Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Charleston Maritime Center - Last day

Always an attraction in Charleston
After using the free laundry, our goal was to do all the things we like to do in Charleston. The marina is within 10 minutes of the downtown area. It's the main attraction of the marina location. it's unfortunate that they have all the construction but today it was no problem. They only pounded away for less than an hour all day and they stop by 5:00 pm anyway. 

Ann gets her Chico's fix at the best Chico's store anywhere on the east coast. Meanwhile, I visited the Apple store but didn't see anything more I needed. I had just bought the iPhone 11 but I was up to date anyway. 

We always eat at Hyman's
The last stop was at Hyman's restaurant which is actually more of an institution in Charleston. They've been around since the late 1800s and there's a reason they have been so successful. Do all the tourists go there? Sure. But the food is good regardless. Where else does the owner personally greet every patron at their table? If you're not satisfied, you can tell the boss yourself! We had the shrimp and grits, of course, preceded by an appetizer of fried green tomatoes - a southern staple. Of course, they also served boiled peanuts, done right - not over cooked and soggy like some places. Topping that off with hush puppies made a great meal. We just had the appetizers portions, the full dinners were way too much!

On Wednesday, we're off to B&B Seafood and hopefully, some fresh shrimp. Then it's on to Windmill Harbor the next day. We are heading south!

Monday, October 21, 2019

Charleston - at the Maritime Center

An early morning start!
We left just as the eastern sky showed light but before the sun came up, it was 7:00 pm at Georgetown. We were headed to Charleston through the notorious shallows of Minim Creek, McClellanville, and Isle of Palms. Now we knew that the Isle of Palms had been dredged and that part of McClellanville had too but Minim Creek had not been touched.

We were due to arrive at Minim Creek at exactly dead low and we (I had another boat following me) had to hit a very narrow slot for the best water. There were many such narrow spots where the difference of 30 feet laterally could mean 2 feet less water. Even hitting the slots exactly, the low water I recorded was just 6.1 MLLW. So if you had a 6-foot draft, you could have gotten through at low tide by paying careful attention to the USACE surveys. Or, you could just download my track and follow it for the same result. By the way, the USACE surveys shown in Aqua Map matched my depth sounder within a few inches.

0.8 miles to go! (to McClellanville)
We found the dredge was within 0.8 Nm of reaching McClellanville! The notorious shallows of McClellanville are almost behind us! That last 0.8 Nm still contained 5.2 MLLW spots until you finally reached the dredged part. There are still sections between Minim Creek and Isle of Palms not dredged and you need to be on your toes and follow the USACE charts (or my track).

Our reception at the Charleston Maritime Center was the pounding of this steel beam, all day long
The reason for our early start was to reach the Ben Sawyer Bridge before 4:00 pm when it closed for 2 hours. With our early start, we were there by 2:00 pm. So it was onward to the Charleston Maritime Center which we thought would be crowded with boats. We were surprised to see we were one of only five boats in the marina, there were many empty slips. Then we learned of the reason for the scarcity of boats. They are pounding in the steel foundation pilings for a huge, new museum next to the marina office building. They work from 8:00 to 5:00 and it makes a terrible racket, very loud. I didn't know of this when I made the reservations and I would not advise anyone else coming either until the foundation is laid - which may take months. They have a lot of pilings to pound in.

It's quite a project. It seems expensive to build a raised structure for a museum.
We will be here another day and then head south again if the weather holds.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Georgetown - we see the wooden boat show

The boats were just beautiful to behold!
The trip down the Waccamaw River was uneventful, lots of water. That is, until we reached Georgetown and only found 6.0 MLLW on the approach into the harbor. It was the shallowest water we saw all day. We had 4 ft of tide at the time so it was no problem.

The one would be nice to own but we wouldn't want to get it dirty by putting it in the water
We arrived in time to walk through town and see the wooden boats on display. They were beautiful but not practical for our use. The hours spent in building them does not compute for me but I can see the attraction for some. They are works of art.

The Harbor Walk here is nicely presented with restaurants, shops and hotels.
Our challenge on Monday will be reaching Charleston in one day, about 55 Nm away. Since the Isle of Palms has been dredged, that's no longer a concern but we still have to get through Minim Creek at low tide and then through whatever part of the McClellanville shallows not yet dredged. We will start out at 7:00 am in order to have a cushion on the 4:00 to 6:00 closing time on the Ben Sawyer bridge. By leaving at 7:00 am, we hope to reach the bridge by 2:30, at least that's the plan.

