Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Annapolis to Onset

May 6 – Our Fifth Anniversary – Tuesday
Hollie, Bob, and Rich Wellman went to the Baltimore-Washington Airport to pick up Mark and Pauline Wells to help us crew the boat back to Maine, pick up Rich’s wife Carol, and put Hollie on a plane to Albany to help Amie and be with her for Mother’s Day. An absolutely gorgeous day with sunshine and warm winds!

May 7 – Wednesday
With winds 10 to 20 kts from the south and waves ½ to 1 ft, we actually sailed most of the way from Annapolis to Worton Creek on the east shore of the Chesapeake – Yesssssss!!! Quiet at last - so much more pleasant without the constant noise of the engine. Mark and Bob figured out how to rig the whisker pole to sail wing on wing, which added significantly to the boat speed, at times 9.5 mph. We went under the Chesapeake Bay Bridge (Hwy 50/301) about noon.

With very little room for anchoring in Worton Creek, we picked up an unused mooring ball at a marina in the creek and spent a delightful night, except for a false alarm on the anchor watch because of Bob’s using too small a radius for the alarm circle. He set the anchor watch small because of the poor condition of the mooring pendant and concern the rest of the mooring setup might be in similar condition.

May 8 – Thursday
A second day of almost entirely sailing without the engine – Great!!! Winds were 15 to 20 kts and waves of 1 to 2 ft – making a delightful sail. With a favorable current of a kt or more all day, we made 8.5 to 10.1 mph most of the time. The whisker pole gave us good wing-on-wing sailing again. The current in the C&D Canal was about 2.5 kts, making the sharp turn into the narrow entrance to the anchoring basin at Chesapeake City (about a third of the way into the canal) challenging.

With the anchoring basin too full for another boat, Bob called the Chesapeake City Town Dock number in the Cruising Guide and was told by the lady who answered the phone he could dock for two days (for another weather delay…) at a designated place on the face dock, even though the signs on the dock say “No Docking.” Well, as soon as the dock lines were tied, a man about 60 stormed over to the dock and angrily confronted Bob with “Do you know how to read?” followed immediately by, “Do you see these signs? Do you know what ‘No Docking’ means?”

After finding out that the lady who answered the phone had told Bob to tie up there, he promptly redirected his anger toward her: “She is not responsible for the docks and has no business telling anyone to dock anywhere. I’m going to have a talk with her. I’m the dockmaster here, and I’m the only one who can authorize anyone to tie up to these docks.” After calming down some, the dockmaster told Bob he could stay there for the night but might have to move to the anchoring basin in the morning if another boat, which had that dock space reserved for tomorrow, still wants it. With that, Bob, Mark, and Pauline went to the C&D Canal Museum, then walked around town and found an ice cream shop. The next morning, the dockmaster drove to the docks and yelled to us from his pickup truck that we could stay an extra day; the other good news was that the docks are free – only $5 for water and $10 for electricity (if there were any, as the outlets were all either burned out or the wrong plug configuration).

The C&D Canal was first opened for use in 1829 after 5 years of back-breaking digging and hauling dirt from the 14-mile ditch by over 2,600 workers. Originally only 10 ft deep and 66 ft wide with four locks, the canal is now 35 ft deep and 450 ft wide with no locks. Each of the locks required a large steam engine that pumped over 20,000 gallons per minute to raise the water levels in the locks. The canal can accommodate the largest commercial ships that go into and out of Baltimore or Philadelphia harbors and cuts off many hours from their trips compared with having to go in or out through the bays and around the land by sea. Since 1927, the Army Corps of Engineers has operated and maintained the canal, redesigning and expanding it several times.

May 10 – Saturday
After a day of heavy rain most of the day on Friday, we left Chesapeake City at 4:55 a.m. (yawn….) headed for the Delaware Bay and Cape May. It was eerie leaving in the dark, but the lights along the banks of the C&D Canal were a big help navigating until the sun started to come up and we could see land features. Current was 3+ kts against us in the canal, so we hugged the shore in 15 to 20 ft of water (45 ft in the middle of the canal) where the current was about a knot slower than in the middle.

