Harmony's Maiden Voyage

N 36° 43' W 76° 14'

Day 72 to 76

May 07, 2008

We arrived at Morehead City late in the afternoon and found a great spot to dock for $10 a night,  right in the middle of town.  It belongs to the Sanitary Restaurant, a Morehead City institution, and we ate there that night; it was clean as its name implies, and served great fresh fish and good homestyle cooking.  We dined with fellow cruisers from Marathon Key Florida, who were heading north for a summer of cruising the Chesapeake Bay.  They have been living aboard their sailboat First Light, for over 20 years, and invited us aboard for a drink after dinner, they were quite an education, full of top tips and wise words.  We suffered a little boat envy as it was so spacious and homely.   The main reason to stop at Morehead City though was to track down my long lost university housemate Angela, which thanks to google I did. It was great to catch up after 15 years over lunch, and later pizza at her house (being in a house was a novelty too) and we met her sweet son Jack.  


We spent 2 nights at the dock, hiked 6 miles to a sprint store to replace dickie’s cell phone that had disintegrated,  and left bright and early for a great day of sailing up the Neuse river and Pamlico bay.  En route we had a safety drill to make sure we could get our new lifejackets on quick, hopefully they will stay in their current pristine state and will only be used for drills.  After 65 miles we anchored in a creek off the Pungo River and had the place to ourselves;  we  jumped in the water briefly, before dinner and had an early night.  Another early departure and a long uneventful day through Alligator river had us at anchor in a sheltered spot called South Lake.  It is just south of the Albermarle sound, a wide shallow body of water that is renowned for rough conditions, but we were relieved to find it pretty calm when we crossed it the next day.  Later on we stopped at the Coinjock Marina to fuel up and managed to spend a fortune there in just a couple of hours, on charts for the next section of our journey, fuel and oil, food and lunch at the riverside restaurant.   We crossed into Virginia and anchored in Blackwater creek in the middle of a marsh for 2 nights as it was so lovely, the frogs at sunset were so loud we could hardly hear each other speak. Along the entire length of the ICW we have noticed that the osprey population is thriving, and it seems that the reason is the abundance of perfect nesting spots on the day markers that line the route.  Some stretches of the waterway have nesting pairs on every marker, and so we get a front row seat for their fishing, soaring and screaching.

We got up early the next day, only to found ourselves fog bound, so we had to stay put till it cleared after 10am.  Much of the route was a narrow landcut with huge tree stumps and debris on either side,  which was fine when we had the canal to ourselves, although it looked rather ominous.  Unfortunately while we were waiting for a bridge to open, a tug pushing a huge barge caught up with us, and radioed us to move aside while he passed ahead.  CRUNCH went Harmony into a tree log, not the nice soft landing of previous sandy groundings, but a dead stop and we lurched forward, and CRUNCH went Harmony as dickie tried to reverse off the first log.  We got back into the channel, once the tug passed on by without a worry, whereas we were worried sick that we had done some damage to the rudder, fortunately all was OK down below.   We then caught up with the barge and a bunch of other boats waiting for the next bridge and were relieved to be able to hang back while they all jostled with each other in the narrow basin before the bridge.  Another mile or so and another bridge just before a lock, and this time there were 2 barges, a bunch of sailboats and several large motorcruisers all bunched up together; the bridge tender was in a right panic as everyone wanted to get through and then pass through the lock, so we spotted a dock and tied up for the night, till all the chaos subsided.  

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N 34° 44' W 76° 48'

Day 66 to 71

May 01, 2008

After the bustle of Charleston we headed for peace and quiet, and what turned out to be one of the nicest spots we dropped anchor in, only in fair weather though as it was quite exposed to the ocean.  It was down Price Creek (MM 448) and within a dinghy ride of two deserted beaches on either side of an inlet, we swam from the boat as soon as we were settled, and then put the dinghy in and motored to the beach where we swam again.  We had the place to ourselves, apart from some campers who came by boat also.   The view from the galley was beautiful, as usual; we are very spoilt.  The next morning we got up early and were overwhelmed by tiny little biting gnats so we left quickly and continued north;   en route I saw my first bald eagle (I think) perched atop a tree but didn’t have my camera handy.  Later that day we also spotted a pirate ship crossing WInyah Bay,  the things you see on the ICW.
 
Next anchorage and 60 miles on we stayed in thoroughfare creek, and true to its name it was very busy, packed with kids in power boats and jetskis, but it calmed down after sunset.  Another 50 miles north got us to Calabash Creek just south of the North Carolina border where we squeezed into a small anchorage with 4 motor trawlers.  The next day, on entering North Carolina, we had several shoaling inlets to cross but thankfully we avoided the shallow spots.  Just before Southport NC and the Cape Fear river inlet, we stopped at a marina to refuel and decided to stay the night: long hot showers, laundry and a deli with great sandwiches, perfect.  
 
