Sunday, May 20, 2007

May 19th. We haul the anchor as planned and head over to the fuel dock. The current is ripping along the dock and the potential for disaster is huge but we get on the wall okay. The fuel dock here is called the “Megadock”, its 1530 feet long, that’s over a quarter of a mile long, its pretty impressive. We are the last boat all the way down at the furthest end.

While I fuel the boat and fill the water tank one of the dock boys loads Christy and the dogs into his golf cart and drives her down to pay the bill. Then she walks the dogs to shore and has to walk all the way back to the boat. By the time we get underway its 0810 and we’re running behind.

Just north of Charleston is the Ben Sawyer Swing Bridge. It’s open upon request until 0900 and then it’s only open on the hour, so if we don’t make it by 0900 there won’t be another opening for an hour. We have good wind so we get some sail up but continue motoring and we arrive at the bridge in a nick of time.

The trip is a slow one as the tide is running against us for the better part of the day. But the wildlife watching was extraordinary complete with a few alligator sightings. Not the pelligators of our trip south but actual alligators.

We’ve decided to stop just about a dozen miles short of Georgetown and spend the night in Minim Creek. It’s a nice little spot with an old dock that I can use for the dogs. The dock was scary as hell as the whole structure wobbled and was missing boards.

We didn’t realize it until after we stopped that Minim Creek is actually a mosquito breeding sanctuary where they raise free range mosquitoes. They raise mosquitoes here for movie and television production companies. All the mosquitoes on the series LOST come from the Minim Creek farm.

May 20. Since we’re only about 2 hours from Georgetown we decide to leave at 0830. The anchorage we’re headed to is fairly small and I figure it would give people anchored there a chance to get underway and create some room for us if we arrive in mid morning.

As Veranda and Freedom pull into the tiny, packed anchorage we’re thrilled to see 2 boats pulling their anchors. Perfect planning, 2 out 2 in.

May 18th

May 18th. While we were in Charleston we found out that the up coming weekend was a tall ships festival. The boats were arriving from all over the world on Wednesday and Thursday for the festivities which started on Friday.

Also on Friday was the beginning of the annual Charleston to Bermuda race. So we ended up staying here for a full week when at first we thought it would be 2 or 3 days at most. It was well worth it though as the tall ships were awesome and the start of the race was actually very exciting considering that it’s an 800 mile race.

We rode our bikes all over town and had a real easy time getting around as the downtown streets became a parking lot due to the extra traffic drawn by the weekend’s events.

The tall ships were very interesting but talking to the crew was even more fun. The ship from India was my favorite because you could see that every young sailor was just dying to try out his English. They were all fairly capable with our language and you could see their honest enthusiasm with being here. They all get one night of shore leave while in port and you could see that it was special for them.

By contrast, not really negatively, was the crew from Columbia. I’m not sure if it’s the Latino Machismo that they’re saddled with carrying around but it was different. They were much more formal, as every man boarded the ship he was saluted, every woman was offered a hand transiting the gangplank. Not many of them spoke English but if you went out of the way to try and engage them they would produce a card from their pocket with common phrases translated into English for them. The Columbian boat was the largest with a crew of 131.

The boat from Bermuda was also a favorite. It was only a year old and even though it was just over a hundred feet long it could probably be handled by a crew of 4. We were the first persons to tour the boat as there had been a problem with their gangplank that was rectified just as we walked up. It was the only boat that actually assigned each group a guide. There were 6 of us in our group so it made the visit that much more personal. We had Reid the assistant ships engineer as our guide and he enjoyed showing us around. This boat had by far the nicest galley/ salon area of any boat we toured. The boat was spotless and well kept with bunks for 27 and currently crewed by 18. When we went into the engine room we were astounded by the size of the fuel filters and the watermaker they had on board. Since Reid was the assistant to the engineer I asked him how much water the watermaker would produce and he answered “Oh, it makes a lot of water”. I’m glad he didn’t get to technical on me.

Tomorrow we’re pulling the anchor at 0700 to get underway to Georgetown. We have to hit the fuel dock and take on a little diesel and fill up the water tank.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

May 14th

May 14. We’ve been in Charleston for a few days now. The anchorage is wonderful and horrible at the same time. There’s a 2 or 3 knot current ripping through at all times. It makes finding the right spot to drop the anchor a real challenge for some people.

