Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Beaufort, NC to Ortega Landing, Jacksonville. October 20 to November 1, 2019

We left Beaufort for Wrightsville Beach on Monday October 21.  Along the way we were passed by many high speed military vessels….they don’t do “slow passes”!  

It was an 82 mile run so we arrived later in the day but were able to wash the salt off the boat and get a walk in before dinner.  And dinner was such a pleasant surprise!  On our walk we discovered a small fish market only a few blocks from the marina.  We bought fresh shrimp, scallops and grouper.  So good!!

This marina apparently knows they are in the middle of migration season given the $180 we paid for one night on the face dock. This is about double the average price we usually pay for a transient night.  But it was a nice stop with friendly and helpful staff.

Tuesday we left for Myrtle Beach, the Barefoot Marina, about 70 miles down the ICW.  We had to traverse the famous "rock pile" area of the ICW and we did so without incident!
After arrival we rinsed the boat, and went for a walk over to the other side of the ICW where Lulu’s and a number of other restaurants and shops were located.  Just exploring a bit, no meals or shopping there for us.  Really just our exercise for the day.  One can see how busy this place would be in the summer tourist season but pretty quiet on a Tuesday in late October.  But it was a beautiful day for walking with temps in the mid 70’s.

Next stop was Georgetown, the Harborwalk Marina.  We have stayed here at least 4 times now and always enjoy Georgetown.  It was a very calm day so Julie decided to practice her docking skills.  She did her normal well done docking.  We visited the grocery store and took a nice walk including visiting another fresh seafood shop for some more shrimp and scallops.  
They are oh so tasty when fresh from the docks!  
We even found a local parade and the theme was all about prevention of bullying in schools and the community.
Nice sunset.

And to continue to keep her skills fresh, Julie backed at an angle to get out of the slip, down the fairway between boats on each side and around the corner into the harbor in the morning as we left.  Both of these practice sessions were performed from the upper helm, which she had never used for docking, only anchoring situations.  We believe this is a safety requirement for each of us to be able to operate the boat, so these practice sessions are good.  As Julie gains more confidence we will have to consider having her captain into slips all the time, thus Tom can handle lines with a longer reach and more strength.  We also saw fellow Gold Loopers Daryll and Cindy (Nectar) at the docks here.

On Thursday we departed for Isle of Palms.  Arriving at the marina.
We had never stayed here and wanted to check out the island.  There was a very nice Harris Teeter for groceries and we took a neighborhood walk on Friday morning before leaving for our next anchorage as well.  Nice island.

The Togoodoo Creek anchorage  was only about 40 miles so we did not leave isle of Palms till around noon.  Along the way to our next anchorage.

As with almost all the anchorages in the low country, tidal currents shift every 6 hours and one’s anchor need to reset itself 180 degrees as this happens.  So we always set an anchor alarm with a reasonable tolerance (we use anchor rode length X 2, plus 50 foot drag/reset allowance) to awaken us should it not reset.  Fortunately, in all our anchoring our anchor has reset within the tolerance, usually with only a short drag/reset distance.  The only anchor alarms that have awakened us were for low battery or lost GPS signal.  The salt marshes are beautiful to anchor in with sunsets, sunrises and often feeding dolphin and other wildlife to entertain you.

Next stop was Beaufort SC (BU FORT, SC, not BO FORT, NC).  We stayed at the city marina and enjoyed our walks around the historic houses.  We like the historic architecture sites here.  Much less crowded than Savannah, but much the same.  Lots of quaint shops, nice restaurants and a solid marina.  Always a great stop for us here.  Our friends Steve and Debbie (Gypsies Palace) were on a mooring ball there and stopped by to say hello as well.

On Sunday we went to Shelter Cove Marina on Hilton Head, only a 30 mile trip.  We have never stayed all the way up Broad Creek as the miles of no wake into the marina seemed “out of the way” in previous years.  But we had great recommendations from many to try it and we did like it very much.  Our automatic routing suggested a short cut over a charted 4 foot area and given we had an additional 5 foot of tide we used it.  Well, I’ll confess, a local 50 footer had just gone that way so we were confident and yes we had 9 feet of water over the area.  And it cut over two miles of regular speed and two miles of no wake travel out of our day, probably a 45 minute short cut in all.  
They even had a resident manatee.

A Whole Foods and a Kroger were in easy walking distance and we were able to restock the pantry so to speak.  Great bike trails (although we walked them) are all around the area.  We too would recommend the marina and its location, very protected, great folks and reasonable fees including free laundry.

On Tuesday October 29 we anchored in the Wahoo River.  It rained in the afternoon as we were arriving, in fact we slowed down to let lightning pass before we (Tom) had to go out on deck to set the anchor. It was still raining when we anchored, but the lightning had passed.  

