Saturday, November 27, 2010

Away to Vero Beach

We anchored in Daytona Beach in a very tight, shallow anchorage two nights ago and didn't dare leave the boat. It was a bit frustrating because the strip was so close. We were still worn out from all of the running to Orlando anyway. We went to Cocoa yesterday - it reminded us of the trip we took years ago when the kids were little. We had taken them to Orlando to Disney and then drove out to Cocoa Beach.Aidan and Elizabeth don't remember too much except the Kennedy Space Center and Disney. Check out Elizabeth's take on this trip at

Time flies.

We see dozens of signs warning boaters to slow down to protect the manatees - an endangered species.The manatees often swim just below the surface and the props from speeding boats slice into their backs,injuring or killing them. About 30 years ago there were only 200 or 300.Due to the awareness campaigns, there are now about 3000 but they are still fragile, with decreasing habitat and speeding boats. Scott has seen two while driving - they are very large, gentle creatures, sort of like small elephants of the sea.

It's rainy today and we had a nice shower last night to wash the salt spray off the boat.

We're headed to Vero Beach, some people call it Velcro Beach as they get stuck there waiting nervously for a weather window to cross to the Bahamas. We would like to find another boat to travel with but we're not too sure about success. Our boat is actually kind of fast,to put it modestly, and we'll need to find one that travels about the same speed.

We've also changed our minds a bit about where we're going to get into a spot for mom and dad and Reggie to meet us. We've decided that instead of crossing from Lake Worth Inlet (near West Palm Beach)to Lucaya on Grand Bahamas and then heading south to Nassau and then the Exumas that we'll head further north to West End or Memory Rock, then Great Sale Cay north of Grand Bahamas and then head to the east to the Abaco Islands. We think it may be less likely we can get south given challenges posed by weather and the distances involved.

We can meet up with the gang at Marsh Harbour or Treasure Cay and it's easy cruising for a week or so. There are lots of great day trips we can take from Marsh Harbour and there are plenty of places to stay for mom and dad and to fly in and out of.

We're all looking forward to seeing them so much. There's just so much to do in Vero, it's a bit overwhelming. Got to go add to the list.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Time out - Hello Orlando!!

St.Augustine had its celebration of lights, getting us in the holiday mood.

So, we took a break on Monday and due to the upcoming American Thanksgiving, decided that we should go to Orlando and do the Universal Studios thing before the weekend.

We got a great deal on a hotel (!!!) and off we went in a rental car.

It was weird being off the boat - kind of a big room, probably not for some but for us, used to small spaces, the king-sized bed seemed a bit ridiculous.

Anyway, we had a blast at Universal Studios - visited the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. The lineups were a bit much - earlier in the day there was a four hour wait just to get into Hogsmeade. There were also lines to go into the stores but the hour and a half we waited to go on the Hogwarts roller coaster was actually worth it. The ride was fantastic, bringing you on a broomstick ride through Hogwarts with Harry, Ron and Hermione urging you on. We saw the new Harry Potter movie in St. Augustine on the weekend so it was a good follow-up. It was long and fun and thrilling. We also stopped for a butterbeer - see photo of Elizabeth and Aidan - and of course, we also had to visit the Spiderman 3D roller coaster and Dr. Seuss Landing.

Today we picked up bushels of oranges and fruit and headed back to our home on the water.
Tomorrow we head to Daytona Beach. Its hard to leave this beautiful village, we'll have to stop here on the way back.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

In St. Augustine . . . at last

We left Charleston last Tuesday and headed to Beaufort, SC on the ICW. It was a nice run with one stop on the hook just off Sam's Point. The water was deep, the night was still and we were tired. We slipped into Beaufort by 9 a.m. and decided to anchor for the night. We wanted to leave the next day to go offshore to Fernandina Beach, FL or St.Augustine.

What a day! Scott and Aidan headed into town on the dinghy for showers. While they were gone, Elizabeth and I worked on homeschooling and cleaned the cabin in readiness for the trip offshore. At the same time, the wind was building. It was to go to 15 to 20 knots which it quickly did. By the time Scott and Aidan had returned it was howling at 30 knots plus.

We didn't dare leave the boat and we watched in dreadful fascination as two boats near us dragged onshore. Our sturdy Rocna held and we kept checking it and watching the current and seas around us froth a bit.

We had plans to go out for dinner with Dave and Marilyn from Wind Sprite, a couple from Ottawa and finally by 5, it had calmed down enough for us to slip into the dinghy dock for showers and dinner. By 6 it had piped again to 15 to 20 knots. We spoke with Mirelo, a boat from Quebec who also wanted to travel offshore with us. We decided to reconvene in the morning to figure out what to do.

