Hola Amigos,

I have to say that I had conflicting emotions as we pulled out of Sunset Bay Marina in Stuart yesterday.  When we arrived there 16 days earlier, it was for a week of planned maintenance, and secondarily, to say “hi” to our Krogen friends.  Those plans quickly changed as unforeseen repairs surfaced.  What’s the saying?  “Your boat’s always broken,you just don’t know it, yet. “ Or somth’n like that.

When we arrived, John (“Compass Rose”) informed us that we were aboard the 24th Krogen berthed at the marina.  During our first hour at the dock, many of our pals, last seen at the rendezvous in Solomon’s, came by to welcome us.  Most had been at Sunset for a few months.  Walking the docks later, we discovered that our friends, Ward and Richard, (last seen aboard their Grand Alaskan, “Bagheera” in Portland, ME) were there as well.  Besides the long days of “boat dinkin’”, we spent our time reconnecting with friends, and deepening our relationships with others.  It is so interesting how as you traverse through life, the relative importance of things and relationships change so dramatically.  I guess that’s why “they” call it a journey-all about perspective.  So happy that we pulled the trigger and started living OUR dream.  Don’t be held back by “buts” and “what ifs”.  Go for YOUR dream now.  I digress. 

Our buds, Garry and Jacquie (Waterford II-Lake Superior and Jacksonville) and Bill and Lisa (Changing Course) were at a marina a mile or so away, so we enjoyed time with them as well.  G & J were happy campers.  They had been driving around for 4 months with a sheet of plywood over their salon window opening since having it blown out by a Sportfishing boat while they were docked at Cape May, NJ.  The new window and frame, as well as wood, fiberglass, and stainless steel repairs were finally being done.  Bill, the retired aircraft mechanic, also had projects.  As soon as he took apart their heating system to replace all hoses, a cold front came through.  His mate, the ever chilly Lisa, was not impressed.  I’m thinkin’ it’s a thinly veiled ploy to get a little more cuddling time-don’t know, just sayin’. 

16 days of repairs, Krogen breakfasts, washing & waxing, and lots of incredible sunsets, we were all set to depart. We had so much fun, we reserved for a couple of months next winter (plans written in sand, not stone).  After protracted goodbyes, we got off the dock at around 1030.  We had a beautifully warm and sunny drive to Indiantown on the Okeechobee Waterway.  On the way, the Admiral and I sat on the bow, basking in the sun, autopilot remote in hand.  I’m sure it gets better, but not much.  The middle of Florida is pretty much agricultural.  Lots of cattle, horses, and flat fields of crops bordered the canal.  The Indiantown Marina is just a little bit beyond funky.  It’s a little palm oasis around a small harbor that’s carved out of the surrounding farmland.  Since there wasn’t really anywhere to go, we stayed on the Girl, reading and whiling away the rest of the afternoon, planning our next leg across Lake Okeechobee and dreaming of our Spring trip to the Abacos.

0700, and it was kind of misty foggy with a temperature of 58 degrees.  As the fiery orange sun came up over the palm trees lining the canal, we were underway, headed for the Port Mayaca Lock to enter Lake Okeechobee.  We were told by our friends Randy and Cindy aboard “Morning Star” to cross the shallow lake early in the day before the wind whipped up the waves.  Since they had crossed the lake innumerable times, we listened.  Lake O is very large by inland lake standards, infact it is the second largest freshwater lake located wholly in the continental US (after Lake Michigan) but unfortunately is super polluted by chemical runoff from surrounding farms.  In fact, local news was reporting on the outrage expressed by folks living downriver as the Corps of Engineers was releasing “toxic water” from the lake this week.  As we cross the lake, we see the source of the sooty dust and ash that we’ve been cleaning off the Girl every other day.  The locals are burning the sugar cane fields in preparation for next years’ crop.  At the west side of Lake O, we make a hard right turn at Clewiston, dubbed “The sweetest city in America”, alluding to their cash crop.  Up to Moorehaven, the canal courses through acres of marsh which would be a birders paradise.  Once through the Moorehaven Lock, the city dock is off our starboard rail.  In we go, $1 U.S. Franc/ft.  78 degrees, so I think I’ll walk over to the library (interweb), sit on the bench outside, and shoot this into space.

-Over and Out (for today)

Hola Amigos,

I have to say that I had conflicting emotions as we pulled out of Sunset Bay Marina in Stuart yesterday.  When we arrived there 16 days earlier, it was for a week of planned maintenance, and secondarily, to say “hi” to our Krogen friends.  Those plans quickly changed as unforeseen repairs surfaced.  What’s the saying?  “Your boat’s always broken,you just don’t know it, yet. “ Or somth’n like that.

When we arrived, John (“Compass Rose”) informed us that we were aboard the 24th Krogen berthed at the marina.  During our first hour at the dock, many of our pals, last seen at the rendezvous in Solomon’s, came by to welcome us.  Most had been at Sunset for a few months.  Walking the docks later, we discovered that our friends, Ward and Richard, (last seen aboard their Grand Alaskan, “Bagheera” in Portland, ME) were there as well.  Besides the long days of “boat dinkin’”, we spent our time reconnecting with friends, and deepening our relationships with others.  It is so interesting how as you traverse through life, the relative importance of things and relationships change so dramatically.  I guess that’s why “they” call it a journey-all about perspective.  So happy that we pulled the trigger and started living OUR dream.  Don’t be held back by “buts” and “what ifs”.  Go for YOUR dream now.  I digress. 

Our buds, Garry and Jacquie (Waterford II-Lake Superior and Jacksonville) and Bill and Lisa (Changing Course) were at a marina a mile or so away, so we enjoyed time with them as well.  G & J were happy campers.  They had been driving around for 4 months with a sheet of plywood over their salon window opening since having it blown out by a Sportfishing boat while they were docked at Cape May, NJ.  The new window and frame, as well as wood, fiberglass, and stainless steel repairs were finally being done.  Bill, the retired aircraft mechanic, also had projects.  As soon as he took apart their heating system to replace all hoses, a cold front came through.  His mate, the ever chilly Lisa, was not impressed.  I’m thinkin’ it’s a thinly veiled ploy to get a little more cuddling time-don’t know, just sayin’. 

16 days of repairs, Krogen breakfasts, washing & waxing, and lots of incredible sunsets, we were all set to depart. We had so much fun, we reserved for a couple of months next winter (plans written in sand, not stone).  After protracted goodbyes, we got off the dock at around 1030.  We had a beautifully warm and sunny drive to Indiantown on the Okeechobee Waterway.  On the way, the Admiral and I sat on the bow, basking in the sun, autopilot remote in hand.  I’m sure it gets better, but not much.  The middle of Florida is pretty much agricultural.  Lots of cattle, horses, and flat fields of crops bordered the canal.  The Indiantown Marina is just a little bit beyond funky.  It’s a little palm oasis around a small harbor that’s carved out of the surrounding farmland.  Since there wasn’t really anywhere to go, we stayed on the Girl, reading and whiling away the rest of the afternoon, planning our next leg across Lake Okeechobee and dreaming of our Spring trip to the Abacos.

0700, and it was kind of misty foggy with a temperature of 58 degrees.  As the fiery orange sun came up over the palm trees lining the canal, we were underway, headed for the Port Mayaca Lock to enter Lake Okeechobee.  We were told by our friends Randy and Cindy aboard “Morning Star” to cross the shallow lake early in the day before the wind whipped up the waves.  Since they had crossed the lake innumerable times, we listened.  Lake O is very large by inland lake standards, infact it is the second largest freshwater lake located wholly in the continental US (after Lake Michigan) but unfortunately is super polluted by chemical runoff from surrounding farms.  In fact, local news was reporting on the outrage expressed by folks living downriver as the Corps of Engineers was releasing “toxic water” from the lake this week.  As we cross the lake, we see the source of the sooty dust and ash that we’ve been cleaning off the Girl every other day.  The locals are burning the sugar cane fields in preparation for next years’ crop.  At the west side of Lake O, we make a hard right turn at Clewiston, dubbed “The sweetest city in America”, alluding to their cash crop.  Up to Moorehaven, the canal courses through acres of marsh which would be a birders paradise.  Once through the Moorehaven Lock, the city dock is off our starboard rail.  In we go, $1 U.S. Franc/ft.  78 degrees, so I think I’ll walk over to the library (interweb), sit on the bench outside, and shoot this into space.

-Over and Out (for today)

Ahoy, Me Hearties,

January 6th.  We departed St. Augustine mooring field at 0730 for the 8 hour run to New Smyrna Beach.  Still a coolish 63 degrees, but the sun was out.  Passing by Daytona Beach, we’re joined by a pod of dolphins, swimming, diving, and jumping in our bow wave.  This is getting to be a pretty regular occurrence, as they seem to be drawn to the sound of our trusty John Deere diesel.  It’s a darn good thing that we called ahead for a reservation, as there is exactly 1 space big enough for The Girl at the city marina.  The next afternoon, our pals, Gary and Gail Mallernee drove over from the Orlando area to pick us up for a visit to their home.  We had a couple of great days seeing their beautiful new home and reconnecting.  Old friends are where it’s at.

The morning of the 10th, we’re off the dock at 0830.  As we’re catching up on the news, courtesy of CNN, we hear about the SpaceEx launch at the Cape earlier in the morning-@#!%!!  We had checked the launch schedule on NASA’s web site earlier in the week, and could’ve sworn it said 4:25 P.M., not A.M.  Would’ve been cool to watch from the anchorage just a few miles away.  Oh well, maybe in the Spring.  Or next Fall.  Or the following Spring.  As it is, we pass by empty launch pads and the gimundous Vehicle Assembly Building, the largest (by volume) building in the world.  Our plan is to stop at Vero Beach for a day or so, but it’s too far for one travel day, so we anchor in the river at Eau Gallie, just north of Melbourne.  It was blowing like stink, so we tucked up under the lee of the highway bridge and didn’t leave the boat.  It wasn’t really a bad thing, as we were entertained by a pod of dolphins practicing their synchronized swimming and aerobatics.  I’m gonna have to Google this, but I’m pretty sure that these southern dolphins must be a different species than their northern cousins.  They are much bigger.

