Wednesday, April 30, 2014

RE Mayo Docks - at a dock

Docked right behind us! He fished in the Bering Sea for five years!
We left as soon as we got up since we wanted to beat the storms across the Neuse River. The prediction was for thunderstorms with the possibility of severe ones along with tornados so we wanted to get across before they popped up. We noted that the winds were supposed to be out of the south which was a good direction for cross the Neuse since it flowed northerly.

The marina is rather "rustic" but only $0.40/ft including electric
Even in the morning, the winds picked up to 20 to 25 kts and with the winds on the aft quarter, the boat did a dance everything waves hit the aft part of the boat. However, we were able to get across in less than 2 hours with putting the jib out at 8.0 to 8.5 kts of boat speed.

You can see the rustic nature - the heads
We had intended making the Pungo River anchorage but Thursday was predicted to be an 80% rain day with high winds out of the southwest quadrant, not good for the anchorage. We could have gone further in but we decided to just stay south of the Palmico River until Friday when it's to be a good.

We chose the RE Mayo Docks for the night. It's only $0.40/ft for dockage including electricity! Although the price is right, the best part is the seafood. We are out of season for most of the seafood but they have outstanding frozen scallops, shrimp and flounder which we loaded up on. These offerings are not to be confused with what you get at the local supermarket. They are flash frozen the same day they are caught locally. Ann prepared scallops tonight (Scallops with White Wine Sauce) and they were simply the best I've ever had, better than any in a restaurant.

We'll be here tonight and probably Thursday too, leaving on Friday when the bad weather clears out and head for the Pungo River anchorage. 

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Cedar Creek Anchorage - at anchor

The storm clouds stayed far away
The forecast for Tuesday was not all that good. Rain was forecast as well as the potential for thunderstorms but when we looked at the weather radar, nothing was in sight so we started out. As it turned out, it did rain some but we avoided all the thunderstorms. There were even tornado warnings but they were all north and west of us.

Shrimp is a big business around here - they don't care much for imported shrimp...
We are now secure for the night in Cedar Creek, a spot we've used many times before. There's lots of room and it's impossible to drag! There are lots of shrimp boats in the area, it's a major industry here.

We plan on heading out again early Wednesday and hope to make the Pungo River anchorage but we may just wind up at Hoboken instead. It's a local shrimp boat marina that also rents out face dock space to transients (us) for only $0.40/ft, a real bargain, but then the facilities are for shrimp boats, not cruisers - but that's okay with us since an electric hook up comes with the slip rental. The storms are all around us but none have hit us so far. The first thing we do every morning is to look at the weather radar and plan the day. 

Monday, April 28, 2014

Swan Point Marina - at a dock

Rather rustic docks but protected from weather
Since we left from Carolina Beach, our usual stop at Harbor Village was too soon so we looked for a new marina and found Swan Point Marina. We found it rather rustic but the people were very nice and the local restaurant provided free transportation for the evening meal. So we made reservations at the marina.

They catch their own seafood!
Meanwhile, we set out around 8:00 am. This section of the ICW has two major annoyances, two bridges that only open on the top of the hour. If you miss the opening by 5 minutes, you have 55 minutes to wait for the next one!! So we were racing to meet the top of the hour opening but ran into a 1 kt counter current - not good! That was enough to push our otherwise 1:00 opening to 1:10, a miss. However, as we approached the bridge we heard that a barge was headed south and that the bridge had delayed the usual top of the hour opening by 10 minutes! That was just enough for us to make the opening, great.

We saw this guy not far away that made a wrong turn into shallow water, he got off after 10 hours
That saved us about an hour of wait time and we pulled into the Swan Point Marina at 3:00, just in time for dead low tide. Actually it was 0.3 ft below dead low. Now the depths aren't all that great anyway but we forged ahead and found we could make the dock even though the depth meter read 4.6 ft! We have a 4' 9" keel so we did a little sliding on the mud bottom. This is our 4th time down the ditch so it's no longer a big deal to plough a little mud now and then. It's near high tide now and there's 6.1 ft of water, lots and lots of water (now that we're used to ICW depths).