We entered the Delaware Bay about 7:15 with winds less than 5 kts and waves less than a foot –unusual and ideal conditions for the bay. We had a great sail down the bay with favorable current for the first three hours and got to Utsch’s Marina at 1:45 PM to spend the night and pick up a package Hollie had sent for Pauline. After doing our accumulated laundry, we had dinner out in Cape May and got a good night’s sleep for another early rising the next day.

May 11 – Sunday, Mother’s Day
Up bright and early (well, early anyway…), we cast off lines at 5:45 a.m. and headed up the New Jersey coast bound for Barnegat Bay, which would position us 55 miles from NYC. Again we had ideal conditions – winds on the bow less than 5 kts, waves less than a foot, gentle 2-ft swells, and sun breaking through the overcast. As we left the Cape May Inlet jetties, we were greeted by several dolphins, interpreted by sailors to be a good omen.

However, our good omen was short lived. About 10 a.m., the wind picked up to 20 to 22 kts true (high 20s relative), building the waves to 2 to 4 ft, then 3 to 5 ft, then 4 to 6 ft. By noon, with the waves pounding us, rolling the boat up to 25 degrees, and sending solid water crashing onto the dodger windows and running into the cockpit, with the wind howling, and with a forecast for nasty weather including 9 to 11 ft waves and winds gusting to 35 kts for the next two days, we opted to go into the Atlantic City inlet and anchor for two days to wait out the weather.

May 12 – Monday – A day to remember…
We went to bed Sunday night about 9:30 with the winds in the low 30s gusting to the upper 30s; the anchor watch alarm was on. At 1:30 a.m., the alarm sounded – the anchor had dragged about 50 ft, and the boat was about two boat lengths from Great Catsby as it wildly swung back and forth with winds in the upper 30s gusting into the mid 40s. For the next 20 minutes, Bob used the engine to try to hold the boat into the wind, reducing the swinging and the pull on the anchor. Scope was 8 ½ to 1. The winds were so strong that the boat still swung, but not quite as far or as fast. This seemed to allow the anchor to reset itself, as it held after the engine was turned off.

As a precaution, though, we started a “helm watch,” taking turns at the helm ensuring the anchor did not start dragging again (couldn’t reset the anchor watch alarm without driving the boat back over the anchor, which was not possible in the existing conditions: winds howling; waves 2 to 3 ft, all with whitecaps and a lot of blowing spray; and unable to see the anchor trip line float). We continued this watch until 5:30 pm when the winds subsided to mostly less than 35 kts.

The boat was swinging rapidly back and forth 50 to 60 degrees to each side of the wind, and the wind heeled the boat to each side 15 to 20 degrees, occasionally 23 to 25 degrees, on each swing. Heavy rain was pelting the dodger windows and the side curtains of the cockpit enclosure, blowing into the cockpit through every opening in the enclosure and wetting the entire inside off the cockpit and all of its contents including people. Also, every few minutes, a wave would crash against the windward side of the boat, and the wind would drive the heavy wall of salt water splash against the dodger windows and cockpit side curtains, much of which also got inside the cockpit via the openings in the enclosure. This continued and worsened through the night, the morning, and the early part of the afternoon.

About 10 a.m., the winds had risen to the upper 40s gusting into the 50s (the maximum gust we saw was 54.6 kts) – too much for the anchor to hold, and it started dragging again, putting the boat precariously close to The Great Catsby. Since we couldn’t put out more scope without getting closer to Catsby, we elected to reset the anchor in a different location. Mark drove the boat very skillfully in the heavy wind; Bob went on deck with life jacket and harness on, tethered to the jackline, to release and reattach the anchor snubber line and raise and lower the anchor; and Pauline relayed signals, as the headsets didn’t work in the howling wind.

Resetting the anchor took three tries in miserable, bitter conditions. The third set seemed firm, but after 20 minutes, it was obvious the anchor was again dragging, even with a scope of 8 ½ to 1. So Bob went out on deck again and increased the scope to 15 to 1 (160 ft of chain plus 20 ft of snubber in 12 ft of water), which held through the rest of the day, that night, and the rest of the time the boat was in Atlantic City.