On our way to Vero Beach we begin to feel like we are finally in tropical Florida. Lots of palm trees, mangroves and warm sun. Yay!! As we enter the mooring field at Vero Beach, we’re met by Bill and Lisa (Changing Course), who escort us to our ball in their dinghy.  What a pleasant surprise, we thought they were leaving before our arrival.  They’re liking it here, big time, and tell us we gotta stay more than the one day we had planned.  I guess the boaters call it “Velcro Beach”, ‘cause you stop here and get stuck.  It’s that cool.  I’m sure that 13 bucksanight mooring balls don’t hurt, either.  The Admiral rings up Sunset Bay Marina, where we will be staying for a week, and they allow us to push back a day.  Cool.  Suz and I dinghy the bikes in through the rain, and head to The Riverside Cafe for a little NFL and grub.  Next day, B & L biked with us for breakfast at a little beach restaurant on the other side of the island.  We took a walk on the beach, and got caught up on each other’s’ adventures since we last saw one another, while dodging all the Man O’ War bodies that had washed up during the blow a few days previously.  We part ways, agreeing to get together in the evening at our place to watch Ohio State win the National Championship for the Big Ten.  That evening, thunderstorms were rolling through, so they opted not to make the ¼ mile trek over.

January 13, and we’re off at 0800.  We really could have stayed a few more days, but Sunset Bay is calling.  We’re scheduled to meet our electronic, mechanical, and all-around boatstuff guru, Scottie, who is in residence there to take care of a few routine maintenance issues.  More than half of the Krogen gang from Solomon’s live here in the winter, so Scottie moves down too, and is kept busy 18/7.  (would be 24/7, but the guy has to sleep).  A lot of our stuff I can do myself with his direction, and I love to have him around to bail me out if I get into trouble.  Some issues are way beyond my capabilities-Scottie gets those.  We roll into Stuart around 1400, and are informed that there are now 24 Krogens here!  This week will be tough on the liver and waistline.  Scottie’s finishing up on “Anne Louise” who will be heading to the Caribbean for a 4 year cruise, but stops by so we can formulate a game plan.  We’re in the engine room, and he leans against one of the battery boxes.  It’s warm.  “Dude, you need a new battery”.  This is the trickle that leads to a cascade.  Okay, so it’s now the 25th.  We’ve paid for a month stay at this marina that was completely booked (for this year and next) when we arrived.  We’ve replaced (8) 186 pound batteries (with the help of “the swamp boys”-2 football players from Weber State that Scottie knows).  I’ve rewired our autopilot and one of our navigation computers.  Upgraded our software and chart portfolios.  Changed the coolant and hoses on our propulsion and generator engines.  Replaced the water manifold for our air conditioners.  Built a shelf for the pantry.  Waxed the entire boat.  Replaced a circuit breaker.  And are currently waiting on a new clutch for the generator to be shipped from Texas.  (The routine belt replacement became not-so-routine when the aforementioned clutch vomited the bearings from its’ battered case during removal)  The tech from Texas where we sent it to be rebuilt was amazed that it even worked-too trashed to repair.  Funny thing is, it never sounded bad, and worked like a charm.  A friend said “Your boat’s always broken-you just don’t know it.”  I ain’t cryin’, just sayin’.  There could be worse places to be stuck.  Or, we could’ve been in the Bahamas when this stuff crapped out.

-That’s it for now

Ahoy, Me Hearties,

January 6th.  We departed St. Augustine mooring field at 0730 for the 8 hour run to New Smyrna Beach.  Still a coolish 63 degrees, but the sun was out.  Passing by Daytona Beach, we’re joined by a pod of dolphins, swimming, diving, and jumping in our bow wave.  This is getting to be a pretty regular occurrence, as they seem to be drawn to the sound of our trusty John Deere diesel.  It’s a darn good thing that we called ahead for a reservation, as there is exactly 1 space big enough for The Girl at the city marina.  The next afternoon, our pals, Gary and Gail Mallernee drove over from the Orlando area to pick us up for a visit to their home.  We had a couple of great days seeing their beautiful new home and reconnecting.  Old friends are where it’s at.

The morning of the 10th, we’re off the dock at 0830.  As we’re catching up on the news, courtesy of CNN, we hear about the SpaceEx launch at the Cape earlier in the morning-@#!%!!  We had checked the launch schedule on NASA’s web site earlier in the week, and could’ve sworn it said 4:25 P.M., not A.M.  Would’ve been cool to watch from the anchorage just a few miles away.  Oh well, maybe in the Spring.  Or next Fall.  Or the following Spring.  As it is, we pass by empty launch pads and the gimundous Vehicle Assembly Building, the largest (by volume) building in the world.  Our plan is to stop at Vero Beach for a day or so, but it’s too far for one travel day, so we anchor in the river at Eau Gallie, just north of Melbourne.  It was blowing like stink, so we tucked up under the lee of the highway bridge and didn’t leave the boat.  It wasn’t really a bad thing, as we were entertained by a pod of dolphins practicing their synchronized swimming and aerobatics.  I’m gonna have to Google this, but I’m pretty sure that these southern dolphins must be a different species than their northern cousins.  They are much bigger.

On our way to Vero Beach we begin to feel like we are finally in tropical Florida. Lots of palm trees, mangroves and warm sun. Yay!! As we enter the mooring field at Vero Beach, we’re met by Bill and Lisa (Changing Course), who escort us to our ball in their dinghy.  What a pleasant surprise, we thought they were leaving before our arrival.  They’re liking it here, big time, and tell us we gotta stay more than the one day we had planned.  I guess the boaters call it “Velcro Beach”, ‘cause you stop here and get stuck.  It’s that cool.  I’m sure that 13 bucksanight mooring balls don’t hurt, either.  The Admiral rings up Sunset Bay Marina, where we will be staying for a week, and they allow us to push back a day.  Cool.  Suz and I dinghy the bikes in through the rain, and head to The Riverside Cafe for a little NFL and grub.  Next day, B & L biked with us for breakfast at a little beach restaurant on the other side of the island.  We took a walk on the beach, and got caught up on each other’s’ adventures since we last saw one another, while dodging all the Man O’ War bodies that had washed up during the blow a few days previously.  We part ways, agreeing to get together in the evening at our place to watch Ohio State win the National Championship for the Big Ten.  That evening, thunderstorms were rolling through, so they opted not to make the ¼ mile trek over.

January 13, and we’re off at 0800.  We really could have stayed a few more days, but Sunset Bay is calling.  We’re scheduled to meet our electronic, mechanical, and all-around boatstuff guru, Scottie, who is in residence there to take care of a few routine maintenance issues.  More than half of the Krogen gang from Solomon’s live here in the winter, so Scottie moves down too, and is kept busy 18/7.  (would be 24/7, but the guy has to sleep).  A lot of our stuff I can do myself with his direction, and I love to have him around to bail me out if I get into trouble.  Some issues are way beyond my capabilities-Scottie gets those.  We roll into Stuart around 1400, and are informed that there are now 24 Krogens here!  This week will be tough on the liver and waistline.  Scottie’s finishing up on “Anne Louise” who will be heading to the Caribbean for a 4 year cruise, but stops by so we can formulate a game plan.  We’re in the engine room, and he leans against one of the battery boxes.  It’s warm.  “Dude, you need a new battery”.  This is the trickle that leads to a cascade.  Okay, so it’s now the 25th.  We’ve paid for a month stay at this marina that was completely booked (for this year and next) when we arrived.  We’ve replaced (8) 186 pound batteries (with the help of “the swamp boys”-2 football players from Weber State that Scottie knows).  I’ve rewired our autopilot and one of our navigation computers.  Upgraded our software and chart portfolios.  Changed the coolant and hoses on our propulsion and generator engines.  Replaced the water manifold for our air conditioners.  Built a shelf for the pantry.  Waxed the entire boat.  Replaced a circuit breaker.  And are currently waiting on a new clutch for the generator to be shipped from Texas.  (The routine belt replacement became not-so-routine when the aforementioned clutch vomited the bearings from its’ battered case during removal)  The tech from Texas where we sent it to be rebuilt was amazed that it even worked-too trashed to repair.  Funny thing is, it never sounded bad, and worked like a charm.  A friend said “Your boat’s always broken-you just don’t know it.”  I ain’t cryin’, just sayin’.  There could be worse places to be stuck.  Or, we could’ve been in the Bahamas when this stuff crapped out.

-That’s it for now

Happy New Year!

Holiday’s over, time to get back to the serious business of cruising.  Christmas, as usual, was a happening.  Suzanne’s sister, Sheila, and her husband, Mike were gracious hosts, as usual.  Over the course of ten days they fed and berthed 20 some-odd nieces, nephews, siblings, significant others, and etc.-you get the picture.  Both of our kids and their significant others were able to make it too.  Made Yours Truly happy, as I hadn’t seen them since July.  All the while a bacterial bronchitis was ravaging the older adult (our) generation.  We all dropped like flies, only to resurface after the antibiotics kicked in-good times.

Back in Jacksonville, Jan and Doug arrived at Ortega Landings Marina at the same time as we pulled in.  We all agreed that we were too tired for any activities that night, but would meet in the morning for some bike riding and local exploration.  After provisioning and returning the rental car, we rode bikes to Avondale and had lunch at the Biscotti’s, discovering that it deserved its’ high ratings.  After the multiple flat tires on Jekyll Island, I found a bike shop where I purchased some additional heavy-duty tubes, and a pump.  Chamblin Bookmine kept us entertained for a few hours.  I’m not sure that I’ve ever been to a used book store of this magnitude and scope.  There were over 60 winding aisles of bookshelves, packed with (hundreds of) thousands of books.  The aroma of the tons of old paper was pervasive, reminding me of the stacks in the Grad Library back in school.  It’s difficult to convey the feeling, but the space was close, and quiet, and such a maze that there were signs directing you to as to the way out.  Next stop was Sailor’s Exchange, sort of a nautical flea market, where I picked up some used chain for our 3rd anchor (cheap, cheap, cheap), and some scraps of teak to build the Admiral another shelf for the galley.  The night before our departure on January third was chilly and windy, so we enjoyed a campfire with Jan and Doug on the marina patio.  A word about Ortega Landings Marina.  It is a beautiful, fairly new facility with all of the amenities: Heated pool, hot tub, free laundry, clubhouse with flat screen TV and full kitchen, as well as several outdoor gas grills and a fire pit for the use of guests.  Dockside, there is water, electric service, and free pump-out.  Even though it is 20 miles off the Intracoastal Waterway on the St John’s River, it is well worth the trip for a few days stay.

