Monday, April 30, 2012

Elizabeth City - At a dock but not by the Rose Buddies

Coming sideways into the pilings - ouch! If hit too hard... (sail is in now)
"Let's take a face dock on the north side of the bridge so we'll be ready to go int he morning". "Fine, let's go, I'll approach the dock slowly".  "Hum, we seem to drifting sideways to the dock rather rapidly..." "Krunch, a rather hard landing against the face dock" "Quick, let's put in the fenders against the pilings" "Seems awfully hard to push the boat away from the dock, the wind's not that strong" Looking up for the first time, "Crap (or words similar), I left the mainsail up!" "No wonder the boat is hard to move against the wind!"

Rose Buddies roses for visiting boaters
It is not common practice to dock a sailboat with the mainsail up! We had sailed for about half the way to Elizabeth City and forgot all about the mainsail being deployed, groan! Once pulled in, the boat could easily be managed for fine tuning the fender placement.

There were high winds predicted for the usual docks at Elizabeth City on the south side of the bridge.We've learned that with a south wind like tonight, it can get very rocky with the wind driven waves rolling all the way down the river and against the docks and bulkhead and reflecting back for a second lick at the boats. So we decided to duck through the bridge and dock against the bulkhead on the other side, totally protected from the south waves and wind. The downside is the absence of any facilities, no water, no electricity but also no charge. It's part of the tradition of Elizabeth City and the Rose Buddies, a group of people that greet boats and host a welcome party everyday in town at the free docks there, very friendly.

On Tuesday we're headed to the welcome center on the Dismal Swamp Canal before continuing the next day to Hampton, Virginia.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Alligator River Marina - at a dock

Wow, found under a fender - by Ann!
We spent a quiet night at anchor and leisurely left around 9:00, no rush. The Alligator-Pungo Canal is as straight as an arrow, it disappears into infinity as you look ahead. It's deep and wide so there's no stress in motoring along.

We like to stay at the Alligator River Marina since it's a convenient halfway point between the Pungo River and Elizabeth City, our next stop tomorrow. We needed fuel so we pulled into the gas dock and filled up. We couldn't stay there for the night since there may be other boats that needed fuel later on. When moving on a face dock with pilings stuck out (the first objects to meet the boat when docking) my practice has been to wrap a fender around each piling I'll be against to prevent the chance of boat damage. So I went about picking up fenders off the boat to do just that. Pretty soon I hear Ann exclaim, there's a snake here! He had been hiding under one of the fenders I had picked up, I hand't noticed him. He was only about 2 feet long, a pretty fellow but sure looked menacing. We couldn't figure out how he ever got on the boat?! The dockmaster asked if we had passed under any trees? No, we replied  but we did pass under several bridges, could we have missed a falling snake?

Over the side for you!
I got the boat hook and returned him to the water. According to what we could find, he was a North Carolina Northern Water Snake, non-venomous. However, he sure looked like a snake you didn't want to mess with!

Hoolie was fascinated
After that bit of excitement, we docked without further mishap and took Hoolie for a walk who spent time chasing birds of a type I hadn't seen before. It would run, stop and sit in the grass, run, repeat - Hoolie was fascinated.

We're headed for Elizabeth City on Monday across the Albemarle Sound with winds predicted to be 5 to 10 kts out of the east, perhaps we can sail for a change?

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Pungo River - At anchor

All by ourselves in the Pungo River anchorage
We awoke to 25 kt winds this morning! We were expecting 10 kts or so but Mother Nature had other ideas. Looking at the radar we could see a collection of storm clouds off to the east and we were getting the back wash off the system from the northeast, a bad direction for the Zeising anchorage which is open in that direction. We had visions of staying another day in the anchorage but then the storm moved further off shore and the winds abated to the 10 kt range. With that we got a belated start on the way to the Pungo River anchorage.

Pungo River shoreline
The trip across the Pamlico River is only about 4 miles at most so even with higher winds, it is doable. The one to look out for is Albemarle Sound which is much wider and more susceptible to adverse wind conditions.

So we are safely ensconced in the Pungo River anchorage which is just before the Alligator-Pungo Canal that leads to the Alligator River (wonder why they call it that...) The anchorage is very protected and perfect in a northeast wind and, of course, it has the Hoolie relief requirement - a deserted, sandy beach.