This experience taught us some valuable lessons for coping with high winds, including: using the biggest and most effective anchor available (the Great Catsby had just purchased a 55 lb Rocna anchor which held firmly through all these conditions with a scope of only 7 to 1); using a much larger scope than the typical recommended 7 to 1; tying down the fenders so they don’t blow about wildly on deck (one of them almost got free before Bob went on deck to retie it); tying restraints on the boom so it can’t swing side to side and rub on the dodger roof; and making and installing tight Sunbrella flaps to cover each of the cockpit enclosure openings (the tape we tried didn’t hold at all, and the towels we stuffed into the openings was only marginally effective).

May 14 – Wednesday
Leaving Atlantic City was harder than any of us would have imagined. It took over 45 minutes to get the anchor up. All 160 ft of chain was solidly caked with tenacious, smelly mud/clay; getting the gunk off using the anchor washdown hose was tedious, wet, and messy, with the wind blowing the muddy spray back over the boat and Bob (he was thoroughly soaked!). The anchor was so deeply buried from the strong winds that the windlass couldn’t begin to get it up; it took three tries of driving the boat forward harder each time to pull it free.

We headed for Barnegat Bay at 1:15 in S 10-15 kt winds and 2-3 ft waves superimposed on 5-7 ft (occasional 9-10 ft) swells 60-70 degrees off the starboard bow with periods of 10-11 seconds. Overcast with occasional sunlight peeking through. Our ride was relatively comfortable on the gentle rising and falling of the swells. Mid afternoon, we diverted course out beyond the three-mile limit to dump our holding tank, since the Atlantic City Marina pumpout system was not working.

At 6:10, we anchored in Barnegat Bay south of the lighthouse (the second tallest in the U.S.) and the Dike and had a restful night.

May 15 – Thursday
Weighing anchor at 6:15 a.m., we headed for Great Kills Harbor on Staten Island. Winds 5-10 kts from the South, 5-7 ft swells (6-8 second periods) on starboard beam, with 1 ft waves on the swells. The staysail dampened rolling nicely. Enroute, plans changed so Rich and Carol could more conveniently pick up two guests, and we tied up to a mooring ball at the 79th Street City marina, 5 ½ miles up the Hudson River from the Battery. Pauline spent the night on The Great Catsby (Rich and Carol’s spacious catamaran) and left for home the next morning, so Bob and Mark could leave very early.

May 16 – Friday
To take advantage of favorable currents along the Hudson and East Rivers and into Long Island Sound, Bob and Mark left at 2:30 a.m. and made great time to Long Island Sound, with up to 4.2 kt currents pushing them down the Hudson, through the East River, Hell Gate (named from the Dutch word hellegat meaning beautiful passage) and into the Sound.

Going through NYC at night was a fun experience – seeing all the city’s lights – as well as a challenge – the lights made seeing the navigation buoys difficult. We were surprised to have only a dozen or so other boats on the rivers to contend with, all of which were easy to see (most had AIS transmitters) and avoid. The captains of the tugs we talked to seemed glad to have someone to talk with during the night – most were even chatty...

We passed under the Throgs Neck Bridge at 4:45 a.m. – great time, thanks to the current, which boiled along in many places, creating eddies that moved the boat around unpredictably requiring prompt correction to stay on course. Our speed over ground was 8 to 11.6 kts the entire time, with a boat speed through the water of 7.4 kts.

With the vagaries of the tidal currents, we had unfavorable currents in LI Sound from about 5:30 to 10:00, then favorable again until about 3:30. Winds and seas in the Sound built during the day and became quite uncomfortable by late afternoon, with winds 15 to 20 kts on the nose (apparent winds of 25 to 30 kts) and seas of 2 to 4 ft (occasional 5-6 ft waves) on 4-5 ft swells with 5-6 second periods. Scattered showers throughout the day made the day cold and raw, even inside the cockpit enclosure, as the rain blew in through the enclosure openings. Bob and Mark were glad to be out of the waves when they turned into mouth of the Thames River about 5:00 p.m.

At 6:45 p.m., we tied up to a dock at the Thames View Marina on the Navy Submarine Base in New London, about 6 ½ miles upriver, after passing the screening of the “Whisky Boats” (patrol boats keeping terrorists away from the many nuclear subs at the base). Winds predicted during the night were to be 15 to 20 kts with gusts up to 35 kts, so we opted for a dock rather than taking a chance on the anchor. Total distance traveled was 122 miles in 16 ¼ hours, for an exceptional average speed of 7.5 kts.

