July 12, 2008
We’re on the last leg of our journey. We had a nice dinner at Morgan Creek Grill with Bonnie, catching up and enjoying the company. We’ve promised to keep in touch and hope she and her husband will come to visit. Our last evening was quiet as for some strange reason all the boats were obeying the “No Wake” zone in front of the marina. We woke early and were underway by 7:45 so that we could reach the Ben Sawyer Bridge by 9:00. There were dolphins dancing in the waterway when we left. There is no other way to describe it. There were three or four pirouetting and bobbing up and down. Probably they were enjoying a breakfast of fish, but I prefer to think they were dancing. It was about 5 miles to the bridge, and predicting the effect of the tide and current on the boat speed is impossible. As it turned out, we were almost 30 minutes early and circled until the bridge slowly swung open. Soon we were in the Charleston Harbor, passing Ft. Sumter and the City Marina where I counted 32 sports fishermen lining the docks for the tournament. We had to kill some time before the next bridge at Wappoo Creek, so we idled up and down the docks before turning into the ICW, and we were still 15 minutes early for the bridge. The good news was that we only have one more bridge to pass through before Hilton Head, and that one is in Beaufort. We had planned to anchor about 30 miles from Isle of Palms and take two easy days to get home, but we arrived at that anchorage early in the afternoon and decided to push on to the South Edisto River. We really were anxious to get home, and we figured we could make it in two days. It took over 8 hours on the water, but we reached the river by 3:15. As luck would have it, the afternoon sea breeze picked up, and we had a south wind of 15-18 knots, which wasn’t good in an exposed anchorage. We continued motoring up the river until we came to a semi-sheltered anchorage, and set the chain. After showers and another hot dog dinner, we settled in for what we hoped would be our last night at anchor.
We woke, made coffee for the journey and headed back out the river to the ICW. We soon were in familiar territory from our very first voyage from Dataw Island where we first bought the boat. The channels were narrow, and, of course, we went through at dead low tide. Bill had a reading less than 5 feet at one point. We went very slowly until we once again reached deep water in St. Helena Sound. We passed the naval base where jets were taking off in pairs, rocketing over the channel. We were closing in on our last bridge before home, the Lady’s Island Swing Bridge which only opens on the hour and half hour. It was getting perilously close to 12:00, and we were afraid we’d miss it by a couple of minutes. Bill upped the speed and at 3 or 4 minutes to the hour, I called the bridge to request passing through at the 12:00 opening. He said o.k., and asked for our home port. There is a big curve coming around to the bridge which obscures the view of the tender. At 12:00 we were still not too close to the bridge, but we were rounding the curve. The tender called us and asked if we were coming north or south. I said, “South and we have you in sight,” but we were still a ways away. I think the tender delayed the opening for about 4 minutes and held the bridge while we battled the current to get through, but get through we did. Thank goodness we didn’t have to wait an additional 30 minutes, and I’ll always be appreciative to the Lady’s Island Bridge Tender who stretched it just a little bit so we could pass through, a real rarity in bridge tenders. From Beaufort, we were indeed in familiar territory, but we still had the wind on our nose coming out the Beaufort River. When we reached Port Royal Sound, the jet fuel barge from the naval docks in the Brickyard was closing in on us from the river and the thunderstorms were closing in on us from Skull Creek. We had a pretty rough ride for awhile. Bill called the barge and idled down until it passed. Bill put on his slicker just in time for the intense thunderstorm. I said that Mother Nature was just washing off Cool Breeze so we didn’t have to do that at the dock (and also getting in the last gasp of unfavorable weather on this trip.) By the time we entered Skull Creek, the barge was ahead of us, the storm had subsided, and we only had to contend with the ferry boats and some power boat parked in the middle of the channel. The water pump had its last hurrah and gave up the ghost (appropriate timing.) We crossed under the bridge, dodged the Harbour 22 and the Jr. Sailing School dinghies and called in a request to lock in. Our friend, Leo, was manning the lock and we passed through with little problems. Secured at our dock we were kissing and high-fiving. Happy to be home at last!
A few last thoughts on the voyage. For those of you who have come along with us – those both known and unknown – we appreciate you checking us out and the comments some of you have sent. Many times I have been working on this blog and wondering if the time involved is worth the effort, and I guess it has been, even the long, slow, uploads of pictures. There have certainly been negatives on the trip – things breaking, bad weather, and wind on our nose – but you’ve heard about all of that through this blog. I’d like to reflect on the positives, especially for those who have read this and are just getting into sailing. Some of my favorite things: Evenings in the cockpit, enjoying a drink and watching the sun settled down; Meeting incredible people who all have a story to share and cherish; Seeing new and familiar places in a different light; Savoring the quiet as we sailed with the motor off and the sails filled; The quiet mornings motoring in the ICW while most of the world seems asleep; The duo of pelicans gliding effortlessly with wing tips inches above the water; Bald eagles and ospreys hunting prey; Dolphin dancing and twirling off the bow; Spending time with my husband of 40 years and reconnecting and reminiscing without anyone else around. I guess if you haven’t spend time cruising on a sailboat, you can’t appreciate the freedom that you can experience as you sail on the waters. It makes the tough times bearable and forgettable. These are things I will cherish from the journey.
So, now we are home. I’ve gone through two days of sorting through 2-1/2 months of mail with a few surprises (mostly unpleasant); We’ve unloaded the boat (well, almost) which has taken as long as provisioning; Bill has replaced the water pump; We’ve enjoyed seeing friends and look forward to welcoming children and grandchildren to the island; Can’t wait to retrieve our cat and see the other child and family, especially granddaughter. In keeping with our record of things breaking, our internet cable modem has quit and luckily I haven’t disconnected my air card. I’ll try to add some pictures, but think I’ll just get this final blog on the internet. All is well, life is still good, but it will probably be awhile before we take another extended trip. Thanks for coming along on the journey and thanks to Trip Sailor for making it possible!