St. Augustine, the oldest city in the United States, was our next destination.  After picking up a mooring ball, we dinghy’d in for a quick reccon before dark.  OMG!  The old town was jammed.  Kids were still on break from school, and it was Saturday night.  I guess we really didn’t realize what a tourist destination St. A was.  We purchased our “Olde Town Trolley Tour” tickets, good for 3 days, scoped out the breakfast joint recommended by a local boater on the radio earlier in the day, and checked the Mass schedule at the Basilica (oldest Christian church in the U.S.A.) before beating a hasty retreat to The Girl.  Well, we really lucked out.  We were at the Cathedral on the last Sunday before it was scheduled to be closed for renovations until late Spring.  Mary’s proved to be a great spot for breakfast,  then we spent the rest of the day hitting the high spots on the trolley.  Besides its rich history from colonial days, St. Augustine was the beneficiary of the attention given by “Gilded Age” magnates.  Several opulent hotels, built by Henry Flagler are still standing, housing Lightner Museum, and Flagler College facilities.  After an exhausting day of touristing, we stopped at the A1A  AleHouse and sat on the 2nd floor porch overlooking the harbor for a brew and a light snack while we waited out a cloudburst.  Monday morning, the crowds had thinned out.  Our trolley ticket allowed us to grab a bus out to Anacostia Island, where St. Augustine lighthouse and the beaches are located.  Alligator Zoo is also on the loop.  Sounds kinda hokie to me, but we were headed out that way, so thought we might as well check it out.  As it turned out, it was really cool.  It is the oldest alligator breeding and research facility in the country (maybe the world-not sure).  They’ve been in business since the late 1800’s, and are the only facility on the planet that has all 23 species of crodilians on site.  We end up spending a good part of the day there, watching a feeding and listening to educational presentations.  After that, it’s off to the St. Augustine Light to climb the 219 steps to the top, which affords a fantastic panorama of the surrounding area.  This is a wonderfully restored light and keeper’s house.  Even if you’re not into lighthouses, this one’s worth visiting.  Our chilly day is capped with a visit to Fort San Marcos, back in the center of St. A.  Hot coffee, not cold beer is in order today, so “Casual Coffee” provides a warm-up for our farewell walk through town.  We’ll head to New Smyrna Beach tomorrow to visit some friends who moved there several years ago after being our neighbors on Lake Charlevoix for the previous 2 decades.

-Later

 

Good Morning.

Time to say goodbye to Georgia.  0815, and we’re anchor up on our way to Fernandina Beach on Amelia Island, FL.  We woke to “The Star Spangled Banner” being played over the P.A. system at the sub harbor over a mile away-the wind musta’ been just right.  Crossing the Cumberland Sound, we’re accompanied by a pod of dolphins.  Fort Clinch, on the North end of Amelia overlooks the channel to our port side.  Nearing town, we’re well aware of its history and reputation as a “border town”  between the Spanish, and English-held Americas.  Over the years, 8 different flags have flown over F.B..  It is also said to be the home of the modern shrimp trawling industry.   After sidling up to the dock to drop off our bikes and take on water, we grab a mooring ball by 0925.  To the north, a shrimp boat is on the shore, lying on its’ side with the tide running in and out.  The boat actually looks pretty good, and has all her gear apparently still onboard-must be a story.  Yep-there is.  After we dinghy to shore, the dock lady tells that the boat belongs to a guy who isn’t a local.  The story is that it was chained (and padlocked) to the pier one evening when it somehow broke loose and drifted with the wind to the lee shore.  Since it was a full moon, the tide was abnormally high, so the boat was REALLY high and dry when the tide went out, and has been there since.  No attempt will be made to salvage, she’s been declared a total loss.  Very suspicious-just sayin’.  After a stop at the visitors center for maps, it’s off to Fort Clinch by bike.  One of the coastal fortifications built after the War of 1812, this masonry fort was garrisoned during the Civil and Spanish American Wars, as well as World War II.  Since the end of the war it has remained a Florida State Park.  During tourist season, interpreters dressed in period costume bring visitors back to the Civil War era.  Now, in the off-season, we touristas are on our own-still worth the trip.  As we retrace our ride to the main gate of the park, 2.9 miles away, we roll through a continuous tunnel created by the Live Oak branches dripping with Spanish moss overhead.  The understory is dense, a combination of plants dominated by Sawtooth Palmettos.  We get a call from Jim and Louise, who we’ve agreed to meet at “T- Ray’s” (reported by USA Today to be one of the top burger joints in the country, located in an old gas station back in town).  Bad news-the place closes at 1430, and we won’t make it back from the fort in time.  Plan “B”, we’ll meet at “The Salty Pelican”, where we can eat outside.  Sooooo…….. Back at the “S.P.”, I order tuna nachos on the recommendation of our waiter/bartender.  Unbelievable.  8 ounces of barely seared sushi-grade Ahi strips over crispy wontons with pickled seaweed garnish, and a wasabi dressing on the side.  Hardly had to chew it!  After lunch/dinner, Suz and I stroll along the main drag doing the tourist shopper thing.  Of course we finished the day with sunset and sips with Jim and Louise on our back porch.  Next morning, Bill and Lisa steam in before we can even get to shore.  The 6 of us will meet for lunch at “T- Ray’s at 1400.  Suz and I are off to bike the Egan’s creek Greenway Park, which runs North-South in the middle of the island, encompassing a marshy wilderness area said to be full of wildlife with an emphasis on birds.  Bill and Lisa will bike out to the fort, and Jim and Louise have errands and housekeeping chores.  Although the weather was kinda’ cool and gray, the bike ride was way cool.  Lots of Egrets, Herons and etc.  Much to The Admiral’s chagrin, no ‘gator sightings.  At the southern terminus of the park, we hopped on to the highway and went out to the beach.  Stopped at the “Hammerhead” Bar.  Walked into the smoke filled room full of good ol’ boys shootin’ pool and drinkin’ buckets of beer (5 Bud’s for $8).  When I asked the bartender if she had a coffee pot going, she looked at me like I had three heads.  Okay, just a couple Cokes.  The atmosphere was pretty thick-obvious we didn’t belong here.  When Suz went to the restroom, it was obvious that I needed to do something.  Since I didn’t think that punching the biggest guy there was a prudent move, I ordered a double shot of rum for my Coke, signaling the bartenderette that “Mum was the word”.  Mood changed 180 degrees.  By the time Suz returned, we were all chattin’ it up like long-lost relatives.  After we left, Suz observed that these “were some pretty nice guys, they just needed a few minutes to warm up to us”.  I confessed the icebreaker.  We rode different trails back up the greenway , and killed a few minutes at a REAL hardware store back in town.  You can always count on some good conversation with the boys that work in old time hardware stores, and we were not disappointed.  “T- Ray’s” was as advertised.  One gallon bottomless Cokes, and handmade half pound burgers, cooked exactly the way you ordered it, surrounded by thick cut fries-“Heaven on Earth with” (sautéed) onions.  When we split up, Suz and I rode out to the North end, and “Old Fernandina Beach” to see “Pippy Longstocking’s House”.  Good fast ride to burn off some of those calories.  Rode back to town through a Civil War era neighborhood house gawking.  Parked our rides, and rewalked Center Street, catching a few shops that we had missed the day before, wanting to take in all the ambiance that we could before heading back to the boat (to say nothing about burning off a little more dinner).  Atlantic Seafood had the pounds of shrimp that we had ordered in the morning nearly frozen for us, so we picked up the goods and headed back to The Girl for a last sunset with “The Gang of Six”.

High tide was at 0620 today, the 19th, so we left this morning at 0630, since we have a few shallow areas to contend with on our way to the St. John’s River and Jacksonville.  Our passage has been uneventful since a beautiful sunrise on this partly cloudy, 60 degree day.  We’ve seen a few dolphins along the way.  Right now, Suzanne is reminiscing as we pass the baseball field at Jacksonville University.  Her Dad was the baseball coach there in the 60’s, and she points out the spot on the riverbank where she played as a child when her Dad was “at work”.  As we pass under the Matthews Bridge, she relates as to how she was “scared to death of that bridge” as a child, because the center section of this narrow, old suspension bridge is metal grating, and you can see down to the water.  She’s happy that her Pop took the Athletic Director’s job up at University of North Carolina-Asheville.  Waiting for the railroad bridge to open, we had a chance to take a good look at Jacksonville Landing, the waterfront park area downtown.  “Kismet”, a 300’ motoryacht, is berthed at the city wall.  She has a stainless steel sculpture of a jaguar, about 8’ long standing with one paw on a football helmet on her bow.  Wonder who she belongs to?  At Ortega Landing, there’s a pair of guys on the dock waving their arms.  As we close in on our slip, we recognize Gary and Doug, who were cruising Lake Superior with their wives when we met them last Summer.  Doug and Jan are spending the Holiday with some local relatives, while Gary and Jacquie  will head back to Michigan to see their grandkids.  It’s a gorgeous afternoon, so we spend it giving the Girl a good bath.  Afterward, it’s sushi with Gary and Jacquie.

Have a Merry  Christmas.  See Ya Next Year.

