Friday, December 26, 2014

Christmas in Orlando

Disappointment once again as Monday  came and went with the person doing the work on the boat “unable” to work in the rain and then came Christmas short days so a half day Tuesday when it was discovered the newly ordered chain didn’t fit. But thankfully Dave and Mary in the next slip had the appropriate size (unbelievably the manufacturer’s manual listed the wrong “short” link, and you would think between them, the marina staff, and West Marine someone could have figured the correct linkage spacing out.

   So in order to get away from this very frustrating situation, even though we had our “tree” up
on the boat already, we decided to invoke our motto “when the going gets tough, the tough get going”.

 In this case a trip to the fantasy worlds of Orlando. So realizing our boat would now not be ready for at least four more days if not more (now approaching the end of 3 weeks!!), off we went to Disneyworld and Universal Studios. Christmas Eve was spent at Universal Islands and Studios for a two park pass so we could ride the Hogwarts Express train between parks,

and go to the new Diagon Alley section. We covered a lot in 10 exhausting hours, ending the day in the New York section watching the Blues Brothers and a Macy’s parade.

 We are stayed at another pet friendly La Quinta right next to the upcoming large ferris wheel being built similar to London’s Big Eye. We are also just awed by the rampant consumerism and prices, such as $4 at Diagon for a small tub of ice cream or water or $16 for a video game at Dave/Busters, $25 for parking and a whopping $134 per person for park entry, but there is a certain Vegas style city that never sleeps excitement at the same time.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Two weeks in Brunswick and still counting

Our repairs have taken longer than initially predicted partly because damage to the boat from the pounding on the shoal we took had aggravated some additional issues that necessitated removing the propeller shaft and fixing the strut, and we had to order a new windlass that would arrive in several days, plus one of the guys working on the boat got sick for two days. So plan is that all will be finished today, Friday Dec. 19th, and the boat put back in the water to sit for a couple of days after which they will realign the motor again once the boat reshapes itself and we should be off again by Tuesday. So that’s two and a half weeks in Brunswick and instead of Vero Beach by Christmas it will be Fernandina, the most northern most of Florida cities. 

At least we have really gotten to explore this beautiful area,
 and play golf three times.  So here are a couple of scenes from that venue on Jekyll Island,

Including the bar at the Jekyll Island Club Hotel which was featured in a scene from the golf movie 'Bagger Vance'.

 And on our third visit witnessed their fine display of Christmas Lights

                                                                                    and the ICW side Rah Bar.

Meanwhile during our two weeks we have begun a study of fast food establishments, and some other local establishments. So far locally one of the best sandwiches was from Tipsy’s in Brunswick – a Green Gobbler (turkey, avocado, on grilled texas toast, wow), Hungry Hannah’s – average well cared for food preparation at an amazingly reasonable price (owner’s attitude is great as a sign proclaims they will not take your order if you are talking on a cell phone, preferring to wait ) . Others have been so far Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, Burger King, IHOP twice since we got bored with the continental breakfast at La Quinta accompanied by barking dogs and screaming children, local Fox Pizza that was better than the much proclaimed Moon Doggy’s pizza, Krystal Burger – sad imitation of White Castle; and saw an original MacDonalds layout,
to the point that one night we actually microwaved frozen tv dinners in the hotel room as a healthier alternative.

 As we were putting the boat in on Friday it was suddenly discovered by the marina that our existing chain would not fit the new windlass, and the amps required a new breaker (first question was of course why did this just get discovered on Friday rather than on Mon. when the unit arrived) so now a new chain had to be ordered and HOPEFULLY will be here on Monday and we can still make our departure Tuesday. If not then we will make do in Brunswick for Christmas. Tonight went on a three peat Sunday football watch at Marsh Grill and met Jimmy Orr at the bar,
Jim Orr on left and friend Larry at Marshside Grill
a received form the 1960s Baltimore Colts and two time Super Bowl winner, and again enjoyed the kitchen staff antics (one a Cowboy fan and another the Steelers).

Meanwhile the cats are still enjoying hotel life, and we put Christmas lights on the Balia to try to join in with the local boaters.