We got back to the boat about an hour and a half later and realized an apparently abandoned Catalina Morgan 42 had dragged a bit closer to us. It was now dark and stormy and we decided to take in some rode and watch her closely, assuming the owner would return. It was clearly a newer boat and all equipped for the trip south. THe owner never appeared. Scott was up all night checking on the boat. I got up at 6 to check on it and it seemed fine. The tide changed at 6:30 and suddenly Boom! The Catalina had slammed its anchor chain into our port quarter. We ran up in pyjamas and shoved it off. It dragged away with no owner in sight. We decided to pick up anchor and move (a bit late) and moved closer to the marina. We set the anchor facing current and the dying breeze. That was our first mistake. Messenger with her fancy racing keel likes to ride a current and race up the rode. We took a quick run into the heads ashore and came back to discover Messenger had tangled her rode between the keel and the rudder. The current had pushed the boat with such force that the rode was tight against thehull and slipped under her hull. We tried for about an hour and finally got it out when we untied the rode completely from the bow and tied it to the stern. I was in the dinghy at the back helping feed the rode around while Scott and the kids lifted it up. Unfortunately, the prop seems to wiggle a bit now and we'll have to assess.

We were exhausted and wet and muddy and following two sailboats out to sea. Yikes.

The weather window was too good to pass up.

We had a very pleasant offshore passage. Elizabeth and I had taken seasickness medication - Bonine - early in the morning - so we were a bit drowsy but with when Messenger caught the wind, she took off at 7 knots and we galloped for about 6 hours with a NW wind on our beam. At night, we furled in the genny and motorsailed all the way to Fernandina Beach.

A stout breakfast out, we took a walkabout around the historic village and did laundry.

The next day was busy as we made the 60 miles to St. Augustine, did some paperwork, homeschooling and general navigation - whew.

We're here in beautiful St. Augustine. It's lovely here. Our friends Klaus and Barbara from Toronto are here, as is Jock from Port Dover and Heather and Murray Rand - the Bahamas gurus - who are waiting to leave themselves and have a car!!!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Magnolia Plantation - Charleston

Upper image: Flowers from the garden
Next: The tragic reminders of the slave trade - the plantation's slave's quarters - home to dozens of African Americans.
Next: The current house on the grounds - built about mid-1800s - the others burned to the ground.
Next: the beautifully managed gardens

Saturday, November 13, 2010


We are at the Cooper River Marina in Charleston, a clean spot with great staff but it's way out of the way.

However Tom and Sharon have rolled out the welcome mat and are treating us to three days of car usage. What luxury!

We arrived Thursday and left the boat in a mess but ran into Charleston with them, had a tour of the city with Sharon after Tom went to work. Then, Elizabeth and I had a chance to go to the College of Charleston, where Tom is a faculty member, to hear Greg Mortensen speak. He's the author of Three Cups of Tea and Stones into School. He spoke of his efforts to bring peace through education, particularly girls' education, in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Elizabeth had read the children's version of Three Cups of Tea and really enjoyed his talk.

Off to bed and then Friday we went to Magnolia Plantation after a morning of errands.

More on that later.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Some navigational notes . . . South Carolina and the ICW

I should mention that for those considering the waterway through the Carolinas that we skipped the upper portion of the North Carolina waterway to avoid groundings. We heard a great deal of chatter on the radio about boats running aground (many power boats as a matter of fact) as well as trying to hold position before a swing bridge in a two plus knot current.

We went offshore at Beaufort Inlet and entered at Wrightsville Beach (Masonboro Inlet). This is not an easy inlet, not a Grade A anyway, mostly due to the nature of the currents, wind and waves that can cause four-foot standing waves or more at the inlet.

However, if timed correctly and after considering the weather forecast, we found the inlet easy with clear buoys marking the channels. We went to starboard after entering the inlet and anchored just inside the beach in about 16 feet of water. Currents and tides are significant factors to consider when anchoring.

We found the water a bit skinny between Wrightsville Beach and Sunset Beach bridge. We stayed at Dock Holidays Marina in North Myrtle Beach. There is a West Marine and Food Lion a five minute walk away. We also got a taxi card and after trekking to the beach about two miles away - well worth the effort by the way - we called thetaxi driver and paid $8 for a ride back. The best part for us though was a chance rendezvous with our friends Dale and Lynne Leonard from home who were in Myrtle Beach proper on a golf holiday. We had a great dinner out with them and said our goodbyes.

Water was decent between Myrtle Beach and Georgetown. It was in fact, quite beautiful along with piece of the ICW - Spanish moss hanging from trees, winding rivers through woods bordering the water.

We wanted to anchor outside Charleston and so started out early from Georgetown at about 6:30 a.m. with about half an hour left of falling tide. We picked up the rising tide as we crossed Minyah Bay and thank goodness we were on high water. There were several points along the way which would have been too shallow to pass - about five feet likely - we had 11 feet with the five-foot tide. We also had Skedaddle, a catmaran skippered by Ken and Sarah who kindly went ahead of us and told us what parts were growing shallow.

