Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Now in Georgia!

Just a quick update and some pictures.

It seems that the slower the boat moves, the less time we have.


Passing Battery Point in Charleston, South Carolina.

On Sunday afternoon we arrived at Brunswick Landing Marina in Brunswick, Georgia.  Very nice facility with an excellent staff.  And a good number of boats either waiting to move South or here for the duration for one reason or another.  Mostly experienced Cruisers.

Our last few days in the ICW were a bit sketchy.  We were in the south of South Carolina and moving deeper into the hinterlands of the ICW.  Georgia is known for have the least maintained section with radical depth changes.  Plenty of shoaling, not helped any by the tides running up to nine feet.  Sounds like Maine tides, but there, the tides roll over rock and don’t push sand around.


Where's the water?

On Wednesday, we came across two power boats and a sailboat at Isle of Palms, hard aground.  It was dead low tide in Hamlin Creek and only 9:15, so we decided to do the prudent thing and anchored quickly in 10 feet of water to wait for some room to float by.  Once the power boats floated away, at about 9:45, we eased our way through with as little as 6.1 feet showing on our depth meter.


Plenty of beautiful spots, though.

Thursday was a short day for us to Beaufort, South Carolina where we tied up at the Downtown Marina for a day at ease.  


That's B-you-fert!  Not, Bow-fert.

A great walking tour of the Town took us to the National Cemetery,…


The National Cemetery established in 1864.


Contains soldiers from both sides of the Civil War.
This is the New Hampshire Veterans section.

the historic Episcopal Church,...


Historic Episcopal Church,...


… and Cemetery.

 plenty of great, Old Southern homes and the house made famous in the movie The Big Chill. 


The Big Chill.  Filmed here.

Dinner at the Old Bull Tavern was itself well worth the visit.


Candy Canes are out in Beaufort!


Hello, Tabby!!

Friday we were off the dock by 8:35 and hard aground at 1:00.  Fields Cut in the Wright River near Jones Island, South Carolina.  Just a mere 2 ½ miles North of the Savannah River.  We had heard two boats aground all morning; talking to TowBoat US and kibitzing with each other about their mutual dilemma.  By the time we arrived, one was free and gone.  The other was way out of the channel and not happy.  About two miles further on the TowBoat US sped past us on their way to the remaining powerboat’s salvation.  Minutes later, in the middle of the channel, we dropped from depths of 12 to 6 to 5 to 4.  Full stop.  Having no response to our radio hailing of the TowBoat US captain that just passed us (we knew he was probably busy), I plugged our boat and membership info into my Boat US iPhone App and hit the Call button.  Instantly connected.  The operator had our latitude and longitude called up on his screen.  He contacted our nearby Tow captain and within 10 minutes our Tow was at the scene.  A quick pull and instructions to hug the left side of the creek and we were on our way.  A bit wiser to the tidal vagaries.

We anchored at Isle of Hope, Georgia  and the next morning departed at first light at 7:05 knowing that we were just twenty minutes off high tide and needed all the water we could get South of the Savannah River.  We followed the same process on Sunday.  Both days we saw 12 and 10 foot depths at high tide, where the chart indicated those depths were to be expected only at low tide.  We saw plenty of 8s and 7s and 6s, as well.  Clearly, there were seasonal tidal issues being confronted.  Likely, all the water was being sucked up to New England for their anticipated Nor’Easter. 

Worse than the depths though, we spent these days either being pushed at 8.5 to 9.2 knots by a fast moving current, or turning a bend into a different creek and being slowed to 3.8 to 4.8 as we fought the same current moving toward a different drainage.  Very frustrating.


These two States had some timely "shovel-ready" projects,
since at least three expected swing bridges
have been replaced by big, new fixed bridges. 

But now, the rain and wind have gone.  Did I mention that on Saturday we had a 90 minute deluge that could have refloated Noah’s Ark?  Or convinced you to rebuild it.  That was also the day that the wind never dropped below 30 knots.  The Georgia sun is out.  The sky is blue.  We are working though a list of boat chores and work projects.  Eleven days on the ICW from Oriental and its good to be stopped.

Headed to NYC for Christmas (via Delta) and then we’ll be back to continue our Southern migration.  Happy Holidays, all!!