Hopefully we'll spend a quiet night and continue on to Alligator River Marina before heading across the Albemarle the next day. Hope it warms up sometime soon, high of 65 today.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Zeisings' Anchorage - A trip to New Bern for an iPad and lunch

A nearby house, a beautiful setting next to the Zeisings
Bill became so enamored of my iPad that he decided to get one too. The first step was to install WiFi in his Hughes satellite internet connection. Step two was to buy an iPad2 in Walmart for $399 (the iPad2, not the newest iPad). Configuring the hookup to WiFi was easy, a strong point of Apple products. The Zeising household has jointed the 21st century!

Fire in the trees? No - the setting sun
The stay at the Zeisings entailed a lot of bridge playing and some very fine meals prepared by Pat with wine selected by Bill, all very enjoyable. One of the real pleasures of cruising down the ICW is visiting with friends along the way, especially ones with their own anchorage! They have their own dock for easy shore access and with the bridge and meals, it cannot be beat, it's our favorite stop on the ICW. Now if they could only run a 1/2 mile electrical and water line out to the boat, it would be perfect :)

We'll leave Saturday morning to cross the Pamlico River on the way to the Pungo River anchorage. These river crossings can be rough if the wind pipes up out of the east but it's supposed to be relatively calm in the morning. We may even try to sail for a change.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Zeising's Anchorage - We provision and buy a router

Zeising's anchorage - we're the white dot just to the right of center
Bill and Pat have Hughes Net for internet service but didn't have a router so couldn't access the internet via WiFi. So while Ann and Pat shopped for groceries, Bill and I visited the nearby computer shop for a router with wireless capabilities. We took the one recommended to work well with Hughes Net and headed home after picking up Ann and Pat at Food Lion.

The trouble with setting up a router with Hughes internet is that their modem acts like a router, it has the same addresses as a router and that can confuse the computer. Luckily, the setup routine supplied with the router was able to recognize the situation and automatically changed the URL of the router so there was no conflict. Their WiFi was up and running in a matter of minutes. Now all their devices can access the internet wirelessly (Nook, Kindle, etc.) without having to travel to the nearest hotspot in a far away town.

In the meatime, I installed a new washdown pump, a Jabso Hotspot with 6 gal/min output at 70 psi, much better than the old pump at 40 psi and much less volume. Unfortunately, it requires a 20 amp circuit breaker so I have to change the supply switch, nothing comes for free.

We'll be here another day before leaving on Saturday.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

At the Zeisings - Out to dinner at Cafe Duo

Bill and Pat Zeising at Cafe Duo
I pushed the start button this morning on the genset - nothing... Hum, we've been here before. I tried switching out the starter relay, no luck. it was in the 50's outside in the cockpit where the genset is located so I gave up for the moment. Ann was nice and toasty with the bed warmer turned up. It works off 12v so the genset is not needed for that. Ann was not anxious to get out of bed...

We dinked in to the Zeisings for a homemade breakfast. They were going out for golf at noon so we were going to use the time to do laundry and I returned to the scene of the crime on the boat to continue my long standing conversation with Jim at Panda technical support - we know each other well. First I tried a few things along the lines of the old knock-knock routine. Jiggle a few things in the electrical relay area and hope for the best. Pushing the start button again, it started right up! Clearly there some kind of poor connection problem. I then called Jim and he said, yes, they've seen problems with the plug in relays. The female plugs relax over time and don't make good contact with the male relay prongs. "Take a small screwdriver and push the sides of the contacts back together", yes, he said that. So I dutifully did so and the genset started again, so far so good. All this stuff is mounted inside the "soundproof" clamshell, firmly attached to the engine which is vibrating like 3600 times a minute. It's a wonder anything can keep working in such an environment. It's shake, rattle and roll inside the engine enclosure. For now it's working again.

After Bill and Pat completed their round of golf, they were going to the Cafe Duo for dinner along with Frank Dwyer from the Poughkeepsie Yacht Club. I must say the prices were about half of what we were used to paying along the ICW - and the quality was very bit as good.

Frank leaves Thursday morning and we'll do some provisioning before leaving on Saturday - hopefully it warms up a little - we are down south, right?