We joined them on the spectacular Dewee Creek for a sunset anchorage with dolphins jumping around and birds settling in the marsh.

Today we head to Charleston, but need to wait for a bridge so are having a leisurely breakfast and we'll pull up anchor at 8:30 for the 15-mile trip.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Words to live by: don't feed the alligators

We arrived after a lovely day on the ICW, deep water and gorgeous surroundings. We made it to Georgetown, SC. It's got a restored historic downtown on the Sampit and PeeDee rivers.
It's also got gators. Yep, for real.
There are all kinds of signs around the waterway suggesting one shouldn't really feed an alligator. No kidding.

We got in yesterday during a two plus knot current and had a walk into the downtown from the marina. We were tired, so ate out at a little place on the water, watching the sunset.

We watched a couple of boats dinghy from their boats to a dinghy dock, wondering if an alligator could climb aboard.


Anyway, we're headed to an anchorage near Charleston as 70 miles is a bit far to go in daylight hours. We've seen dolphins today playing alongside our boat. The red tannins in the water prevent us from seeing these joyful animals under the water. We're winding through marshlands here with the curious effect of seeing masts appearing as if on the horizon in a marsh but are actually in the water. It's about 75F, sunny with a cool wind off the ocean close by. Every now and then, the tang of salt mixed with earth blows by in a breeze.

We also had some excitement when our hot water hose clamp cap came lose and started flooding the cabin floor. It was quickly stopped up and we suddenly had water to wash the floor and the decks.
Never a dull moment.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

So we were looking for adventure . . .

And we got it. .

Today after resting up last night from our ocean passage we headed toward the Cape Fear river and inlet. It was tricky navigation as marker 182A in Snows Cut had drifted onto the shore and it was a key marker to enter the river.

We had a four-knot current behind us as well as a north wind. We were flying along at about 7 to 8 knots and planned to turn to starboard back onto the Intracoastal Waterway at Southport. It is also possible to head out to the Atlantic via the Cape Fear Inlet. Frying Pan Shoal stretches out 30 miles to sea offering protection from Cape Fear down to Charleston. But it was cold and we were weary from our travels so we decided to stay in.

About five miles from Southport I was at the helm when I felt a wrench on the engine. Something was on the prop. I threw the boat into neutral and Scott came running up from down below. We tried throwing it in reverse a couple of times but no luck. Scott had noticed a sign for a marina we had just passed. I hailed the marina, also the landing spot for a ferry to Bald Island. The ferry heard us and kindly offered to guide us in as there was severe shoaling at the entrance. We limped in, going only one knot against the current. We docked at the gas dock. Scott dug out his wetsuit and snorkel gear and with knife in hand, Crocodile Dundee style, he dove on the prop and got his prize - a bit piece of black netted burlap. We fueled up and headed back out.

The tricky thing about this passage however is the few available deep water marinas or anchorages for about 50 miles. We had to go slowly threw several inlets but were racing to get to the Sunset Bridge pontoon bridge (another fixed bridge to replace it is slated to open in a week or so) and low and behold there was B&G and a catamaran waiting there. The bridge was closed due to mechanical failures. We threw out our anchors in the channel. It grew dark and the prospect of trying to find a safe anchorage in the blackness. The bridge tender has indicated that he opens all night for commercial traffic but we think we're going to try and hold tight here.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Hurling on the high seas

Elizabeth and I had a non-stop competition in the wee hours today as we headed out of the Morehead City/Beaufort Inlet - who could hurl the loudest and most. I think I may have topped her performance.

Aidan came in with a pitiful showing of a half-attempt at 4 a.m. Then he pulled himself together and helped Scott with the steering as we ripped along at 6 to 7 knots.

We only had a our roller furling jib out as Scott was short-handed and besides, we didn't want to overtake another boat that was kind enough to help us navigate the 80-or so mile passage, B&G, a Canadian vessel. Apparently they had a similar experience with their crew. The seas were confused when we came out of Beaufort but then just around sunrise they steadied off.

Scott and Aidan managed to raise the main and instantly Elizabeth and I felt relief as Messenger dug in and sliced through the waves. If only we had done that earlier!

Honestly, this boat does perform well. It was cold, very cold though, only low 50s F and we huddled in our enclosure with a variety of fleece and gear but even with the sun streaming into the enclosure it was nippy. There are frost warnings tonight up and down the coast so we're pulling out the thick comforters and sleeping bags. It's that darn Canadian weather again.

It is beautiful here though - pelicans, egrets, cranes, all kinds of gorgeous birds and big sandy beaches.

