Friday, October 31, 2014

Two Dolphins pace Fleetwing

A dolphin paced us for about 10 minutes on our way to Titusville, Florida
We got a lazy start this morning since we only had less then 30 miles to go. The anchorage last night was a quiet as a lake. All the predicted thunderstorms went north of us, we had no storms at all. Raising anchor around 8:45, we headed south once again. It was a no stress day since all the shallow spots are now north of us. Once again we had a beautiful day of mostly light winds and fair skies.

Along the way I noticed a lot of splashing along side the boat. Wondering what was the cause, I looked over the side and much to my amazement I saw two dolphins speeding along by the side of the boat. They were just lazing along about 3 of 4 feet off the starboard aft quarter, right by the cockpit. As soon as I spotted them, Hoolie looked too and started to bark vigorously. Ann pulled him back as I took photos and a video of the dolphin encounter. They kept pace with us for 10 minutes or so, just having fun. To see the video of dolphins pacing Fleetwing, click here. In the background you can hear Ann trying to quiet Hoolie who was very excited and barking at the dolphins. 

We are now tucked in between two enormous powerboats in Titusville
We arrived in Titusville where we'll keep Fleeting for the next two months while we return north for the holidays. They now have a locked gate on the access to B dock and they are installing locked gates to the other docks too. We're on B82, nice and secure for the duration. As I've said in previous posts, the docks are massive and you feel good that your boat will be protected while away. I took advantage of Enterprise's $10/day special for weekend rentals so we have a car until Monday at 3:00 pm. Time to explore the area and return to old haunts. 

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Rockhouse Creek - at anchor

The lighthouse by Rockhouse Creek
We slipped out Thursday morning at 7:15 am, very early for us. The tide was 5.2 ft and dropping at the dock and we wanted to be sure to survive the exit to the ICW. The stars were all out when I took Hoolie out with Orion high in the sky, an impressive sight.

Hoolie eventually did his business and when we returned to the boat, the sky was already lightening. I put the space heater we have in the cockpit facing forward so the windows will be defogged. It works pretty well. If you just wipe them dry, moisture will just reform on them, blocking vision - especially before the sun rises.

We may get some stormy weather tonight
So with everything ready, we pushed off (we now always count lines attached to shore, nothing like an abrupt halt caused by a line still attached!) Heading out the entrance, we found 6.2 ft, about a foot more than we needed. Gee, we could have slept in another hour!

Aiming for Rockhouse Creek, we found another perfect day for traveling with light winds, warm breezes with full sunshine. Pulling into Rockhouse Creek, we found ourselves alone. We dropped anchor and we're secure for the night. On Friday we will pull into Titusville for a dock for the next two months while we head back north for the holidays. Hoolie's looking forward to the dog park and all his friends from spring! 

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Marineland Marina - at a dock

They had several loggerhead turtles in the complex
We explored the Marineland stadium where they have loggerhead turtles, rays and dolphins. At one time it was a thriving tourist attraction with the dolphin performances. However, they succumed to the competition from Disneyworld and no longer offer dolphin shows. They are now a research center sponsored by the Georgia Aquarium and you can still buy tickets to tour the area and watch the feeding of the dolphins. If you want to pay more, you can even feed them yourself, we watched.

Feeding the dolphins - but you had to pay extra for the privilege 
Other than the dolphin center, there's nothing here. We were loaned a car yesterday to visit the nearest Publix five miles south of here for a few odds and ends. After that we just hung around the boat. At low tide the depth meter read 4.2 ft at our dock! At high tide it reached 7.4 ft. We want to leave in the morning for Rockhouse Creek but first light is only 2 hours before low tide. Hopefully we can waddle through the mud to the ICW channel, we draw 4 ' 9".

The little fella hid in the anemone
We will spend one night at Rockhouse Creek and then it's on to Titusville Municipal Marina for the next two months as we take our leave and return home for the holidays before continuing our trip south the first week in January.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Marineland Marina - at a dock

We're animed for a quick exit on Thursday
We had always wanted to stop at Marineland but never seemed to hit it right. Ft Matanza is only four miles north and that's one of our favorite anchorages so we always skipped Marineland. We had some extra time on the way south so we did make time today.  The attraction is a nearby nature preserve and the dolphin center on the beach. At one time they had a thriving business showing off dolphins performing in a stadium for the public. That business has gone by the wayside and now it's a marine research center. They still have dolphins but they don't perform for the public.