We had quite a bit of rain so no star gazing but a peaceful night with a couple well lit shrimp boats anchored nearby as well.  
And it is always a good night at anchor when the anchor alarm does not sound.  By the way, the alarm built into Aqua Map that we run on the iPad is the best.  Easy to set the anchor location, does not lose the GPS signal, takes very little battery power and plots your track within the tolerance you set displaying location relative to anchor.  Very nice.

On October 30 we arrived at Jeckyll Island, one of our favorite stops.  Along the way, we passed the beached and overturned freighter that has been in the entrance to St Simons Island and will be for some time while they dismantle her and remove it.  This picture does not do it justice as it is a huge ocean going car transport vessel on its side.
The marina is very convenient with friendly staff and reasonable rates, the walking is phenomenal with the beach, a grocery store, shopping and of course the restored homes / cottages to view.  

We always try to see our old neighbors John and Becky who live on Saint Simons Island nearby when we come to this area.  And we were lucky that they were available for dinner at the Driftwood Bistro on Halloween night.  It was great seeing you John and Becky, thanks for providing the transportation and great company!  Sunset as we returned from our great dinner and conversation.

Our boat insurance requires us to be north of 31 degrees North latitude from June 1 to November 1 each year for hurricane season.  Jeckyll Island is just barely north of 31 degrees so we were poised to go further south on November 1.  We had made a reservation at Ortega Landing in Jacksonville for the month of November so off we went on November 1.  It was an 80 mile trip and we had tidal currents to deal with along the way. We were fortunate that most of the currents were with us, including the strong currents in the St Johns River which we rode with all the way to Ortega.  We did have two delays along the way.  One area we had to travel through was the King’s Bay submarine naval area near Cumberland island.  We have previously seen a sub way in the distance coming in from sea, in fact we were asked to keep moving along that time.  Actually we were “escorted” to keep moving along.  Well today, one was outbound and it was right ahead of us!  They are certainly large and the photos do not do it justice.  It moved along around 8 MPH so we had to slow to stay behind it for 3 miles or so.  But it was worth it to see it so close up. 

The second delay was the railroad bridge right in downtown Jacksonville. It is open except when a train is coming but that was today, a slow moving train came and took a good 15 minutes to clear the bridge.  We motored in circles as the current was pushing us toward the bridge.  No complaints though, the current behind us was welcome.

Upon arrival in Ortega, many hands were on the dock to catch lines.  Fellow Gold Loopers Tom and Carol (Destination??) in the next slip and George and Rachel (Rachel) who we met in Longboat a couple years ago all greeted us.  We were able to wash the boat and get to Publix before dark.  We even got our flu vaccines done at the Publix pharmacy .  Ortega is a very convenient marina location.

We know our month here will be a good one.  We have some travel scheduled to see our children and celebrate Thanksgiving with Mom, have some friends scheduled to stay aboard for a few days and will enjoy walking the neighborhoods here.

We have travelled over 3000 miles this year since leaving Grand Haven, MI on May 30.  We will go to Longboat Key in December and use it as “home base” to cruise the west coast of Florida perhaps visiting as far north as Tarpon Springs and south to Marathon or Key West.  We have plenty of friends to visit and waters to explore there.  We do not intend to go to the Abacos, Bahamas this year due to the devastation from Hurricane Dorian.  It is so sad to see phots of our favorite cruising grounds in ruins.  We pray that all the wonderful families we met over the years there are safe and can rebuild their homes and businesses in short order.
We promise to update again soon.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Havre de Grace, MD to Beaufort, NC. Lots of friends along the way! October 2-20, 2019.

We planned to leave Havre de Grace at first light but it was raining and windy and we needed to thread our way between the rocks on the port side and a large 62 foot boat along our starboard side. With low tide we were concerned about depth along the rocks as well.  So we waited for some tide, the wind went down as predicted and we left around 11 AM for our relatively short trip to Baltimore.

We arrived at Anchorage Marina and were hardly on the dock for 10 minutes and a couple walked up to say hello.  It was Bill and Kellie Rae (Ocean Dancer) who we had met in Marsh Harbour the Bahamas almost three years ago.  They had recognized Sum Escape and came down to say hello.  They had spent the summer at this marina.  Another small cruising world story!

This marina had a great location.  We could walk to many restaurants and shopping locations and did so. 

It was also a good spot for Tom to fly to Michigan to see Mom for three days while Julie stayed aboard.  It was great to spend time Mom.
We were also able to have dinner with our nephew and his wife who are expecting their first baby in early 2020.  It was great to catch up with them too.  Best wishes Paul and Stephanie!
We took a nice walk in Patterson Park, the oldest park in Baltimore.

Next stop was to visit Looper friends Betsy and Dave (Frye Days).  They summer in Solomons and then migrate south to Longboat Key for winters where we will see them again in December or so.  We had a wonderful dinner and a great time catching up with them.  We look forward to seeing them again at LBK.  See you soon Betsy and Dave.  We stayed at the very friendly Solomons Island Yacht Club.
 Sunrise as we get ready to leave.