Nothing much to add from the demoted First Mate.  Water depths too ‘wiggy’ for me…Capt was on the wheel non-stop for the last two days while I asked if it had stopped raining yet, or what the wind was, or if he wanted gloves…really helpful stuff!  We’re using up on-board stores for food to be able to start 2014 with fresh long-term storage goods.  This marina is most likely the most ‘like-minded’ professional marina we’ve been in, with very friendly and knowledgeable office staff, lifetime cruisers, boat people who actually move about on their boats from anywhere you can name to places you can’t.  Free world-class laundry facilities, beautiful club house with socials regularly…and we’re right across from a state prison and an old historic downtown turned ghost town thanks to strip-mall boom.  You can certainly see the transition of a country’s economy travelling by water.  We’re eager to see at least two of our kids, and some warmer temperatures promised later this week.  We’re still sleeping with heater on all night and two blankets, not going above for coffee until the sun is well high – 9:30 or so.  For all that, there’s no shoveling, no windshield scraping, no white-knuckles behind a plow.  It’s a good thing!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The Warmth of the Earth!

How the warmth of the Earth can work magic. It's 8:25 AM on Tuesday and the heater has been off for 24 full hours now. Yesterday afternoon the sun was actually out. It was warm. Relatively.  Sunglasses were used.

The TPH Heater, though, ran for 19.75 hours and likely saved our trip, our marriage and our toes. Let's hope we don't need it again for a while.


Keeping the Cockpit warm!

Saturday night was spent at Wrightsville Beach. One of favorite anchorages since we weathered tornados there on our Northbound trip in 2011. Only six other boats at anchor. Uneventful, but good and snug before the nighttime rain.

Coming out of the long Wrightsville Beach channel on Sunday morning we took our first ICW bounce off the bottom as we turned South. We're in the lower Carolinas for sure.


That's Ocean across the skinny dunes

Sunday we met my nemesis. The tug Royal Engineer pushing a barge with a mountain of wood chips. When we first saw her, we thought a tug was towing a house. Then, … a mountain. Turned out to be 2,000 Tons of bark mulch. That's Four Million Pounds! Yikes! It was big.

And, unfortunately, we caught up to it. It was likely going no more than half a knot slower than us. Getting past it was neither easy or pretty. And no help from the tug captain. "Do what ya gotta do", is all he said. We just thanked God that trauma was over…we pulled off to anchor, later, the Royal Engineer glided past farther down the ICW…phew!


The Royal Engineer

Anchored Sunday night just over the South Carolina line. Our third time anchored in Little Creek, SC. A couple of casino boats call the place home. But Las Vegas, it is not. Quiet and pretty though.  I always loved South Carolina anchorages.


Crossing into South Carolina.  Warmer?

Awoke to fog so thick on Monday we could not see the other two boats at anchor, let alone the two red marks leading the way back to the ICW. But, by 9:00 we could see it lifting so we tried to make a go of it. Several swing bridges, the so-called South Carolina Rock Pile (at Nixon Crossroads, of course) and, What?!? my arch-nemesis, the Royal Engineer, again (!).

This time, passing Royal Engineer tested our (or at least, my) patience and fortitude. I lost on both counts. Despite sage local (meaning, on board) advice to stay put behind this behemoth, after slowing down for all of two minutes, I couldn't stand it no more.  I made my move.  Just as I pulled ahead, Tug captain calls over, “Endurance, you better move over or you’ll hit bottom”.  Thud, thud, thud.  We did.  In too close a proximity to the square bow of this barge.  (Read, are you kidding,?  We could get sucked under that thing…this is akin to a moped playing chicken with an 18 wheeler, no joke)  After regaining water (and speed), I went down for a nap.  Exhausted.  Strained.  No longer willing to (or to be allowed to) battle this giant. 


I hate that boat!!

Monday night was spent behind Butler’s Island in the Waccamaw River.  A seemingly deserted stretch of cypress swamps that once was America’s Rice Bowl.  Abandoned rice fields on both sides of the river.  Still alligators, as well (or so Active Captain cruising reports say).  As Tess was preparing dinner and Tony was ‘in the office’, Tess called out with notice that Royal Engineer was passing on the other side of Butler’s …headed on down the way.  Amen, so long, sayonara sucker!

We were expecting the worst weather of the week on Tuesday; surprisingly, it remained warm through the night and into the morning.  Overcast and windy, between 24 and gusting to 36 knots throughout the day.  A squall or two just for show.  Nevertheless, we made good time and except for the junction of the Waccamaw and the Great Pee Dee River at Georgetown, we were well protected (or, protected enough).  With Tony’s personal obsession (on guard for the Royal Engineer at every turn) most confidently (he hoped)  dropping his load at the paper mill in Georgetown, Tony triumphantly announced “it will be a GRAND day…I’m free!”