We are about 1000 ft from the Atlantic Ocean - nice cooling breezes
We just got in today so we haven't done any of these things yet, maybe on Wednesday. It was so hot we had to turn on the air conditioning which worked fine until is sucked in one of the huge jellyfish swimming around in the marina. What a mess! It jammed the A/C pump, just like a bowl of Jell-O would do. I had to take the intake apart and reverse flush for a about 1/2 hour before everything came free. The remains of the jellyfish flowed out like a very viscous fluid. After that we were hesitant to turn the A/C back on since we could see jellyfish still around the boat. Eventually they seemed to clear out and the A/C lowered the inside temps from 90 to 78.

This guy ended up in our A/C intake - a two hour job to clean out
We lucked into a farmers' market this morning and not only did they have fresh vegetables, one vendor had fresh seafood!  So we had tuna steaks, great! We were also loaned a car to visit the nearby Publix supermarket where we stocked up on ice cream and OJ. It's a nice life.

I think these rocks are added to help prevent beach erosion, a line to the sea every 300 to 500 yards 
We'll be here another day to explore Marineland and on Thursday we plan on moving on to the Rockhouse Creek anchorage for a day.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Ft Matanzas - at anchor

Bridge leaving Harbortown - Current runs through here at 6 kts!!
We had intended making Marineland but since we would not have reached there until close to 3:00, we decided to just stay at Ft Matanzas which is only 3 miles from Marineland. Best of all, Ft Matanzas is free if you anchor. It's also at an inlet and the current runs to 2 kts! However, we had good ground tackle so it's no problem. Being at an inlet, it's salt water so there's no fear of alligators, they are fresh water only animals. Now, crocodiles can tolerate salt water but there are very few in Florida. In all the time we've come here, we've only seen one and he was near a marina far to the south.

Ft Matanzas - to protect St Augustine 
Ft Matanzas is one of our favorite anchorages. It's seldom crowded (there's only one other boat here tonight) and the holding is good. The view of the fort is always interesting in any light and if the spirit moves you, it's a short dinghy ride to the ranger station for a free tour of the fort or a nature walk nearby.

The other attraction for us is easy Hoolie relief at the nearby sandy beach (sandy so there's no mud). So with temps in the 80's, we are settled in for the night and we'll explore Marineland Tuesday. We still plan on reaching Titusville by the 31st.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Harbortown at Jacksonville - at a dock

The egret was here for the longest time - watching, waiting for dinner
We had a short run today down to Jacksonville and we even had a high tide so the shallow spots didn't slow us down. They are avoidable if you know the path, you just can't follow the magenta line along here - or even the middle of the channel in some spots without going aground. In three cases we were outside the channel as marked by the buoys and over grass according to the charts but we had plenty of depth. All the paths to avoid the shallows are listed on Active Captain in the comments section, I've added quite a few myself. After five trips, I recognize the critical spots visually as we approach them but I still check the latest comments on Active Captain.

Typical of kids anywhere - a boat to explore!
Arriving at Harbortown, we called Lee Fry and he came over for a visit along with his wife and son-in-law with his family. They had two small kids so off we went for a short cruise down the ICW on a beautiful afternoon. The two kids were like kids anywhere with a boat to explore, great fun.

We're only here for one day. On Monday we're headed for Fort Matanzas 40 Nm south for one day and then on to Marineland for a dock. The weather continues to be ideal, no rain and temps in the high 70's to low 80's, not hard to take.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Jacksonville - last day at anchor

Great selection of vegetables!
One of the things you look out for while cruising the ICW is the availability of fresh vegetables. We have a big freezer for meat so that's never a problem but getting fresh vegetables is sometimes a challenge. Most of the marinas are great on things for the diesel and other boating supplies but not veggies. So when we heard of a farmer's market Saturday this morning we were sure to make the trek, about four blocks.

Sure enough there was a bunch of booths set up and Ann bought fresh tomatoes, Vidalia onions and a few other vegetables. So now we are well stocked again and won't need to resupply until Titusville.