Merry Christmas to all

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Polishing sunsets and golf

 It turns out Pounce was more than stressed with a flare up of his food allergies necessitating a trip to an ER vet, but now four days later he is on the mend with medication. While boat repairs began we took some time to enjoy our coastal surroundings by playing golf at the historical Jekyll Island Club, once the most exclusive private club in the country and now an elegant hotel with resort cottages. Built in the late 1800s the founding members included names of Rockefeller, JP Morgan, Marshall Field.

 Jay enjoyed a nice rusty round, while Cindy was creating some other sport that was some sort of golf hybrid, on the Indian Mounds course – one of 3 on this quiet Island resort.

If there's rocker then Cindy will find it

We then enjoyed the sunset at the local 685 (that’s the ICW mile marker there) restaurant.


 Wednesday and Friday we worked on cleaning/waxing the hull to take advantage of the boat being out of the water, so between that and golf we are two very stiff people today. Today, Saturday we are venturing back out to sightsee on St. Simon, where last night we enjoyed another water spot sunset. Perhaps a repeat , from our first one on Wednesday, visit to Southern Soul BBQ where we enjoyed the best pulled pork sandwich ever at this iconic establishment featured on the Food Network’s diners and dives show.

Sunset on St. Simon Friday, we are thinking of doing an entire series of bar sunset shots

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Some unfortunate bad times amongst the good

So much for schedule planning as we have had several days of glitches, but are trying to make the best of the situations presented. Admittedly it has been emotionally difficult at times as the trip has presented a few more challenges than we anticipated. We arrived in Savannah to stay at one of our past trip repeat marinas Thunderbolt, where they deliver Krispy Kreme donuts to your boat early every morning.

 We had planned to spend 2 or 3 days there but ended up staying 4 as we needed to accomplish several things and then still have some time to enjoy one of our favorite southern towns. The first day we did errands of restocking including finding special kitty food and Christmas gifts. Then we really felt it necessary to spend half a day reviewing the next few days charts because of the detail required to negociate various shoaled areas, with such enticing names as “hell’s gate”, and planning to arrive at the correct tide time for some areas. The stress of navigating virtually constantly for 6 – 8 hours each day really makes us appreciate the wonderful sailing area of the Great Lakes even more, and we realized we needed to de-stress by staying put for more than two days.

 Then to increase our stress level Cindy’s leg vein issues reared their ugly head, probably due to the inactivity of standing or sitting for hours at the helm each day. With a history of DVT she headed in to a local vein center for an ultrasound to confirm a blood clot, and was put on blood thinners; then having the as always frustrating experience of trying to get a prescription filled at an “in network” drug store when out of town compounded by the fact that the physician wrote the prescription for the “start up kit” which the drugstore didn’t carry. And although the hospital drug store did have it, they were out of network and at $700 a bit expensive so it was back to the doctors office to get a prescription for the specific dosage redone so the participating pharmacy could process it. The office ended up given me a second sample so I could get thru the first two weeks of the drug start up to end the frustration after 5 hours of driving all over the place.

  That 4th and final day ended with a late afternoon bus tour of Savannah’s historic district and dinner at the famous Pirate House restaurant. The beauty of the live oak trees with hanging moss constantly awes, and Jay found a terrific ice cream place as always.

On Saturday the 6th with favorable calm weather we ventured out into the Atlantic and truly enjoyed the tranquility of not having to negociate potential dangers every bit of the way. The fog that we had 2 of the past 3 days lifted early, but then returned as we made our way back to the ICW coming into Sapalo River Inlet to complete our 50 mile day by anchoring at peaceful New Teakettle to await the next day’s rising tide through the difficult Mud River as the wind was going to pick up overnight making the ICW the better bet for Sunday to Brunswick than out on the ocean. So much for the plan.

  As we turned to enter the inlet the coastal fog returned, odd at 2 in the afternoon; but with radar to locate buoys, GPS, and “local knowledge” to “just follow the buoys in” (confirmed by a fishing vessel in the same area we contacted once we saw them on radar)we proceeded slowly. With only 3 more hours of daylight to get back in,  not enough to make it all the way to Brunswick channel another 35 miles away, we continued cautiously. We were in 14-20 ft charted waters but only about 100 ft of visibility when we ran aground on an uncharted shoal off “experimental shoal” about 100 yards further into the channel than expected but well to the correct side of the buoys.