One of the big attractions of this marina in addition to the local color is the nearby seafood restaurant. They feature locally caught seafood and even have full bellied clams on the menu, almost unheard of outside of Maine(or Lenny's). So we availed ourselves of the free ride and Ann had the clams while I had a seafood platter. Although the clams were good, they were not as good as Lenny's. However, we greatly enjoyed the meal, we would go back again.

We would like to reach the Cedar Creek anchorage Tuesday night but it all depends on the weather. We won't make that call until Tuesday morning. If not, we'll just stay here another day.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Carolina Beach - at a dock

There's a beach that goes with the park, but only at low tide
Today was laundry day after we had breakfast at 9:30 (!) Nice to be retired. The marina here remains virtually empty which amazes me give the low price relative to commercial marinas - this was a Sunday. So we went for walks along the half dozen trails supported by the park and had a good time just seeing the park sights.

A beautiful marina - but empty! And on a Sunday. $30/day is too much for the local population
We have webcams all around the house, one of which is focused on the furnace. It was a surprise this morning to see that the furnace temperature was only 57F! For some reason the furnace had cut out and the house was without heat. Luckily, all this week was above freezing with several days in the 60's so there was no problem. We also have antifreeze in the heating pipes so there was no danger of the heating pipes bursting from frozen water. Still, it's rather unsettling to see the furnace turn off for no obvious reason. So I called the heating oil company we use and they're going out to fix the problem on Monday. It's a good thing we have the $50 apiece webcams around the house.

One of the many hiking trails - beautiful just walking through the woods
Of constant interest is the weather forecast. We had thought that Friday would be the first good day to resume our travel north but now Monday looks okay and unless there's a big change in the morning, we'll be off around 8:00 for Swam Point Marina. 

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Carolina Beach - at a dock

At the Carolina Beach State Park Marina - looking out at the Cape Fear River
Today was a perfect day for travel. No rain, full sun, warm breezes - what more to want? We called ahead to be sure no one was coming south through the Rock Pile when we were going north. It's the area of the ICW where they ran unexpectedly into a rock area when building the ICW and had to compensate by making the ICW very narrow through that section (in order to meet their cost estimates - imagine that, meeting cost estimates instead of overrunning... - but that was then...) As a result, it is not recommended to get off the ICW line, even to let an oncoming boat pass by, there are rocks just beneath the surface ready to do real damage. So you call ahead and hope any boats headed south will do the same. At any rate, we didn't meet a southbound boat so we were fine.

On the way to Carolina Beach, the tide was really out!
As we headed north, the tide continued dropping. In fact, we had what is called a drain tide, one where the depth is below the reference point on the charts. Today it was 6 inches lower than a normal low. We saw a lot of docks just sitting in mud as we headed north.

We have the end dock - the marina is mostly empty, amazing given the price
As luck would have it, we arrived at our marina for the night at just past low tide. It's the Carolina Beach State Park Marina and there were reports of only 4 ft of depth at low tide. So I made a very cautious approach but instead found 6.6 ft of water, plenty for our 4' 9" keel.

Looking out through the entrance at the setting sun
This place is a real bargain. It's only $30/night for our size boat and there's no charge for electricity. We now plan on being here a few days. There are reports of bad weather headed our way so we'll be sure for good weather before we leave. When cruising while retired, time is your friend.  

Friday, April 25, 2014

Barefoot Landing Marina - last day

Lots of turtles at Barefoot Landing - there's a lake in the middle of the complex - they are fed a lot
Today was predicted to be full of thunderstorms and high winds but as the day progressed, none of the storms appeared. There was some wind but with the temperatures in the high 70's, we could take that. One good thing about the area down here is that it's flat - which makes for easy walking. You have to get out and exercise whenever you can while on a boat although I've never had a problem resuming my running routine upon returning from a long cruise. Evidently, the normal level of activity on a boat (balancing against boat motion, going up and down the stairs - our own version of a stepper exerciser - taking Hoolie out for his constitutions, etc.) keeps us pretty fit.