Hey Ya,

0808 on the 10th, and we’re off the dock at Thunderbolt.  We’ll split the 88 mile trip to Jekyll Island into 2 pieces.  The Admiral has an anchorage scoped out in the Wahoo River for tonight that sounds like it should be way cool.  Once we clear the Savannah area, the waterway becomes much more rural.  Marshes line both sides of the ICW on this idyllic leg.  It’s pretty clear and cool (high 54 degrees) so the pilothouse doors are closed to keep us nice and snuggly.  Six and a half hours later, we’ve motored up the Wahoo, and have the anchor down, the place to ourselves.  As the sun begins to set, we see a few guys on the far shore at low tide, picking oysters, and tossing them into 5 gallon buckets.  They load about 15 pails of ‘em into their skiff, and are off as darkness closes in.  I wonder what they’re doing with them, as all the local eateries have told us that nobody eats the local oysters (don’t know the reason why-maybe with the warmer water down here, the bacterial counts are too high-just guessin’).  It’s 36 degrees and partly cloudy as we pull anchor up at 0709, and we have an uneventful trip down to Jekyll Island, where we shoot the anchor down about a half mile from the marina.  We decide to stay on the Girl for a tidal cycle, as there are pretty good currents, and there have been a few reports of poor holding here.  Next morning, we haven’t budged an inch and are comfortable heading to shore.  Toss the bikes in the dinghy, drop ‘er in, and we’re off to the marina, where we’ll land and drop off the bikes.  As we near the marina, we spy a sailboat that we saw on a ball in Beaufort, SC, on the river in Thunderbolt, and in Sapelo Sound on our way here.  Time for an introduction, so we pull in behind “Salacia” and meet Louise and Jim, veteran sailors who are on their first cruise out of Portland, ME.  We agree to get together for sippies around 1700, exchange phone numbers, and head off on our separate ways.  Like Newport, RI, Jekyll was a playground for the rich and famous during the Gilded Age.  Carnegie, Rockefeller,Morgan and the boys all built hunting cottages on this remote island just off the mainland from the railroad spur which ended in Brunswick,GA.  The train would haul their personal cars down here for the winter “Season”, after disembarking; they would board their private yachts to be ferried to the island.  The good news was that these activities kept the island free of the unwashed masses, and therefore, largely undeveloped.  As personal income tax and the Great Depression arrived, the wealthy left the island, and the state of Georgia acquired most of the land here.  As of now, only 25% of the island is developed, with a mandate of no more than 35% to be developed.  There are paved bicycle trails traversing much of the island, making this a paradise for weekend bikers like us.  Over the next few days, we’ll put on around 75 miles.  First, we hit the historic village, where many of the “cottages” have been restored.  Of course there are some shops and a museum to see as well.  Riding out to the north end of Jekyll, there is a “driftwood beach”, which is actually a part of the island which is slowly being reclaimed by the sea as it erodes.  The result is that the beach is littered, not with driftwood, but with whole live oaks, toppled with their roots and canopies exposed.  It’s surreal in the fading light at low tide.  While we are there, the phone rings.  It’s Louise, and she reports that the marina is having a potluck and bonfire tonight, held by liveaboards and locals at the marina.  She’ll cook a double batch of something, so we’ll be covered.  She and Jim would love it if we showed up.  Okay-no need to ask us twice about food and new friends.  It’s getting late, so we hustle the 5 miles back, dinghy out to the Girl for a bottle of wine and some tools to eat with, and are ready to roll by sundown.  The food, the fire, and especially the new friends were an awesome close for a spectacular day.  We all agree that we’re having too much fun together to quit at one night, so we’ll pack lunches, meet in the morning, and bike the south end of the island.  Stopping for lunch at a beach on the south end, we find out that they rode right by the driftwood beach (which is kinda off the beaten path) the previous day, and decide that we gotta see it at low tide this afternoon.  So, it’s off to the north end to the beach.  As we near the historic village (in the center of the island) Suz’ front tire goes flat.  No worries, I’ve got a spare tube in my backpack.  The girls shopped, while I changed the tire, then Jim and I went to look for a compressor to fill the tire (I have a gas canister, but wanted to save it for when we are out in the stix).  Ended up at a bike rental place that we had passed a couple miles back after stopping at the golf course and stables with no luck.  A third of the way to the beach, I’m getting a mushy tire-I don’t have 2 tubes in my pack, #$@%!!  I want them to see the beach, so I head back to the rental joint to see if they, per chance, have a tube that I can requisition.  The tire is now flat to the rim, so I stop at a convenience/knickknack/hardware store to see if they have a tire pump.  They usually have pumps, but they’re sold out-BUT- they have one I can use, and by the way, they also have a bigger assortment of tubes than I’ve ever seen at a bike shop.  Bonus!  Whodathunkit?  Half hour after I’ve left the gang, I’m hummin’ down the road at 25mph in hot pursuit.  I catch them just as they’re leaving the beach, so we zip back in and snap a couple before the people assembled here for a wedding get started.  Dinner back at the marina restaurant, and we decide that we’ll meet up at Cumberland Island, 24 miles down the line.

We decide on a late start for a favorable tide, so at 1020, the anchor is up.  Along the way, the Girl is escorted on several occasions by groups of dolphins.  It never gets old standing on the bow pulpit watching these graceful mammals swerving, diving, and breeching 8’ below you.  A few miles above Cumberland, the Nav computer is chirping about a trouble spot where shoaling and shallow water is happening (there are plenty of these spots daily-some worse than others).  Through this one, the chart plotter shows us on land, good thing we’re looking out the window.  Just an aside here.  We use a crowd-sourced application, called “Active Companion from Active Captain”, which is free.  Among other things, this app allows us to get current conditions, as reported by fellow cruisers, along our intended path.  This information helps us to find the deepest water along the ever-changing waterway, and calculate departure/arrival times based on states of the tides.  I could go on for a long time about what AC is and does, but this piece regarding current conditions is an invaluable aid to navigation.  Other pieces concern reports on anchorages, marinas, fuel prices, and locations/plans of boater friends, all compiled from reports by fellow cruisers.  On the way to Cumberland, Suz gets a call from Lisa (Changing Course) for a report on Jekyll, as they are a day behind us.  As we approach the island, we get a visit from a Navy patrol boat, whose intention it is to keep us away from King’s Bay submarine base that we’re passing by.  It doesn’t look like there are any subs in the floating dry docks as we pass so no excitement today.  It’s been a slow and easy trip today, so as we arrive, we find “Salacia” in the anchorage with her hook down.  Cumberland Island has a long history, being first settled by the Spanish, who were succeeded by the British.  Subsequent to the revolution, General Nathaniel Greene (Washington’s second in command, in charge of the southern continental army) was deeded most of the island, and built a plantation here.  When he passed away, his widow lived in Savannah, and the land changed hands.  After the Civil War, the plantations here were no longer profitable, and the island was pretty quiet until the Carnegie clan started building places here.  After their heyday, much of the land here reverted to the National Park System, so it’s mostly wilderness-hiking and camping.  Access to Cumberland is by boat only, as there is no bridge from the mainland.  When we dinghy our bikes to the ranger station, we discover that there is a ranger talk every afternoon at 1600, and there will be a ranger-led tour of the Dungeness (Carnegie) ruins at 1000 tomorrow.  Jim and Louise will have dinner at our place tonight, then bike and hike with us tomorrow.  The next day was fabulous-clear and in the 60’s.  We got a great tour from Ranger Ron of the ruins, along with a history of the island.  A couple mile walk took us to the ocean beach where we ate our picnic lunch, without a soul or structure in sight for miles.  As we hiked to and from the beach, we traversed a forest with a live oak canopy covering a palm understory.  Along the way, we saw deer, wild hogs, feral horses (by the dozens), armadillos, and multiple species of birds including wild turkeys.  That evening, Louise cooked a tasty, healthy vegetarian dinner that we all enjoyed at our place.  The following day, a 6 mile dinghy ride was in store to visit “Plum Orchard”, one of the Carnegie kids’ places to the north.  It was closed for tours, as there was no ferry to the island that day, but we decided to go up anyway, to peek in the windows and have a picnic lunch.  With temperatures approaching 70 and clear skies, it was a great day for a ride, lunch, and hike around the north end.  On the way home, the skies darkened, and the wind kicked up as we bucked an incoming tide.  I took more than a little grief (‘cause this trip was my great idea) from Louise, as she got a pretty good dose of spray sitting in the bow of their tender.  When we returned, “Changing Course” had just arrived, so we introduced the four as we passed, and agreed to get together for an “hour of charm” and sunset at 1700.  The 6 of us enjoyed a fabulous solar show off our back porch, and didn’t break up until the stars were out in full glory.  “Salacious” and “Alizann” would be heading to Fernandina Beach on Amelia Island the following day, so we bade Lisa and Bill farewell (again).