A new moon in the sky
On Sunday we'll be in Jacksonville at Harbortown Marina and will have a visit with Lee Fry and his family. We'll probably go for a cruise on the ICW in the afternoon to give everyone a chance to see what we do 9 months of the year! 

Friday, October 24, 2014

Fernandina - at anchor

Getting ready to leave, had to take a photo
High tide was at 9;30 am at Jekyll Island and since we wanted every possible advantage in depth, we wanted to go through Jekyll at absolute high tide. That entailed leaving the dock at Hidden Harbor at 7:30 am, not our favorite time for pushing off. However, we did get a great sunrise! The dockmaster even got up early to help us off, good service!

A little later, still good color
So we headed south and entered Jekyll Creek and as we turned the corner heading into the most narrow part of the channel, what do we see headed right at us?! It was a barge taking advantage of the high tide to go north! He took up almost the entire width of the narrow channel. I put Fleetwing in idle and pulled over to one side which was only possible at high tide since the channel is so narrow otherwise. The barge eventually slid by (he was going slow) and we continued onward.

Downtown Fernandina Beach - nice, well kept town
Jekyll Creek has always been shallow but today set a new record. At low tide it was only 2.9 ft! It was certainly the right decision to stop early yesterday at Hidden Harbor, we never would have made it through Jekyll Creek. The rest of the trip was uneventful and we arrived at Fernandina around 1:00 pm, in time for Ann's haircut appointment.
Ann's new haircut

At Fernandina we always anchor. There's no advantage to taking a mooring, you have no more protection and the holding for an anchor is very good. We topped off the day with a dinner at Pepper's, a Mexican restaurant which was pretty good. We'll take another day off at anchor before heading south again on Sunday to Jacksonville to meet up with Lee Fry, a friend from our Air Force days in Colorado.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Hidden Harbor YC near Brunswick, GA - at their dock

Pretty, but the first thing we look for are marks in the mud made by alligators
We had two sticky wickets to get through today. The first one was Mud River and the name fits the description perfectly. We saw depths as low as 3.1 feet at low tide, no good for us to pass through. We had planned ahead to arrive with a plus 5 tide and so we had enough to make it through. Comparing notes to last year, it's getting worse and at some point in time it won't even be passable at high tide! And still, nobody does anything...

Our second tough spot was getting through Jekyll Island and we just ran out of water there. Reading the reviews of boats that grounded out at low tide, we just elected to take a dock at Hidden Harbor and leave the next day (Friday) at high tide and hopefully have plenty of water, at least this year. Once we get to Florida (tomorrow at Fernandina) the ICW is once again taken care of, like North Carolina does. South Carolina and Georgia don't seem to care. BTW, there is always money, it's just a matter of what's important to the state in terms of priorities.

Just a small marina associated with a condo complex - good docks!
Since we couldn't make Jekyll Island, we're staying at Hidden Harbor.They are off the ICW up their own creek so we get no wakes from the ICW at all. It is dead calm here which is good but then the bugs come out at night so we're down in the cabin. In order to ensure we hit Jekyll at high tide, we'll leave here at 7:30 am, not our favorite time but necessary for Jekyll's thin water. We'll wind up at Fernandina on Friday and we'll probably stay over for Saturday too.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Wahoo Creek - at anchor

We started the day with a sunrise at Savannah
The wind was pushing us against the dock this morning so we used the maneuver we learned at Fernandina, powering forward with a fender at the bow and the forward cleat tied off to the dock. That causes the aft to swing out and when 30 degrees or so is reached relative to the dock, Ann put it in reverse and backed out the rest of the way, easy - who needs bow thrusters?

The island at Wahoo creek, Hoolie loves the beach
I knew we needed water so I filled the forward tank since we would not be at a dock for the next week. So pulled away from the dock with a full water tank and without a care in the world for fuel. So about 1/2 way to Wahoo Creek I happened to look at the fuel gauge - oops! We were down 35 gallons out of a 50 gallon tank. Looking at the chart, there were no marinas for the next two days ahead of us. Searching around, we found a grand total of two marinas within an hour of our position. Having no choice, we headed for the nearest one and lost a little over two hours of travel time but we now have a full fuel tank. A lesson learned (but probably soon forgotten!), check that fuel gauge before leaving a marina, especially in the boonies of Georgia marshlands.