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Zeising's Anchorage - at anchor

It's a beautiful house, great setting
We had winds to 25 kts until almost midnight so we thought we'd get an early start Tuesday morning so we would find less wind going down the Neuse River. We were successful in getting off by 7:30 am and the wind was a lot less than last night at only 8 kts or so but when we turned the corner into the Neuse River, the wind gauge jumped immediately to 15 kts! That was fine, it's a lot less than 25 kts. Onward we soldiered and the winds increased to 20 to 25 kts again as we turned the corner to enter the canal leading to the Zeisings. Later in the week we were to cross the Albemarle which is not good to do in winds greater than 15 kts. The forecast, for that that's worth - not a lot, does predict lessening winds when we plan to leave Friday or Saturday.

An inviting path to the Zeisings
The anchorage at the Zeisings is one we sounded out ourselves with a depth sounder on our dinghy. The charts show a depth much less than actual and so discourages the use of the anchorage by boats with drafts of more than 5 ft. In fact, it's much deeper, generally 7 to 8 ft. We go in even further to the 6.5 ft mark and enjoy protection from all directions except east. With all the high winds to be out of the west, we were in a good spot.

We went in for a visit around 3:30 and met Pat who was preparing dinner. Pat and Bill have finished repairs after Irene and the grounds and house look perfect. They have a house that sits on two pedestals elevated 13 feet above sea level. Irene produced a storm surge that's unimaginable now when sitting on their back porch. The surge reached 9 feet and if one had been in their house at the time, it would have been an island in the sea (they were in NY at the time).

We'll be here for at least Friday and perhaps Saturday before heading north once again.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Cedar Creek - At anchor

There's even shrimp boats in here - but kind of shallow for us in their harbor
Wow, a high of only 61 today! Combine that with  a 25 kt wind and that's cold. Right now it's only 58 with the same wind speed. The front came through yesterday and behind it was a rush of cold air. We left Swansboro before the high winds kicked up but as we headed west, the winds commenced. We had nothing but white caps behind us all the way to Morehead City. Nobody was going in the opposite direction!

1 to 2 ft waves were rolling into the anchorage
Once in the Adams Creek canal, the going was much easier since there was no fetch to kick up waves. However, pulling into the anchorage for the night, Cedar Creek, there was a long stretch of clear water for waves to build. Not too bad we thought since the winds were predicted to subside to 10 kts or less by 8:00 pm (Ha!) It is now 8:20 pm and the winds are clocking at 20 kts still! The anchorage is full of white caps and streamers from the blown foam off the waves, some anchorage! The one plus is no current so we're pointing into the wind and waves resulting in very little boat action at anchor. Oh yes, we also have the genset which for the present has decided to perform its duties so we have heat from the A/C which has also decided to cooperate for the present to make the cabin toasty. Hopefully, they will all agreed to work again tomorrow morning when the low is predicted to be 41!

On Tuesday we're due at the Zeisings, probably sometime around 2:00 pm, hope they have heat...

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Swansboro - The great storm

Nicely done logo
We could see it coming, the radar was plain but we were surprised at the strength of the winds. The front hit us at 9:00 or so and we were buffeted by winds up to 37 kts (42 mph) for the next 1.5 hours! The marina is not particularly well protected from that direction but the dockmaster put in in a slip facing the direction of the storm and with all the lines I added, we were fine ("Will this line do more good lying in the cockpit locker or out on the dock between the boat and a piling...?", the question always has the same answer, the problem is that philosophy usually results in a spiderweb of lines - oh well, it never hurts to be on the safe side). We had a few anxious moments when we saw the water rise to within a few inches of the bottom of the docks but then it subsided and never actually washed over the fixed docks.

After that bit of excitement, the rest of the night was an anticlimax. We had more rain (much more..) but the winds never got above 30 again so it wasn't so bad. This is the same front that's headed north so you too can enjoy the colder weather. The high on Monday is only predicted to be 61! Which brings me to another point: we were sitting in the cockpit a couple of days ago (before the colder weather came) and noticed it was getting a little chilly with the sun behind a cloud and the breeze piping up, we closed up the cockpit enclosure and out of curiosity I looked at the cockpit thermometer, it read 79! Talk about blood thinning! We used to laugh at people visiting from Florida and wearing heavy jackets when the temps were only in the 60s, well we have joined the crowd! At least we have the enclosure which is great when the sun it out and even helps otherwise since the wind is kept outside.