-Next Time

Pretty dark, but a lot better visibility than when we arrived as we pull off the mooring ball at Beaufort.  0523 is an early start, but we want to hit the tide just right for a shallow spot a few hours down the line at Field’s Cut.  As we reach Port Royal Sound, the mouth of the Broad River, it’s light enough to see that we’re going to have a gray, windy day.  Up ahead a smallish (35’ or so) catamaran is making her way out to the ocean.  We wonder if the captain has checked the weather report, as they’re calling for 6’-8’ seas and 20 knot winds today and tomorrow.  On our starboard is a Coast Guard patrol boat at anchor in 20’ of water, guarding the waterway entering Parris Island Marine Camp.  Bet it’s been a fun night, bobbing around in 2’-3’ seas in a 40’ boat.  As we pass Hilton Head Island, we are joined by a pair of dolphins swimming in our bow wave-very cool.  As we enter the Savannah River, we call the City Dock to see if there are any spots open on the first-come, first-served face dock.  The young lady informs us that the dock is closed through Tuesday. (What?)  As the $3/foot rent at the Westin’s dock is a little dear for us,  we decide to head down to Thunderbolt, GA, which is around 5 miles from Savannah.  Hinckley and SeaRay boats both have yards there, and transient docking is often available.  On the way, Suz calls Amy, the lady that runs the dock at Hinckley (on the cell # that Lisa (Changing Course) gave us).  She’s home, decorating for Christmas, but she thought a boat was leaving from her otherwise-full dock today.  We were welcome to pull in if there was room.  As it turned out, there was about 45’ vacant on the end of the face, so we backed in between the highway bridge pilings and the sailboat behind us on a 1.2 knot current with 15 knot winds.  Time for an undergarment change!  The Girl didn’t mind hanging 8’ past the end of the dock as long as she was securely tied, so all was well by 1117.  After a quick rinse of the boat, we walked over to Thunderbolt, on the other side of the bridge, to Tubby’s (a local watering hole recommended by Amy) for a little NFL football.  Multiple screens indoors and out, with NFL Ticket make this an ideal spot to watch “your” game.  The waitress doesn’t know where they come from, but there is a huge local contingent of Cleveland Browns fans here that comes in every Sunday.  They’re here in force, and not a bit too quiet, as the game comes down to the last play when their boys lose a tough one.  Monday morning, we’re on our way in to Savannah, but stop by the office to check in with Amy first.  At the end of the dock where there should be land, we find nothing but water.  The winds have been up, and the tides extreme due to a full moon.  Our sea boots get us across the lot-it’s kinda comical to see boats up on blocks surrounded by water.  The techs drive their trucks up to one, set up the ladder in the truck bed,  then climb aboard.  Amy tells us its waaaay too far to walk into Savannah, she’ll call her trusty guy, Jack, who’ll drive us in for $18.  Jack is not answering his phone right now, but she’s sure he’ll call back.  We’re chompin’ at the bit, so after she tells us that there are sidewalks all the way in, we decide to start walking.  Jack can call us and pick us up along the way-sounds good, right?  A mile later, we’re out to the main drag, a 4-lane boulevard, with an overgrown median and shoulders, but no sidewalk.  The traffic is jammin’ during rush hour, so we decide to brave the median until a sidewalk appears.  After picking our way maybe a mile farther, we figure plan “B” is order.  The Admiral spots a bus stop sign, so goes to the website, which is virtually indecipherable, with small print in the bright sunlight.  While she’s doing this, a young man arrives by foot, and sits on the guardrail by the sign.  Oh yeah, the bus should be here in 20 minutes, and will drop us off at Martin Luther King Boulevard, where a transfer will get us to a stop just a short 4 block walk from our downtown destination.  He’s a valet at the Hyatt, and is going that way, but seems kind of puzzled by us wanting to ride the bus.  $6 gets us 2 tickets and 2 transfers as we board, and we’re off.  As we take our seats, we can see why he was puzzled-we’re strangers in a strange land.  Oh well, we’re all folks that need to get somewhere, never stopped us before.  At our stop, the bus driver gets out of the bus, and walks us around the corner to our next stop, while the bus and passengers wait at the corner for him.  Our young guide gets out too, as he’s transferring as well.  After waiting for a few minutes, we decide to walk to the next stop down the line.  Our young friend does too-I think he’s looking after the old folks.  Savannah’s historical district is gorgeous.  There are many pre-revolutionary structures, and tons of history here.  After an obligatory trolley tour, we retrace some of the route to see the sights on foot, along with a tour of the history museum.  Along the riverfront, we check out the town dock to see what’s going on there.  It’s about a 250’ floating dock, well-maintained, and empty but for a 40’ sailboat.  We talk to the lady next to the boat who turns out to be the Harbormaster.  She’s off on weekends, and this boat pulled in over the weekend without contacting anyone.  She has a small cruise liner coming in today, (which was why the dock was closed to transients) and is trying to figure out how to move this padlocked craft out of the way.  She’s just about to call the Sheriff, when the owner saunters up, and asks “Can I help you?”  We don’t stay for the ensuing conversation, but are sure that it was interesting.  I can say that Savannah is definitely worth the stop.  The restaurants are said to be excellent, and there are plenty of them.  (Can’t say first-hand, ‘cause we’re restauranted(?) out)  The renovation of the downtown historic district appears to be a decade or so behind Charleston, but has been well thought out, and is a quality effort, to say the least.  Getting near dusk, so we head back to the bus line for our next adventure.  A walk through the neighborhood will obviate the need for a transfer, so off we go to the #12 line.  We’re back at the ranch way before Monday Night Football, so all is well.  Next morning, we check in with Amy, who tells us that Jack had called.  He was up at the hospital in Savannah having cataract surgery.  Had he been here, we would have missed some story value.  Today, we’re headed to St. Bonaventure Cemetery, featured in the movie “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil”, featuring some really old, really cool markers .  It’s just back up the Intracoastal a few miles-we passed it on the way in.  It’s a great walk there, and we spend a few hours snappin’ and strolling amongst the parks’ 28,000 inhabitants.  By noon, the sun’s coming out, and we walk back past the Hinckley yard to Thunderbolt, where we want to check out the marina and a marine supply store that’s purported to be very well stocked.  The marina is pretty plush-lotsa pretty boats.  Along the way, we stop at the dive shop, and chat it up with “Gear”, who is very much in need of some conversation.  A quick stop at “Tubby’s” for a Pepsi and some popcorn, and we’re off to River Supply Marine store.  Ohmygosh, it’s a great store, and we spend over an hour there, yakkin’ with the knowlegable folks about thisandthat.  That was the day, leaving tomorrow.

Soon, Mon          

Hola Amigos!

We depart Myrtle Beach Yacht Club at the civilized hour of 0930, as we want to hit the part of the Intracoastal affectionately known as the “Rock Pile” around low tide.  This part of “The Ditch” was cut out of rock, so instead of the usual silty shoals, the edges of the channel are rock ledges.  Read somewhere that low tide is a good time to transit, as you can clearly see the edges.  This approach worked out well as The Girl cruised through on a beautiful, sunny, 67 degree morning.  The Admiral declared this to be “Turtle Day”, as the shores and downed trees along the way were littered with turtles sunning themselves.  After leaving the Myrtle Beach area, the ICW meanders through miles of Cypress swamp.  Lots of good scenery.  Suz picked out an anchorage in Cow House Creek for our evening stop, and it was a good call.  Shot down the anchor in 12’ of water, in a narrow creek, surrounded by cypress swamp and marsh-felt like we were a thousand miles from anywhere.  Got a little reading in, then an early night, as we hoped to get to Georgetown, SC by midmorning.  By 1027 we had the hook down in Georgetown’s harbor, which was a little tricky, as the anchorage is filled with private mooring balls, and there isn’t much room to swing when the current reverses as the tide changes.  In Canada, we wouldn’t have hesitated to pick up a private mooring, but here in SC, we weren’t sure about the local customs, and didn’t want a confrontation with “Bubba”.  It was a drizzly day in G’town.  First things first, we walked a mile or so to the boatstuff store, as I needed to pick up some plumbing fixtures for the external fuel filter (remember fouled-up outboard on dinghy) that I’m installing on “White Star”.  After that, it’s to the UPS shop at the local newspaper office to send back the extra 2 filter rigs that Boater’s Plus sent me when I had only paid for, and wanted only one.  The Rice Museum (that’s right-the Rice Museum) was next.  Rice made this area the richest in the United States (per capita-I’m pretty sure counting Whites only) prior to the Civil War.  After Emancipation, the rice-based economy went into a steep decline, and the economy stayed depressed until the World Wars brought the good times back.  It looks to me that the local economy is hovering on the brink right now, but the steel and paper mills provide steady employment, and the development of tourism will be a plus.  As we finish our stroll through historic Georgetown’s Pre-revolutionary neighborhoods, and boardwalk on the harbor, we stop at “Independent Seafood” for some fresh shrimp.  The Admiral is thinkin’ about cookin’ up some shrimp “gumbalaya”-I’m in.  A day is about what we need to spend to see the sights here, so we’ll be off in the A.M..  Not much on the ICW, and lot’s of trouble (shallow water) down the way.  We vacation in Charleston every summer, and have for thirty years, so no need to stop there, so we’ll pop offshore to get to Beaufort, SC.

At 0700, it’s so #$%@!! Foggy, that we can’t see the bow.  Let’s hear it for Radar and GPS!  For the next 17 hours, we see many types of fog-brighter, dimmer, thicker, and thinner, with the only constant being that we can’t see diddly.  With 6 foot swells, the big green seasick monster is always knocking at the door, so no reading or movie watching.  As we cross Charleston Harbor approach, crossing traffic is an issue.  The good news is that it is soooo foggy, that traffic is one-way, with a 5 mile separation, so after talking to the pilot boat, we slip across, 1/8 of a mile behind a container ship that we don’t see until we’re about 300 yards away.  It’s a peasouper heading up the river to Beaufort,SC at midnight.  We can’t even see the bridge as we go under it, but as we make the final approach to the mooring field at Beaufort Marina, the fog lifts for around 15 minutes, and we get secured and fall in to bed at  Beaufort.  I could live here.  The 3rd oldest town in SC, with many of its’ pre-revolutionary homes still standing (and beautifully restored).  Downtown is vibrant, with more shops and restaurants than you can shake a stick at.  First order of business is to take a carriage ride to get the highlights (highly recommended).  Seems that Hollywood loves Beaufort (The Big Chill, Great Santini, Forces of Nature, Forrest Gump, G.I. Jane, and etc.).  The carriage driver related a story-can’t speak to its’ veracity, but…..It seems that Barbara Streisand had rented a house in town while directing a movie here.  She called the commander of the Marine base at Parris Island, and demanded that the flights be stopped, as it disturbed her naps-guess she wasn’t real ladylike in her choice of language.  The following day, a pair of aircraft roared over the neighborhood at minimal altitude.  That Sunday, in the local paper,  appeared a piece by the commander apologizing to the residents of town for the uproar, before saying “to Miss Streisand, That, my dear, is the sound of freedom”.-or somethin’ like that.  It’s a good story, anyway.  So, after the ride we took a couple hour walk through the old neighborhoods, filled with centuries-old Live Oaks dripping with Spanish Moss.  We checked out the “Big Chill” house, and snapped a couple.  Some friends from Michigan moved here several years ago, so we went out to dinner with Chuck and Zoe to “Saltus”, and had a too-short evening of catching up and great grub.  Next day, the owners of the marina, Rick and Mandy lent us their car, and we were able to pick up some fresh stuff at the grocery.  After we returned, the Admiral needed to do some Christmas shopping.  Since that’s not in my job description, I stayed aboard and put the new fuel filter on the dink.  Meanwhile, we get a call from Bill and Lisa (Changing Course).  They’re at the marina up the next creek, and she saw Alizann while walking in town.  We’ll get together the next day, ‘cause we’re all in withdrawal.  After breakfast at “Blackstone Cafe”, which has manfood breakfast for cheap, we hike over to their place, that we had driven by on our previous roadtrip.  Their marina is pretty cool, and very funky.  The couple next to them came in to spend 1 night 7 months ago-still there.  Several liveaboards there, many working on boats.  The marina maintains a large, well-equipped workshop, and the boaters are free to use the facility at any time.  Great concept, I’m not sure how they make $.  Later in the day, I’m trolling with hamburgers, and have the hook set hard, and Bill reeled in before he knows what hit him.  They’ll be over to our place for dinner and the Beaufort Holiday Boat Parade (Christmas lighted boats) that evening.  A good time is had by all.  We bid them a “See Ya”, as we’re headed out tomorrow and Bill has some projects to finish up before they leave here.  Our next stop will be Savannah, GA, so we’ll…..