One other boat and a sunset with wine
We are now as far from civilization as you can get in Georgia, anchored out at Wahoo Creek. There is nothing around and the sky is full of stars. The winds are calm and we'll swing with the tide change. On Thursday we're headed for Jekyll and another anchorage. The approach is very shallow (again!) so we'll see how we do. 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Savannah at the Thunderbolt Marina - at their dock

A typical scene along this part of the ICW - the tree occupy a slightly area
Normally we would go from B & B's Seafood to Beaufort but the day was so calm and warm that we traveled on to Savannah. We hit all the trouble spots with high enough tide so they were not a problem. Once again we realize that South Carolina and Georgia do not dredge. At some point you won't even be able to get through at high tide!

The pelicans appreciate the buoys
We are now in the grasses. As far as you can see it's a sea of grass punctuated by an occasional hammock, a place of slightly higher ground that trees take root in. They may only be 5 feet or so higher but it's enough for the trees to find solid ground. In the distance you can often see the masts of sailboats going in all directions as the ICW winds in all directions.

We are in the deep south, moss and palm trees
We'll just spend one day here and shove off Wednesday for the Wahoo River anchorage. All we have tomorrow is the Hell Gate passage but we will have 5 ft of tide so it shouldn't be a problem. It's only 4.5 feet deep at low tide.

Monday, October 20, 2014

B & B Seafood -at their dock

B & B Seafood - out in the boonies of South Carolina
It was another perfect day for traveling the ICW. This year has been the best year ever for good weather aided by the almost total lack of hurricanes. Perhaps our luck won't last but I'll take it so far.

The source of the shrimp - fresh!
So with a high of 73 today and light winds, we headed south and traversed some of the shallowest spots on the ICW. In fact, all the worst spots are getting shallower but they are still (for now) passable at high tide. We came through Watt's Cut and saw 5 ft depths even with a 1 ft tide but we shimmied through.  However, Ashepoo Creek was another story. There are reported depths there of only 3.5 ft at low tide so we had no chance of getting through much above low tide. With that we decided to take a dock at B & B's Seafood. They have a dock (?) with no electricity and with rather rickety looking cleats but at only $25/night regardless of boat size, it's a bargain. It's a convenient place to take Hoolie ashore safely in alligator country so it's worth the price to us.

We are the only transient boat tonight
They have boats here that go after their own shrimp. It's the definition of fresh (right off the boat) but unfortunately, they are closed on Mondays and Tuesdays so we'll do without this trip.

On Tuesday we take advantage of the high tides in the morning to get through Ashepoo Creek and on to Savannah, our next stop at Thunderbird Marina. 

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Charleston Maritime Center - last day

These modern ships are so ugly! He blew his horn 5 times to warn a sailboat right in front of him!
Well we did some really exciting things today, like sleeping in, doing laundry, doing the NYT crossword, etc. If you're really into the cruising lifestyle, it's a typical day. The weather changed to the cooler side with a high of only 73 today, good thing we're headed south on Monday.

I spent most of the morning preparing for the shallow water south of here. We can get through most of it even at low tide but not the Ashepoo River where 3.5 ft has been reported at low tide. So with that we'll stop off at B & B Seafood just before the Ashepoo River. They have a flat rate of $25 for any size boat but it's really not a marina. They only have room for at most 2 boats and it's really an unused shrimp boat dock. We'll have to dock at the far end to make room for the shrimp boats that come in a night. The place is closed Mondays so I told the girl that answered the phone today that I'd put the dock fee into an envelope under the door, she was fine with that. We've been there before so we know where to dock.

A view from our marina at night, goodbye Charleston
We'll leave Monday at 8:00 am so we can make the 9:00 opening at the Wappoo Creek bridge. Then it's a race against a falling tide to make the shallow spots before low tide. Should be fun...