This Canadian boat came in late yesterday and dropped the hook. At the time they were off to the side of us and seemed to be a pretty good distance away. As the tide here goes out all the boats are held to the rushing current facing west. The wind meanwhile is blowing straight from the east. So as we get to slack tide different boats start to turn and face the wind at different times. As the last of the tide is ebbing we notice that the Canadian Catalina next to us is starting to sail at anchor and is way out of rhythm with everyone else in the anchorage. Of course you know who their anchored next to.

We’re still facing the last of the retreating tide as the Catalina darts towards and then away from us. What was once over a hundred feet of space between us at times becomes less than 6 feet. We were just about to head into town and now we’re saddled with watching this A-holes boat as they have already gone ashore for the day. At one point Christy is able to easily reach over and touch the other boat with our 8 foot boat pole as she crosses our bow.

Finally the tide starts to flood and we all fall into place facing east. Shortly thereafter the Canadians come home to their boat and before we can bitch to them at all they pull their anchor and leave for parts unknown. They have no idea how close they came to disaster and left in a fog of idiot’s bliss.

Alright back to Charleston. The town is awesome, the place just oozes history. On our first trip into town we walked about 6 miles and covered a lot of the downtown scene. It did turn into a kind of a forced march after awhile as the day was pretty hot.

So on our second day we rode our bikes into town to do our nosing about. We decided to take a narrated horse drawn carriage tour of the town. We were fortunate to draw a very enthusiastic young lady who was very animated about the characters, patriots and scoundrels that once roamed these streets. It was a lot more fun than I thought it would be.

Charleston had a more prominent role in the history of the United States than I realized. It was important to the patriots of the Revolution, the pirates during the days of pillage and plunder and of course the Civil War. Its really a remarkable place and we look forward to our return.

Boat Name Of The Day: Everyone has heard of Sinbad the Sailor: well there’s a powerboat here called Sailbad the Sinner.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

May 11

May 11. Up and underway by 0800 for our 34 mile trip to Charleston.

After 7 miles as we were approaching one of the ICW markers I was informed by the navigator that the Skipper Bob guide advised staying to the far right side of the channel as there is considerable shoaling. The only problem is that there are only markers on the left side of the channel so where the opposite side of the channel actually is, is open for debate. I think we’re doing fine but the navigator thinks we need to steer more to starboard.

Bump, okay no big deal we just bumped. BUUMMP, okay, still moving, we’ll be past the shoal any second, plenty of water, no worries, not a problem, everything’s gonna be fine. Thud, okay, we’re not moving. Damn. We’re stuck as hell, can’t back off or move forward. The tidal range here is almost 6 feet but fortunately it’s only about 9 inches above low tide. Checking the tide chart and the clock I figure that if we just sit here we should be able to float free by 1130.

We are able to convince Jim and Deb to keep going as the tide falls so quickly here that once you’re stuck on a falling tide you’re pretty much screwed. So we shut off the engine and watched as Freedom disappeared around a bend.

Christy made breakfast omelets and after we ate she sat on the bow in the sun as I watched for boat traffic coming up behind us. Only 2 boats came past and I was able to raise them from close to a mile away and ask that when they got close to please slow down so as not to push us further onto the sandbar with their wakes. Both Captains were very cooperative and crept past us with nary a ripple. Not riffle, there was none of that. The second boat was actually kind of funny because when I asked them to slow down for us I could hear relief in the woman’s voice as she repeated to me “ Ohhh, you just want us to slow down”. I’m sure she thought that we were going to ask for a tow or some kind of help.

I figured that by 1115 I could start the engine and by 1130 we should have enough water to try backing off. At 1110 a small workboat came by and I figured I could use his wake to get the boat moving so I started the engine. I didn’t hail him on the radio and as he approached he realized what was wrong and immediately slowed down. I quickly called him and told him that we were just about refloated and asked him to keep his speed so I could use his wake. He resumed his speed and his wake was just enough to get us off the bottom and moving backwards. In less than a boat length we were back in deep water and on our way again.

The funny thing was that as Freedom headed north they were fighting the outgoing tide while we sat through it. Then when the tide started to fill back in we were able to ride a full knot push for over 2 hours and we arrived at Charleston only an hour behind them.

PAC’s were never so good and then we went over to Freedom to enjoy the evening. Christy and Deb coauthored a fabulous dinner followed by sundowners. Poor Deb was freaked out about our insistence that they leave us behind. We explained to her that there was nothing they could do, we weren’t in any danger and there really wasn’t any stress involved. It is what it is. We had breakfast, sat in the sun, pondered stuff and when it was time we floated off. And a good time was had by all……….

