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