A long windy run up Cape Fear river and two more dodgy inlets later we dropped anchor at topsail inlet (MM263) just before sunset.  We left at sunrise to catch the first only-on-the-hour opening of surf city bridge which we made because the bridge tender was kind enough to delay opening by 5 minutes!  After that a rather rude motor boater sped by us and nearly swamped us with his wake, he was in a real hurry but for no good reason, as we caught up with him 2 hours later, at the next bridge which he had to wait for while we putted along at 6 or 7 knots: classic tortoise and hare scenario!  After that bridge he sped off, only to be stopped again a mile further on (hah hah). Periodically US navy boats block the ICW as the Camp Lejeune firing range straddles the ICW.  The chart notes rather disconcertingly that unexploded ordinance may be present in the ICW, and we could hear loud explosions going off in the distance.  Fortunately we only had to wait about half an hour till they stopped bombing practice, and then carried on with no further hitches towards Morehead city.
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N 32° 47' W 79° 55'

Day 63 to 65

April 26, 2008

We arrived at the Charleston Maritime Center mid afternoon, with strong winds and current, which made for an exciting docking!  The center is minutes from downtown and on the edge of the major shipping channel so subject to some big wakes, but also a great spot to watch the passing ships.  Harmony shared the dock with a huge graceful old schooner, the Spirit of South Carolina, and a water taxi and tour boats, so there was always something going on.  We walked all over Charleston, a lovely city on a peninsula with beautiful residential areas and historic buildings.  First stop was a restaurant for some She-Crab Soup, a local delicacy that we had sampled on our last trip here a few years ago, when we drove down to meet Brian and his ship R/V Knorr.  

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N 32° 38' W 80° 16'

Day 62

April 23, 2008

We left the Isle of Hope behind us in Georgia and headed north into South Carolina (SC), our third state.  Hoisted the main sail in St Helena Sound, and passed shrimp boats heading out to sea.  We found 3 beautiful anchorages for the next 3 nights in the South Carolina Low Country, up creeks Bull, Bass and Tom Pointe;  nothing but acres and acres of marshland and river as far as the eye can see. Dickie braved the water for a swim, hoping for a rendezvous with the many porpoise frolicking around Harmony’s hull, after which he donned his man-skirt (a kimono we bought in the bahamas)!  Just goes to show real men can where skirts (but only at anchor when there is no one else around).  Time for some more shore leave so next stop Charleston SC.

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N 31° 58' W 81° 03'

Day 59 through 62

April 20, 2008

Isle of Hope is a small  historical suburb of Savannah GA, tucked into a wide meander of the Skidaway river.  We spent 3 nights at the marina there and had a great stay.  The marina had 2 free loaner cars that we used several times to shop and track down parts (and an indian restaurant, yum).  We changed the oil, and replaced the engine blower that had expired, did loads of laundry and stocked up on food.   They also had bikes that we borrowed to cycle to 2 nearby restaurants, and explore the residential streets which were lined with spanish moss draped trees and beautiful southern style houses with huge shady porches.  We took the bus into Savannah the last night of our stay; it was hopping along the Savannah River front, bars a plenty, crowds of people milling around and river boats and ferries docked alongside, and music on every corner.  


Time for a progress report:   The ICW officially runs from Norfolk Virginia (Mile Marker (MM) 1), to Key West, the Southern most tip of Florida at MM 1243.  We bought Harmony in Highland Beach FL (mile marker 1044) and took her south briefly to Lighthouse Point Marina (mile marker 1052) where this blog began.  The first section of our trip (about 100 miles) took roughly 6 weeks (with our extended stay in Vero Beach  (MM 951) )!  However since leaving Vero Beach on April 4th, we have travelled 361 miles to Isle of Hope (MM 590) in about 2 weeks and are making much better progress; hopefully this trend will continue!
 
Next stop South Carolina!

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N 31° 47' W 81° 09'

Day 57

April 17, 2008

We made it to Georgia! We left Fernandina Beach and headed north, crossed many big inlets, passing through beautiful remote marsh land and around some of the many islands along Georgia’s coast.  Anchored in the marshes for 3 nights, 3 very cold nights, as the weather took a turn for the worse and we had to get out the fleeces and hats, and the winter duvet.  The ICW traversing Georgia is renowned for its many shallow spots, so we were particularly careful to time our passage at high tide, especially through places like Little Mud River, Jekyll Creek, and Hell Gate.  Thankfully we made it without a hitch.  Next stop Savannah GA, and the Isle of Hope Marina for some much-needed shore leave!  

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N 30° 36' W 81° 27'

Day 54

April 14, 2008

Life on the ICW can be a perilous business for a boat.  If Harmony could see all the wrecks we pass, their sails shredded, hulls exposed and decks awash, she would shudder as we do.  Our next anchorage about 30 miles north of St Augustine, was strewn with abandoned boats, it must be where local vessels sail to die.  One even sank overnight while we slept blissfully unaware; the previous night it was sitting very low in the water, but by the next morning in the dense fog, the only thing visible was the top of the mast. 