July 08, 2008
We left Dock Holidays a little after 6:00 a.m. on the 4th of July, which was one of the best decisions we have made on this trip. There was little or no traffic as we left the marina. Bill checked to see if there was any commercial traffic in the “Rock Pile,” and there was one tug, but he wasn’t pushing a barge, only a “mike,” whatever that is, which we determined was something smaller when we finally passed him. We saw lots of jet skis and small boats, but none that were running. The tug boat and a couple of fishing boats were all we saw on the water until we approached the Socastee Swing Bridge, only about two miles from our destination. Then, there seemed to be a little community with rental jet skis and docks, and the traffic began to pick up. We turned into the Osprey Marina channel before we had suffered through too many speed boats, but the traffic was definitely picking up.
Osprey Marina turned out to be a real gem. We fueled up and were docked beside a huge sports fisherman that was undergoing refurbishing. The marina was isolated from the waterway so we had no wakes and no loud motors to contend with. We basically hung out for two days. The marina was really welcoming, though; they gave us a block of cheese and crackers, a coozie, a whistle attached to a key-keeper, a magnet, matches, and a postcard. We met more nice people, but no more sail boaters. Seems as though power boaters are the preferred mode of travel. I was able to get in a little bit of aerobic exercise, which possibly offset the French toast and sausage from the grill, but I doubt it. Anyway, it’s a great marina and deserves consideration for anyone traveling the Waccamaw. Bill worked on the hose leading to the engine that was weeping and “fingers crossed” seems to have solved the leaking diesel problem. Mr. Fix-It scores again. When Bill was washing the boat, his watch, which has lost its little pin in the band several times, which he found and replaced, popped the pin out again, and he watched it sink into the inky water. Since it is water proof, it is probably still ticking!
Loaded up with ice, we set off on Sunday around 10:00 to go to our anchorage in Bull Creek. We knew it was still 4th of July weekend, but we thought things would be settled down, and they were. We arrived at Bull Creek in about an hour and a half; then, we spent another hour and a half trying to get the anchor to hold. We had about 6 attempts until we finally felt we were partially secure. All the while, there were small boats and jet skis coming and going on the sandy beach off our port side. We watched and watched the track line on the GPS, but were pretty uneasy. We waited for the tide to turn to make sure we were holding fast. Finally, the jet skis and motor boats left the sandy beach, the anchor seemed to be holding, and we cooked steaks, heated up a previously cooked baked potato, made a fruit and spinach salad, and read our Jack Reacher books until we couldn’t stay awake any longer. Did I mention that the water pump is again acting up, so we relay our showers using “water on” and “water off” commands so the pump doesn’t burn out completely.
We left Bull Creek a lot easier than we entered. Pulling up the anchor took about 5 minutes as opposed to 90 putting it down. The weather was cloudy and stormy and the sky was looking worse by the minute. We got the cushions down below and Bill’s slicker out before the rains came. It rained off and on most of the day with many lightening strikes. We briefly saw one rainbow, but the rain quit and the sun began to shine as we approached our anchorage – the South Santee River. I called the City Marina in Charleston to make a transient reservation for the next night, and found to my dismay that the yearly Bill Fish Tournament was going on and no reservations were accepted. Luckily, we were able to secure a slip at Isle of Palms north of Charleston. Have I mentioned that our timing on this trip is really exceptional?
After reaching South Santee River, we threaded our way in among the numerous crab pots and anchored in approximately the same place we were before. We had a spectacular sunset and ate Dinty Moore Beef Stew. The tide there was quite strong and the wind blowing from the opposite direction created opposing forces, but when the tide changed, we straightened out and seemed to be anchored securely, so we spent a peaceful night. A big trawler came part of the way up the river around dusk and anchored, but even its generator wasn’t enough to keep us awake.
We left the anchorage early and proceeded back to the ICW. We passed the house of my sorority sister, Bonnie, on the waterway, but she wasn’t home when I called. However, she called her husband, and he was fishing on the waterway. He said he saw our sailboat, so Bonnie called me back to tell me where he was. When we reached him, we had a nice time getting acquainted with him as we both idled along for 10 minutes. Then we waved good-bye and continued to Isle of Palms. The horse flies were thick as thieves and we spent the day killing as many as we could in between bites. I decided I’d count how many casualties I inflicted, and I was up to 58 confirmed dead by the time we got to the marina. I don’t know how many Bill got, but certainly got his fair share. They inflicted their own punishment, though. When we were in Bull Creek, I discovered I had tiny little red bites on both feet, but particularly my right one. Bill said they looked like seed tick bites, but where does one come across seed ticks on a sailboat? Then I remembered that when I went on my 2 mile walk at Osprey Marina, I stopped to look at a herd of goats in a fenced-in pasture. I didn’t get close to the fence, but I did walk in the grass, so I guess I picked up a few hitch-hikers. Anyway, my right foot looks like an extremely bad case of measles, and my left like an average case. In any event, they both itch like crazy, and I’m sure it will continue for days to come. This is a really nice marina and we both enjoyed nice, long showers with “water on” for long periods of time. We are anticipating Bonnie’s arrival to join us for dinner, and know we’ll have a great evening visiting with her.
Because we didn’t make it to Charleston, our ETA for Hilton Head looks like Friday, but I’ll try and keep you updated. We are SO ready to be home.
July 03, 2008
Well, we’re into July and it is hot as a firecracker. We’re currently at Myrtle Beach at Dock Holidays Marina (cute name) and proud to be tied up in a slip, and not on the face dock where the crazies will be running up and down the channel making wakes.
We left Harbour Village after spending a layover day there to recover from the Weekend Warriors. We met several nice couples. It so happened that the trawler next to us was also next to us in Beaufort. We had briefly met them, but hadn’t really talked with them. Bill and Barbara live in Hampstead at the Harbour Village and had been to Beaufort on holiday. We spent our last night at cocktail hour talking with them. We cooked the steaks we’d bought in Beaufort for dinner and had a nice evening. We exited our slip with a lot less stress than we entered it and were soon back on the ICW. We had a couple of bridges to go under on our way south with restricted openings. As luck would have it, the tide was with us and was causing us to reach the bridge well before the opening, so we throttled back and tried to time it correctly. We missed, but only by about 10 minutes. The same thing happened with the next bridge. Finally, after another day of small boaters buzzing erratically through the narrow channel, we arrived at the Southport Marina. I felt badly that Bill had to be at the helm the majority of the day, but the water was skinny, and contrary to the forecast, the wind was again on our nose most of the day.