We plan on a two day stay there before continuing our journey south.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Osprey Marina - at a dock in rain, Aqua Map Tutorial

Gathering for the Aqua Map Tutorial on a rainy afternoon at Osprey Marina
Saturday was the day of the storm. Mostly, it's just rain but lots of rain. It started around noon and is due to continue until Sunday morning at 10:00 am or so. We are just waiting it out at the fuel dock but we do have electricity so we're nice and warm.

Poor little guy got run over by a car
Meanwhile, since nobody had pressing business during this rainy day, I decided to give a tutorial on the use of Aqua Map Master at the helm. I had about a dozen attendees for the 1.5-hour session. Aqua Map is much more powerful with many features that most people are not aware of. We had a lively discussion. There is tremendous inertion against trying anything new in the age group typical of boaters on the ICW. However, with the demonstration of great, new capabilities, it is attractive.

Holding still for the operation...
After the presentation, I noticed the dockmaster at the welcome desk with a turtle in hand. Upon a closer look, he was repairing the shell of a small turtle that had been run over by a car. Evidently, this has happened before and they have a proven procedure for the repair. It consists of using JB Weld adhesive.  The desk manager held the turtle as the dockmaster applied the adhesive. Hopefully, it will work as in the past.

The operating materials...

The rain is due to stop later Sunday morning and then we will move on to Georgetown. From there we are planning a long day on Monday to reach Charleston for two days. We will pass through McClellanville on a rising tide but it will only be about 2 ft, it should be enough. We have to make the Ben Sawyer bridge before 4:00 pm when it closes for two hours to ICW traffic due to weekday traffic.

Friday, October 18, 2019

Osprey Marina - Cool nights

It really is a nice marina, calm and protected by high trees on all sides
The marina here is full. All the fuel docks are occupied, all the slips have boats - it's time for more expansion. I'm told the area used to be a quarry that was later connected to the ICW and then flooded and made into a marina. It's also a freshwater marina, not brackish so it doesn't encourage salt water vermin on your hull.

We had visitors off the back of the boat - no doubt looking for a hand-out
I spent the day putting a presentation on the status of the ICW for the Snowbird Rendezvous seminar session scheduled for Saturday night. It has all the latest news for those heading out for points south on the ICW. It's been a great year for dredging but there are still shallow spots to avoid. There are ways around the shallows but you have to know how to navigate them.

Notice the weld, they had to add height
to the pilings when Florence raised the water
level above the old pilings
Saturday looks like a rain and wind day. The storm that started out in the Gulf of Mexico is headed north across the Florida peninsula and then up the east coast, right over the top of us. It's not a hurricane but it will bring high winds and heavy rains. Oh well, we'll sit it out here at Osprey. We have electricity, so far, and it's nice and cozy. We plan on reaching Georgetown on Sunday and then try to make it all the way to Charleston on Monday, a 55 mile trip! For the next day, we'll just watch it rain in the comfort of a heated cabin. 

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Osprey Marina - at a dock

This is Barefoot Landing where we used to dock and explore the shops, but no more.
The dock has been converted to small boat slips - does not look like a very smart move, some people never learn
There are some marinas that are icons on the ICW and Osprey Marina is at the top of the list of places you want to stop at. The first attraction is the price, only $1.00/ft! Furthermore, if you stay more than three days, then for the fourth day on, the price drops to $0.26/ft! Pump out is free and the price of diesel was only $2.649/gal, taxes included.

You get a welcome package upon arriving - and this at $1/ft!
The docks are new ipe lumber, first-rate and they even have a welcome package consisting of locally made pepper jelly, a clip for closing opened bags, an insulated holder for drinks, pecan twirls, honey bun, and even a whistle. They have well-kept showers and two washers and two dryers with a table to fold laundry on. The WiFi is free, of course, and I've measured 10 Mbps at my boat.

Make your own coffer and partake of the free iced tea, already made
On top of everything else, it's surrounded by trees that give the best protection from storms as anywhere on the east coast, zero fetch and very little wind action. Honestly, is there any better marina for the value on the east coast? I can see why the place is always so full.