We passed through the Romein Wildlife Refuge just a buzz with all sorts of wading and shore birds; the Waucamau yesterday was resplendent; the occasional inlets giving us glimpses of the great Atlantic and the breaking waves on shore while we slide past live Oaks dripping in Spanish Moss.  The abandoned rice fields echo our recent trip to Vietnam and Cambodia, as they sigh and wave in the breezes acre after acre.  This part of the ICW is simply lovely…(especially if you’re a golfer).


Beautiful and graceful Egrets.


American White pelicans!


Of course, within a half hour of his “I’m free” pronouncement we hear a hail to the Royal Engineer by a boat wanting to overtake him.  Aaaah, Ahab, we are tortured men!  The ICW is a miracle of engineering and transportation, but it is literally a ditch dug through marshes, sometimes a landcut strewn with stumps and rocks, sometimes fairly straight, often times quite erratic and shoaled in….  so, once we spotted “that mountain, the Royal Engineer”,  Tess took command of the helm and we slowed to a crawl.  There was no way on God’s green and snowy earth we were going to pass him a third time and survive.  We spent an hour at 4 knots or less.  Purposely!  [truthfully, we were little affected by him on any of our days, but like Moby Dick to Ahab, the bastard was deep in the captain’s head!]  At 3:00 PM we pulled into the western branch of Dewees Creek.  Royal Engineer, be gone.  To Charleston. Or to the Devil.  Please don’t be there tomorrow.

Tonight's South Carolina Sunset.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Headed South! Again!!

We'll, we're off again. After a nice Thanksgiving at home, we left Wednesday for Oriental, NC. A long day. Twelve hours from our door to River View Marina (Car-Plane-Plane-Car). While we were exhausted from our last plane trip (48 hours from our hotel in Phnom Penh to opening the door on Gorham Pond Road; Bus-Plane-Plane-Plane-ten hour layover at Heathrow-Plane-Car), on a miles per hour basis, this trip was longer.

Endurance was in good shape though. Power still on. Bilge clear. Batteries charged up. Thursday was a work day. Checking systems. Stowing provisions and gear. Temps in the high 70s.  We actually started the trip by moving to the fuel dock and topping off the fuel tank. That, after spending an hour blowing out the fuel line vent to dislodge a wasp nest. It's always something.  Picture trying to clear your nose by bicycle pump through your navel. And, someone holds the tissue by bending like a pretzel out the living room window to reach the kitchen sink. Picture Tess, thinking this is fun.

River Dunes is a gorgeous place. We'll protected. If it wasn't closing in on mid-December, it would be a great place to spend some time.

Leaving River Dunes at 0744 on Friday, we caught up with s/v Lee Shore, an Island Packet 350 which had anchored out in Broad Creek on Thursday night. We travelled together across the Neuse River in deep, deep fog and into Adams Creek. Fighting wind (20-29 all day) and current, we rarely made more than 5 knots all the way to Morehead City. Thus, we lost two hours on our "easy" day. Lee Shore peeled off at Portside Marina in Morehead City, but we soldiered on toward Swansboro.  Last time heading south we stopped at the same place, anchoring during & after sunset, & Tony almost lost a thumb in the anchor rode. This was better, no injuries and plenty of light, but I'm thinking it's not MY favorite spot!

With opposing wind and current, we dropped the anchor and 100 feet of chain. Immediately the chain was under the boat and the anchor well behind us. After some twenty minutes of maneuvering on it, we were able to back down and confirm our security for the night. Sunset at 4:30. In bed by 7:30. But it stayed warm and we held like a rock all night.

Off the hook today at 0722 for another "easy" day to Wrightsville Beach.  The early morning fog blew away quickly. Easy to do with our regular 20-29 knots of wind. Again, we fought current at 5 knots or blew by at 8, depending on which side of each inlet we were on. Not much traffic. M/Y Small World out of Falmouth, Maine left her dock at Casper's in Swansboro after us, but passed quickly. We caught her at the Onslow Swing Bridge. But she made the 11:00 opening at the Surf City Bridge. We were ten minutes late so had a 50 minute wait for the Noon opening. No other traffic except local fisherman. And we seem to be the only sailboat out here since losing Lee Shore. Saner heads prevail on other boats perhaps, but they don't have secret stash of  fresh Vietnamese coconut toffee.