The marina was really nice and close to restaurants. The dockhands were nice and the facilities were in great shape. I quickly headed out to the Laundromat as we really needed clean sheets, towels, and clothes. Unfortunately, I headed out so quickly, I didn’t get a swipe card for the bathrooms/laundry. Fortunately, the office was right there and the young man there lent me his card. Once in the Laundromat, I filled the washer with the sheets and towels and tried the bill changer machine. The red light was on saying the machine was not functioning, so back I go to the dock to get quarters. Then a trek back to put the coins in. Back at the boat, I managed one beer and then took my shower stuff, and with Bill’s help took the rest of the laundry up. I got that in and we both got showers. By the time I finished the shower, the sheets and towels were dry, so back to the boat to make up the V-Berth, always a struggle. Then time to head back and get the two loads of clothes. Bill and I folded the clothes and took them to the boat. Then we walked about three blocks to a restaurant recommended by our Southport friends – Fishy, Fishy. We enjoyed our meal on the deck and walked back in twilight where we soon were in bed.
Bill had called the Sunset Pontoon Bridge earlier to get a report on the opening. The bridge is the only one on the east coast, and is stymied if there is a really low tide, which, naturally with our luck, was happening. We had heard yesterday that the bridge was closed from after the 12:00 opening until around 2:15 because of the extremely low tide. Low tide was around 1:14 the next day and was lower than the day before, so the prediction was that 12:00 opening was “iffy” and closed until 3:00 or thereafter. We knew there was no way we could make the 11:00 opening unless we left shortly after 5:00 a.m., so we opted to start later and be there for the 3:00 opening.
We left Southport around 10:00, bucking the tide as usual for a few miles. The canal was pretty deep, 10-13 feet, so I was able to give Bill a break at the helm for an hour or so. Then we approached Lockwood’s Folly and Bill once again took over. We traversed that pretty easily, but when we got to Shallote Inlet, we ran right through a sand bar – a bump and then a slow forward, but we made it through. Then the tide took over and we were going too fast, so Bill slowed the motor, but still we made it to the pontoon bridge with 40 minutes to spare. The whole trip down we were plagued by small motor boats, kicking up wakes and coming within 10 feet of us, boats pulling floats and skiers weaving in and out of the channel, a million jet skis, and a few kayakers straying into the channel. We had to use the horn more than a few times. Bill said, “Make a note. Never travel on the ICW in North Carolina unless it is winter or very cold.” We anchored before the bridge, and the tender’s best guess was around 3:15 – 3:30. About 10 minutes before 3:00, he said he’d open at 3:00. Just as we were about to pull up the anchor, he came back on the radio to say he had EMS personnel crossing the bridge and wouldn’t be opening after all. Can you believe the luck? Could this possibly happen to us twice? YES. Obviously, they have some rule that once the EMS vehicles cross, the bridge won’t open until they return. Luckily, we hadn’t pulled up the anchor, so we sat for about 55 more minutes until the vehicles had re-crossed the bridge. During this time out, we got confirmation from our real estate agent that the potential buyers for our condo had backed out. Guess this economy is scaring everyone, including us! Finally, a little before 4:00 the bridge tender called and told us to pull the anchor. We did and finally made it through. We breathed a sigh of relief when we passed marker 116 – we were back in South Carolina. However, it seems we have more than our fair share of the wild water wakers and yellow-jacket (buzz, buzz) jet skiers. Of course, we were approaching Myrtle Beach – during the afternoon on the 4th of July week. And, we had one more bridge, but it was open on demand and we passed through easily. Soon, we were turning into our slip, but, even though the dockhand Matt had told me starboard tie, I had put the lines on the port side. I think my brain was scrambled by that time. Bill went as slowly as possible allowing me to change the lines, but we still had another challenging docking.
We are staying here at Myrtle Beach for two nights since we’d arrived so late. We had dinner at the on-site restaurant with a DJ and loud music, but we had a table as far away as possible on the waterfront. We were enjoying our beers when a real estate agent came and stood about 4 feet from our table, facing us, and began discussing her latest real estate transaction in great detail. We asked if she would move somewhere else or turn around. She completely ignored us. Then we asked our waitress to ask her to move, which she did. She said “no,” and continued talking at an increased volume. We asked for the manager and after arguing with him for a minute or two, she finally moved on. It is hard to believe that there are so many rude people who seem to relish causing unhappiness, even when asked politely to discontinue their rude behavior, and it is even harder to believe that we seem to attract them like a magnet! I had a dream about her that night in which she was stalking me!
Today we rode our bikes to the Food Lion for what we hope is our final grocery store trip and Bill is currently at West Marine buying a light fixture, more fuel filters, and a hose for the diesel engine which is leaking. Oh, yes, our motor blower doesn’t work anymore, but the water pump is hanging in there. Thank God for small blessings. Hope everyone has a happy 4th of July. We’ll be starting as early as possible tomorrow to try to get through Myrtle Beach before the crazies get back on the water.
June 29, 2008
We had a wonderful anchorage in Slade’s Creek just south of Belhaven. We had a quiet evening and we were the only boat in the anchorage. The channel coming in was tricky, but we had the crumb trail to follow going out. The wind was blowing pretty good in the Pungo River and across the Pamlico River into Goose Creek and the canal going to the Neuse River. The wind wasn’t bad in the creek and canal, but it picked up significantly when we turned into the Bay River headed for the Neuse. By the time we entered the Neuse, the wind was dead on our nose and blowing 15-20 knots. I can’t tell you how many horseflies we had on the bimini while we were in the channel. We must have killed 100 or more. They would bite every once in awhile, but one bite was enough. Bill seems especially susceptible to them, but I thought I was o.k. We had a slow go – 4 knots, but finally we made it into the channel to Oriental. We fueled up at the fuel dock and then made our way into what we think is the same slip we occupied before. Bravo! I lassoed the cowboy piling on the first try to the acclamation of the dockhand. Bill was not as accurate as I was, but he did successfully lasso his. Upon docking and hooking up shore power, I released the horseflies that had congregated in the V-Berth. However, some remained in the salon, where they proceeded to bite me. I did get my vengeance and killed several more. I transmitted my last blog and pictures. Bill checked out the water pumps at the great marine store close to the docks while I did that. They didn’t have our particular brand, so Bill did some more adjustments and it seemed to work o.k. Then we donned our swim suits and headed for the pool, which, on this occasion was exactly the right temperature. After showers, we once again enjoyed Toucan Burgers. We saw our friends from Elizabeth City, Keko and Adrian on SaraBecca tied up to the 48-hour free dock, so we went over to talk with them. However, it wasn’t long before we turned in. The Oriental Sailing Cup was scheduled for the weekend, so we were anxious to leave before the festivities began. We had bagels and Lattes at The Bean and then exited our slip.