May 18 – Monday
Opting to wait out strong winds and seas yesterday, we left the marina at 6:10 a.m. and headed for Onset, at the mouth of the Cape Cod Canal, to position ourselves for an early departure through the canal and into Cape Cod Bay. We had a fairly rough ride with 5-8 ft swells, occasionally 10-11 ft, with 4-6 second periods coming at us from 80 to 120 degrees off the starboard bow with 1-2 ft wind waves on the swells and 2-4 ft swells in between the larger ones – a confused, choppy sea state. Winds of 15-20 kts from the south rolled the boat up to 26 degrees to each side.

At 1:30, after we had turned into Buzzard’s Bay, with the waves now on our starboard quarter and winds 15 to 20 kts from our starboard quarter, we put the jib out and furled the staysail, for a fairly comfortable ride the rest of the way. By 5:30, we had tied up at the Town Docks in Onset, where we would again wait out strong forecast winds and seas.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Almost Though the ICW!

Swansboro to Pungo River Canal to Coinjock

Days 171 – 173 April 23-25

Cruising Friends
As we were motor sailing from Swansboro to Oriental, both Rich from “The Great Catsby” and Alan (a cruiser friend from Jacksonville Naval Marina) on “Whale Song” called us. We had dinner with Alan in Oriental and spent a nice evening catching up and reconnecting. We left Alan there, cast off at 7:50AM, and caught up with Rich crossing Pamlico Sound (he had anchored in Cedar Creek, six miles before Oriental).

Enroute we planned a potluck dinner for eight, which we’ll share at the Pungo River anchorage this evening. I do love the social aspects of cruising!

Pamlico Sound
We were pleasantly surprised and grateful for the nearly calm conditions we had while crossing the Neuse and Pamlico Rivers – waves about ½ ft and winds about 5 kts from the NE. It was an enjoyable ride, especially in light of the nasty ride these rivers are known for.

Bill Hooper - Once Again
Bill Hooper heard us being hailed on VHF and listened in. He heard me say, “I’ve checked my stores on board and can make a pot of white chicken chili that will feed the eight of us.” Bill said, “I told Cheryl, that must be Hollie and Bob on DeLaMer.” He recognized my recipe and called to say he was an hour and a half behind us and had been wondering if he would meet us on the trip north. He and his wife are delivering “Wolf” from the Bahamas back to Boston. They pulled alongside for a brief visit before charging along in speedy delivery mode.

The anchorage at Pungo River was delightful; great holding, very rural, and lots of singing birds. This morning a light fog covered the area, making the area appear ethereal and even more beautiful.

Alligator River, Albemarle Sound and Coinjock
The color of the water has steadily declined. It’s absolutely brown in the Alligator River. Most of the boats we see now have a “brown mustache” on their bow, discoloration from the water.

The Wisteria in the Alligator River are beautiful along the banks. Their fragrance is wonderful - very prominent.

The wind is very light and on our nose and the water is almost flat. We’ve decided to push on to Coinjock today, crossing the Albemarle Sound. This will be another long day – 78 statute miles.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008


Swansboro, NC

April 21 -22

We left Wrightsville Beach via Mott’s Channel without incident -- only memories of TowBoat US pulling us off that shoal last fall. The channel was dredged over the winter and now has plenty of depth.

We arrived at Mile Hammock, our planned stop for the day, at noon and decided it was too early in the day to drop anchor. “Painted Skies,” a Tartan 412 ahead of us, had called on the VHF asking if we were the same “DeLaMer” that had been at the Jax Naval Air Station Marina last winter. They were there when DeLaMer took her solo trip across the St. John’s River. Catherine and Lael were headed to Swansboro to anchor and invited us to join them for wine and hors d’ oeuvres aboard “Painted Skies.”

By mid-afternoon, the skies ahead were black. Our radar showed a large cell of heavy precipitation over Swansboro. We tuned in to NOAA. They were issuing a severe thunderstorm warning, lightening strikes, and quarter-sized hail for the Swansboro area and urging mariners to seek safe shelter. Swansboro was six miles ahead! We slowed to give the storm time to pass and waited almost an hour before it had cleared.