 The beating we and the boat took was severe as several things went wrong. After our initial attempt to reverse off the 3 ft shoal failed, we set an anchor to prevent drifting more onto the shoal while we waited for the rising tide to help lift us off. A pan-pan was called in to the Coast Guard and a local vessel was headed our way to assist if possible, presuming they could even find us in the fog. Probably about 10 minutes into the wait, and maybe 15 more before we realized what had happened since we had returned to the safety of the cockpit as the boat crashed back onto the shoal lurching with each wave (thankfully the seas were only 2-3 ft). The cleat holding the anchor line had sheared off from the pressure so line was paying out and we were going more onto the shoal with each wave.

 Once we realized what had happened we began to take up the anchor line by revving the engine with each wave rise before crashing back down but making slow progress back to our initial anchor location. By that hour later , and about 70 hits on the bottom, the tide had risen enough that we were able to get off the shoal to deeper water. The local vessel, Good Buddy, that had come was too small to physically assist but stayed in the area in case the boat would have broken up and we would have had to abandon ship, and then helped lead us in the shortest direction to deeper water.

 The situation also literally scared the piss out of the cats, so we stripped the wet sheets off the bed and slept in the main cabin and guest room and tried to comfort ourselves and them as well as we could at our anchorage.

 Sunday we made it into Brunswick, and even though at the time the only visible damage was to the windlass which took a beating trying to pull us off the shoal we decided it would be prudent to have the boat hauled out and inspected. First task at the dock was laundry so we could have our bed back, and off to a stress relieving cheeseburger and football at a local sports bar that we realized we had visited on a previous trip, Marshside Grill.
So yesterday, Monday, we did so and discovered a bent rudder post with the packing around it destroyed plus fiberglass damage. So we began the process of filing an insurance claim and today find ourselves waiting for damage estimates and the final determinations by the surveyor/adjuster who arrived last night. So the kitties, and we, are recuperating at a La Quinta while the boat is on the hard waiting for authorization to begin repairs.

  So it has definitely been a very stressful week, and both Jay and Cindy are experiencing classic hyper sensitivity to even minor potential inconveniences resulting from a high alert status created by the grounding. Cindy has lots of bruises from the pounding, not a good thing to do when on blood thinners, and Jay got his hand caught under the anchor chain as he was manually lifting the anchor under those difficult circumstances. Patches seems, as always, to have forgotten the whole incident but Pounce is definitely still being more than usually skittish.

  Sometimes it’s hard to remain positive, and we have several times thought of going home, but try to focus instead on some of the positives in our decision making and boat handling capabilities even in those bad circumstances. We talk with other travelers and there are many stories of delays due to necessary repairs, but we just didn’t realize how frequent those events happen and thus hadn’t really expected it. The Mud River is one of the shallowest areas on the entire ICW and in our frame of mind it was nice Sunday to be able to follow “Sea Mistress” along the magenta line through the area, a boat that has made the trip several times; because if we had had a second issue that day I am not so sure we might not have given up. So sorry for the rather bleak blog but it is as much a part of our experience that we want to share with everyone as are the good times.

Monday, December 1, 2014

With the Wadey Bunch in Charleston

 Well we are almost on schedule for Georgia and Florida thru December. Friday we arrived at Isle Of Palms and joined up with the Wadey Bunch (Brad, Amy, Mason and Maddy Wade) for dinner.
And then they joined us for a short day of sailing in Charleston Harbor past Forts Sumter and Moultrie, several dophin sightings, a sunset hour of fishing on the dock and a spaghetti dinner overnight on the boat at Charleston City Marina.

 Sunday we cruised south again to a repeat anchorage on Tom’s Creek just off the Modesto River, with the cats alternating strolls on the deck and some amazing quiet. It is the first night that it has been warm enough, just reaching a low of 45 degrees, to be able to anchor out and we relished the opportunity to be part of the marshland beauty.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving in Georgetown

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone! Our greatest thanks was that the fog cleared Tuesday morning enough, that even with rain we could see sufficiently to continue the voyage to one of our favorite areas on the entire ICW. The Waccamaw River
has some development like around Myrtle Beach but some beautifully remote sections as well and we returned to one of our favorite marinas, Osprey. While they have discontinued the grill restaurant service, complimentary pastries and coffee are provided and they give out what is by far the best welcome bag anywhere with shampoo, laundry soap, beer caddie etc and at only $1 /ft – one of the best prices yet for dock space.