Someone is always stopping by to chat
Since we're so close to the walking area, several times a day a couple will stop and talk to Ann about our experiences (she talks to everyone!) This afternoon was no different. She traded recipes, talked about the cold weather up north (they were from Pennsylvania). One couple woke up one morning with the temperature in the 20's and the husband said, "Pack your bags, we're heading south!" We can understand that reasoning provided you're in a situation where you can do that.

Watch your fingers!! 
I was talking Hoolie out tonight and walked by the tiger exhibit and tonight they had the tigers out on display. They took a tremendous interest in Hoolie - and Hoolie barked and barked. I don't think they wanted to play, they saw a juicy morsel! I went and got Ann but by the time we returned, they were loading the tigers into a portable cage for transport to a van and their overnight home. They are some large animals!!!

Here they are rolling the tigers down the sidewalk in their portable cage, I wouldn't want to do it...
We'll leave Saturday morning for Carolina Beach and we plan on trying out a new place where we've never been, Carolina Beach State Park Marina. We're told it's a little shallow with at best 5 ft a low tide but we'll give it a try.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Barefoot Landing Marina - We dine at Greg Norman's Australian Grill

The marina is one long face dock, easy in and easy out
I think all the heat radiated away last night, it was 51 this morning at the marina. I don't think the high ever got up into the 70's all day. We had to "get a few things" so we took advantage of the offer from the dockmaster for a ride to the nearest Walmart. The "few things" turned out to be two cart loads of groceries. We thought we would just have a couple of bags but wound up with a couple of dozen instead! Now we really are provisioned for the rest of the trip north.

A rose for Ann
We are going through the part of the ICW where it's difficult for us with a dog to find places to anchor. So for the next few days, we'll be using marinas until we get past Morehead City when we can find suitable anchorages again. We'd rather anchor but we do need access to shore for Hoolie.

Great Steak!!!
The highlight of the day was our biannual visit to Greg Norman's Australian Grill, once on the way down in the fall and again on the way north in the spring. They have the best steaks on the ICW, bar none. We always get some version of their fillet mignon, aged 28 days and very tender.

We'll spend one more day here just resting up and then head out Saturday morning for Carolina Beach and a mooring for the night. It's a long trip for us but by pushing late in the day we'll make the incoming tide going up the Cape Fear river. You do not want to go up the river with an ebb tide, it runs 3 kts! All this is provided the weather holds but it looks good so far.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Barefoot Landing Marina - at a dock

We just loved the scenery along the Waccamaw River
We left Georgetown in good spirits at 8:15 but ran into a foul tide on the Waccamaw River, about 2 kts of outgoing tide! That cut our normal speed of 7.3 kts down to 5.5 and sometimes down to 5.1 kts! That's a huge difference for a sailboat. We didn't get to Barefoot Landing until 3:30 pm, a very long ride but at least the scenery was outstanding. From our previous experience from renting a car and visiting Brookgreen Gardens we know there are alligators along the river, we saw them when we visited the gardens last year but we didn't see any along the banks today. However, we saw plenty of turtles, ospreys with young in nests atop ICW markers and other birds of all kinds. It's a beautiful trip.

Turtles and fish, waiting to be fed at  Barefoot Landing
By and by we did reach Barefoot Landing Marina and was greeted by Art for an easy docking. We like it here for the shopping and just the walking around. Of course I always take Ann to Greg Norman's Australian Grill for a steak. We've found none better along the ICW. We have reservations at 6:00 Thursday night there.

I did not rent this car! A big step up from my Key West rental! 
When we were having our wine on the back of our boat, a couple stopped by to say hello. They had been following our blog and saw that we were docking at Barefoot and dropped by. We thought that was nice. I put the blog out with no restrictions and many just pick up on the blog to follow our adventures. For me it's like a modified ship's log but also just a running commentary on our experiences up and down the ICW.