May 10

May 10. As I told you earlier the Ladies Island Swing Bridge is on a restricted opening schedule. We’re leaving today so we got up before 0800 to get ready for the 1015 bridge opening. Miss it and we’re screwed.

Christy fills the water tank while I take the dogs on their morning walk. On my way past the dockmasters office there’s another boater asking about the bridge’s schedule. The dockmaster is holding a piece of paper from the office of Homeland Security that says as of today there will be no 1015 opening, its going to be an 0915 opening instead.

On the VHF the bridge tender has been telling everyone that the opening will be 1015 and he says he hasn’t received any new opening schedule from Homeland Security when the dockmaster is asked to call him. So its 1015, period.

So I continue on my walk with the dogs and just for the heck of it I stop and ask about the schedule one more time and the dockmaster assures me of a 1015 opening. When I get back to the boat I hear the bridge tender announce that he’s just gotten an update from Homeland Security and the next scheduled bridge opening has been moved up to 0915. Holy shit, get ready we’ve got to go.

Luckily since we were up plenty early we were able to get underway quickly. Christy backed us off the wall as I pushed the stern away, fended the bow and hopped on at the last moment. Only one other boat beside us made the opening, Jim and Deb on their catamaran Freedom. The poor guy who had been assured of a 1015 opening had taken his group into town for breakfast and missed the newly scheduled time. The next opening wasn’t until 1415 hours and we listened to him bitch, whine and bitch some more at the bridge tender on the VHF when he got back to the boat and found out things had changed. They actually had a Coast Guard boat go down to the marina to calm him down.

The rest of the day was an uneventful trip of about 30 miles. We stopped for the night at a fork in the ICW. When the path most traveled turned right, we went left into a secluded section of the river and dropped the hook in 10 feet of water. The trip to Charleston would have been about 60 couple miles so with the late start we decided not to kill ourselves and split it up into 2 days.

Jim and Deb on Freedom have similar plans for the immediate future so we are traveling together. We had met the Freedom’s when they were in Marathon with us for a few days and our paths once again crossed briefly in Saint Augustine. So they dropped the anchor 100 yards away and enjoyed the private anchorage along with us. Late in the evening a few boats that had been trapped until the 1415 bridge opening showed up and joined us in the anchorage. The place was plenty big and we were all able to put out plenty of scope to deal with the ripping tidal current. Tomorrow will be a short day as well so a starting time of 0800 will give us plenty of time to make Charleston by early afternoon.

May 8 & 9

May 8th. Well we’ve been here for a couple of days waiting out a big wind storm. We’ve been very fortunate as we’re in a seam between the wind and the calm. The wind is from the north and 20 miles to the west of us it’s blowing about 5 to 10 knots. While 30 miles to the east of us the Coast Guard is being kept busy saving the unwary boaters who were caught out. Out there it’s blowing a steady 35 knots with much higher gusts.

We’ve seen short half hour bursts into the high twenties but it’s been basically less than 15 knots while we were here. So tomorrow looks as if it will be the day to get underway for Charleston.

The Ladies Island Swing Bridge is 300 yards north of the marina. There’s a fixed 65 foot bridge about 2 miles south of here that was hit by a barge. The damage was fairly mild but until the bridge is repaired all the traffic from the barrier islands has to come across the only remaining bridge. This leaves the Ladies Island Swing Bridge overwhelmed with vehicular traffic. Now the bridge only opens at 0515, 1015, 1415, 2000 hours and then on the hour all night. So we’re planning for a 1015 bridge opening to start our trip to Charleston.

May 9th. We’re still here. The wind has been building and I don’t think we can get the boat off the wall that we’ve been moored too for these last few days. The wind has us pressed tight against the wall. We’re down at the end of a fairway with boats side tied along both sides. Once clear of the wall we’d have to back down a hundred yards of boat lined fairway with a pretty good crosswind blowing, oh yeah, and there’s adverse current too, Lol.

We’ve just seen on CNN that the storm has been named. So here we sit as the first named storm of the season runs its course offshore. It looks as if Charleston, 50 miles to our north is going to get the brunt of the rain and because of the counterclockwise rotation of the storm we should only see the winds after they’ve worn themselves out coming across the land.

So we’ll be patient, enjoy our surroundings and make the best of the situation. It’s just starting to rain…..

May 5th

May 5th. All the weather sources that we can check are all predicting big time winds for Sunday afternoon through Tuesday. It’s supposed to be a Northeaster with anywhere from 25 to 35 knots of wind with gusts into the forties.