I can only say about this day that it has been a really crummy one. If I wasn’t a lady (which some might question), I would use a bit more “descriptive” term, but I’ll leave that to your imagination. The horsefly bites that I have are swollen and weeping, like poison ivy blisters. Bill’s swell, but don’t weep like mine. Plus, they itch like crazy! The wind worked against us coming out of the slip, and there are pilings extending pretty far out into the channel. Bill tried to avoid the boat on the free dock and we were headed back into the pilings. The water was very shallow and we were churning up mud. After several attempts to elude the pilings, Bill came forward and told me to drive the boat. Following his instructions about which way to turn and which gear to put it in, we finally cleared the docks. Unfortunately, somehow we bent the bowsprit on the port side. The problem is, if you work with boats, eventually, you’re going to end up with some damage. Also, the rub rail bowed out on the port side, which has happened before, but it is a bear to fix. We got out into the Neuse after dodging several small craft dragging shrimp nets, and Bill asked me to watch while he checked out our damage. The boat was on autopilot, and I didn’t pay enough attention until Bill came back and said we were going the wrong way and would have run aground without Bill’s correction. The wind wasn’t too bad in the Neuse and we crossed into Adam’s Creek with a shrimp boat zigzagging back and forth across the channel. We had a few discussions about navigation, but eventually we continued on our way. I drove through the channel to Beaufort and Bill hung over the rail and hammered and nudged the rub rail back into place, assuring that he will be sore tomorrow.
Bill assumed the wheel after the canal and brought us into the Municipal Docks without incident. We had a “fair” Grouper sandwich for lunch and got the rental car to go to the grocery store. I managed to bang my head on the companionway cover, but nursed it with a cold beer. Because the showers at the marina are not air-conditioned, we opted for showers on the boat. I had mine, and then Bill had his. After his shower, Bill banged his head on the glass rack and began bleeding profusely. After we got that stopped, Bill tried to adjust the water pump, which was again acting up. It didn’t respond to repeated adjustments, so we just turned it off, and proceed to drown our sorrows. We were so tired and exhausted from the day on the water, we opted for a bowl of soup and a salad and headed for bed. We had checked the weather forecast and there are big winds predicted 15-20, but less than forecast for Sunday and Monday, so we (actually my call) decided we should leave early and anchor at the Marine Corps base in Mile Hammock Bay. We were worried about exiting our slip, but with help from a dockhand, we made a smooth escape. We thought we’d eventually have the tide in our favor in Bogue Sound, a 20 mile + large body of water, but very shallow. We were wrong. The tide was against us (at up to 2 knots) almost the whole day. We were slogging along at less than 4 knots, but our boat speed was close to 6. Right before we entered the sound, a Coast Guard boat came barreling by us with siren going and lights flashing. Our VHS was still on Channel 9 from our docking yesterday, so we switched to 16. We then heard bad news on the radio. Obviously, a boat had hit a sandbar and two people were in the water. The voice on the radio was pretty controlled, but very tense. “Two people in the water, maybe one is dead.” “Coast Guard, where are you?” “What is your ETA?” The Coast Guard called back and asked for the boat’s position. “I’m only a kid; I don’t know” came the reply. Then, “Between Markers 27 and 28.” We listened as the drama unfolded. One of the injured was now breathing. The second victim had been taken to a sandbar and was given CPR. The Coast Guard arrived on the scene, and then EMS personnel were on the scene. From what we could hear, the 2nd victim had responded, but also had a back injury. Both were taken to a waiting ambulance in a small creek off the sound. We think that everyone survived. I will always remember that young voice, warding off panic and manning the radio, saying “I’m only a kid.” Well, thank goodness someone had taught that “kid” what to do in an emergency and in so doing saved lives.
By the time we reached those markers, there was no longer any evidence of the trouble there. Bill was at the helm the whole way across the sound as it was shallow with sand bars sticking up. The weekend boaters were out in full force, many beaching on the sand bars. There were still plenty of motor boats in the channel, many with skiers or float riders, making our journey totally unpleasant. Bill swore he would never again travel on a weekend except maybe in Calibogue Sound. There were some confusing markers as we passed numerous inlets, but we continued south. Finally, I was able to give Bill a little break, though short-lived. The current continued to make our progress slow, and the trip we thought would take only 5 or so hours turned into over 8. We had one brief respite when the current was in our favor, and we made 7 knots, but that was only for one mile. When we passed the last of the inlets, the tide finally gave us a boost, but at a price. The 20 knot wind blowing against the current created big breaking waves over our bow. We caught another break when the one bridge we had to pass through was under construction and thus in an open position. We came to our anchorage and have anchored among 3 other boats; we were the last to come in. We’re not in an ideal location in regard to the other boats, but after watching our track for several hours, we seem to be set. The bad news is the wind continues to blow well over 20 knots, ensuring a night of minimal sleep. Bill is asleep right now while I work on this blog. I’ll wake him when I’m ready for bed and hope to give him some shut-eye for a little while. I know he’s exhausted and will probably be up most of the night checking on conditions. The boat anchored behind us has an Englishman (Peter) and his Italian wife (Lucia). Peter came up in his dinghy to tell us they were leaving early tomorrow. They have sailed their steel hulled boat across the Atlantic and are headed northward. I’m about to run low on battery, so I’ll close for tonight, and hopefully get this on the internet tomorrow night when we hope to be at a dock. Tomorrow looks like another rough day, with winds exceeding what we had today. Tonight, I haven’t seen any numbers under 15 knots, but hopefully it will lay down a little as the night progresses.