This is not hard to take
Meanwhile, we passed through Lockwoods Folly and Shallotte this afternoon with no problems following the GPX routes, at least 8 MLLW in the shallowest spots. I uploaded today's track for others to follow if they want.

There is a storm coming and it's due to hit us on Saturday with gale force winds along the coast. We'll be very snug here and move again on Sunday after the storm passes by. We hope to reach Charleston by Sunday night.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Southport - We get our outboard fixed!

Jim and Eileen are selling their boat PDQ powercat and are in the market for a new boat,
 I suggested this Hinckley - but it's rather expensive. If you are in the market for a PDQ powercat, give me a call.
When we arrived yesterday, a Zimmerman Marine came to our boat to remove the outboard for cleaning and he returned it to Fleetwing around noon, that's great service! I had never been to a Zimmerman service marina before, it was a great introduction to their customer service. They have service centers up and down the ICW, convenient.

We made use of their laundromat, two washers and two dryers. We made runs between the heavy rains accompanied by 20 plus kt winds. We were happy to be docked in the bad weather.

Nice setting at the Provision Company
Jim and Eileen invited us out for dinner. They took us in during hurricane Matthew when we were docked at St James Plantation Marina. Safe in their condo, we watched the fury of the hurricane's eye pass right over us. Ever since then, we've always stopped to renew our friendship. We had dinner tonight at an excellent waterfront restaurant, The Provision Company. For $16 each, we had a three crabcake dinner with two side dishes. The crabcakes were all meat, no filler.

You can dock your boat overnight after Labor Day if you have dinner at the restaurant
The restaurant has docks for customers and after Labor Day, they allow boats to spend the night at no charge other than having to buy dinner at their restaurant. They will be closing November 5 for the season and will reopen in the spring.

We are headed out Thursday morning for Osprey Marina, passing through Lockwoods Folly, Shallotte, and the Rock Pile along the way. The rain has cleared out and any winds are due off land from the northwest, a good direction for traveling along this section of the ICW.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Southport Marina - Getting our dinghy motor fixed

Southport Marina is the home of Hank Pomeranz and his nightly briefings on weather and what's ahead going south on the ICW. If you stay in Southport Marina, be sure to atend!
The ride today from Surf City to Southport was a study in how to avoid shallow spots. There are many, many areas of 5 MLLW right in the middle of the channel. There are paths around those shallow spots if you know where to go. On the track I took, I found nothing less than 8.5 MLLW and I uploaded that track to bobicw for anyone to use.

R122A at Masonboro was pulled out of the channel (as marked
on NOAA charts) and parked by the nearby docks
We had a sleigh ride down Cape Fear River. We topped out at 10 kts which is always nice, especially with no wind. Our luck will run out on Wednesday when rain is predicted all day long so we took a dock at Southport Marina for two days to ride out the storm. Meanwhile, Zimmerman Marine is repairing my dinghy motor so I can take Hoolie ashore when we anchor.

The bridge in Snows Cut is shown here with a
1 ft tide, it's definitely not 65 ft at high tide
Southport is also the home of Hank Pomeranz who give nightly briefings on the weather ahead and the things to look out for on the ICW south of here. It's a very popular stopover for those heading south for the winter. We will definitely be stopping here again.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Topsail Island Marina at Surf City - at a dock

The fishing pier survived all the hurricanes
Heavy rain was predicted for Monday morning but it apparently came earlier than expected. We had lightning and thunder all night long with heavy rain. Hoolie, our Brittany, did not want to be alone and climbed into bed with us. He usually sleeps on the floor but with thunder and lightning, he did not want to be alone.

This is the new cut to the ocean on the approach to New River by G65A
By 7:00 am Monday morning, it had moved out to sea and we took off for Surf City. Along the way we had to pass through the shallows by Spooner Creek (8 MLLW) on the GPX line, Browns inlet (8 MLLW minimum on the GPX line), and New River (9 MLLW on the GPX line). The challenge at New River was the 2 kts of current pushing you sideways so you had to crab through although I kept the speed at 7 kts to minimize that effect. The GPX routes are good, it's very easy to find shallower water!

"I'll have that fillet"
Surf City has recovered from the hurricane of last year. Everything looks new and fully functional. The marina here, Topsail Island Marina is not very big, there's only room for 3 or four boats. However, the ice is free and so is the electric. It's $2/ft including tax but everything else is included. I did not look at showers or heads, we don't use them anyway. The free WiFi topped out at 100Mbps!