We're tucking in tonight as we get ready to tackle the ICW again.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Heading to sea

The last couple of days we've had some big runs in the ICW leaving Hampton, Virginia on Oct. 31 to Great Bridge, stayed two days there and then started down the ICW to anchor our first night just north of the Abermarle Sound, then we crossed the sound in building seas and rain to enter the Alligator River. We made safe passage there after some careful navigating. Two power boats were not so lucky and we passed them hard aground just outside the channel (they followed their charts instead of the markers).

Then we headed down the Albermarle-Pungo canal through some beautiful remote wilderness with changing trees and birds. We were definitely not at home anymore.

The rain picked up as we entered the wide Pamlico River and had some very unnerving bends and turns through some shoals, thanking our stars for the Garmin chartplotter we purchased in New York.

We anchored in pouring rain at a great anchorage with about 15 other boats tucked in for the night. We agonized over whether or not to stop. It was 5 p.m. and visibility was dwindling but our friends Art and Linda had called earlier and had said they wanted to meet us in Bellhaven that night. We had no cell phone signal nor Internet. But it was another 9 miles to Bellhaven and it just wasn't safe.

The next morning we headed out, and I finally got a signal on the phone from Arthur that they would meet us that night in Oriental. Relief.

We had yet another windy, rainy day but were fairly comfortable in our 'oxygen tent' - our enclosure around the cockpit. The wind piped up to over 20 knots and we managed to wind our way into a slip we reserved in Oriental.

We needed laundry, hot showers and some extra water and fuel would be good. But best of all, Art and Linda were there to meet us.

In Oriental we met another Canadian boat, Believe, with three crew on board. The skipper was a delivery captain at one time and more importantly, had done been aboard a few boats traversing the ICW. He said this next portion to Wrightsville Beach was dicey, especially for a boat with our deep 6' draft. We travelled behind him to Morehead City today - saw porposies!!! - and we ended up at a fantastic restaurant, the Sanitary Restaurant for local seafood. We are leaving early next morning at 2:30 a.m. to make a run to Marlboro Inlet, near Wrightsville Beach. From there we can either take the Cape Fear River to the inlet at Cape Fear or the ICW to Charleston.

The winds are forecasted to be out of the NW and about 10 to 15 knots, building to 15 to 20 knots. We are going to be about 8 or 10 miles offshore and then head south.

We are a bit nervous but we secured the boat down, the kids clothes are all laid out and Aidan is geared up to help us in the wee, dark hours. It's supposed to be cold so we've got our woolies and warmies.

We've studied the charts but are a bit concerned as our laptop chart plotter and the Garmin chartplotter at the wheel are taking turns at crapping out at the most inopportune moments.

We'll post again once we're safe in harbour with a good Internet signal.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Into Albemarle Sound

We're heading from our quiet anchorage last night south of Buck Island to the entrance to Albemarle Sound, across about 20 miles to the Alligator River and then hopefully we'll get to Bellhaven tonight. It's about 60 or so miles we've got to do today so we're hoping for good weather. It's a bit warmer today but very cloudy.

We got a great tip from Kathy and Dave Dieter on Orion to check out the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers website to reposition wapoints on our chartplotter for the entrance to Alligator River - there's a great deal of shoaling there.

Thank goodness for our Power Squadron lessons.We put them on our paper chart after mapping them out and hopefully we won't hit bottom.

We may meet up with our friends from home Art and Linda Alyea - part of our home-based pit crew.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

On our way south

We're heading south on the Intracoastal Waterway, otherwise known as the Ditch. We now know why.It's a bit hairy with extremely shallow water on either side of a rather narrow channel that winds through rivers and canals. We've just crossed into North Carolina from Virginia after leaving Great Bridge this morning.We're hoping to reach Coinjock today - about 45 or 50 miles from our port this morning.There are few places for us to stop due to our 6 foot draft keel. The deepest parts of the ICW in NC are only about 12 feet with many 9 foot or shallower bits in between. It's a bit unnerving. Once we start, we're committed.

Scott changed the oil last night -something that has to take place every 100 hours or so on the engine.Our last oil change was in New York.

We met up with our Irish friends on Wendreda last night but they wanted to take a day and rest after a long night rocking on an anchor near Fort Monroe the night before.

There are several boats travelling together in this stretch. The bridges send crazy shivers down our spine as we cringe with our 57 foot mast under a fixed 65 foot bridge. You have to have faith someone didn't make an oopsy with the measuring tape.

We just bought a new camera and need to figure out how to upload pics. Once that's done, you can see the lovely wilderness along this North Landing River.

We love our enclosure especially on days like today when the wind is gusting up to 15 knots in chilly temperatures. Scott is wearing a toque and mittens and the rest of us are doing schoolwork and other administrative things wearing fleeces and blankies. It's warming up a bit though this afternoon. What a switch from 80F Saturday!