Skipper Bob’s rating of the Swansboro anchorage was: no protection from wind and strong current. He’s right! The first two times we dropped the hook, it dragged. On the third try, it caught. After testing our hold twice, we put the dinghy down and enjoyed a pleasant evening with our new cruising acquaintances. They’ve invited us to stop at their home in Horn Harbor, Virginia in the Chesapeake.

By late evening, the winds had picked up to 15-20 kts, gusting to 25, and radar showed more storm cells in the area. Between the thunder and lightening, checking our anchor and proximity to the two other boats nearby -- it was a restless night. Morning brought no weather relief. We decided to go into Dudley’s Marina and wait the weather out on a dock. We docked in 20 knot winds with a 3.5 mph current. Dudley’s was a good decision; it poured and howled most of the day.

“Island Spirit,” a 35 foot IP anchored with us, also came into the marina. We enjoyed meeting Hayden and Radeen. Hayden teaches computer science and Radeen is an elementary librarian. They are both on sabbatical taking online master’s degrees from their boat.

We took Dudley’s loaner car, drove into Swansboro and found a delightful place for lunch, Church Street Deli. The food was excellent, the chef gregarious, and the hand-painted murals on the walls and tables fun to see

I’m beginning to wonder if being in Saratoga for the winter will satisfy me. We are meeting so many nice folks and having so many new experiences cruising!

Monday, April 21, 2008

My Birthday

Myrtle Beach to Wrightsville Beach Days 167 – 168

April 19

Aground Again
We left the Coquina Yacht Club at 8:50AM to time the 10AM hourly opening of the Sunset Pontoon Bridge. Our first skinny water concern for the day was Lockwoods Folly Inlet. Bob called ahead to ask TowBoat US for the latest conditions as we neared the inlet at noon, two hours before low tide. They told him to stay mid-channel, slightly favoring R36. He did, and DeLaMer took a nose dive into a 4’7” shoal mid-channel! Bob powered off once again into deeper water on the “red side” and called TowBoat US back to update them! TowBoat US simply said the shoal wasn’t there yesterday; must’ve formed overnight…

Cape Fear River
The Cape Fear River is a force to be reckoned with. We entered it 45 minutes ahead of low tide; our speed over ground dropped from 9.4 to 4.3 mph. The winds were blowing 15-20 kts against the current giving us 2-3 foot following seas – very choppy...

Twice in One Day!
Traveling on Saturday, we encountered lots of power boats with no etiquette with regard to their wakes! Carolina Beach Inlet, according to the Waterway Guide and Skipper Bob, is notoriously skinny. As we approached, Bob called TowBoat US, again, for current info. Having none, they suggested he call the dredge working in the area on VHF. We did -- they didn’t respond. As we reached R2, just before the inlet, a large motorboat, with an equally large wake, roared by putting us momentarily aground at 4’1” as he took our water. A small powerboat named “Bite Me” had been following us for several miles. Having had enough grounding for one day, I called the captain and asked if he had local knowledge of the inlet. He did and even agreed to lead the way; one of the many considerate and helpful power boaters.

Wrightsville Beach - A Happy Ending
We arrived shortly after 5PM, and Andy was waiting for us at the dock. We spent a great evening with Barbara and Andy. After enjoying a glass of wine overlooking their spectacular view of the ocean, we dined at Brasserie DeSol. A great way to end the day!

April 20th - My 65th Birthday
I had a super birthday! Andy loaned us his car. Bob and I toured the battleship USS North Carolina, had lunch at a romantic restaurant on a private balcony, celebrated our engagement, six years ago today at a Luau in Maui,
and took the Trolley Tour of downtown Wilmington.
The USS North Carolina, commissioned in 1940, was the most decorated battleship in the fleet. It spent 40 months in combat, fighting in every major battle of the Pacific. Of the 2,339 men aboard, only 10 were lost in battle.
I was utterly amazed at the number of guns it carried and its size. In addition to being a battleship, it was a self-sufficient city with everything from an ice cream parlor to a medical laboratory.