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Charleston Maritime Center - Harris Teeter and Downtown

One of the many horse drawn carriages along the streets of Charleston
The main attraction of the Charleston Maritime Center is that Harris Teeter is one block away and downtown is only one more block. So this morning it was a visit to Ann's favorite supermarket (Harris Teeter) and restocking for the trip to Florida. Next was a trip to downtown Charleston and a visit to the Charleston City Market, a must see when in the city. It's composed of several long, narrow buildings that house displays of wares from local people.Most are homemade and offer a large variety of things to wear, display or eat. It's interesting just to see the offerings from such a unique area as Charleston.

Oh, which one to buy?
One of the art forms that Charleston is famous for are the intricate, hand woven baskets of all sizes. Some impossibly small and others very ornate. You can find all kinds at the City Market. You'll see the artisans weaving the baskets in the market as you walk by their displays.

Some are quite intricate
We walked over to the Roseway after dinner. We first saw the schooner in Maine many years ago and it's been refitted and is now sails for the World Ocean School . What a great experience for high school students to spend weeks sailing the Atlantic. It's headed for St Croix, its southern home port.

Looks like a great time being had - they have courses to take and skills to learn along the way
The temperature today was 85 but Sunday's high is only projected to be 70! But then it will start to climb again the next few days, good to be headed south which we plan to do on Monday.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Charleston Maritime Center - at a dock

It's a small marina - but a great location
We had intended to anchor at the halfway point, Awendaw Creek but we reached the anchorage a little before 11:00 and then decided to go on to Charleston. Earlier that day they had a cancellation and we took advantage of that for one of their limited supply of docks. It's a very small marina, only a dozen or so slips but it's very convenient to downtown Charleston, within walking distance and it has a great grocery store - Harris Tetter.

However, getting there involved transiting some of the most shallow areas of the ICW at low tide! There were long stretches of 5 to 6 ft depths and that was with a 1.0 foot plus tide! We don't draw much, only 4 feet, 9 inches but that's too skinny for even us at a dead low tide. But with the 1.0 foot tide, we made it through, barely. It is inconceivable how irresponsible the government is in not providing the funding for maintaining a public trust. The answer is always the same from the Army Corps of Engineers - there's no funding for dredging. And yet just think of all the billions of dollars spent on frivolous projects benefiting a few people in a congressman's district!  It's really sad.

We found our old friend from Maine - Roseway
Regardless, we finally made it through and we're both exhausted from the tension of transiting shallow water, it takes it out of you. So we did make it to Charleston and we're going to celebrate with three days of rest and exploring of downtown before resuming our trek south on Monday (through more shallow water! - Florida and North Carolina dredge, South Carolina and Georgia don't give a dam-)

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Georgetown Landing Marina - at a dock

Typically scenery along the Waccamaw River - away from civilization
We had wanted to dock at downtown Georgetown but this was the weekend they were hosting their annual wooden boat show and everything was filled up. So we took a dock at a nearby marina out of town, the Georgetown Landing Marina. It's the same price but not as convenient to downtown.

Now this is real alligator country - you're in a kayak???
We are in the part of the ICW now where we seldom anchor unless it's right at an inlet. There are alligators aplenty in the area and we aren't keen on taking Hoolie ashore where he might become a snack for the local wildlife, especially after dark, his 7:00 pm run. So we usually take a marina through this section of the ICW. Even in the marina we're in now, there are signs all over the place to "Don't feed the alligators". You are warned that they are much faster than they appear (the alligator surprise.... - the last thing many of the local wildlife sees). So we take a dock and mark it up the good judgment, we think.

Don't miss the Shrimp Dock fish market when in Georgetown!
I borrowed one of the loaner bicycles for a trip to town to get fresh seafood. The Shrimp Dock had fresh grouper which was outstanding. They also had shrimp (of course) and local flounder. The grouper was just excellent!

On Friday comes a very difficult stretch of the ICW. We are in South Carolina and Georgia where they do not dredge (unlike North Carolina), claiming they do not have the money. As a result, the local towboat companies do a land office business. Some spots are down to 2 ft at low tide. So on Friday we are going to try making the 52 mile run through the shallowest spots to take advantage of the late afternoon high tides but we have to beat the Ben Sawyer bridge closing at 4:00 pm, a tough assignment. I don't know if we'll make it but we'll give it a try.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Barefoot Landing Marina - Last day

The rain finally stopped
It stormed all through the night and into most of the morning. I did find a gap in the rain to take Hoolie ashore but then it started up again. By 2:00 it was all over and the rest of the day was fine. We were going to stay here today anyway so we just enjoyed the good weather for the afternoon.