Nice quiet evening, watching the sunset in a protected marina
We will be here either two or three days, we haven't decided yet, depends on the weather. We're in no particular rush to get north given the cold weather up there. I want to be warm going north!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Dry Dock Stack Marina in Georgetown, SC - at a dock

They have their won fishing fleet = fresh seafood!
Today was a day in specializing in shallow areas at dead, low tide. In case you were wondering, there is no shortage of shallow spots along the ICW. By that I mean in the range of 4 to 6 ft at low tide (MLW, Mean Low Water). So we delayed our departure in the morning to 9:30 so we would have a rising tide through the trouble spots.

And this is where you buy the fresh fish, doesn't look like much but the product is the thing
As it turned out, we made it through everything okay with inches to spare, no problem. Just don't expect to clear by gaps between your keel and bottom measured in feet. As always, I updated Active Captain on what I saw in depths. It's a great reference for anyone going down the ICW.

It's spring down here, despite the recent cold weather
We are now at the Dry Dock Stack Marina (formerly the Boat Shed Marina) and set for the night. We can see storms coming on radar but we're snug for the night. This small marina even has free cable TV so Ann can catch up on NCIS which is one of her favorites.

Georgetown had a devastating fire last year in the downtown area, they are just now cleaning it up
Whenever we're in Georgetown we're sure to stop by the local fish market. Ann picked up a pound of grouper for dinner, absolutely fresh and she did her usual excellent preparation, delicious. We're off Wednesday morning for Barefoot Landing Marina where we'll be for the next two to three days depending upon the weather. The trip north along the Waccamaw River is one of the most beautiful stretches of the ICW. It goes by the old rice plantations and there's plenty of alligators although they usually keep to the side streams. 

Monday, April 21, 2014

Awendaw Anchorage - at anchor

After no sun for a week, it's nice to sea a sunset again
We delayed our departure from St John's Yacht Center in order to go through the shallows above the Ben Sawyer Bridge on a rising tide. So with that we left around 10:00 and almost didn't make the 10:30 opening of the next bridge, but barely did. The tide was really coming in and at one point we were only doing 4.5 kts over ground!

The Isle of Palms passage is the shallowest of all the stretches of the ICW (have you heard this before...) - but it really is. After reading all the comments, I was determined to find a route through that would not require going at high tide. So with a combination of following the ICW line added with stretches of totally ignoring it, we did find a route with 6.6 ft at low tide and published it on Active Captain. If nothing else, it's a reference for me the next time I pass through this area. Perhaps it will help others.

The same sunset from a different angle
What a difference today was!! Warm sunshine (hadn't seen the sun for almost a week), little wind and it looks to be a calm night tonight at anchor. There are five of us anchored here but the anchorage could accommodate 100 boats! It's impossible to drag so we are all secure.

On Tuesday we're headed for Georgetown, South Carolina and hopefully fresh fish for dinner. There's a local seafood market with fish caught in the area. We'll just stay one night and then head for Barefoot Landing Marina.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

St John's Yacht Center - Monday we move

We had 1 to 2 ft waves hitting the back of the boat all day
We had yet another day of high winds (20 to 25 kts, topping out at 33 kts) and no sun! The weather has just been miserable, at least for this time of the year in South Carolina. We haven't seen the sun now for five days. Monday is supposedly a better day, I'll believe it when I see it. The winds are due to abate and the sun might even become visible. There are a lot of cruisers stacked up down here, unable to move, especially those wishing to go outside. Nobody wants to heat north against 20 kts winds and 6 to 9 ft waves!

Nothing beats the 17 inch  ball fenders for cushioning
So we just hung out, did laundry and Ann cooked a fabulous Easter dinner with a ham, sweet potatoes, deviled eggs, macaroni with cheese and asparagus. It was just delicious. I had to cut the top 1/4 of the ham off in order to fit it into the oven. We had that part of scrambled eggs and ham in the morning.