When we arrived at Barbara and Andy’s for dinner, they surprised me with a birthday cake. The boys had put three candles on it -- one for each of them, and they were a great help in blowing them out! It was a wonderful birthday.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Church Creek to Myrtle Beach

Days 164 – 166 April 17-18

April 17th - A Day to Remember
As we motored along, I found myself remembering my Grandmother Smith. Today was her birthday. I thought of the Hollyhocks in her backyard, making and bottling Sassafras Soda on her back porch, the ringer washing machine she pulled to the kitchen sink to fill and empty, the Mangle Machine she sat at to iron, her Player Piano and all the rolls of music I loved, the gauche lobster dish on her sideboard (that ended up in my house), her peddle Singer Sewing Machine… and many more things from decades ago that my children and grandchildren will never experience.

An Unnerving Experience
The peacefulness of Church Creek, the egrets, and my musings ended abruptly as we approached Isle of Palms Bridge when Bob smelled oil in the cabin. We quickly dropped the anchor just off the channel in 16 feet of water. I alerted the boats behind us on VHF we were anchored in the ICW with an engine problem. To add to the anxiety, our anchor was slowly dragging across the channel! What had been 15 feet was now 6 feet! By this time, Bob had discovered the source of the problem and it was almost resolved. My husband who meticulously checks the oil level daily before he starts the engine had forgotten to put the oil fill cap back on (the Yanmar engine needs the cap removed to get a correct oil level)!! Meanwhile, Towboat US is calling us on the radio asking if we need assistance. Thankfully I was able to respond, “No. but thanks for checking. We’ll be underway within 10 minutes.”

No Place to Anchor!
We had planned a long day, 72 statute miles, from Church Creek to Minim Creek. As we approached the Minim Creek anchorage at MM 415, the east side was filled with crab pots making it impossible to navigate. The sailboat ahead of us had tried to enter the west anchorage, turned around, and was now motoring south. As we passed, the Captain shouted, “Don’t try the west anchorage, it’s too shallow!” I thought, “Oh shoot! Now what?” It was already 4:30PM and we were 17 miles from Georgetown. Knowing many marinas close at 5PM, I looked ahead for another anchorage and found Butler Island at MM 396. We anchored there at 6:30PM, thanks to the current pushing us along at 9.6 mph.

As we left the Minim Creek anchorage, we knew there was a cable ferry crossing a few miles ahead in the Estherville Minim Creek Canal. As we approached, it was just getting ready to cross. The driver waved us through and then started his crossing, a very short one across the narrow canal. There were people walking on the ferry on our port side, and empty vehicles starboard.

Today was our best mileage ever in one day, a completely unplanned 92 miles!! Bob reminded me we also saw our best speed over ground late morning – a whooping 11.7 mph!!!! The favorable currents and tides allowed us to cover so much ground.

Sunset at Butler Island was beautiful. After a trying day, our Tempurpedic mattress felt awfully good. Our peaceful night was interrupted at 5:30AM by our anchor alarm (which only I heard). I quickly awakened Bob; however, Bob doesn’t awaken quickly. Forgetting he had closed the stateroom door to keep the heat in, he walked straight into it. That did wake him up a little. We were securely anchored with our tracks as we would expect. That’s the 2nd time the alarm has gone off, both times a false alarm.

April 18 – The Beautiful Waccamaw River
Mile after mile of pristine, isolated, natural beauty. Nothing but the blue sky, the river lined by Cypress trees, and eagles in their nests We played classical music in the cockpit and thoroughly enjoyed a spectacular morning.

At noon we stopped at the Bucksport Marina for refueling. With the Boat US discount of 10%, it was $3.75 gallon, cheaper than we have seen since leaving Key West. I bought two packages of their famous (on the ICW) “Bucksport Sausage,” which is now stored in our freezer.

By 2:30, thanks to another favorable current boosting our speed, we reached Coquina Yacht Club Marina in Myrtle Beach and tied up at their transient dock. Many of the boats here have a “mustache,” brown water stains on the bow. A thorough outside cleaning to get the discolored water and salt spray off, a quick polishing of the stainless pulpits, stanchions, ports, etc. a fast shower, and off to one of the best meals we’ve had on this trip – at Umberton’s Italian Restaurant, right next to the marina. The food was great, and the service matched the food.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Weather and Water Changes

Beaufort, SC to Church Creek Anchorage

Days 162 – 163 April 15-16

At the Ladies Island Marina in Beaufort, we learned of yet another way for the rich to enjoy boating – purchase a time share on a large (in this case, 110 ft) very luxurious yacht named “Enticer.” The price? A mere $1,000,000 for a week of yachting luxury anywhere in the waters of the US, Caribbean, Mexico, Central America, the Bahamas, or Bermuda. Just schedule your week, and the boat will be there to meet you. From your pickup by the boat’s crew at the nearest airport to your return to the airport, you will be treated like royalty. How about it? Any takers? There are only a few weeks left on this fine yacht.