See You Then.   

Hi Y’all

We be hustlin’ down to Myrtle Beach Yacht Club (in Little River), ‘cause when the Admiral called to confirm, the nice lady said that they were having their end-of-the-year members appreciation party at 1200.  We were invited for burgers, dogs, and etc. if we made it in time.  I’ve never met a burger I didn’t like, and a dog is just the frosting on the cake.  Can’t tell you what the trip was like, as I just had one thing on my mind (I’m a cheap date).  I think we had the Girl up on plane most of the way down, and were tied up at 1130.  Now I’ve got to tell you about The Officers Club here at MBYC.  It’s kind of a restaurant/bar where you have to be a member or guest to enter.  Not sure, but it probably has something to do with liquor laws.  Anyway, it costs something like $30/year to be a member, so it’s not exactly exclusive.  Most of the members seem to be retirees who live around here, and many don’t have boats.  What they do have in common is the desire to have a place to hang out, and have fun.  So….back to the party.  The weather was gorgeous, 75 degrees and sunny, we had some good picnic grub, and met some really happy people.  Martin, a fellow transient, and one of the bundled up sailors that we had seen a few days previously, had quite a story to tell us.  He and his friend, Dieter, were headed down the ditch by Camp LeJeune, when he took his eye off the ball, and ran hard aground.  Before he could say “$%#@!!”, the marines were there in a gunboat telling him that he needed to get out of there, because live fire exercises were starting soon.  He related that he’d be happy to, except for the fact that he was hard aground on a falling tide.  Would they be so kind as to pull him off?  Absolutely not, but he had better get out now, and away the marines raced.  Towboat U.S. came out about an hour or so later, but by this time, the tide had receded further and the boat was heeling over, balanced on its’ keel-no way.  Towboat presented Martin a bill for $8,000 for their time, and took off.  Now the Marines are back, and not very happy.  On goes a line, and they haul Martin off, breaking his bow pulpit in the process, while severing a 1” (that’s big) line.  Would have been simpler to do that in the first place-must have had to go up the chain of command.  This was the easy part of the ICW, and Martin figures he’s tired of hitting the bottom, so he’ll head back to Annapolis instead of going South as planned-he’s selling the boat anyhow.  We meet Dave, who’s flying a quadcopter drone around the pool.  This little beast is equipped with a Go Pro video camera, and has GPS.  If it loses your signal, it will return to the location of takeoff and hover-way cool.  I’m thinkin’ a little sideline business of taking aerial videos of boats and marinas for $.  Hear that, Santa?  By dusk, the grills are cooling, but the party’s heating up and moving inside to the “club”.  After a timeout to check on the Wolverines football game back at our floating family room, we drift over.  Tough to describe the scene, but visualize the musician in the corner, playing guitar and singing along with some kind of karaoke machine, sippin’ Jackie D.  The gang is doin’ the “Shag” while singin’ right along, with someone grabbin’ the mic from time to time.  60’s frat party for the older generation-what a trip.  Had to get up early for our road trip, so we wrapped it up around 2200, everybody else still going strong.

The 640 mile trip to Canton, Ohio was remarkable in that it literally flew by, being used to life at 7 knots.  The weather was beautifully sunny and clear, with temps in the 50’s.  This drive took us through a part of the country that I’ve only flown over, and seeing it from the ground was a unique experience.  We left the Girl a bit early so that we could hit the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, definitely worth it-we spent the whole day there, and could have gone back for another.  Maybe we will sometime.  Spent  a food-filled holiday with my Sis and her fam on the farm, including our Alois VanTongerloo (Grandpa) Memorial Noon shotandabeer before the Lions football game.  Got a few day trips in too, slot car racing (haven’t done that since junior high), Warther’s Museum (master carver and knifemaker-awesome), and a tour of Amish country (stopping at Lehman’s-maybe the best hardware store in the world, a tourist destination).  Dad was there as well.  Fun time, just too short, as 5 days later we felt like we had just arrived.  Back on the road, the Admiral played DJ with the Ipod for a few hours.  Every song was right on.  Back at MBYC, it’s Saturday, and time for another party.  This time, 2 musicians and a music machine.  The theme was Christmas and lotsa shaggingoinon, as well as turns at the mic.  Early night for the semi-dynamic duo, as we have to grocery shop before returning the rental in the morning.  Up at 0700, and Suz has a Vmail from her Bro.  He and his bride are in Myrtle Beach for the weekend, and do we want to meet them for breakfast?  Heck yeah.  Shopping’s done by 0830, breakfast at Captain’s Table by 0930, flu shots by 1100, rental returned by 1200-Whew!  It’s 67 degrees and sunny, so we decide it’s a good day to give the Girl a bath before taking off tomorrow.

See Ya-

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Captain's Log

Gooood Morning!

It’s 01h00 on……..”let’s see….ahh yes, Sunday morning, and I just came on watch after 7 hours of killer sleep”.  Ever since I became voluntarily unemployed, the time/space continuum has been disturbed-on a passage, even more so.  It’s one of the reasons for the $19 Timex on my wrist (the day/date function), the other being the LARGE readablewithoutglassesnumbers.  Sleep yesterday night was sketchy at best.  Even though the seas were 4’ and less, they were hitting us just off the port bow, giving the Girl some lively movement in all three axis (axes,axises, axees?) whatever, she was pitching, rolling and yawing in rapid succession.  The frequent rain showers didn’t help, as the closed portholes made for a rather stuffy boat belowdecks.   This morning, we had more of the same.  Cloudy skies, and frequent pouring rain were the order of the day.  We’d no sooner get the portholes and hatches open, then the rain would come pouring down (and sideways).  In midafternoon, we got some lines in the water.  Since I was planning on napping to make up for lost time the night before, the fishing effort was halfhearted at best.  No baits, just artificial lures.  True to form, I was just getting off to sleep when one of the reels went zinging out.  Winding in, we could see that it was a little Mahi.  As I was thinking “Should we keep him, or let ‘em go?”, he shook the hook.  Problem solved.  Back to the couch.  Not fifteen minutes later, repeat the process.  I’m not yet quite with it (still sleeping) as I’m letting line out to reset.  All of a sudden, I see a six inch tidal wave rocketing perpendicular to our wake and hit the lure that I’m just letting out.  Three hundred yards of line roll off the spool in a heartbeat.  I’m trying to get some drag on the reel, but to no avail.  I’ve got the biggest fish I’ve ever hooked up, and my reel’s malfunctioning!!  Meanwhile, he’s taken 400 yards, I’m thinking “to heck with it, I’ll just hand line him in”. (and throw away the pile of line that’ll end up on the deck away.)  He saved me the humiliation.  One shake of his head, and he was gone.  Sheepishly, I looked a little closer at the “broken” reel, and realized that I had never set the clutch-one of the hazards of fishing in your sleep.  The third time was a charm.  This time, after a 30 minute nap, when that reel started screaming, I was in battle mode immediately.  Man, it was something big.  Four hundred and fifty yards were off the spool before I could reel in a single inch of line.  I looked at my reel, and saw line that had never been off it (you can tell by the way it’s wound).  For the next twenty minutes, I reeled in twenty yards, he took back twenty-five.  Exhausted, I put the rod back in the holder, and took a rest.  Suzanne spelled me a couple of times, reeling with both hands.  When we finally got him to the boat, this “monster” was no more than a 49” Mahi, no bigger than the guys that we boated in the Bahamas last year.  That was a long story just to explain why I got a good sleep tonight.

After our pal was butchered, yielding about 10 pounds of gorgeous filets, Suz informed that we were done fishing.  “What?”  Seems that the freezers are full-no room for more food.  Remember, we’re headed to the islands, where beef will be somewhat less than plentiful.  The rain showers finally abated, the clouds cleared, and we had a breezy, sunny evening, with the sun setting over calm seas.

I got ahead of myself, so let me go back and fill in the blanks.  After we left Southside late Friday morning, we spent the next nine hours cruising over the shallow Caicos Bank.  The sun was full-on.  The temperature was in the eighties, with humidity right up there to match it.  Wind and waves were on our nose, starting at a manageable 2’, and increasing to 4’ by the end of the day when we exited the Bank at Fish Cays.  Two hours across the Turks Island Passage brought us onto the shoals around Big Sand Cay, where in the pitch black, under a wafer-thin crescent moon, we threaded through, between the island to the north, and the coral rock shoals to the south.  (radar, accurate electronic charts, and GPS are good things-we never saw nuttin’ out the windows).  From there, we expected deep water the rest of the way, and since there was virtually no boat traffic, we flipped on the television for some binge-watching.  Some friends back on dirt had told us about the series “Scandal”, so we downloaded a couple of seasons before we left.  As of last night, we’re on the second episode of Season 3.  As I mentioned before, sleep came with some effort Friday night.  I got my best in the last hour before I relieved the Admiral at 02h00, when the waves started to moderate.