The captain was full!!

It appears the winds of the last three days have finally calmed down somewhat. It's currently about 10 kts which feels like no wind at all compared to what we've experienced recently. We plan on going through the Isle of Palms on a rising tide shortly after noon and anchoring out at Awendaw, just of the ICW. Hopefully we can get through the shallow spots just north of the Ben Sawyer Bridge.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

St. John's Yacht Harbor - We explore Charleston


We are by the bridge - but it's quiet
n Active Captain you are asked to rate marinas that you stay at. The ratings range from 1 star to 5 stars. There are many people who rate marinas at 4 starts just as a starting point and too easily give 5 stars to marinas that are not exceptional. That is not a problem with this marina. It deserves a 5 star rating. It has all the extras of a courtesy car (free), cable TV, free WiFi, excellent laundry facilities and showers along with very good docking rates. We will come back again next year.

The parks are beautiful
We took advantage of their courtesy car today at noon and visiting downtown Charleston to the riverside parks. You can have the car for free for two yours at a time which was plenty for us. Normally they are just used for provisioning but we had done that yesterday so today was just sightseeing. The rains and winds did abate somewhat today but we have some more high winds and rain still coming at us per the radar. It's all supposed to be over by Monday when we'll head north again.

A closeup of the flowers
A tree covered walk - just wonderful, even on a cloudy day
Ann has an Easter Sunday dinner planned with a ham and all the trimmings. I had to trim the top 2 inches off the ham to fit in our small, onboard oven. So with that we had ham and eggs this morning, sacrifice,  ha!   We'll do laundry on Sunday and we still plan on leaving Monday for points north.

Friday, April 18, 2014

St John's Yacht Harbor - at a dock

Pouring rain, high winds, ugh!!
We were going to stay at the Charleston Maritime Center but as the winds increased to 25 to 30 kts, we had second thoughts. We encountered 33 kt winds coming out of Steamboat Creek and with the forecast for continued heavy rains throughout the weekend combined with NE winds of 15 to 25 kts, we knew from experience that the Maritime Center would not be comfortable. It is completely open to the NE to E and the waves wash in against the docked boats.

With that in hand, we started looking for an alternative and found St. John's Yacht Harbor which is just to the west of Elliott Cut before coming into Charleston Harbor. The cost was even a little cheaper but it promised a much more protected dockage. So we called ahead and they found a slip for us. With the forecast for continued bad weather, we took it for the next three days. We're supposed to get 2 to 3 inches over the next 24 hours.

Groan, view out the front - rain, rain...
We had plans of renting a car for the weekend but with the forecast heavy rains, all it would have done is sit in the parking lot. So, we cancelled the car but then the marina had a loaner car and we took that to get to Harris Teeter for provisioning. We have a ham for Easter and all the fixings! It'll just be the two of us but we hope to have a video connection sometime Easter with the grandkids.

Meanwhile, we hunkered down with winds of 15 to 25 kts against the side of the boat, but we're securely docked with all our fenders between us and the dock. It's just a little noisy. The marina comes with cable TV connections at every dock and we took advantage of that.So we'll see how it goes. Monday is predicted to be better and we plan on continuing our northward journey then.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Steamboat Creek - at anchor

Hunting lodge? Out in the middle of nowhere
We left early to catch the tides this morning. We went through a who's who of shallow passages today including Ashepoo River, Fenwick Cut, Watts Cut and Dawho Creek. If you ever come down the ICW, the names will become all too familiar to you! We took them all at near high tide so the white knuckles were able to get some color in them but I kept Ann busy recording depths so I could update Active Captain.