Notice the chimney in the middle of the house
Ann has been looking for fried oysters and we found a restaurant here that served them so off we went. The Riverside Restaurant has a pick up service if you're at Casper's Marina, convenient. The restaurant is built around a Sears and Roebuck kit house which was popular years ago. The distinguishing feature is a single chimney in the middle of the house. With four rooms on the first floor and four more on the second floor, the design allows for each of the eight rooms to have a fireplace. What a clever design! I hadn't seen that arrangement before. The fireplaces I've seen were always located on one of the sides of the house, seldom in the middle. By now, the house has been added to and the kitchen greatly expanded for the business. Ann liked her oysters, very well done.

On Monday we're off to Adam's Creek and the Cedar Creek anchorage, probably a cold, windy day. PS, we were hailed agian by the Coast Guard who asked when was the last time we were boarded! "10:30 yesterday", ansswered Ann! With that they passed on by. Must  be training day...

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Swansboro - At Casper Marina

Birds of the area
The weather was not predicted to  be good for Sunday, a front is coming through with a 100% chance of rain in the 1 to 2 inch range with high winds. With that forecast, we decided to take a dock for the next two days at Swansboro and ride out the storm in comfort, complete with cable TV offered by the marina as part of the dockage fee. As of tonight, the storm hasn't arrived yet but we can see it gathering on the national radar. It's supposed to hit us around 2:00 am and last throughout the day on Sunday, moderating at that night. Monday is predicted to be sunny but very much cooler with a high of only 61! Once again we seem to coming north too soon!

Lots of warnings about skinny water today but we saw nothing under 6.6 ft at low tide so we were fine. Today we came through Camp Lejeume which is on the ICW. They periodically hold live fire practice which entails closing the ICW for the duration, usually for 1 to 2 hours at a time. Luckily, we did not encounter any such practice on a Saturday so we sped forth.

Fixed docks typical of the area - there's a knack to tying up.
However, coming into Swansboro we saw a Coast Guard speed boat pass by on our port side and then do a 180 and fall in behind us, uh-ho. Pretty soon we got a call, "When was the last time you were boarded by the Coast Guard?" Ann replied, "At 10:30 yesterday morning!"  With that they passed us by and we proceeded on to Swansboro. The Coast Guard must have a mission this month to inspect boaters.

Well, the wind is raging outside and we expect worse tonight when the storm reaches us in full. We'll sit it out until it subsides and heads north (enjoy!) Monday we'll continue our trek north.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Surf City - We're boarded by the Coast Guard!

The fish market has its own fleet - market is aft of the marina
Along this stretch of the ICW are two very inconvenient bridges. They only open at the top of the hour so if you miss one opening, you have to wait another hour for the next one! They are the only bridges on the ICW that have the once per hour openings. I guess that North Carolina doesn't care all that much for boaters going south, seeing that they are just passing through the state and don't make allowances for them.

Surf City Beach - rather chilly though at 70F
We made the first of the top of the hour bridges by the skin of our teeth and was headed for the next one when we saw a Coast Guard boat zoom past us and circle behind. Ann called on the VHF and asked what they wanted and they replied that we were going to do an inspection and would we slow down some. We had the diesel cranked up to make the next bridge but when we were asked to slow down, we knew we had an hour wait ahead of us.

The fish market - basic but fresh!
First they asked over the VHF if we had been boarded recently by the Coast Guard and we replied that we had never been boarded. With that they drew up alongside and two came aboard. They were very polite as we were and they asked to see:
- A copy of the documentation papers
- A demonstration of our horn
- Our life jackets
- Our man overboard throw ring
- Our three fire extinguishers (three are required for our size boat)
- My ID for which I used my NY driver's license
Nothing else was asked for other than information on the boat:
- Make (Beneteau)
- Model (423)
- Engine type and HP (Diesel and 55 hp)

With that they were off and running but we figured we had an hour wait ahead of us since their boarding caused us to miss the top of the hour bridge opening. However, pretty soon we got a call from the Coast Guard on channel 16 saying that the bridge would open for us when we got there, about 15 minutes past the hour, a non-scheduled opening. Sure enough, when we reached the bridge and asked for an opening, the bridge operator promptly raised the bridge and we passed through. I guess the Coast Guard has some pull in the area!