I guess that gets us caught up.  It’s 01h45 on Sunday morning, the seas are less than 2’, and the wind, in the night lee created by Dominican Republic, some 30 miles off our starboard, is less than 10kn.  Before Suz went to bed, we discussed the latest weather report, downloaded from our Delorme satellite tracker.  Conditions look favorable for us to push on to Puerto Rico, so we’ll bypass Samana, D.R. to take advantage of this unusually (for this time of year) nice weather.  I think that I’ll listen to a few of our prerecorded podcasts, drink a Coke, and settle in for the night.

PS:  You mighta guessed no cell or data coverage.  We’ll shoot these last few into space ASAP.

-Later

Ohhh, Yeah……

After we paid de money to da men, we were done with Customs and Immigration (until it was time to get our clearance to leave).  We got the bikes down for some much needed exercise.  We quickly found out that “improved road” didn’t mean paved.  As we toodled out of the drive and onto the “road”, it became evident that we were in for a bumpy ride.  The surface reminded me of those first photos sent back from the Mars rover.  There wasn’t any loose gravel, just sharp, jagged rocks sticking up out of the surface.  Everywhere that there was a slight incline, eroded ruts from 4”-8” deep scarred the crust.  The benefit accrued from this condition was that there weren’t any quiet cars on the island, you could hear them rattling and bumping up behind you long before there was ever any danger.  (Not that we saw many cars on this back road).  Six miles out, near the end of Juba Point, we came upon a man-made basin surrounded by lots suitable for building.  Two homes, built on the prominence between the basin and the sea, created an imposing presence.  We guessed that they were over 20,000 square feet each.  One was rumored (and confirmed) to belong to Prince.  Impressive.  We doubled back past the marina, and headed north to explore Turtle Bay, a marina on the north side of the island.  Crossing Leeward Highway, the paved four-lane which runs east-west down the length of the island was a real trip.  The locals make up for the speed that they CAN’T drive on the improved roads when they’re rocketing down the Leeward.  It took us 10 minutes to get across the roundabout, which was nothing more than slightly controlled mayhem.  Suz and I quickly determined that our bike riding would be limited to back roads.  Over the spine of the island, we worked our way down the windward side to Turtle Bay, riding through platted, but as yet unbuilt developments.  There, we scoped out the marina and grabbed an iced tea and some Tuna carpaccio rolls at “Mango” restaurant.  (Their dinner menu looked great).  We rode the beach road up and down past some beautiful homes, and used the beach access to check out the shore.  It was really windy with a lot of surf, but with many coral heads scattered along a sandy bottom, it looked like a good place to snorkel from the beach in calmer weather.  With the sun dipping low, we pedaled on back to Southside, where our odometer revealed that we had covered over 15 miles, most on bumpy, rutted roads.  Our butts felt it.

Okay, I don’t wanna give you T.M.I., but I’ve gotta say a word about the showers at Southside.  The restrooms are carved out of the side of a limestone cliff.  The women’s shower is open to the sky, and has two great shower heads, replete with hot water.  Since there were no other boaters there, I had the pleasure of using it instead of the more traditional mens side.  (it doesn’t take much to make me happy).  After showers began what was to become our nightly ritual here at Southside.  Bob’s Bar is an open-air affair attached to his house, high on the cliff overlooking the marina.  Since we were the only transients, we were treated by the company of the local “regulars”, mostly comprised of expats from various European and North American countries.  Let’s just say that the conversation was lively.  The cruising guides had warned that Bob was a Bocce aficionado who seldom lost a game.  From our slip, we were hard-pressed to figure out how he had grown grass for lawn bowling.  Well, we got our education up at the bar.  “REAL Bocce courts were made of crushed limestone, 60’-80’ long………..& etc.”.  The Admiral got some lessons in the finer points of the game from the Master.  One night, we thought that we might be the witnesses to local history.  One of the patrons had Bob down by a score of 5 to 1 (game is over at 6.) Bob proceeded to win, 8 to 5.  Bam!  Navarde, the bartender, introduced Suz to Bambarra (a local rum), while I enjoyed Turkshead, the local Brew, as we watched the sun set from the terrace every evening.

Our rental car was delivered the following morning, and we took an all-day field trip, cruising the island from tip to tip.  Of course, we did the marina tour.  Blue Haven, our initial destination, is a very upscale facility, associated with a couple of high end hotels.  Included with your berth is the use of the amenities, including spa treatments, the pool, gym and several restaurants.  Very nice.  Most of the vessels in the near-empty marina were small mega-yachts.  From all appearances, the season was yet to begin.  On the other end of the scale, Caicos Shipyard was mostly a working marina, situated, like Southside, on the Caicos Bank.  It looked like if you needed any maintenance, this would be the place to go, with several large Travelifts and workshops.  We decided that our funky little marina, not too fancy, not too stark, was just about right for us.

Being the good tourists, we hit several of the popular beach bars, including Bougaloo’s, Da Conch Shack,  (where we bought a half dozen fresh Mangoes out of a guys’ trunk), and Kalooki’s.  Each had its own charm.

The Conch Farm, developed in the late 80’s by an American marine biologist for the commercial production of conch, was a must-see for my marine biologist spouse.  Danver led our private tour, which was very informative.  I just couldn’t figure out how this was a money-making proposition.  He told us of the grandiose deep-water fish farming project that was in the works, scheduled to come online the next year.  Even though we were “in between seasons” for the Conch, I couldn’t help but think that things were too quiet.  Danver was adept at answering my pointed questions, and I was careful not to get out-of-bounds.  Suzanne, in her later research, found that the Conch Farm had been closed as a viable aquacultural project in 2008, and only made money through their guided tours.  Just enough of the facility was kept functional so as to provide exhibits to the tourists.  Two vans full of patrons rolled in just as we were leaving, a testimony to the power of advertising.  That said, we’d go again, as we learned a lot of cool but not useful information.

On the way home, we figured that we’d stop at Turkshead Brewery (designated on the Visitor’s map) for a cold one.  When Google Maps just couldn’t get us there, winding our way through the warehouses near the airport, we went “old school.” We stopped at one of the open garage bays, and Suz walked in to inquire about the brewery.  “Oh, they just brew it there-no tasting room.”  With thirsts unslaked, we motored back to the ranch, stopping first at the IGA for fresh veggies and fruit.  In our perch above the marina, we enjoyed a couple of cold ones, served up by our favorite bartendresse, Nevarde.

It looked like the weather would cooperate, and the still-raging winds calm down on Friday.  That was a good thing, as we were finished touring here, and wanted to get down the road.  (Also, staying another day would require us to buy a cruising permit for $300, an instant-replay of the scenario in the Bahamas).  We spent Thursday doing boatchores.  Suz cooked meals for what (if the weather cooperated) could turn out to be a two-and-a-half day passage straight to Puerto Rico.  I attended to more mundane pursuits, mainly polishing all of the stainless steel rails and trying to stay ahead of the ever-looming rust spots.

This morning, Friday the 2nd, the winds were down to about 13kn, the sun high, and the humidity through the roof.  De Customs( $50 enter & exit), and de Immigration($30/p entry & $15/p exit) men came for their exit donations, and we were off on the 11h00 high tide.  (Yeah, we checked out the depth of the “channel” on the dinghy the other day-it was three feet in some spots).  Right now, we’re cruising southeast across the Bank.  The winds are steady at around 14kn from ENE, and the wind waves are 1’-3’.  If we get cell coverage as we pass Great Sand Cay early this evening, I’ll try to bounce this off into space, otherwise,

-Later

Hiya,

Saturday morning, another cloudy day.  Wind still blowing at around 19kn.  Chris Parker (our weather router) did another forecast for us last night.  Instead of reinforcing our decision to go, the new forecast is throwing doubt on the proposition.  As I sit staring at my computer, I’m feeding this growing pit in my stomach.  Am I trying to put a spin on what I’m reading because we are on a (gasp!) schedule, or is the passage doable?  Finally, I decide that it’s probably the plane tickets in Puerto Rico talking, and by 06h00, I’m crawling back in bed, knowing that we won’t have another window for at least a week.  Suz asks me what’s going on-I read her the forecast.  C.P. says that the weather and seas will be rough for the first three hours of the trip, as we beat up to the northern tip of Long Island, then should moderate throughout the day.  After that, the prediction gets a little murky.  If a Low forms along the TROF currently preceding the Cold Front moving our way, it will probably bring with it Squally conditions, with winds of 40+kn, and seas to 7’.  IF we can thread the needle between the Low and the Front, we should have tolerable conditions.  Okay, here comes the disclaimer.  He says “If my forecast is wrong, you could have considerably worse conditions.  If you run into the backside of the Low, you’ll run into the squalls.  On the other hand, if the Cold Front catches you, you will lose the suppressing effect that it is having on the winds.”  At any rate, he says that we MUST be in to the Turks and Caicos by Monday morning, as the winds will be significant for the rest of the week.  His last shot was to the effect of “Fortunately, you’re in a well-found, stabilized boat.”  Suz added “At Home On Any Sea”, Kadey Krogen's corporate slogan.

This is the part where it’s good to be part of a team.  The Admiral breaks it down:  Let’s stick our nose out.  If it’s too bad, we’ll turn around and come back; When we turn the corner at the North end of Long Island, if the beam seas and wind have not moderated, we’ll come back down the lee side to Salt Pond (a 3 hour backtrack); If conditions head south later in the day, we can head in to Clarence Town on the South end of Long Island (at night); After that, we’ll be on our own until mid-morning on Sunday when we could duck into the Bight at Mayaguana Island.  It all still sounded pretty “iffy,” but it was a plan.  By 06h32, the anchor was up, and we were on our way.