We have no idea what's behind that fence - perhaps dinosaurs (like Jurassic Park), why out here? Nothing around.
We were coming though one difficult passage with only 6 ft of water when we saw an oncoming boat with crew waving wildly at us. We thought that perhaps there was some news of a new shoaling problem or a wreck in the middle of the passage so we stopped and drifted, not a good thing to do in 6 ft of water! As it turned out they just wanted directions to a nearby marina where they had parts waiting for a repair! They were headed in the opposite direction from the marina at the time they stopped to talk to us. We told them to turn around and take a right at the exit towards the inlet where the marina was located.

Wine, music, a sunset - perfect
As we continued on, just before running aground, we turned towards Steamboat Creek and saw them in the distance following us into the creek. We knew that was not the way to the marina they wanted and sure enough, later on they reversed direction and headed for the marina. Imagine ordering parts and not knowing where the marina is located!? You meet all kinds on the ICW.

We're settled in for the night with a public dock convenient for Hoolie relief, one of the main attractions of this anchorage. The wind is still gusting in the teens but we're snug for the night. On Friday we'll leave early to beat the predicted rains coming by noon and hopefully reach Charleston before they start. .

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Lady's Island Marina in Beaufort - at a dock

Lay's Island Marina - it's on a creek by Beaufort
We had winds of 20 to 25 kts all day long and with a low of 42 this morning! That's cold down here, that's cold for us! We are not used to such weather after a month in Key West where the high everyday was 77 without fail. Perhaps we are coming north too soon?!

Hoolie met a friend  (he's friends with everyone)
We timed our passage north to coincide with high tide through the shallow spots. We could get through them all even at low tide but it's much easier on the nerves when you have some cushion under the keel. However, for Thursday it's not so easy. We have to take the Ashepoo Cut which has even less water, we would go aground at low tide through there. So the plan is to leave early on Thursday and once again hit the trouble spots at close to high tide.

A cookout restaurant - all the locals come in
Lady's Island Marina is a great find. It's only $1.25/ft and they are very accommodating. They suggested a local hangout for dinner tonight, the Fillin' Station. They have specials on Wed, Thurs and Friday. Tonight it was a hamburger, hotdog, beans and potato salad for $4 each but mostly it was for the atmosphere. At the bar Ann asked for rum punch (don't have any), Cosmopolitan (don't know how to make it), Manhattan (likewise) - but they did have lots of  beer and even wine - we took the wine. We were the only ones drinking wine, beer was very popular. On the way in I noticed that out of 10 vehicles in the parking lot, all 10 were pickup trucks! The owner of the place personally prepared each plate and served it himself. He attracts quite a crowd this way which I think is the plan since they all buy drinks which are not at a special price.

When I snapped this picture, one non-truck had sneaked in
We'll leave here at 8:00 am Thursday to take advantage of the high tides at the shallow spots and anchor out at Steamboat Springs, our usual spot before coming into Charleston. It's supposed to be warmer tomorrow (that was a joke...)

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Thunderbolt Marina in Savannah - Jack and Kay Cothren visit

Jack and Kay Cothren from the Poughkeepsie Yacht Club - we greatly enjoyed getting together
We prefer not to travel on rainy days, especially when the rain is predicted to last 9 hours, effectively, all day.We've had so few rainy days that it hasn't  been a problem for travel. So today we sat out the storms and listened to the wind and rain as we were snug in our harbor. As promised by the marina, we had Krispy Kreme donuts delivered to the boat at 6:30, nice.

It stormed so much and rained so hard we were concerned that Jack and Kay may not make it to the boat but they came down the walkway in rain gear and a large umbrella, prepared! Fortunately, it had stopped raining for a brief period so they made it without getting too wet. We just chatted for a couple of hours in the cockpit and we caught up on PYC news. Nice to meet friends along the way back north!

Look at the size of that building, they do painting inside for big ships
John Kwak has passed us and is now headed to Charleston. We'll be there in two days ourselves where we'll probably spend the weekend. On Wednesday we'll get the back end of the front that came through today with a low tonight of 44 (!!) and a high of only 63. We haven't seen weather this cold since our trip north in December. Nevertheless, it will be sunny with no rain so we're on the move.