All this did not help with the next "top of the hour" bridge which we missed by 5 minutes. The bridge was in sight as we saw it being lowered, ugh! We puttered around for the next hour, round and round until the next scheduled opening. The bridges are hard to figure in this section since there are so many inlets that sometimes you are running against the tide and sometimes with it. 6.3 kts vs 8.0 kts depending on where you are relative to the nearest inlet - and there are no current tables to help you out along this stretch.

Now we are in Surf City at Beach House Marina. It's a typical beach town with places to eat and many condos. They also have a decent grocery store where we bought a few items and an excellent fish market where we bought dinner. grouper for dinner.

Saturday we are headed for Swansboro before a front arrives with thunderstorms predicted.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

St. James Plantation Marina - At a dock

St  James Plantation Condo Complex - houses are nearby too
We average 7.3 to 7.4 kts when under power so we are rarely passed by a sailboat but today we were overtaken by a motorsailer, At our cruising speed, he was barely able to pass but he got by throwing a huge wake. With him ahead of us we noticed he didn't keep a very straight route, weaving side to side as if hunting for deeper water. Okay, so far so good but when we approached one of the many inlets by the ICW we saw him take off to the right - for the open ocean! The inlet was marked as red right returning (exiting the inlet, the reds were on the left) and the ICW in this section was marked also with reds on the left. I told Ann at the time that I bet we'll see him turn around pretty soon and get back on the ICW since the inlet was not rated for sailboats! Sure enough, as we looked back, we saw his mast stop and his boat turn around and head back in our direction. Looking at a chartplotter, it was obvious which way to go but just looking at the markers it was not so obvious. The markers and buoys associated with the ICW have a special symbol on them, a yellow square (on a green can) or a yellow triangle (on  a red nun). The yellow squares are always passed to port when headed from The Chesapeake to Key West, the yellow triangles are passed to starboard. Once out of the ICW route, you no longer will see the yellow squares or triangles - enough reason to turn around and go back.

The wonderful art store
Pretty soon the motorsailer was gaining on us again but as we approached the next inlet, he backed off and let us lead the way - twice through the next two inlets! We found the deep water and had no problem so I guess he was happy.

Once at St. James Plantation Marina, we got a face dock and settled in for the night, not bad at $1.05/ft. The area has luxury condos and upscale houses, a great development if you like that sort of thing. The other pluses is the 360 degree protection from wakes and wind and the two small stores on the premises. One is a small grocery store for necessities and the other is the best shop I've ever seen for personally designed items - all done by local artists. If you ever visit St James Marina you must go in that shop! It's almost impossible to walk out without buying something (we didn't survive that temptation).

Strange birds down here...

St. James is also an excellent point to launch the next phase of the trip which involves a trip up the Cape Fear River. You must pick a time-frame when the tide is coming in. If you chose to go against the tide, you could see 2.5 kts against you! On Friday we'll leave at first light (6:15 or so) so we can catch the incoming tide before it reverses. Our goal is Surf City but we'll have to pass through two bridges that only open once per hour! If you miss the opening, you'll have a long wait!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Barefoot Landing Marina - Greg Norman's Steakhouse for dinner

Notice how the mother dock is carefully looking over her flock now - the 7th duckling is still on its way
This morning we saw a duck with seven new ducklings following her around, it was the cutest thing. She would quack and they would chirp and run after her. Well, this afternoon we saw the duck act rather frantic. She was up on land (about six feet above the docks) calling out for her ducklings they were nowhere to be found. We then saw two down in the water by our boat. They started swimming upstream (there's a one knot or so current at times in the ICW here) but the docks are about 1000 ft long and they can only go around the docks by swimming all the way to either end. So the duck is flying back and forth between her two ducks in the water and land to look for the rest. Pretty soon we see another duckling between the dock and the bulkhead - no way to get to land! Somehow she started gathering them in and was up to four when we left for dinner. Coming back to the boat, she was still by Fleetwing calling to her flock which had grown to six (how??) but then we saw the lone duckling swimming south, away from the mother with a cross over about 500 ft away! After taking Hoolie for a walk, we finally saw all seven ducklings circled around their mother, whew! I never would have guessed that they would have found each other but somehow they did.