Capt. Buck and Miss MacKenzie headed North on the ICW



Today's schedule includes four swing bridges and a fixed bridge. Cooling down to the 50's in overcast skies and intermittent rain. It's not snowing though.  And, we'll explain the difference between Atlantic (brown) pelicans and Pacific (white) pelicans later. Dolphins are doing well, too!


If you look real close - at two o'clock - that's dolphins splashing.


At the Figure 8 Island swing bridge we came upon two more sailboats.  Small Canadian vessels that let us pass the bridge ahead of them.  We were on a tear to hit the Wrightsville Beach Bridge for its 3PM opening.  Otherwise we would have to wait till four.  We barely made it, blasting the last ten minutes at 3200 RPMs and hitting 9 knots.  Luckily, the current was with us.  The Canadians arrived 15 minutes later and faced a 45 minute wait for the 4PM opening…30 minutes of which were just cold rain.  By then, we were not only at anchor, but had Paula & Tim's propane heater toasting us up after a cold and damp day.  Thanks P&T!


Home, Sweet Heated Home!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Race to the “Pause Button” in Oriental.


Well, our first day out we made great strides despite the delays of Bridge openings and Lock schedules.  We anchored behind (South of) Buck Island. 

Up before dawn (which is what happens when the sun goes down at 7:15 in the evening and you are anchored far from civilization), there seemed to be no point in waiting around so we pulled the anchor up and were on our way before 0800.

With threatening skies and swells from the South as we entered open water, it did not seem likely that we would have an easy crossing of the somewhat notorious Albemare Sound.  While not great, it was uneventful.  Except for our passing of M/V Lady Catherine, the beautiful boat pictured below.  Tess hailed her for more details and learned that she is a 1947 Trumpy, built in Annapolis and chartering out of Newport, Rhode Island and Stuart and Ft. Myers, Florida.  Check her out at www.trumpycharters.com.  


M/V Lady Catherine

While our “sail” plan had initially looked at an anchorage at the bottom of the Alligator River, we arrived there by 1400 so decided to continue on.  That meant entering the 22 mile long Alligator River-Pungo River Canal.  A mere ditch really.  Nothing there.  (Except stumps!)  A boat ahead of us saw a Black Bear swim across his bow and exit stage left.  Another, with a 64 foot height, queried everyone else about the upcoming Wilkerson Bridge.  All ICW fixed bridges were designed at 65 feet.  The builder of Wilkerson made a one foot mistake.  The ICW Chartbooks note that Wilkerson can be even two more feet off from time-to-time (we are 62 feet, so we might squeeze through anyway and have not previously had a problem there).  So the afternoon drama for our last three miles in the Canal was watching the 64 footer as they approached Wilkerson and snuck under (after what appeared to be a great deal of hesitation; and rightly so).  When we arrived, the vertical height board at water level showed a 64 foot height.  Too close for comfort and a day’s worth of anxiety for more than one boat.

Once into the Pungo River, we realized that we were among the last few boats still moving that afternoon.  The rest stopped before or at Belhaven, while we crossed the River to Pungo Creek where we anchored now for the third time.  Anchor set at 6:19.  Below for cocktails at 6:20.  Rain at 6:21.  And it rained all night.

By Wednesday morning the rain had stopped and we were off before breakfast for a short day to Oriental, North Carolina.  It was like being in a caravan as at least ten boats headed out of the Pungo at the same time and stayed in line all the way to the Neuse River.  Though the sun did peak through, the wind piped up and we had a consistent 22 knots into the Neuse.  Many sails went up, but we were now keen to make our destination and left the Neuse at Broad Creek for the River Dunes Marina.

River Dunes is a new 1,700 acre single family home development (only about 120 of a possible 1200 homes built to date), with a man-made lagoon designed for a 600 slip marina (130 now in place).  A long, beautifully landscaped canal entrance off of Broad Creek might qualify this as the Venice of “Down East” (that’s what they call it) North Carolina.  Very nice.  At North Carolina prices, as well. 

This place has the amenities one would seek for a vacation getaway!  Pool, underlit at night, with fanned cabanas alongside; piped music ready for the next episode of The Bachelorette; exercise room; steam showers….and that’s all I saw on my way to the Laundry!  I never went inside the main buildings.  This is worth checking out again, but there is a monthly fee for the clubhouse amenities…however, the best amenity we received was the electricity for the heater.  Oriental wasn’t any warmer than the rest of the trip south, and in fact, colder than New Jersey at the last check.  No need for fans in the poolside cabanas this week.