After spending two delightful days with Lynn and Bob, we left Beaufort early this morning, despite the 20-25 knot winds on our nose. We have begun to transit the parts of the ICW that can be quite challenging and anxiety producing due to skinny water. Bob has been more focused than usual on navigation and the helm.

The weather and the water have changed significantly as we have motor sailed north. The nights are now quite cool (in the 40s) and we’ve used our diesel furnace to take the chill off the bedroom during the nights and off the salon in the morning. The beautiful clear aqua waters of the keys have turned to the brown murky river waters of central Florida and north.

During the last several days, we’ve enjoyed seeing numerous white birds resembling large sparrows with oversized wings, like swallows, dive bomb the water from 5 to 20 feet high and immediately take off again, presumably with a small fish in their beak or belly. It’s amazing how fast they can get back into the air; it looks like they use their buoyancy to pop themselves out of the water and instantly use their wings to get themselves airborne again.

Tonight we are anchored in Church Creek. This is what I love about cruising! The only noise we hear is the serenade of the birds as we sit in the cockpit watching the sun set in this beautiful rural setting.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Georgia to South Carolina

St. Augustine to Beaufort, SC

Days 155 – 161 April 8-14

St. Augustine
I had prepared a real (as opposed to quick) dinner to serve Mark and Pauline. Plans on a sailboat are always subject to change. After docking at the St. Augustine City Marina, we ran into Donna and Jerry Luh, whom we had met at Vero Beach. Another small world experience -- they’re good friends with cruisers we had dinner with in Jacksonville, Tom and Joyce Russell. We invited Donna and Jerry back to our boat and found Mark and Pauline on board. After drinks and hors de’ oeuvres, the dinner menu changed to “reservations.” We went out to dinner at O.C. White’s, in the historic district, with Mark and Pauline.

One of the neat things about this trip has been, and continues to be, learning interesting facts about the places we travel though. This morning we took the Trolley Tour of St. Augustine with Mark and Pauline. St. Augustine is the oldest city in the United States. Ponce de Leon came to the area first with Columbus. On his second trip to the New World, he brought 76 ships with him… looking for Bimini. In 1513, he landed at what is now St. Augustine and claimed all of North America for Spain. Here he discovered what he thought to be “The Fountain of Youth.” Ponce de Leon was the tallest of the Spaniards on his ships, measuring all of 4’ 11”. Most of his crew were 4’ 5” to 4’ 8.” In 1695, the Spaniards built Castillo San Marcos Fort, constructed with over 500,000 coquina blocks. St. Augustine remained a walled city for 250 years. French, Spanish, Indians, and British fought over the area for several hundred years.

Florida became the 27th state in 1835. In 1885, the School for the Deaf and Blind was established in St. Augustine. It now serves over 800 students. One of its more famous students was Ray Charles, who spent eight years there during the 1950’s.

Henry Flagler made his mark on this city. A poor boy born in New York State, he left home at the age of 14 with $1.00 in his pocket. He became a multimillionaire, making most of his money as a partner with Rockefeller in Standard Oil. He was also a hotel and railroad magnate and contributed significantly to the development of Florida’s east coastal area. Flagler built the Florida East Coast Railway, extending it across the keys and making Key West accessible to tourists for the first time by land. From 1885 to 1887, he erected the Ponce de Leon Hotel, the flagship of his hotel system. It was the “Winter Newport” for millionaires. In 1890, the cost to stay for three months (no lesser period of time was allowed) was $250,000. The price, however, did include all the meals. At the entrance to the college is a fountain with 12 turtles on the outside circle and 4 frogs in the center. The turtles are a sundial, and the frogs mark the four seasons of the year. The hotel was the epitome of opulence. It is now Flagler College, and Florida residents attend free of charge. The college has the world’s largest collection of Tiffany glass windows and chandeliers.