Glorious meal!
When in Barefoot Landing we always eat once at Greg Norman's Australian Grill and Shark Pub. They have outstanding steaks, the best on the ICW and the service is excellent, highly recommended. As an added plus, we're usually docked no more than 100 ft from the restaurant so we can keep an eye on Hoolie too. The rest of the eateries are more of what you would expect on a beach but Greg Norman's is a cut above.  

Today we saw an amazing sight - four barges came through the "rock pile", two abreast at a time! For those that are familiar with the rock pile section of the ICW, it's notorious for being very narrow and unforgiving (rock ledges just below the surface) if you stray off the centerline unlike the rest of the ICW which is soft mud. Yet, here we are watching with amazement at barges side by side exiting the rock pile - wow. I never would have thought that two abreast barges would ever make it through without hitting the ledges on either side. I would say that's proof that the rock pile is not as narrow as it's reputation. 

Our neighbor - with bow and stern thrusters, he went sideways across the ICW for fuel 

We're headed to St James Plantation on Thursday and, of course, transiting the "rock pile" in the process. The procedure is to issue an securite call on channel 16 to announce your intention so any boats coming south can answer in case there's a conflict. I would gladly wait for a clear path north before leaving the dock. Certainly the two abreast barges would have announced their presence but if they hadn't and I met them in the rock pile, I would be backing up rapidly or doing a very quick, small turn. A little excitement is coming up on Thursday.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Barefoot Landing Marina - We visit Brookgreen Gardens

Sculptures and flowers were blended together in the gardens
We had heard about Brookgreen Gardens after looking at things to see in the Myrtle Beach area. The gardens consist of over 300 acres of plantings and sculptures. The main focus of the gardens are the sculptures, there are hundreds to see. We've been to Longwood Gardens outside Philadelphia and I had expected a similar garden but Brookgreen was very different. The gardens are there to provide a setting for their vast collection of sculptures.

Live Oaks - beautiful to look at - many, long horizontal limbs add to the effect
However, there are many plantings and the live oaks are beautiful, some over 200 years old! The grounds are meticulously maintained and interestingly arranged to encourage just wandering around and exploring, we spent over two hours doing just that.

Loved the flowers
In the afternoon we took advantage of a canal tour on a shallow draft boat. The whole area was once a rice farm and slaves were imported to work the fields. What made the area suitable was the supply of fresh water from the river and the tidal flow. Even though the river rose and fell 4 to 6 feet every day from the tides, the water this far up the river was fresh and usable for growing rice. The rise and fall of the tides eliminated the need for pumps to get water to the rice fields. At high tide the gates were raised, at low tide they were closed, keeping the water in. A change of water could be accomplished in the same manner, very economical, no power needed for water supply (other than slave labor to work the gates).

One of hundreds of sculptures

Along the banks of the canals we saw no fewer than four alligators. At the point where the boat turned around to head back to the gardens, we could see the ICW where we had just passed along the previous day! Although we didn't see any alligators that day, they were sure around! We didn't realize at the time that the water was fresh, we thought that perhaps the reason we had not seen the reptiles was due to the water being too salty - not so! Many of the side creeks are listed as anchorages - but we would never use them, especially when we had to get Hoolie to shore.

One of several sunning on the canal shore - in the wild - within sight of the ICW!
Driving back, we took the shore route but it looked just like every other shore route we've seen. Lots of hotels, places to eat, miniature golf, etc. A nice day. We have one more day to "rest up" (tough having fun...) here before leaving on Thursday.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Barefoot Landing Marina - A beautiful trip north

Mesmerizing images as we glided along
We got an early start from Georgetown, around 7:15 am and the water was perfectly still. It was like you were in a reflecting pond when viewing the shoreline. There was a slight mist in the air which added to the surreal feeling as we passed by the marshes and trees lining the ICW. There wasn't a soul in sight for many, many miles are we headed north and we just watched the countryside slide by, just beautiful. This is one of our favorite stretches of the ICW with the solitude and natural beauty on both sides.