This morning, we watched the local news and learned to our dismay that the boating accident did claim one victim – a 63-year-old man, driving a Jet Ski with his 43-year-old daughter on the back evidently lost control and ran the Jet Ski into a 27-foot boat. We also were interested in the weather – 20 – 25 knots from the SW, but fortunately we weren’t going far. We were all set to leave a little before 8:00, and Bill tried to crank the motor. It caught briefly and then shut down. Several more attempts produced the same result. Bill decided that we had gotten some bad fuel in Oriental, so he proceeded to change the fuel filters (with a little help from a friend.) Because our fuel tank was only about half full, Bill captured the diesel from the old filters in an empty gallon water jug – not much, but hopefully enough to prime the filters. We filtered the fuel through paper towels and primed one filter and half of the other one. Once again we tried the engine but to no avail. Then Bill determined the fuel pump wasn’t working. He had a spare and replaced that. It, at least was trying to get fuel to the motor, but another attempt did not bring any better success. Well, we were feeling pretty depressed and out of options, so Bill called Tow Boat U.S. Luckily, we had gotten the “Unlimited Towing” package. The tow boat captain said he’d be there in about 45 minutes to an hour and was going to bring 10 gallons of diesel with him. It was about 10:15. He got there about an hour later, and was a really nice young man. He and Bill went below and I just tried to stay out of the way, occasionally performing some manual task as required. Just as I was about to give up hope of getting the engine to start and resign ourselves to getting towed back north to Swansboro and spend several days in a boat yard, the engine fired (with a little help from an ether aerosol). Now, I don’t understand it, but we were happy it worked.
We finally pulled out of Mile Hammock Bay around noon and once again headed south into 20 to 25 knot winds. I don’t think the wind spent more than 30 seconds below 20 all day. The channel was narrow, so Bill, who is better at finding deeper water than I am, was at the helm the majority of the day again. After two days of the Weekend Warriors on the ICW, Bill declared that no one outside NC could use the bathroom because all of the anatomical parts necessary to perform that function were cruising the Intracoastal water way. (Well, he didn’t exactly use those terms!) We made the 3:00 opening of the Surf City Bridge and arrived at Harbour Village around 4:00. The wind was blowing like rip and the current was running more than one knot, but after a science-fair project docking, we were finally secured to the dock. Chris, the son of the harbourmaster, helped us dock and gave us a ride in a golf cart back to the marina office. I swear it is over a mile away and will be quite a hike from our slip. Because of the thunderstorm and the long hike, we are taking showers on the boat tonight. We will stay here two nights as we are pretty worn down from SW winds and boat repairs. Cool Breeze is so salt encrusted that it leaves salt crystals on your hands if you touch the life lines. Her crew suffers from the same condition. Tomorrow we hope to get the boat cleaned inside and out and just relax from our exciting life as cruisers!
June 26, 2008
We spent two days in Elizabeth City at the Mariner’s Wharf Town Dock where boats may dock for 48 hours. There is no electricity or water, but it is a great service that the town provides. We had read that the Rose Buddies would greet us at the dock with a bouquet of roses and hold a wine and cheese party in the afternoon; however, this never materialized while we were there. We did talk with the woman in the Visitor’s Center, and she said one of the principal volunteers had died last year and now the Visitor’s Center did it “off and on if there were enough boats.” Guess we didn’t qualify for enough boats although the second night we were there we had company of 6 or 7 other boats.
After we had arrived and were securely docked, Bill took off in search of ice since all in the cooler had melted during our previous overnight. He went into the restaurant on the dock and asked if they’d sell him some ice. “No, we don’t sell ice.” “We’re dying for ice – please sell us some ice.” Eventually, Bill came back to the boat with a big green bucket of ice after promising to eat in the restaurant that evening. We did have a light meal at Grouper’s and retired early after our exhausting day coming through the Dismal. We were woken early by the Monday morning garbage truck emptying the dempsty dumpster. We found a place on the brochures to eat breakfast and headed out. We walked about 3 blocks, but easily found the Colonial Restaurant and had a plain old-fashioned breakfast. The couple in the booth in front of us asked if we had come in on our boat. We said, “yes,” and I asked if they could tell because we looked grungy and dirty. “Oh, no,” they protested, “you just have on a marina T-shirt (to me) and you just look tanned and relaxed.” Yea, right. I think it was the grungy, dirty look, and Bill’s beard probably was another clue. We talked with them for awhile. They also were sailors though they lived not far from Elizabeth City. All of the people we’ve met in Elizabeth City have been so friendly and nice. I guess they truly deserve their reputation of “Harbour of Hospitality.”
Unfortunately, the Albermarl Museum was closed on Monday, which is supposedly a great attraction. We walked around downtown and returned to the boat. We saw a tri-hull passing back and forth on the city dock. Bill called them on the radio and told them they could tie up at the city park since the docks weren’t wide enough to accommodate them. They were grateful for the information. After showers, we went to dinner at the Cypress Inn Grill which was highly recommended by Claiborne Young. We had ordered a drink when the crew from the tri-hull came in – a father and son team – Keko and Adrian – from Costa Rico. We invited them to join us for dinner, and we were glad we did. What a great conversation we had with them. Keko was originally from Minnesota, but ended up in Costa Rico. Both he and his children have dual citizenship. They bought the tri-hull and are taking it back to Costa Rico. Adrian, 15 years old, has a clear vision of what he wants to do. He will go to the Air Force Academy, and has every intention that that will happen. We wish him well and applaud his clear vision of his future. I have no doubt that it will happen. So, Adrian, when you are one day flying planes, dip your wings over Hilton Head and let us know that you’ve achieved your dream.
We left Elizabeth City and headed into the river toward Albermarle Sound. We were relatively free of crab pots and we passed the manufacturer of blimps. The buildings were huge and a blimp was ready to launch from the facility. Before we knew it, a Coast Guard pontoon boat was approaching us. It came alongside and asked if we’d ever been boarded by the Coast Guard. “No,” we said. Well, we were about to be! There was a crew of 5 on the boat, and soon, two were climbing aboard our boat. Well, how exciting was this? The young man and girl were on board to do a safety inspection. Bill took the young man below and showed him all our safety equipment. I talked with the female member of the crew who had been in the Coast Guard about a year. This was her first assignment, but she seemed very proficient in what she was doing. Everything checked out on Cool Breeze and we bid good-bye to our boarding party. I keep saying we’ve seen it all, but maybe not.