Have I heard these before.....?
So I wandered around the shops and discovered the "Women's 5 Most Deadly Vocabulary Words" on a tee shirt. I think I've come across these before... For the rest of the day it was planning the trip south. We are not in sync with the tides and we'll hit some of the shallow areas at low tide, not a good plan but I think we can make it through (wow... says Ann?)  So I refilled the water tanks and washed out the cockpit, we're all set to go. We met a couple in a sailboat with a 5' 6" draft, wing keel, that were taking their first trip down the ICW and were unaware of all the shallow water ahead of them?! Live and learn I guess.

We are headed this way Thursday morning
We are aiming for Georgetown on Thursday and the trip down the Waccamaw River is one of the most beautiful stretches of the ICW. It's alligator country for sure but they are mostly in the side branches and not out in the river itself. We don't plan on anchoring anywhere nearby and will take a slip in Georgetown. Unfortunately, it the weekend of the wooden boat show so we'll be upriver from the town itself.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Barefoot Landing Marina - Greg Norman's Australian Grill

The place has seen some renovations since the spring
Well, we needed to replenish our wine supply so it was off to the nearest Walmart. They are allowed to sell wine in South Carolina. The marina here was a service to take their customers to the nearest Walmart or anywhere else close by at no charge. We took advantage of that for keeping an amply supply of wine on board. However, along the way we found a liquor store and discovered that it also sold White Lightening (see photo). I had never seen it for sale before in a store.

White Lightening in a store?!
We met John and Chuck on the boat behind us today, a large powerboat. They are also on the way south and invited us aboard for drinks at 5:00 pm. It turns out that he's also Air Force (retired) and we had much to talk about. While having drinks, Fred Bergheim acosted me and it turns out that he had been following my blog for the last three years and when he knew I was in Barefoot Landing, he dropped by for a chat. Such meetings have happened with regularity over the last few years. There are about 30 to 50 people that follow my blog on a regular basis and at some point along the ICW we may meet. Of course, all are invited to drop by to say hello!

We always have dinner one night at Greg Norman's Australian Grill and we spoke so highly of it that John and Chuck decided to come along too. We just had a great time trading stories, one of the unique attractions of the ICW, the people you meet along the way.

We often meet people who read our blog and want to see us in person - they know about Ann and Hoolie too
Severe storms are forecast for Wednesday so we'll stay another day before starting south again on Thursday.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Barefoot Landing Marina - at a dock

Scenery along the way south - we're starting to get into the grasslands
Low tide was at 7:15 am Monday morning but the current was still rushing out until 8:30 am. So as we left the marina at first light, around 7:00 am, to catch the outgoing tide we still experienced a rising tide on the way out. It seems strange that water can  be rushing out of the inlet (2 kts down  river!) and still have the depth of the water (tide) increasing?! When we came into the marina yesterday, it was against a 2 kt current coming up the river and yet the tide was falling as we entered the marina. The tides and currents have a complex relationship around here, not easy to understand.

Entering the Rock Pile!!
The trip down the Cape Fear river was as calm as any we've ever experienced. No wind and the current was with us. As we entered the ICW at the bottom of the river, we even had the current with us there too. So we sped on. We found that North Carolina, unlike South Carolina and Georgia, dredges the trouble spots on the ICW. There was no slowing down and feeling your way through Lockwood's Folly or Shallotte Inlet, they had been dredged in the spring of 2014! So with that we made good time and arrived at Barefoot Landing around 1:30 pm after surviving yet another trip through the Rock Pile.

Just a long face dock but it's interesting to wander along the shops and eat at Greg Norman's
The marina here is really not a marina. It's just one long face dock. There's no restrooms, no showers - just a dock and electricity. However, they do offer free trips to the nearest Walmart which we'll take advantage of on Wednesday. Whenever we're here, we always have one dinner at Greg Norman's Australian Grill. They have the best steaks on the ICW and we're dying for one.