St. Augustine to Shellbine Creek
Leaving St. Augustine Municipal Marina took some planning. The current and tides are notoriously strong here, requiring cruisers to leave at slack tide. The dock master warned, “If you wait an hour past slack tide, you may end up pinned broadsides against the pier behind you waiting for the next slack. Lots of boats do that.” We pulled away at 6:45AM, slack tide, without a problem.

We motorsailed 81 statute miles, a 10-hour day on the water, and anchored in Shellbine Creek at MM 697. The anchorage was nice, but the current was very strong and the bugs were horrific! When we arrived at Jekyll Island the next day, our hull was covered with black insects!

Jekyll Island
Jekyll Island is one of 13 barrier islands off the coast of Georgia. We stayed one night at the Jekyll Island Marina and spent the day riding bicycles around the island. We visited the historic district and enjoyed learning about the Jekyll Island Club, an area of history neither Bob nor I was familiar with.

Jekyll Island was purchased for $125,000 in 1886 by a group of 50 millionaire naturalists from the Union Club in New York City. The Jekyll Island Club was constructed over a period of several years and became their hunting and fishing retreat three months of the year. Like the Flagler Hotel, many of the patrons came from their Newport mansions to winter here. A few of the club members were the Pulitzer’s, Vanderbilt’s, Harvester’s, Goodyear’s, Rockefeller’s, Carnegie’s, Mellon’s, and J.P.Morgan.

The first condominium in the United States, Sans Souci, was built here near the clubhouse to give the five owners more privacy than the hotel provided. It was called the house of power due to its occupants: J.P. Morgan, James A. Scyrmsee, William Rockefeller, William Anderson, and Joseph Stickney.

As the resort developed, a number of “cottages” were built. Crane Cottage (owned by the Crane Plumbing magnate) was the most expensive of all; the workers were brought from Chicago to build it. None of the cottages at the Jekyll Island Club had kitchens. Everyone was expected to gather at the main hotel for their evening meal, which typically lasted three to four hours. Men wore tuxedos and the ladies were expected to appear in a different gown each evening. Consequently, many trunks of clothing arrived with each woman.

Theodore Vale, the President of AT&T, initiated the first transcontinental phone call from his home on Jekyll. The call was to have originated from New York City, but Mr. Vale was ill with a bout of gout and unable to travel. Lines were laid from NYC to Jekyll Island so he could participate in the four-hour call.

The Federal Reserve was started on Jekyll Island; participants for the meeting came in under the guise of a duck hunting trip.

The Jekyll Island Club prospered for over 40 years. Its demise began in the Great Depression. During World War II, owners defaulted on taxes and stopped maintaining the buildings. The State of Georgia condemned the property and took possession of it.

Killkenny Creek and Bull Creek Anchorages
We left Jekyll Island Marina later than planned due to a dense fog, but we still managed to cover 83 statute miles. We weren’t anchored in Kilkenny Creek more than a few minutes when an IP32 arrived. The name on the boat was “Curieuse.” It was the boat we looked at buying from our marina in Willsboro Bay on Lake Champlain. The folks who bought her had never sailed before taking a vacation in Florida and spending one day aboard a sailboat. They sold their house, left their jobs, and sailed “Curieuse” away. Sherry and Dan have been in the Abacos all winter and are returning to Connecticut for the summer. They spent the evening aboard DeLaMer, sharing their adventures with us.

Crossing the Savannah River, we left Georgia behind and entered South Carolina. We anchored in Bull Creek just as a front approached with 20-30 knot winds. Once again “Curieuse” pulled in behind us. We spent a quiet evening listening to the rain and winds.

Beaufort, SC
We will be here two days. Bob has some boat work to do and our friends, Bob and Lynn, whom we cruised the ICW south with last fall, are here. This morning Bob replaced the gas piston that holds the refrigerator lid up. It was under warranty and as usual, the Caliber folks were very responsive; they overnighted it to us at Jekyll Island. As I write the blog, Bob is changing the oil and fuel filters and the engine and transmission oil. We have a number of other boat maintenance chores planned for the rest of today and tomorrow before again heading north.