As we came to the end of the Elizabeth River and entered Albermarle Sound we encountered more crab pots than we’d ever seen in our life. Fortunately, the seas were relatively calm so we could see them, but we had no chance to hoist our sails, even though the wind was at a perfect angle. Bill was cursing the watermen, but I was somewhat sympathetic since I was reading Beautiful Swimmers.
We eventually made it across the sound to Alligator River Marina, where we’d stayed before. It is a great marina and we ate hamburgers at night and breakfast in the morning at the Short Second gas station. We left around 9:15 and had our longest day on the water since departing Hilton Head. Strong SW winds are predicted for tomorrow, so we wanted to make as many miles as possible today. Fifty + nautical miles is a record for us, but now we are safely anchored in Slade Creek. This is a beautiful, pristine anchorage, and we’re the only boat here. We’ll cross over to Oriental, NC tomorrow. No internet tonight, but we’ll be in touch tomorrow.
June 23, 2008
We left Portsmouth late because of two things; we wanted to see the Cock Island race in which over 100 boats participated, and, also, our water pump was continually running and needed to be fixed. We debated whether to go across town to West Marine (another taxi ride) or to just turn the control on and off as necessary. First, we walked over to see the start of the race, done in heats, with the loudest cannon imaginable to start each heat. My right ear drum is still suffering the after effects. It was fun to see them jockeying for position and setting off. After watching for awhile, we returned to the boat and Bill (Mr. Fix-it) found the manual for the water pump and in an incredibly awkward position turned some little adjustment screw that eventually cured the problem. I regret mentioning the fact that boats develop problems in my last blog. Anyway, we think the problem is cured, and we set off around 1:00 in dense smoke to anchor outside the Dismal Swamp lock. We had to go under two bridges, one a lift bridge and the other a bascule bridge, but both tenders were obliging, especially the bascule bridge. We turned into the Dismal Swamp Deep Creek canal and were met by a police boat that informed us that a ski-boarding contest was taking place and to stay to the starboard side of the canal. We traversed the area, watching the tricks and turns of the ski-boarder with a further warning from the police boat to keep right, but Bill had to watch out for a boat anchored in the way. Finally, we passed the competition and the anchorage where we thought would be a great place to anchor for the night. Robert, the lockmaster at the north end of the Dismal Swamp, had advised that anchoring there on a weekend would be our worst nightmare, and we soon saw why. All the weekend warriors were out in full force, so we proceeded to the lock, fully intending to anchor before the lock. We were contacted and asked our intentions. We were told we could lock through and tie up to the dock in the swamp which we chose to do. Robert, whom I’d talked to earlier, gave us information about the docks and the bascule bridge beyond. He also demonstrated amazing talent with a conch shell. He seems to be a great guy and said he’d invite us for coffee in the morning!
We are safely secured to the dock just inside the lock. The WalMart party people at the park just beyond the lock have departed, and we only have locals in the parking lot at present. We cooked hot dogs, and as we were cooking them, a young couple were strolling the dock. They were both here from the Ukraine. Ireni, the young lady, had only been in the U.S. two days, but her companion Vittle (pardon my misspelling if inaccurate) had been here a month. They were both working at a nursery on a work visa. They were delightful with excellent English and so glad to be here.
We spent a fairly restful night at the dock with the exception of two carloads of people pulling into the parking lot at 3:30 a.m. Bill heard them, but I slept through the whole thing. They didn’t come down to the dock and they weren’t loud, but it was a little creepy with them there, so Bill didn’t sleep well. In the morning Robert came by with his dog U-turn and apologized that he couldn’t offer us coffee as there was a broken water main to his office. I walked up to the lock to get a Dismal Swamp brochure and watched U-turn make a mad dash toward the lock when Robert let him out of his truck. “Where is he going in such a hurry?” I asked. “Oh, he’s just going to say good morning to Fred.” Just then a large blue heron, squawking either in protest or in greeting flew by us. “That’s Fred, and he’s lived here seven years. Every morning U-turn goes to greet him, but he’s not very sociable!” There was no southbound traffic on the other side of the lock, so Robert let us through the bascule bridge, and we were on our way. The swamp is beautiful, though we expected to see more wildlife. Perhaps it’s because of the smoke from the wild fires. We did have about a mile and a half of smoke, but then it lifted and we were clear most of the way. It’s really funny that US Highway 17 runs right beside the “ditch” for most of the 22 miles. The canal seemed deep enough for the most part, except for a shallow part by the feeder ditch, but it was narrow and there were logs and sticks to be avoided. We stopped at the Welcome Center and had lunch, then headed the last 4 miles to the South Mills lock. We only passed two northbound boats on the entire canal – one small motor boat and one sailboat. As we approached the bascule bridge before the lock, we called the lockmaster on the radio – no response. I called on the phone and the line was busy. I called again and got an answer. I told him where we were and that we wanted to lock through. I also said we’d called on the radio but got no response. He said, “I heard somebody calling the Deep Creek Lock, but not the South Mills Lock.” Well, we’d called the South Mills Lock, but I guess he was chatting on the phone. That should have been an omen. After meeting Robert, we expected the same kind of service on the south end – WRONG! We had no place to tie up at the bridge and the canal was very narrow, so we put the anchor down on a short chain and settled in to wait the 30 minutes for the bridge. We did o.k. for the first 20 minutes until the wind shifted and spun us around. What a fire drill – I can’t even remember the sequence, but Bill got the motor started, the anchor up, and we started back up the canal. Then, Bill had to turn our 36 foot sailboat in a 25 foot width canal, with stumps and mud on either side. He did manage it – how I don’t know. In the meantime, the lockmaster had called and said he’d open the bridge in 5 or 6 minutes. I said, “Good,” and explained our situation. After about 10 minutes had passed and no open bridge I called him on the radio again and asked him to please get the bridge open as we were in a real tight spot. There was no response, but agonizingly slowly the bridge opened and we made our way into the lock. Tying up was accomplished, but not with the same ease as at Deep Creek Lock. “Going down 8 feet, Captain,” were the only words spoken by the lockmaster.