Endurance will call it home for the next 42 days as we head back home, and elsewhere, for a short while on an increasingly complicated schedule. 


At Home at River Dunes

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

First Day on the ICW…a.k.a. Bridge anyone?


Well, … we are off.  Yesterday, we left Portsmouth, Virginia on the Elizabeth River at Mile Marker 0 of the Intra-Coastal Waterway.  Only 1,095 miles to go before we hit the Port of Miami.  It will happen.  Eventually.

This first day of the ICW is the single busiest day.  Portsmouth, Norfolk, Newport News is just crammed with military, commercial and industrial shipping, channels and congestion.  In addition to dodging that traffic, within the first 20 miles we had three railroad bridges, two fixed bridges, five lift or swing bridges and one lock to get through.  But by Mile 35 we had left Virginia and were cruising South through North Carolina. 

Having left Tidewater Marina at 0830, we were at anchor behind Buck Island at Mile 57 in Poplar Branch, North Carolina (with virtually no civilization in sight) by 1730 (5:30 pm to Tess).  A good start to a long trip.  Our day in pictures should suffice….


Milling about on the Elizabeth River waiting for the morning's first bridge opening.


Still milling about.  Not 9:30 yet.  About 14 boats wait to rush past as soon as she opens.


Gilmerton Bridge, our first, finally opens.


Then Steel Bridge.


Finally to the Great Bridge Lock where Tranquility's crew awaits a letdown.


It's a small letdown.  Only about one foot.  But a gratifying one.


Then the Great Bridge Bridge.


And, finally, the North Branch Bridge.


A bit of military training on the ICW.


And more.


The Eagle has landed.


Our anchorage.








Monday, October 21, 2013

Where is Asheville NC on the chart??? (Thursday, October 17 - Sunday, October 20)


Every now and again mountain nymphs wiggle into our consciousness calling for a visit.  With North Carolina claiming “the height of foliage season”, we jumped ship for a little R&R in the highlands of NC with Jill and Bill Schoonmaker.  “Mile Marker 65” is just now in Bill’s rearview mirror, and Jill planned a fabulous escape to celebrate friendship, courtship, architecture and gastronomy!


The Schoonmakers and Friend

The trek inland was a good 7 hour climb past marshes, rolling fields, acres of exploded cotton buds, grazing cattle and finally into the ear-popping Appalachians.  


Mount Pisgah National Forest from one of the Biltmore's many verandas.


And from the Biltmore's roof.

Jill found a little bungalow in the very Hipster and Aged-Hippie intellectual enclave of Asheville.  We were in amid trees and parks, and across from some very well mannered goats in the neighbor’s yard.  This was not going to be a boater’s weekend!

Friday’s activity:  The Biltmore Estate general tour with a special “Architect’s Tour” in the afternoon.  The Vanderbilt family fortune, built on the shipping and railroad industry boom, has left many glorious landmarks, but truly, the Breakers in Newport, Rhode Island DOES look like a summer cottage in comparison.  We spent eight full  hours at the estate, and could easily have spent another full day soaking in the rest.  By the way, at almost 180,000 square feet, The Biltmore is the largest private residence in the United States.  If not the world.

Views from the Biltmore's roof on the Architect's Tour...






Saving the vineyard and Olmstead’s landscape miracles for another trip, we sat on the veranda at the Biltmore Inn for cocktails and sunset.  It’s nice to feel like royalty now and again….


Royalty at The Biltmore Inn

Saturday we spent checking out the “what’s happening now” art and commerce scene in Asheville.  You name it, there’s a studio for it.  From boutique and high end clothing stores to artisanal coffees and organic goatmilk soaps….Asheville is vegan, gluten free, eco-forward…as Portlandia as Portland!

Dining was a treat.  Jill’s research and whimsy gave the four of us more than a few extra pounds, and some great memories.  Rather than give the mouthwatering details, find The Admiral, Seven Sows Larder, Tupelo Honey and most definitely, Biscuit Head. O.M.G.!


A Mountain Biscuit Recipe

Sunday we retraced our steps back to Norfolk, met up with friends Dennis and Kathy aboard Tranquility, and settled in for a final sigh over a weekend well spent.  Tomorrow, as Willie would croon, we’ll be On the Road Again….