaufort and heads to Morehead City. That afternoon we make a reservation for Spooners Creek Marina (11/9 Sat) , a very protected Marina that only has room for a couple transients. I am way off on our estimated arrival time and by the time we get there the dock manager has left for the day. Another cruising couple on a Catalina 34, yell over to us where we are suppose to dock for the night. Fortunately they where there, to be our dock hands, since we had to back into the slip which I suck at. They give us the combinations and other details as requested by the dock manager, before he left. Our main goal for staying here was it is in easy walking distance to a Best Buy. Our Monitor/TV died and we wanted to exchange it for a working one. We missed the 30 day exchange period by a couple days, not like there are a lot of Best Buys on the ICW. The clerk tells us it will take two weeks to get it repaired. We tell her that won't work for obvious reasons and explain our problem to the manager. He was very accommodating and we leave with a new one. The next morning the dock manager tells us the dockage is free since he was not there when we came in.

Next day we pass by Camp Lejune and the Live Firing Area. 

We anchor in Mile Hammock Bay (11/10 Sun) on the western edge of Camo Lejune. They let boats anchor, but no going ashore. Soon after we dropped anchor a steady line of boats come in to anchor until dark.

 Precession of boats trying to make it to the next bridge opening, on time.

Shoal area, oops

The next morning we head for Wrightsville Beach (11/11 Mon) , just east of Wilmington, NC. Was considering staying there for two nights. We plan to meet up with Gertie. Wrightsville Beach is a barrier island and very popular beach resort. We all go for a long walk along the beach on a fairly warm afternoon. There even are some kids in the ocean swimming, no adults are in the water though. Finally feels like we are in the south with a warm afternoon on the beach. We find out that a cold front is forecast to come through in a day or so and decided we don't want to be in our current anchorage with 25 knot south winds, so we leave that next morning for Cape Fear. Fortunately we get off the Cape Fear river before the high winds start to materialize and we get back on the ICW at Southport. We and Gertie made reservations at St. James Plantation Marina for the night. A very protected excavated basin off the ICW. We pass Southport Marina with a long face dock along the ICW. The transient docks are full with a group of Canadian boats we have been passing back and forth for the last few weeks. Glad we did not plan to stay there, very exposed. A couple miles past we turn into St. James. Without a sign you would miss the entrance. Once we are in the basin and out of the wind the temperatures seem to jump up immediately. We entered wearing foul weather gear to block the wind and was soon in shorts and T-shirts. Very tight fairways here tends to scare off transients from this Marina. Even with the predicted cold and high winds there were only 3 transient boats here. That evening we all went out to a very good dinner at the marina resturant, which is only part of the very large golf and retirement community of St. James Plantation (11/12 Tues & 11/13 Wed). That evening the dock manager came by to tell us they were turning off the water on the docks, because they were concerned that temperatures might get down to freezing that night. It is good to be on the dock, with heat.

 St James Plantation Marina

Late that night laying in bed the rain suddenly starts sounding harder, I mean literally harder, we are getting pelleted with sleet. I quickly look up the weather radar to confirm, without having to pull my butt out of bed. I lie in bed remembering how Genie Soboslai told us we would not need to take many warm articles of clothing. I immediately email her a screenshot of the weather radar showing snow and our position.

We are the blue dot

When we get up the next morning I find snow on our dodger. 

There is ice on some of the decks around the marina that are not over water. Lacking sand or salt the workers put out orange warning cones. We go to the office and sign up for another night at the marina.

After two nights at St. James we head towards the NC/SC boarder. 

We had originally thought about anchoring in the Calabash river, but it was too early in the day.

Interesting Factoid for old people, “Goodnight Mrs. Calabash, wherever you are”, Jimmy Durante's sign off to his 1950's show, has its origins from here. Although none of the local explanations are actually true. The True Story is Durante and his first wife had stopped here in their travels and they loved the food at some local restaurant. Well his wife apparently, raved about the food long after they left so he gave her the pet name Mrs. Calabash. She died in her 40's and he later remarried. He revealed years later after the show went off the air that it was a tribute to his first wife.