We did successfully navigate out of the lock, scratching our heads at how different the two lockmasters were. We passed through Turner Cut and into the Pasquotank River filled with water skiers and float riders out on a Sunday afternoon, reminding us that we should not travel on weekends if at all possible! The Elizabeth City Bridge was open on request, so we approached the free city docks where boaters can stay for 48 hours of free dockage. We found only one other boat docked and we proceeded in and safely got tied up with plenty of help from our fellow boaters. This is a neat town, and I’ll write more about it later.
June 17, 2008
We decided we’d leave Onancock and go south to Cape Charles. We spent an hour winding our way back out of Onancock Creek, but at least we had a track line to follow. The water was as slick as glass going out until we entered the Bay, where the seas were a little more than the 1-2 feet advertised by NOAA. We were dead into the wind and taking wave after wave over our bow until we reached the ship channel marker to turn south. At that point we raised the main and then the head sail, which steadied the boat somewhat, but not dramatically. We were definitely rocking and rolling down the Bay, but the wind was seldom over 10 knots. We shut the motor off at one point, but our estimated time jumped from 1 hour to 3 hours to arriving at a waypoint, so we were soon motor-sailing again. Still, it was quite a long day, almost 8 hours. When I fixed lunch, I told Bill it was definitely a challenge to keep my balance and spread the mayo and mustard, and even harder to bring the sandwiches to the cockpit.
We had to travel well past Cape Charles and then turn north into the channel. Our marina was located on Kings Bay which was past the Cape Charles Harbor, probably 5 or 6 miles of heading back north. It was a scary passage with skinny water, sharp turns, and the navigator and captain had to coordinate and be alert. As we entered the harbor basin, Bill said, “We’re going aground, we’re going aground.” But, even though the depth sounder registered under 4 feet, we made it into the harbor. We pulled up to the fuel dock and the dock hand said we’d entered at dead low tide and that many boats had gone aground at the point where Bill was prophesying a grounding. After taking on fuel, we made our way to our slip. This is a terrific marina with floating docks, sans cowboy pilings. We were soon tied up safely. The Dutchman flaking system that Bill had dismantled in Onancock really needs repair. With light winds, Bill was able to flake the main sail, but it would be really difficult in stronger winds. We spent some time trying to straighten out the lines, and tomorrow, Bill will work on putting the Dutchman lines back through the sail.
We had showers in far different ones than last night (stone surrounds with benches) instead of plastic curtains and stained molded fiberglass. Then after a drink we went to Aqua Restaurant. We had a wonderful dinner, probably the best on our journey. Lovely surroundings, an astounding sunset over the Bay, exceptional salad and dinners (I’ve become enamored of soft-shell crab), and nice wine to top it off. Bill has already hit the hay and I’m not far behind, but wanted to get this posted tonight. Sorry for no new pictures, but they will follow. I’m sure you will notice that this post is in three parts. That’s the only way I can figure out how to do the map thing and show the ports we go to.
June 17, 2008
We left Mill Creek around 9:00 and headed back across the Bay to the Eastern Shore. Again, we were able to sail for periods without the motor, but for the sake of time, we motored sailed about half the time. The Bay was being kind and gentle with 1 foot seas and a 10 knot wind. One thing we’ve learned about sailing on the Chesapeake is that the weather can be very changeable at the drop of a hat. We had almost decided not to cross the Bay to Onacock because there were small craft warnings for Solomons, MD, but south of Solomons called for 1 foot seas and favorable winds. After listening to the NOAA forecast, we headed across. At one point, we could not see either the western or eastern shore, though Tangiers Island was visible to our north. This was a far calmer crossing that we had we went to Crisfield from Mill Creek. The route into Onnacock was full of twists and turns and must have taken us an hour to traverse. We started at Green Marker 1 and finally made our way to Green Marker 37! We had a fairly easy docking at Onnacock Wharf Marina right in the middle of downtown Onnacock. On our way over, I had my cell phone plugged into our inverter, and whether the starting and stopping of the motor or the malfunction of charger, my cell phone became as hot as a pistol and shut off. I think it is completely fried! Anyway, it doesn’t work AT ALL, and Bill’s cell phone battery is also shot. His phone will only work when it is plugged into the AC plug, which limits its access to the salon. Thankfully, we do still have his phone and we do have our air card so we can get e-mail.
After docking, we strolled into town and poked around in various shops including a hardware store established in 1903. I think they still had some of the original inventory! We picked out a place for dinner and headed back to the boat for cocktails and showers. But, only after Bill had a falling out with the Dutchman flaking system on our main sail. When I was returning from my shower Bill was helping a motor yacht dock next to us. Fellow South Carolinians, Libba and Andy from Mt. Pleasant, SC, joined us at the dock. We watched an approaching storm, and decided we really didn’t have the time or inclination to walk into town, so we raced to the dock-side restaurant for dinner. As we were seated and ordering drinks, Libba and Andy came in, just a wee bit wet from the rain. We invited them to join us and we had a great time talking and watching the storm roll through. Libba was a school teacher (my kind of gal) and Andy was an orthopedic surgeon. Again, we felt an immediate bond with them and exchanged stories from our life histories. We hope we will eventually meet up again, whether en route to SC, in Charleston or in Hilton Head.
June 17, 2008
We left Solomons and head south back to the Great Wicomoco River and an anchorage that we stayed in on our trip up. We were able to sail some without the motor, but mostly we motor sailed as we were going a pretty long way. We passed the Potomac River which had a mouth that stretched for 11 nautical miles. It was amazing how the fairly calm bay really churned up all the way down. We had thought about going into the river to a marina, but it was just as long to get to the marina as to continue to an anchorage. I spent most of the voyage cleaning the stainless on the starboard side of the boat, trying to be productive. My, it looks good when the shine comes through, though some places I had to expend lots of energy rubbing.
We threaded our way back into the Great Wicomoco and then turned south into Mill Creek. The sun angle was just right to reflect off the water and prevent us from seeing the numerous crab pots that lined the channel. Thankfully, we made it in unscathed. There were about 12 boats anchored in the first cove, but only one in the second where we had stayed previously. Bill put the anchor down, but for one of the few times on our trip, it didn’t hold, so he had to pull it in. There were stinging nettles on the anchor chain and one chanced to land on Bill’s leg. We hadn’t seen many nettles, which move up the bay as the weather warms, but they were everywhere in Mill Creek. The second time the anchor set. We had nice showers on the boat, and cooked steak on the grill accompanied by salad and mashed potatoes. The sunset was spectacular and the moon was almost full. We had another peaceful, uneventful night at anchor.