Lots of turtles
We saw turtles galore but we were on the lookout for alligators which we knew were in the area but we didn't see any. There were lots of ospreys, ducks, wading birds and fish along with the ever present dolphins which rolled in pairs by the boat. Sometimes they are so close you swear you're going to hit them but you never do, they are too agile. It was a magical day.

Very calm
We arrived at Barefoot Landing Marina which is attached to Barefoot Landing, an outlet complex by Myrtle Beach. It's great fun just to walk around the grounds and peek in at the many store. The temperature was in the 70's with very dry air, so dry that there's a fire warning out for the area due to the low humidity. You can typically buy $50 slacks for $10 with similar savings on other clothing.

On Tuesday we headed for Brookgreen Gardens. We've never been there but it's famous in the area and should be fun.

(I have a bunch of new photos but the upload site it currently down, I'll upload the next time it's up)

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Georgetown - At The Boat Shed Marina

Mile after mile - lots of grass, lots of shallow water
The water going north today was a lot thinner than I anticipated. We got down to 6 ft in places and although I only draw 4' 9", there's a lot less leeway if you don't exactly stay in the channel since it's so narrow through here. Nevertheless, we made it through without touching bottom but you had to really pay attention to where you were at. We also didn't see any alligators. We knew from our experience in the past that they were around but we didn't see them.

Nice city walkway along the docks, many bars and restaurants along the way
Georgetown is a quaint town, small but with a nice waterfront with a marina that we like to dock at, The Boat Shed. It's a two person outfit but very personable and they take good care of you. We have always had a face dock with the convenience of fuel within reach without having to move to a separate fuel dock.

We like the face dock here, easy on and easy off
We added to our growing list of "things we can't find", a new laundry bag we just bought. It's on the boat somewhere, we just can't find it. So now the list is: dinghy bow light, large white straw hat and now the laundry bag. These are only the major items...

On Monday we're headed for Barefoot Landing where we'll be for three days. There are gardens nearby we want to visit when we rent a car and we find the whole area an interesting place. Should be fun.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Awendaw Creek - At anchor

Imagine meeting this behemoth in a 40 ft wide channel!
The stretch of the ICW from Charleston to Awendaw Creek is narrow and shallow with many 6 ft spots but the real challenge is staying in the channel. If you wander outside just a little, you quickly see the bottom come up to meet you. I was in a line of sailboats headed north that were going a little slower than I want to so I pulled over to pass. One of the boats got over too far to port and suddenly stopped. I hadn't asked him to get over that far and it didn't appear it was all that far but it was far enough for this stretch. He eventually got off and continued on his way and we all paid even more attention to staying in the middle, the mantra of sailors along here.

Reaching the anchorage, we found it all to ourselves and anchored in the middle. Unfortunately, it was also near high tide so the nearby marshes offered no solid ground. Hoolie and I piled into the dinghy and headed for the entrance where we noticed an oyster shell pile that appeared to be above high water. We found it and Hoolie had his fun. When just Hoolie and I go it's a fast trip since we can get up on plane but if Ann comes too we can't.

Looking out at the ICW from our boat we saw an amazing sight, a huge barge going down the same ICW that we just negotiated where we were nervous about it being so narrow. Here's this barge making all sorts of wide turns going down the same path. I felt sorry for any sailboats going in the opposite direction!

After the sunset, the stars are coming out - dead calm
It is now as calm as a lake, there's no wind and no lights with no moon. We'll enjoy the solitude tonight after Charleston. Sunday it's on to Georgetown.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Charleston Maritime Center - Last Day

Adam's heaven, but only vegetables
One of the reasons we like the Maritime Center is the close proximity of Publix, a very large supermarket, and a fresh vegetable stand next door. Both are within a 5 minute walk of the marina for easy provisioning, no car rental needed. It also helps that the marina has a free laundromat for those on a dock. Add the attractions of within walking distance of downtown Charleston (five blocks) and an aquarium next door too and it's a winning combination.

Building needs a trim, very green in Charleston
However, the marina is very small, not more than 20 slips and it can be very rocky if the wind is out of the southeast and the passing ship traffic adds to the bouncing so it's not for everyone - but it does usually settle down at night, but not always.