Nice docks
One of the attractions is the fish market right next door to the marina. We walked over and bought a pound of grouper and Ann fixed it up for dinner. We would rather have fresh grouper than walking over to the restaurant although they do have an excellent one here, Daddy Mac's .

On Tuesday, we're headed for Southport and, hopefully, to get our outboard repaired. Fingers are crossed.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Home Smith - Can't get outboard started

We say goodnight to Homer Smith
The outboard motor won't start. For someone with a pet to get to shore that likes to anchor out, that's a big problem. I brought on the problem all by myself. I had Fleetwing hauled last May and didn't empty the tank before putting the boat up for the summer on land. Over the summer, the outboard sat on the aft rail in direct sunlight when the temperatures reach the 90's many days. This problem happened once before when the motor sat on the aft rail in Titusville (facing south) for four months. For that incident, I had the carburetor cleaned in St Augustine and it was fine for the rest of the cruise. The problem I'm having now sounds just like the same thing. I tried carburetor cleaner by spraying it in the ports but got no results. I plan on stopping at Zimmerman's in Southport to get it cleaned.

We made use of Home Smith's free courtesy car to provision for the rest of the trip south. We bought massive amounts of groceries and now we're stocked for most of the trip to Titusville.  The weather is a little iffy but the rain, if any, is predicted to just be in the early morning. We would like to reach Topsail Marina in Surf City which would stage us for the trip to Southport the next day. The current is ebbing in the afternoon that day with light winds so it ought to be fine.

Homer Smith's clubhouse to  be
Homer Smith is still expanding. He added the 60 ft ipe wood floating docks last spring and now he's building a proper clubhouse. It will have three washers and three dryers, three showers with one being handicap, a kitchen for transients, lounge, and even a work area. It will be a two-story affair with an elevator. Tony thinks he can do it in three months but it will probably take longer.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Homer Smith Marina in Beaufort, NC - at a dock

Our traveling companion for the last several days - Highlander
We had a day on the Neuse that will never be equaled again. It was glassy calm with winds of less than 5 kts. From past experience, the Neuse can equal the Albemarle in nastiness. It is shallow and it has a very long reach for the waves to build up. However, they can't build without wind! The large bays are behind us now, the rest is mostly protected waters although Cape Fear River can be bad if try it with wind against the tide.

Fresh filleted fish
We are now in Homer Smith Marina on one of their 60 ft docks which are a pleasure to tie up to. They have free laundry and if the fleet is in, you can get shrimp and the fish of the day. We will take advantage of the free courtesy car to get groceries on Sunday so we can stock up for the rest of the trip south.

Red Snapper, outstanding fish for a dinner

There is quite a community here of long termers and we shared happy hour with our neighbors. It's a nice group of people. It doesn't hurt that the weather has turned warm and sunny without rain!

Friday, October 11, 2019

RE Mayo - at a dock

This guy is right behind us
Finally, finally, we made it through the Alligator River swing bridge! They did the first opening last night at 5:00 for a north bound barge which proved that everything was working as expected. The bridge engineer, who I've come to know, held a special opening at 7:30 am just for those on the docks at Alligator River Marina who had waited so long to get through. Out we filed and lined up for a mass exodus. The bridge opened as promised, we all went through!

Wilkerson bridge is always a tight fit - here it is only 63 hight
It was a great day to travel with north winds, no rain, and full sunshine. We made it to RE Mayo by 4:20 pm and got a dock for $0.40/ft. For our dock, there was no electricity and no water but that's okay since we were only going to be there one night. The docks here are not for everyone. They look broken down, there are two outhouses to serve as transient bathrooms and there are no showers. If you want all that stuff, you go elsewhere.

This is why you need 17 inch round fenders along
What does attract us are the flash-frozen locally caught seafood, especially the shrimp and scallops. They are packed flat so they fit in the freezer without any wasted space - and they are good! They also feature a heavy-duty marine store with items you won't find elsewhere. We're happy with the stop and always look forward to restocking our freezer with their seafood.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Alligator River Marina - Last day (we hope)

What are they looking at?