Once the fog had cleared we crossed our first major shipping lane (at slack tide), the St Johns River, so we had BIG boats to deal with as well as the usual stuff.  From there we headed for Fernandina Beach, and another 30 miles on, to the northern most point in Eastern Florida, and just south of the border with Georgia.

The town has a lovely victorian waterfront with stunning sunsets, the marina is right in the middle of things, and there is a REAL fishmongers right on the dockside; they sell only locally caught fish, so the selection is limited but super fresh, the staff are seriously salty, and they throw in a scoop of ice on top of your fishy purchase to keep it fresh.  They even have a shrimp festival every May, for good reason as the local shrimp is delicious. There was only one thing wrong with Fernandina Beach, and that was the stink!  South of the town is a wood pulp plant and when the wind is in the wrong direction you think you are going to puke if you don’t suffocate first! Fortunately the wind was usually favorable.

The marina has a field of mooring balls across from the town where you can tie up to for $15/night and dinghy in to enjoy the town.  What a deal, and what a relief.  No anchors to drag or get snagged, no bearings to take, no midnight sorties above deck just to check, and no narrow slips to dock in and expensive boats to avoid hitting… we slept better than we have in ages!  Three nights on ball #10 and a thoroughly enjoyable stay, next stop Georgia.

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N 29° 53' W 81° 18'

Day 49

April 09, 2008

We left the marina at sunrise after refuelling and stocking up on food and more budweiser.  We had read reports of more severe shoaling at the next inlet and so we spent ages studying current and tide tables and the charts, to work out the optimum time to pass through Matanzas Inlet.   All that preparation paid off, and/or we got lucky, as we passed through without a hitch, thank goodness. The ICW winds through many isolated areas of open marsh and rivers like Mosquito Lagoon, Cabbage Swamp and Alligator Creek, with not a mosquito, cabbage of alligator to be seen, but loads of porpoise and birds; it is quite lovely. 

 

Arrived in St Augustine, the oldest city in america, and anchored for the night after our longest day of transit 58 miles. We were knackered, all that fresh air and focusing.  It is a historic city with a restored spanish quarter and the huge Castillo de San Marcos overlooking the harbor; all of which we saw when we first visited there 20 years ago last February.  We rented a shack on the beach, back when we were kids, so long ago!  Im sure we looked out at the boats anchored here and dreamt of being on one of them; still hard to believe we actually did it.   If you zoom in on the map you can see the sailboats anchored.

 

We had a visitor that evening, a bird landed on the bimini top, covering the cockpit and pitter pattered around till he peered through the vinyl section at us.  Ive tried to identify it online, and it could be a snowy plover, but it could also be a common thrush, who knows.  He was not at all scared and dickie had him feeding from his hand in no time at all, it turns out we both have inner birders!  The next morning lying in the V-berth we heard the familiar pitter patter and there he was again, peering down at us through the open hatch above our heads; must have been looking for his breakfast.

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N 29° 09' W 80° 58'

Day 47

April 07, 2008


We left Vero Beach at sunrise and headed north; the wind was from the south and so we unfurled the genoa for the first time, hooray.  Whilst technically only motorsailing, it felt pretty good and we made better progress with a little wind power to help us along.  We anchored in the lee of one of the many huge bridges that cross the ICW, 38 miles north of Vero Beach. There Dickie donned his new wetsuit and jumped in to scrape Harmony’s bottom..
 
Another early start and 40 miles further north we anchored at Titusville, the closest spot on the ICW to the Cape Canaveral and the shuttle launch site. Unfortunately we missed the last launch by 3 weeks, next one not till May.  At anchor there were a few big downpours and some thunder and lightning, but nothing as scary as was forecast.
 
The next day we decided to head for Seven Seas Marina, just south of Daytona Beach, another 43 miles.  En route we came across a dredger in the middle of the channel at Ponce de Leon inlet; we skirted by but 200 yards beyond in the middle of the channel we touched bottom and stuck. After a few minutes, we discovered that if I ran forward and hung out over the bow (like in the titantic movie) Harmony could edge her way off the sand bar. The dredger must have missed a spot (or two as it happened). The same technique came in handy 500 yards further on as we found more skinny water (that is the technical term for shallow water) and got stuck again, but not for too long.   Somewhat frazzled, but pleased that we didn’t have to call for another tow, we continued to the marina and stayed for a couple of nights rest. It is an exhausting business!
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N 27° 39' W 80° 22'

Day 40-something

April 03, 2008

I discovered my inner birdspotter in Vero Beach.  Once Dickie fixed the outboard engine, we motored around the surrounding islands, binoculars at the ready, and saw several species of birds, mostly herons, and even oyster-eating racoons.  We celebrated my birthday in land-lubbing style with lunch at a lovely restaurant on the Atlantic, and swam in the ocean, finished off with a sunset birding sortie. 

We had a relaxing stay in Velcro Beach (as it is known in the marina) but it is time to go. Harmony is stuffed to the gills with spare parts (and full tanks of diesel), so hopefully the trip north will proceed with out any more hitches!.  FIngers crossed…

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