 Wednesday’s 30 miles to Georgetown was again most scenic even in the continuing rain and easy to navigate as the river widens. Once docked we enjoyed a riverfront late lunch at the 5 Rivers Tavern, and purchased several bags of the very special Carolina Rice at the
Rice museum as part of our traveling gourmet Christmas gifts to everyone this year, and bought a painting of a pelican to make the boat a bit more homey. The sun finally made an appearance for the first time in at least 5 days, brightening both ours and the cats spirits.
 Today it’s dinner at the Rice Paddy restaurant and a day of cable at the dock football. Go Lions!

Monday, November 24, 2014

The joys of unusual days and holding in Holden

After a rainy start to Sunday, and a loss by the Detroit Lions, the weather calmed enough for us to take a long walk on the beach; making all the trials and tribulations of past days all worth it.
Dophins were playing in the waves, while small pipers picked at the edges in the sand in search of food, and pelicans glided just above the water in flight. Absolutely magical and calming. The food at MOJOs was again wonderful and we met owner John, who is also friends of previously mentioned and missed Ann and Gary.

 Wind switched to the SW overnight and the swells in the harbor became even more rolling during the night; but we departed Monday am into the teeth of 15-20 for the short 2 miles back to the ICW and then south, planning to reach Little River. However the morning fog didn’t burn off and while we made it through Foley’s shoals at high tide just fine, by the time we were about 3 miles from the even more unpredictable Shallotte inlet our visibility had diminished to less than 100 ft. So while we could navigate the ICW channel with instruments only we were concerned about not being able to see the movable buoys marking the shoals at the inlet and so turned around and went back to Holden Beach Marina to wait it out and hope for better conditions tomorrow.
 Right now we are parked directly underneath a bridge on the gas dock and happy for the accommodations, even without power or water. And it isn’t every day you can experience a mostly empty plastic bottle of soda fall out of the sky and hit your boat, obviously some auto bridge passerby. 

Sunday, November 23, 2014

A few tough days on the ICW but Bald Head reward

Some people say sailing is long periods of monotonous yet relaxing time interspersed with moments of sheer panic/excitement/ terror. The past two days have been a bit more of the latter. Traveling south from Beaufort after a terrific shrimp and grits dinner at Front Street Island Grill  Within an hour 5 other boats had grounded even with our advance warnings on the radio , so at one point we considered creating our own marina right in the middle of the channel as several boats anchored waiting for the tide to rise further. We have frequently run across several instances of super low tides but this was the first we witnessed such drastic difficulties in the marketed channel. Most waited an hour until the tide rose a bit but since we were a bit more entrenched in about 3 ft of water, even the rising tide wasn’t going to be enough so we had to call for a tow – our first ever. 
we traversed numerous areas of significant shoaling, and as we approached Browns Inlet just a mile south of Onslow bridge, marker 61 we saw a sailboat apparently aground near the right bank with a trawler going back and forth along the bank apparently trying to assist. We saw the red marker, but a second temporary green was hidden by the sailboat so we tried to pass on the ocean side and went aground hard. This was one of the more unusually narrow turns as these markers were but 30 ft from the right bank and only 50 ft between them so apparently what was need was a quick zig zag through the only relatively 5 ft deep water.

 Three hours later than planned and as the sun was again setting for a cold night we docked at Swans Marina in New River, and then because of that days misadventure the next day was more stressful than warranted, as every time we got into an area of less than 8 ft we slowed to less than 4 mph (we had hit the day before at full speed and bounced 3 times), so the planned 64 mile long day seemed even longer. However, the other lucky side of the day was that we caught every one of the bridges that only open on the hour or half hour along Wrightsville and Bogue Sound in perfect timing, only because wind and ebb tide were at our back even reaching 12 mph at one point. And the reward was that we were able to make it in one day, thus spend 2 nights, at one of our favorite places – Bald Head Island, Cape Fear just off from Southport.
We love being here and having a fairly relaxing Sunday but miss the fact that our good friends Ann and Gary don’t live here anymore so we aren’t sharing this part of the trip with them. Good appetizers at MOJOs and back this afternoon to catch up on some football.