We’ve made the decision to make a 75 mile day of it and get to Beaufort, South Carolina. We passed by on our way south without stopping and it’s supposed to be quite beautiful. If we’re going to be trapped somewhere for a couple of days we’d like to be somewhere we can still get out and do something.

I took the dogs to shore at 0615 and were back underway at first light. The number of flies in Georgia is just amazing. What’s even more amazing is that the flies disappeared once we crossed into South Carolina. Don’t question small miracles.

The day seems to take forever as there’s no discernable wind and we’re motoring back and forth, east and west as the ICW winds its way northward. We do hit the tides just right and throughout the shallowest parts of our trip we arrive at either a rising or full tide. I was able to get the main up for an hour or so and with the couple of knots of wind we gained about 3 tenths of a knot of boat speed.

When we were crossing the Port Royal Sound we were able to get the genoa up for a full knot boost, for an hour. We arrived in Beaufort at 1820 hours just after the marina closed so we took a spot on the fuel dock for the night. We’re taking a slip for the next few days while we wait out this wind storm.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

May 4th

May 4th. We left the Fredericka River and motored 50 couple miles to Kilkenny Creek in the heart of Georgia. Deliverance wasn’t filmed here but I’m sure it was the inspiration for the story.

There is a marina 2 and a half miles up the Kilkenny Creek. It’s the only place for at least 20 miles to get diesel. When we get there Bedazzle takes her spot at the fuel dock while we circle slowly as there’s only room for one of us at the dock at a time. She has 2, 34 gallon tanks and took 33 and a half gallons in each tank. Talk about cutting it close. 

After Bedazzle pulls away we take our place on the fuel dock. I tell the attendant that I need diesel and he points at the pump handle lying on the dock and says that’s it right there and walks away. So while I’m pumping fuel Christy takes the dogs for a walk. When I’m done she’s up near the office so as she approaches to pay for the fuel a huge dog / bear thing rushes from the door and attacks. In an instant he has Molly by the neck and flings her through the air then goes after Tucker who is now after him. Christy is screaming, I’m 100 feet away at the fuel dock and to far away to help but luckily a guy standing there kicks the beast and gains control of the animal.

Christy lets our dogs go and sends them down the dock to me. Molly is completely uninjured and Christy goes inside to pay and confront the marina owner about his dog’s behavior. His only answer is “hmf, he’s never done that before”.

When its time for us to leave the fuel dock we have a cross wind holding us tight to the dock. A boater who has taken a slip here for the night comes over to fend for us as we back away from the dock. The guy says he’s helped the last couple of boats leave as nobody from the marina will come down to the dock and help. What a shit hole. Later the crew of Bedazzle told us that their experience there was pretty much like ours. What a shit hole.

Both of us anchored further up the river in 10 feet of water. It’s just after low tide and the tidal flow here is going to be about 8 feet. The wind is 15 knots from the north. The meandering river flows basically east and west at this spot. Whenever we anchor someplace with a change of direction due to tidal flow I always stay up to size up the situation as the current turns.

The tide was supposed to change around 2300 hours so I was writing a trip report while waiting. At about 2330 hours I went topside to check out the situation. Holy crap, they’re gone!

Where we are anchored is dark as hell with only a scattered handful of lights around us on the horizon. I had established a line of position with a distant red flashing ICW light, Bedazzle and ourselves. When I came topside we were still tucked up against the north shore of the creek. I saw the red light but Bedazzle was gone. They had dragged more than a hundred yards from their starting point east of us near the north shore. They had traveled with the outgoing tide and were driven south of us by the wind. Their anchor seemed to be set now and I could see that they were not moving but I couldn’t tell how close they were to the southern shore. I woke Christy for a consultation and we decided to call them on the phone so they could assess the situation themselves. They ended up pulling the anchor and dropping it again, this time they were good for the remainder of the night.

Since so much of this trip report was dedicated to the Bedazzles I asked them for a suggestion for “Boat Name of the Day”. So here goes………

Boat Name of the Day………”Bow Movement” was a sailboat they saw in Titusville with a runner up award for a powerboat named “Dollars Aweigh”

May 3rd

May 3rd. Got underway at 0800 for a 46 mile sail to Fort Oglethorpe on the Fredericka River in southern Georgia. We leave the Saint Mary’s inlet behind as we head into the Atlantic and turn north yet again.

The winds are predicted to be 10 to 15 knots from the east and we’re seeing 6 to 8 knots. It’s better than yesterday but not by much.