I find out about a marina that has a hot tub, so I decide that is the place for me, so we stop early at the Barefoot Marina (11/14 Thu). Warmest I have been in a while. Since we are on a face dock to the ICW we were concerned about wakes. So few boats this time of year it was not a problem. The marina manager has a unique way of dealing with boats that create wakes that cause damage or problems. He calls the bridge operator just down the ICW, requesting that they refuse to open for that specific boat until they return to the marina and apologize and/or pay for damages.

The next morning we have a short run to Osprey Marina (11/15 Fri & 11/16 Sat) where we will be staying for a couple days to visit with Linda's sister and pick up a number of UPS packages. Osprey is a real nice buck-a-foot marina, which is essentially dug out of the swamp. I tell them we are 36 feet, I should of mentioned that we have stuff hanging off both ends of the boat. I miss the turn into our slip and tap boats fore and aft trying to turn the boat around. There was not enough space to swing our probably 42 feet over water length around without making contact.

 This boat was on the gas dock and he had a hard time turning around to leave.

After three nights at Osprey we head out. That night we anchor on the South Santee river (11/17 Sun), another anchorage in the middle of no where. As it gets dark a light fog descends and we are the only boat around. With a wide river and marsh lands it was rather spooky in the fog.

The next morning we leave for Charleston. We go most the day without seeing another boat, rather strange. Later in the afternoon before we reach Isle of Palms, before Charleston, which has a couple notorious shoal areas, we are passed by a power boat. As we approach the first shoal I slow the boat to a crawl so we are an hour or so past low tide before going through. At the end of the shoal is a drawn bridge that does not open between 4 and 6 PM. Low tide is around two, so we are trying to get the maximum tide and not miss the bridge. As we are putsying along a Canadian sailboat comes up fast and passes us, this should be fun. He gets further that I thought, but is quickly aground in the soft mud. As we approach we notice that the power boat that passed us a couple hours ago is also aground, he must have been way out of the channel. We slowly pass the Canadian, just as they manage to back off. They drawn 5.5, we drawn 4.8. We read off the depths to them on the radio as they decide to follow us. As we get down to 4.8 on the depth sounder we bounce on the bottom, but still maintain our forward speed. We tell our Canadian friend, but they still follow our track. Looking back we see they are firmly around this time and will have to wait at least an hour to float free. We on the other hand get lucky and make it in time for the last bridge opening before 4 PM.

 Waiting for the rising tide.

Our next hurtle is getting through Charleston harbor without being stopped by the Coast Guard and Homeland Security. We had a number of friends ahead of us who complained about being boarded. As we enter Charleston harbor we see two Coast Guard boats that are busy with a power boat. We slip by without attracting their attention. We anchor in the Ashley River (11/18 Mon, 11/19 Tue) just off the Charleston Municipal Marina. The next morning we head into Charleston. We meet up with Dan and Dawn (Gertie) and take the boat tour to Fort Sumter. 

 I had not realized Fort Sumter is mostly ruins of the original Fort which was 3 stories tall prior to the start of the Civil War. By the end of the Civil War it was a pile of rumble. The current National Park is the excavated remains of the lowest level of the original fort. 

The following morning is windy and overcast and we decide to leave a day sooner than originally planned. A mile or two down the ICW from Charleston we go through the Elliot Cut, one of the more narrow passages on the ICW. It is a short connection between two rivers. We hit it at maximum current and it is ripping. I feel like a salmon swimming up stream, we slow down to 3 knots. There are sizable standing waves in the cut. That evening we anchor in another remote anchorage off the Wadmalaw River. The Wadmalaw River is exposed to the north wind and has a pretty good chop on it. We head up Tom Point Creek (11/20 Wed), which is rather narrow, only wide enough for a sailboat to anchor in mid-channel, but quite protected from the wind. Another scenic remote anchorage in marsh land all to ourselves. The following morning we head to Beaufort, SC and get a slip at Ladys Island Marina (11/21 Thu) for a couple days to catch up on a couple of boat projects. At a dollar per foot this Marina is a real bargain. When we make the reservation the marina manager tells us to night is pork chop night at a place next door, $5.00 per person. We call Gertie and our evening plans are made.