Lots of crabs to look at
The marina is a haven for crab boats. They come and go all during the day. There is a young couple with kids that went to investigate the latest catch of crabs. They were fascinated with the blue crabs. It's always a wonder to watch kids and their surprise and appreciation of everything that's new to them. As adults, we tend to lose that sense of wonder as we grow older. It was fun to watch. 

The first barge through in over a week!
The big news of the day was the progress on the repair of the bridge. They were successful in getting it to open using the backup system and they let a barge through than had been waiting for several days. Our turn will come Friday morning at 7:30 am for the boats in the marina. Later on, there will be a limited schedule published for the bridge operation until the primary system that was rebuilt is installed, probably in a couple of days. The limited schedule is not official yet but will probably be something like 9:00, noon and 3:00. 

We will head out at 7:30 with the rest of the marina crowd and likely reach RE Mayo for the night and, hopefully, Homer Smith the next day for a two day stay. Then we'll look at the weather and decide our next stop. 

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Alligator River Marina - things get dark

Well, there's still room, so far.
We arrived here Monday but some have been here since Thursday waiting for the bridge to open. Today was supposed to be the day they first tried to open the bridge as a test. The test failed. The bridge engineer will not promise any date and now it's very open-ended. In truth, we have no idea of when it will be repaired. There are a dozen boats piled up in the marina (but there's still room for a half dozen more) and the mood is not optimistic. The bridge crew works from morning to 7:30 but are now looking to Thursday for even a test run. All they say is that they are "working on it".

The dark picture matches our spirits
Meanwhile, life goes on and we did a laundry today. The marina has two washers and two dryers but unfortunately, none of them worked! You only found that out by throwing your laundry into the washer only to find out that it would not pump out the water. So now you had soaking wet clothes which we hang rung to put in the dryers. Just like the washers, they were nonfunctional. What to do? After a call to the manager, we were taken to the residence house and finished the washer there - but only after finding the dryer there was also nonfunctional - but al least that was fixable by unblocking the exhaust tubing.

In the middle of all this, I gave a 1.5 hour presentation on the status of the ICW south of here to a group of boaters similarly stuck north of the bridge. So we are all waiting. I saw a post today asking whether we thought the bridge would be fixed by the time he arrived in mid November!

So we wait and wait. There is an option to go around by the outer banks but it's a big detour and not possible with strong winds. Towards the end of this week, it becomes a possibility. It's a daily wait and see, ugh.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Alligator River Marina - Out for wine

Can't go in high winds, might lose them overboard
I decided to hold a "Going South" presentation this Wednesday at 2:00 at the clubhouse here. Everybody in the marina signed up and I updated all my charts for the event. I will cover all the latest things to be concerned about (and how to become unconcerned!) on the trip south on the ICW.

The iconic lighthouse of Alligator River Marina
Meanwhile, not only are the boats piling up since nobody can get through the bridge, but also large windage structures are parked in the Alligator River Marina parking lot. Today we had three pre-fabs parked because the winds were too high for a passage over the long bridge. They will probably be here Wednesday too since there's no letup in the wind predicted.

We went over for wine with Dixon and Kiki and traded stories of all kinds, very enjoyable. They had nice wine which we always enjoy. We also heard that the bridge is due to try an experimental opening sometime on Wednesday which bodes well for a Thursday return to normal, we hope.

Monday, October 7, 2019

Alligator River Marina - at a dock

Alligator River Marina is not as full as I expected. There's room for a dozen more boats
The forecast was for higher winds than we wanted but we started out anyway since the rest of the week had winds of 20 to 30 kts with higher gusts. As it turned out, the crossing was very smooth. The winds stayed around 10 kts and we had a level ride.

This Coast Guard crew was unaware that the bridge was closed (when I asked when it would reopen).
The problem, of course, is the Alligator River Swing Bridge. It is close to navigation with no firm uptime. I found the cellphone number of the engineer responsible to repair the bridge and gave him a call. He replied that the earliest date for the bridge to return to operation would be Thursday and that was optimistic! Evidently, there's some part that has to be manufactured from scratch since there are no spares and it's going to take a few days at least.

We're tucked into a slip and not our usual spot on the facedock due to their expectation of more boats coming in.
Meanwhile, we're prepared to wait a while. Going outside through Manteao was not an option for us given the three-day forecast of 20 to 30 kts winds with higher gusts! In cruising, you just can't have a fixed schedule! You never know what's in store for you - and perhaps that's part of the attraction.