During the first leg up to the end of Long Island, we beat into 17kn winds and 2’-4’ seas on 5 second intervals-nothing that we hadn’t rocking-horsed through on the Great Lakes.  As we changed course from NE to SE, we began to have a beam sea, and the waves moderated to 1’-3’ on around 7 second intervals-NICE!  Of course, all day we were waiting for the other shoe to drop.  Toward the end of the day, the seas went to around 2’-4’ on about 8 seconds, with very little wind chop.  When I came on watch at 00h30 on Sunday morning, the conditions were about the same, and stayed that way throughout the night, with the exception being the seas near the Plana Cays.  I had plotted our course a little too close to the islands, and as the depth changed from thousands of feet to one hundred, the waves stacked up accordingly.  As The Girl changed course for deeper water, the steep waves abated.  Rounding Mayaguana Island, Suz woke up, and we decided to continue on under lowering skies, the wind picking up slightly, and the radar showing rain all around us.  With the windometer creeping up, we decided against our original plan of heading to Blue Haven on the north side of Providenciales, opting instead for the South Side marina, and the relative safety of the Caicos Bank on the south (and lee) side of the island.  We figured our ETA would put us through the reef, and on the Bank well before dark, and possibly, even to the marina before all light was gone.  Well……….” The best laid plans.” For the next three hours, the wind and seas crept higher.  We were still seeing rain on the radar, but the cells all dissipated before we hit them.  We now had steady winds in the upper teens, with gusts into the twenties.  The seas were up to 4’-6’, but not uncomfortable.  Then the squalls hit us.  As we passed through each, the winds would rise into the 30’s, with the tops blowing off the now 6-8 footers.  In between squalls, the wind would drop back into the 20’s.  Never scary, but a bit uncomfortable.  We could only imagine what was going on behind the Velcro tie-wrapped doors of the cupboards as we listened to the crashes emitting through their louvers.

A couple of nervous “Hee, Hee, Hee’s,” as we entered the unmarked break in the reef and rode up onto the relatively calm Caicos Bank three hours later.  Our ETA now shot to heck, we arrived at the turn which would take us a mile-and-a-half over very shallow water into the marina in near darkness.  This was a story in itself, but suffice it to say that Bob, the owner of South Side Marina, talked us in over the cellphone (another story), and we never saw less than 6’ 3” of depth.  By 19h30, we were safely tied at the dock, and by 20h30 we were dead asleep.

This morning we had visits from Customs and Immigration.  Both were smooth, although a little late.  That was okay with us, as it gave us time to wash the salty Girl.  We chatted with Bob, an expat who has lived in the Islands for some 40+ years.  He chuckled when he said that it was almost a good thing that we came in at night, ‘cause we couldn’t see how bad it was.  (Both of us had sensed the tension in his voice when he had talked us in last night).  We’ll get the bikes down, and do some exploring this afternoon.

-Later

Good Afternoon,

Day broke as we ran due east over the Bahama Bank, just south of Highbourne Cay.  As we passed familiar anchorages heading south in the Family Islands which comprise the Exumas chain, memories from last year flooded back.  We exited the Bank into Exuma Sound around mid-afternoon, and immediately got the lines in the water.  The only rewards that we got for our efforts were a small Barracuda, and a little Skipjack.  As darkness fell, we began to question the wisdom of pushing on, having to enter the reef to our Stocking Island anchorage at night.  And night it was.  With the moon not scheduled to rise until around 00h00, it was dark as a pocket as we threaded through the reef at 20h00.  Of course, (it’s the Bahamas) the sole lighted buoy on the way in was extinguished.  Always a little unnerving to hear waves breaking on both sides of you when there’s 4 feet of water under the boat.  We breathed a sigh of relief as the breaking waves receded behind us.  Approaching our old familiar anchorage in Monument Bay, we discovered that the boat wouldn’t come out of gear as we headed towards shore.  We did a one-eighty, weaving through other boats anchored in the pitch-dark bay, and got the Girl back into deeper water, Suzanne driving while I scrambled around, looking for a reason for our troubles.  Everything looked good under the helm and at the transmission.  Fortunately, the controls at the upper helm responded, and we got the anchor down safely.  (The next day, I bled the hydraulic lines to the shifter, thinking that maybe small bubbles in the lines had coalesced and caused a blockage, subsequent to some work that we had done in Solomon’s).  At any rate, the controls now work, so we’ll see.  By the next morning, the Cold Front that had been chasing us caught up, and the wind was howling, and did so throughout the week.  Morning light revealed that the trawler lying next to us was “Privateer”, a Krogen 52 belonging to Greg and Lisa Smith, delivered just the month previously.  We had met Greg and Lisa two years ago at the Krogen Rendezvous, when they were still Krogen wannabees on a fifty-four-foot sailboat, “Chasseur”.  We enjoyed their company during this past windy week, and shared Thanksgiving dinner with them aboard “Alizann”.

I won’t bore you with the details of our stay in George Town.  You were here with us last year.  Let’s just say that it’s one year and one hurricane older-nothing much has changed.  (Except, our old beer-and-a burger, freewifihangout “Red Boone” burned to the ground last week under suspicious circumstances.)

It’s Friday afternoon.  The wind is still cookin’, but it is supposed to moderate for 48 hours, starting in the morning.  Seas are projected to drop to 4’-6’ at 8 second intervals before the next Cold Front arrives on Monday morning, whipping up the wind and waves again.  It’s about a 35 hour ride to Providenciales, in the Turks and Caicos, so we’ll make a run for it starting early tomorrow.  The wind and seas will still be up then, but by the time that we reach the north end of Long Island and head out into the Atlantic in late morning, they should be diminishing somewhat.  (At least that’s my story, and I’m sticking with it.)  We should be to Mayaguana Island by midmorning on Sunday.  If it’s really dogmeat, we can duck inside the reef there to wait out the weather-probably until late next week.  If not, we’ll continue on to the Blue Haven Marina in the T & C.

-Until next time

Wow! We’re finally off.  Anticipating our Thursday departure, our Krogen pals, Lisa and Mark threw a “Bon Voyage” party for us at the Sunset Bay Marina.  Being the partiers that they are, around thirty fellow Krogenites showed up for heavy apps and sips.  We were touched by the gesture, realizing that we probably wouldn’t see this gang for a few years.  Ever the sentimentalist, Randy quickly brought me back to Earth with the comment that having a party was the only way that they could get our “*sses off the dock”.  True to form, we DIDN’T get off the dock on Thursday.  Angel and his guys weren’t quite finished with the varnish (yes, we broke down and hired it out this year).  It was a good thing, too.  We discovered that one of our heads was leaking, which required breaking in to the inventory for some spare seals.  That crappy job accomplished, I was under the galley sink looking for disinfectant, only to discover that the trap was dripping through a rusted-through elbow.  A quick bike ride to Ace Hardware, and a few minutes of work had that problem cured.  I have to admit that I was a bit shocked by a plumbing job that actually went smoothly.  Somewhere during the course of the day, I got a text from Scottie, our ace mechanic, techie, friend, moral supporter asking if the parts had arrived.  Parts?  Oh yeah, those parts (spare alternator and starter for the generator that I had ordered a few weeks earlier and completely forgotten about (they didn’t make it on to my checklist, which was now empty)).  We weren’t too overly concerned about not getting out quickly, as the weather looked very UNfavorable for a crossing to the Bahamas until the middle of the following week.  Long story short, within a few hours UPS tracking said the parts would be here Friday by 10h30, we went out to dinner with our pals Larry and Deb, and the weather forecast changed.  Surprise! It looked like we would have a very short window to cross the Gulf Stream on Saturday.  So, this is boating, right?  The goods were delivered, and we were off the dock by Noon, headed down the Intracoastal Waterway, planning to exit the Lake Worth Inlet off West Palm Beach.

Since we would be heading into unfamiliar territory this year, and aren’t real familiar with the weather patterns there, we decided to contract with a weather router for personalized reports.  We made our first contact with Chris Parker, weather guru of the Caribbean, for his advice.  He concurred, saying that a midnight departure should provide us with a good ride ahead of an approaching front, which would bring heavy winds with it.  In fact, if we ran non-stop, we might even make it to Georgetown before it caught up with us two days hence.  Sounded good to us.  We pulled in to the anchorage near the turning basin in Lake Worth(Palm Beach) right at dusk, got the hook down, and were treated to the spectacle of a cruiseliner departing through the inlet.  We hit the sack at 19h30, anticipating an 00h00 departure.  Problem was, at 21h22, (but who’s counting?) up on the roof, there arose quite a clatter.  No-it wasn’t Santa and his reindeer.  Suzanne elbowed me awake, exclaiming that there was a boat next to us.  I was in the total fog that envelopes us in the second hour after sleep, but I could totally look up out of our porthole, and see a boat with floodlights ablaze, looming above us.  I pulled on my boxers and scrambled out on deck for a look.  The guy on the boat 3 feet away from us is screaming at me that we were dragging anchor, and that I needed to “get the Hell away from his boat!”  I wasn’t quite sure how we had dragged anchor, then drifted upwind in a 17 knot breeze, against a 3 knot incoming tide to hit him in the stern, but it was no time for debate.  By this time, Suz had the main started, and I was hauling in the anchor, which was well-embedded in the bottom on a 5:1 scope.  We moved about a quarter mile away from the anchoring expert on the 65 foot motoryacht with the rope rode and shiny (and probably seldom-used anchor).  Yes, that was sarcasm.  Two hours later, we woke up and motored out of the anchorage, past the aforementioned yacht, their deck lights fully lit, and someone on the foredeck fooling with the anchor.  No harm, no foul.  Coulda been worse.

The seas had laid down to 1’-3’, on 4 seconds, and it was a gorgeous, moonlit night.  I took the first watch, because, as usual, I was too excited to sleep.  As the night wore on, the seas continued to moderate, and by 09h00, when Suz got up, we had about a 1’ chop, with winds down to 10 knots.  I got my beauty rest in, and we are on the Bahama Bank, cruising under fluffy cumulus clouds, temperature 73F.  I anticipate that we’ll pass by the west end of New Providence Island (where Nassau is located) at around 01h00 Sunday morning, continuing southeast to the Family Islands of the Exuma chain.

-Later

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