So today we took advantage of the food markets and now we're ready for continuing our trek north. Saturday we're headed for an anchorage at Awendaw, literally out in the middle of nowhere and in the direction of alligator infested waters. The anchorage itself is close enough to the ocean that we should be free of alligator threats but you never know. It makes for an interesting trip to the marshes for Hoolie relief. We'll let you know how we make out.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Charleston Maritime Center - Sharmining the boat

Right across the way is the USS Yorktown, which we haven't visited yet
If you live in a house, you have to mow the lawn, trim the plants, vacuum, laundry, cook, pay bills and on and on. Well, you have to do the same things on a boat, at least once in awhile. So today it was cleaning the topsides, removing the mustache, waxing the bow area (to prevent recurrence of the mustache - it works!), cleaning the enclosure plastic, doing the teak, defrosting the freezer, vacuuming and on and on.  It looks respectable at least now, about 4 on the Sharman scale of 1 to 10 (if I humor myself).

One of the "benefits" of the marina, a water taxi every hour or so
What happened to summer?! The high today was only in the mid 60's! It's days like this that we think we're headed north too soon. It will gradually warm up and return to the upper 70's and even low 80's over the weekend.

One more thing, you can lose things on a boat, more than you think. We've been missing a forward light that fits on the dinghy for over a month. It's the size of a flashlight and we're positive it's somewhere on the boat, we just don't know where (and we've looked!!) The list keeps growing. Ann added a large, white straw hat that's nowhere to be found - impossible to lose we thought - but lost nevertheless. Based on past experience, both will turn up unexpectedly some time in the future, probably when they are least needed (sigh...)

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Charleston Maritime Center - At a dock

We're the fourth boat in
It is crowded in Charleston. The season has come early according to the dockmaster. We had intended to eat out tonight and chose Hyman's, a famous restaurant in Charleston. Since it was a Wednesday we thought it wouldn't be crowded. So we had our usual wine on the back of the boat and headed downtown around 5:30. Getting to Hyman's we so the crowd outside from a block off, it didn't look good. I asked the waiter for a table and she said it would be an hour wait! We don't wait for tables anymore so off we went. Then we tried a restaurant down the street and they only had a 30 min wait. Enough! We went by Harris Teeter, a local supermarket, and bought sushi and fried chicken for dinner and had a great time on the back of the boat - best view of the harbor in Charleston anyway.

Wait in line here? Never!
So the warm weather is good for business down here for sure. There's also a weather warning posted for dry air and winds which raises the alert for brush fires, very high danger for the next few weeks. Meanwhile, we'll enjoy Charleston and restock over the next few days. We also discovered Redbox and $1.30 movie rentals, great value. Got to clean the boat Thursday!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Steamboat Creek - At anchor

The famous (for the ICW crowd) octogon house at the anchorage
Well, we got through all the skinny water today. Of course we had a high tide of 7 ft when we hit the worse spots but even allowing for the tide, we would have made it at low. You can read some of the reports about other people bottoming out in the same places but many of those just didn't pay attention to staying in the narrow channel in the difficult areas (Watts Cut, Ashepoo Coosaw Cut Off, Brickyard Creek, all famous to ICW'ers). Of the group, Ashepoo Coosaw Cut Off was right up there with Mud River, both challenges at low tide for anything drawing more than 5 ft. We now have the worse areas behind us. There are some tight spots still ahead but not as bad as what we've already been through.

Crabbing off the docks

Steamboat Creek has the prerequisites of a protected anchorage and a place for Hoolie relief. We took Hoolie in to the public dock and found a family crabbing off the floats, a popular thing to do around here. We had to watch Hoolie like a hawk. He was very interested in the bait they used, yum, yum! Having experience with his dietary indiscretions in the past, we kept a tight leash on him and successfully negotiated the dock without incident.

Not as warm as it looks, temps in the low 70's
On Wednesday we're headed for Charleston and the Maritime Center, one of our favorite marinas. It's very small and can be rocky from the waves given off by the boat traffic but it's centrally located in Charleston and within walking distance to a great supermarket, Harris Tetter and an IMax and an aquarium. Great to visit.