 Tomorrow more shoal areas that are some of the more difficult but we should be able to get there at relatively slack tide on the high side (it has been difficult to time exactly since there are so many areas of shoaling and so few daylight hours, so we can’t leave until at best 6:30am and currently much of the time high is 8-9a and low around 3p so just depends on where they are in our day’s plan). We are both beginning to see the advantages of heading out to sea but with just two of us a little bit more difficult an option to go 150 miles at a time. Still having fun but it is stressful and wearing more times than we had anticipated, and the cold weather hasn’t helped our spirits. Today a bit warmer but raining, same tomorrow and Tuesday.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Oriental and Beaufort

We returned for just one night to one of our favorite places on the ICW, Oriental, to the marina’s Tiki bar which we enjoyed briefly in spit of the cold temperatures. The best bath facilities yet were in Bellhaven, with towels provided and lots of bath amenities like hair dryer and clock radio for music, shampoo; but Oriental’s Marina is a close second.

 Enjoyed the first shrimp sandwich of the trip with southern style vinegar coleslaw at M & Ms
  after one of the more beautiful sunsets ever,
 We were able to sail most of the way from Bellhaven across the Pamlico and Neuse Rivers to Oriental as the wind had shifted to a more favorable 10-17 NW direction. On our walk to dinner we saw two river otters playing in the yacht basin.
After a bagel breakfast at favorite coffee spot "Bean",
it was on a calm Wednesday to Beaufort traveling the scenic Adams creek south a short 25 miles to beautiful Beaufort. On the way we saw our first dolphins first swimming alongside our vessel then the one traveling just behind us.

Our slip neighbor in Oriental, Matt and Kate who are Australians cruising for 3 years showed up across from us again in Beaufort and we all enjoyed the complimentary “wooden nickle” beer offered to slip renters at the Dock House restaurant, while we periodically checked our laundry progress.
  Still cold but with the sun out we get a few hours from 1-3p of relative warmth for the cats and ourselves to enjoy.

 Also docking here for the night was the Presidential yacht “Freedom” first commission I believe for Roosevelt.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Stormy layover in Bellhaven

With an unfavorable weather forecast and a night of 31 degrees we regretfully decided to abandon plans for Roanoke Island and headed straight south on the ICW first to Alligator River Marina, and then down the Pungo River and Canal to Bellhaven. Enjoyed a two hour sail across Abermarle Sound with following north winds and some beautiful marshland scenery but lots of narrow areas of tree stumps and shoals to navigate. Cloudy weather limited photo opportunities; but we do keep reconnecting with fellow travelers Express Mail and S/V Daruma both of whom we first met in Hampton and they are here in Bellhaven to sit out the high southeast winds and rain today for a more favorable wind direction tomorrow to Oriental.

 Our updated short term plan is 3 days in Beaufort and then the last 10 days of November or so cruising the Carolinas back to some of our favorite spots. Then December through Georgia and Florida with the plans about two weeks later than initially intended, to now cross to the Bahamas around mid Jan.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Really enjoyed the IMAX theater in Hampton that was showing “Interstellar” , a really intelligent and human interest message style sci-fi movie. Then Thursday morning we departed for a short day of 25 miles through the very busy Norfolk/Portsmouth area and seven or so bridge openings and one lock (a small two foot drop in comparison to the huge 40 ft drops on the Erie Canal) to Great Bridge, VA (sight of yet another battle). The military might of the USA was so amazingly in evidence as we travelled along the river and saw  at least 30 vessels from aircraft carriers to destroyers, passing by several areas with security patrols on the water. Some of the bridge tenders are wonderfully informative (although times of openings are posted they may change due to commercial traffic) with notifications of when the bridge will be opening announced on channel 13 while others in what can only be described as a bit of a power trip do not even respond to hailing. For a short while we travelled with fellow first timers aboard Express Mail, a Hunter 44, but they turned to go down the Dismal Swamp while we chose the Virginia Cut since our hope is to head a bit eastward out of the ICW to Roanoke Island. Much of the cut is beautiful but under cloudy skies less than spectacular in photos so only a few were taken.