We came in through the Saint Simons inlet and were immediately inundated with flies. They’re kind of like the green heads back in New Jersey but slower and much larger. In the hour and a half from when we were besieged until we dropped the hook near the fort it was a non-stop slaughter. I spent quite a while tossing smashed flies over the side after dropping the hook. I lost count at about 170 victims of Christy’s “Swatter of Doom”. Thankfully as quickly as they had come, they disappeared, we didn’t even have mosquitoes. On the VHF I heard some guy explaining that the fly is the Georgia State Bird and that a Georgia man’s favorite cologne is Off

During the day we are visited by a pair of Finches. We were about 7 miles off and they landed on the boat and stayed for about 4 hours. The male was exceptionally brave and came into the cockpit for a couple of minutes about every ten minutes.

The dogs were really surprising as they weren’t interested in the birds at all. In fact several times as the birds traipsed through the cockpit they walked across both dogs.

We got to Fort Fredericka a few hours before sunset so we went over to Bedazzled for sundowners then we all took the dogs to shore together. Rick and Linda are traveling with their dog Kirby the wonder dog. We had the park to ourselves so we were able to let the dogs run free for an hour as we walked around the park. The fort is part of a state park that’s very remote so there’s hardly ever anyone here. This place is really very nice and anyone planning to pass through this area should consider this place a must see.

May 2nd

May 2nd. We’re underway again and we’ve picked up another buddy boat. Rick and Linda own a 41 foot catamaran christened “Bedazzled”. This is their first year living on their boat and they will be traveling with us as far as Beaufort, South Carolina.

We left Saint Augustine at 0730 and headed out the inlet and into the ocean. The trip to Fernandina Beach was about 55 miles with 50 of it out in the ocean. The forecast was for 10 to 15 knots of wind out of the east and as we turned north we got 4 knots from the northwest. Stupid weathermen. It was an entire day of motor sailing with the wind finally clocking around to the east after lunch. The winds did build later in the day to almost 6 knots.  There are large brush fires in southern Georgia and as the winds clocked from west through north to east the smoke over the land was something to see. We were only 5 miles off and everything on shore was hidden in a blanket of smoke.

Fernandina Beach has just put in a mooring field where we had anchored 5 months ago. Its only 15 dollars a night and that includes dinghy dockage and the use of the showers if you desire.

The town is really nice and a 30 minute walk down Main Street and back yields a lot to see. On the other hand though, when you’re in the anchorage the shoreline is dominated by 2 huge industrial complexes. One manufactures noise and filth while the other one produces stench and pollution. I think they’re some type of paper mills but what a pall of unhealthiness they cast over this beautiful little town. We were sitting in the cockpit after sundown when Christy said “let’s go below, I feel like we’re catching cancer”. When we got up the boat was covered in dew, filthy dew. The boat was covered in grime, it was disgusting. The town is really nice but we’ll never be back.

April 29

April 29. Having Christy’s parents and her brother and his wife visiting us for a couple of days was bloody good fun. We’ve done a ton of walking around town.

We took the tour through Flagler College. The building was finished in 1887 by the railroad baron Henry Flagler. It was originally the Ponce de Leon Hotel. It was the most expensive and opulent resort hotel of its day. There are 2, 4000 gallon water towers that provided hot and cold running water. There is also a separate building that housed 4 giant dynamos’ that provided electricity for the new fangled incandescent lighting. Both of these modern conveniences were unheard of at that time.

Thomas Edison himself built and installed the power plant to run the lighting. The hotel was only open January through March and rooms were between 6 and 90 dollars a night. The only catch was that if you wanted a room you had to rent it for the entire season. The dining room could seat 700 people and each table had it own waiter. This dining hall is used by the student body today but much to their dismay they have to carry their own food trays.

A young designer named Louis Tiffany designed most of the furniture and his new company installed over 70 stained glass windows. Today those windows are insured for about 30 million dollars. The place is absolutely beautiful, carved wood, imported marble, inlaid tiles and hand painted ceilings, nothing but the best.

On Monday we all went for a ride on the boat. We were out for 3 or 4 hours with only a wisp of wind moving us along. I saw what I thought was a jelly fish and as we moved closer I realized it was a message in a bottle. We turned around and scooped the bottle up. It was sealed with wax melted over the cork. Inside was a picture and address of a young couple that had gotten married 2 days earlier and had thrown the bottle into the sea as part of their new lives together. We’ll write to them and tell them we found it.

It was good to see everyone, I learned a lot, no animals were injured, I got soap and nobody was forced to shave.