June 14, 2008
We spent a second night in Oxford, but probably should have taken off in the morning, as the winds were 10 knots or less. However, it’s always good to have a layover day. The electrical storm last night was long (about 2 hours), but there really wasn’t that much wind or rain. The storm managed to keep me awake until after 2 a.m., but Bill slept right through it. Now I’ve had two nights of poor sleep so I’m tired and old-age stiff as a result. Bill took Christine and evil sister down off the deck so we could ride and explore Oxford. I managed to do half my exercises in the process and promised to finish up when we returned (which remarkably I did). We saw some lovely homes here in Oxford, but there is really no town itself. In contrast to St. Michaels there are no gift shops or a main street to stroll down to window shop. It’s as if the home owners have decided that they don’t really want the tourist trade in this town. We did bicycle by the Holy Trinity Episcopal Church and stopped to peek inside. As we entered, a gentleman came in behind us and asked if we wanted him to turn on the lights. We said “no,” we were just looking at the lovely stained glass windows. He explained he was a vestryman at the church and gave us the history of the church which dated back well before the Civil War. The stained glass windows were done by a well-known artist named Willett. The church had been established by the family of a Tilghman who was an aide de camp of George Washington. After chatting with Bill D., we found he had been a Navy corpsman in Vietnam and had transported wounded soldiers from the front lines. He said, “I wouldn’t give anything for the experience, but I’d never want to have it again.” After the war, he became a commissioned officer and retired as a Captain in the Navy. We surmised he must have done something heroic in the Vietnam War to have been recommended to officer school. He was a career Naval officer and is now retired and a full time resident of Oxford. He told us there are about 800 residents, most of whom are seasonal, though he is here full time.
After leaving the church, we finally found a place to have lunch. The view was lovely and we ate on the deck, but the food was mediocre. We had stopped at the historic Robert Morris Inn, circa 1770, that was advertised to serve lunch and dinner, but we were told the innkeepers no longer served the public. It seems that visitors really weren’t welcomed. Anyway, we pedaled back toward the marina and stopped at Cuttler’s and Case which specializes in wooden boats. Bill had a guided tour of the facility and enjoyed that. When we got back to the boat, we made a grocery list, got our Cool Breeze bags and biked back to the only grocery in town. We got the few supplies we needed and went back to the boat, where we once again headed back to the marina pool. We read our books and got showers. We were going out to dinner at a restaurant that supposedly would come and pick us up at the marina. However, when I called they said they had no one who could pick us up. Man, that really made me mad because the harbourmaster had made such a big deal about what a great deal that was. Schooner’s was closed on Wednesday, so we ate dinner at the boat.
We left Oxford, Bill concluding that Oxford would prefer not to have any tourists, as there are only a few restaurants, one pitiful grocery, and no shops. It seems they would rather just keep the town to themselves. I doubt we’ll return there again.
We were going to anchor in the Little Choptank, but when we got out in The Bay, Bill said it was only 20 more miles to the Patuxant, so we changed plans. We sailed, rather desultorily because the wind was very light, but it was a pleasant day. We ended up in Mill Creek where we had anchored before. This time we put the dinghy down and Bill rowed to the sandy beach. Bill explored the shore while I floated on a cushion in knee-deep water. Then I rowed back to the boat. Bill was rather critical of my rowing style, but I did get us back to the boat. Then, I continued my cushion floating while Bill got the long-handled brush and worked on the bottom of the boat. I floated around the boat just to give him a measure of security. We were harassed by multiple jet skis. Did you know that you can ski behind a jet ski? We didn’t until we saw it. We cooked the rest of the hot dogs for dinner after a lovely boat shower and slept well.
We were vaguely aware of voices coming and going at 6:00 in the morning, but managed to put off rising until 7:30. Seems as though the “trotline” crabbers get an early start here. We did talk to a cute young couple who was working a “recreational” trotline. They had already gotten almost a bushel of crabs, which they said would sell for $150. Bill asked if they were going to sell them – they said, “No, we’re going to eat them!” They had gotten up really early and driven an hour and a half pulling their Bass Boat to get an early start. By 10:00, they were pulling in their line as we pulled in our anchor and headed down the river back to St. Leonard’s Creek. There was little wind so we motored the whole way and by noon we were anchored in much the same location as before. Bill got the dinghy down, this time with the outboard on, and motored to a small marina for ice. When he returned, we both rode the dinghy to a sandy beach – not very pretty with lots of the debris from the water and dead crab parts. Also, there were tracks and other evidence that cows had been wandering by the shore. We didn’t stay long and motored down a little creek to look around and then back to Cool Breeze. We took showers and dinghied back to Vera’s where we dined on Crab Imperial and I had another Raspberry Lemonade.
After anchoring out for two nights and with predicted thunderstorms, we motored back up the Patuxant toward Spring Cover Marina in Solomons. At one point we put out the head sail, but there wasn’t much wind and for such a short trip we didn’t bother with the main sail. After a while, the wind dropped to 5 knots and below, so we rolled in the head sail and motored the rest of the way to the marina. Since it was a Saturday in summer, the boats were out in full force, especially the kamikaze motor boats that seem bent on disturbing any sailboat’s quiet sail. Fortunately, we didn’t have to endure them for long and were soon safely tucked back into the sheltered Spring Cove Marina. After getting the laundry started and doing a little much needed inside boat cleaning, we went back to The Naughty Gull for one last crab cake sandwich and homemade potato chips. We got there just at 2:30, which is the switch-over time between lunch and dinner (they don’t serve the chips for dinner, only fries.) But we looked so disappointed that the waitress had pity on us and we got our homemade chips after all. After lunch, Bill went to West Marine for some kind of bilge pump attachment and I folded the laundry. Then, we got the bikes down and rode to the grocery store to stock up for our next anchorages. We got back in time to get showers before a tremendous electrical storm hit, but that seems to have passed now. We’ll have a bowl of soup for dinner due to our late and filling lunch, and I’ll try and get this posted. Thanks for e-mails and comments. Wish I could answer them all, but sometimes time and connectivity limits prevent it.