 Speaking of power trip most of the folks traveling along the ICW are courteous but ever once in a while you get that self absorbed jerk, and yes usually a powerboat, that doesn’t pay attention to no wake zones. Then again what can you expect from a boat named Norma Jean with the deck female in furried cowboy boots from Ft. Pierce FL (coming into Coinjack NC).

 Arriving mid afternoon, we ate out early and had one of our best meals yet though was in at Great Bridge at “Kelly’s” – great quality meat cheeseburger with wonderful beans and rice/peppers & onions as a side, and lightly battered fried fish tacos, good service by a dedicated bartender and reasonably priced at $42 with tip with 2 glasses of wine. There is also a great walking memorial to the battle of Great Bridge between the marina and the restaurant that due to rain we only experienced as a passing glance.

  As soon as morning Norfolk rush hour ended allowing the bridges to open for boat traffic we departed in yet another cold morning of less than 40 degrees with long underwear on again for the 35 miles to Coinjack NC.  In this area we experienced some of the classic marshland beauty of the ICW but some narrow channels requiring constant attention. The artic dip is playing havoc with our intent to anchor out along the way as we need the electricity each night at a dock just to keep from freezing ourselves and the cats.

 Upon arrival at Midway Marina in Coinjack both kitties took a walk on the deck and along the dock with Cindy while Jay did laundry.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Solomons Island to Deltaville to Hampton


We decided to spend a second day, Sunday, relaxing in Solomons Island at beautifully landscaped Spring Cove Marina with a bike ride and a visit to West Marine to get a smaller halyard as the clutch’s teeth may have worn enough or the line has swelled so that getting the main down is virtually impossible without great effort. We visited the Calvert Maritime Museum which is for a small town absolutely wonderful to see the quality of the exhibits. They have reclaimed the Drum Island light
which is one of four remaining screwpile designs anywhere so that it is on display, plus a paleontological display of fossils from the nearby cliffs,
a bugeye fishing vessel, several aquarium specimens including a river otter; and most amazing a skeleton of a megaladon (an extinct 60 ft, 60 ton shark).
Closest restaurant Anglers provided a bit of an undesirably bright atmosphere with noisy bar, but a pretty good hamburger and some unusual and creative spiral curly fries.

Taken from the Wiens Lord Nelson "Fair Wind"
  Monday with an absolutely terrific weather forecast, after waiting for early morning fog to clear,
we travelled the 60 miles to Deltaville , past the mighty entrance to the Potomac River, and hands down one of the best marinas anywhere, Dozier’s. We lounged on the porch of the marina in wood rockers for an hour enjoying one of the most beautiful sunsets ever,
and then ate on board with most of the restaurants closed, but reconnected with Mike and Linda Wiens and dog Riley.
For one of the first times the weather was warm enough during our trip to sit on the forward deck out in the 65 degree sunshine. Upon arrival we could tell that we had crossed the line to Virginia and a more southern location as accents changed as well as the manners, more pelican sightings, and the beautiful marshlands of tidal waters with southern pines scenting the air.

 Tuesday regretfully needing to make some additional mileage south we departed in calm seas amidst an absolute crowded bay of fishing boats, traveling the whole distance under motor with building seas, patchy fog and drizzle, increasing winds to Hampton Roads. The river is the sight of the historic Merrimac/Monitor Civil War battle and numerous museums. We plan to stay two nights to prepare our plan for the next week on the ICW starting just across from us on the James River in Norfolk. Great pizza dinner tonight at Venture restaurant with a wonderfully balanced appetizer of just spicy enough meatballs with a sweet sour thai sauce, basil and fried onions on top.

 In addition to the above mentioned fishing frenzy of boat dropping chum and circling to net their catch, we have witnessed caravans of large fishing vessels traveling everywhere along the Chesapeake and more crabpots than we could ever count showing up in the most unusual and unexpected location; so a sharp watch has constantly been at the helm. The cats are still mostly enjoying their days on the boat, and as we are the time spent with them