After two nights at Solomons, MD, we departed for Deltaville,VA where we would see yet another Looper couple.  Beautiful on the Chesapeake today.
  We took a nice walk near the marina and saw three deer and a flock of quail (we think).

We had a great cocktail hour aboard Sum Escape with Amy and AJ (Gimmie Time).  It is such a great community of boaters we have met over our 4 years of cruising.  Thanks for making time for us Amy and AJ.

We departed for Norfolk early on Sunday.  Wind was pretty strong all night so we did expect some choppy seas on the Chesapeake.  It did not disappoint.  The wind was shifting so the seas were confused so we cranked up the speed for a good portion of the trip to smooth our all the rolling we were doing at hull speed.  We don’t do this often but at times like theses we appreciate the ability to move out and smooth the seas a bit.  Passing a sailboat at about 18 mph. The photo really does not show how confused the seas really were.
Maybe the video shows it a little better...moving along at 18MPH.

As we were approaching the Hampton Roads area, the Navy was announcing the arrival of a submarine from sea through the channel.  It was interesting just how many boaters do not monitor their radios and the navy escorts vessels would “run them down” to get their attention to stay at least 500 yards away from the sub and not cross its bow under any circumstances.  By the time we got there we could see the sub in the “explosives handling area” noted on the charts and then they announced it was returning to sea.  We were actually pretty close as we passed it but the Navy did not have to contact us as we kept our distance as required.

On Monday morning I was able to have breakfast with a business associate from my SpartanNash days.  Thanks for making time for me Kathy, it was great to catch up a bit!

After breakfast we departed for Coinjock

where we planned to have dinner at the famous Coinjock Restaurant, renowned for their prime rib.  A bit of a traffic jam along the way at the Gilmerton Bridge. 

12 boats in the Great Bridge lock....the Fall migration is in full swing!
Leaving the lock...traffic jam....

We had arranged to have dinner with fellow Gold Loopers Steve and Debbie (Gypsies Palace).  It was great to get to know them a bit and we look forward to perhaps meeting up along the way south over the next couple weeks.  And the prime rib was very good with leftovers for one more meal.
Leaving Coinjock at first light.
An osprey with the moon setting just outside of Coinjock.

Looking at the weather forecast for the next three days, only Tuesday appears to be a good travel day, then one needs to be in safe harbor for a pretty good two day blow.  We love River Dunes near Oriental NC which is 127 miles from Coinjock.  Remember, we normally travel at 10 MPH or so, plus get slowed by no wake zones, other small vessels we pass, etc.  And days are not 12 hours of daylight long at this point in the year.  But we do have the option of running at 18-19 MPH in some of the more open areas of this route (Pamlico, Nuese River, Alligator river) so that became our plan.  We’ll rationalize burning a lot of diesel by combining the advice of mechanics to run the diesels at “maximum cruising RPM” (2100-2200) occasionally and wanting to be in a safe harbor for weather to spend the dollars of fuel.  Who said a trawler can't move along!

Along the way we had to traverse the narrow Alligator/Pungo River Canal.  And who did we meet but Island Girl, the tow who told us there was plenty of room last year when we tried to pass him in SC. The resultant delay and prop damage is still a fresh memory. I did not call him, we just moved ever so slightly off center and passed.

We left just after 7 AM arrived at the anchorage just outside River Dunes around 6 PM, so the plan worked. We anchored just outside of the marina basin in Broad Creek.

Wednesday is going to be rainy but there appears to be a window in the morning where we could enter the marina, get fuel and a pump out and perhaps get tied in a slip and a short walk in before the wind and rain come up and we get soaked doing all this.  And that worked out too!  Love it when a plan works out!

Our friend Ralph (Mazel Tug) and his friend Diane met us for dinner at River Dunes.  Ralph lost his wife Linda to cancer a year ago, his home was severely damaged  by Florence and we have kept in constant contact with him.  We had previously stopped to see them in New Bern a couple times but Ralph said he would drive out to meet us this time.  It was great to see him and meet Diane and we had a nice dinner at the restaurant here. We continue to pray that his home and boat are soon repaired and things start to return to some normalcy.

It was nice to be tied in a slip on Wednesday and Thursday as the wind blew hard and it would not have been pleasant out on the water.  We had some good walks and caught up on things like chart updates, blog writing, travel logs, etc.

We had a nice transit to Beaufort NC, (BO FORT don’t call us BU FORT…that one is South Carolina) and the Homer Smith Marina.  Along the way we were met by a number of schools of dolphins.  It is amazing how they “hear” us coming and beeline for the bow wave to play in it.  We counted 10 in one school.

After arrival here, it became apparent that we would be here three days due to the remnants of tropical storm Nestor passing through with lots of rain and wind until late Sunday.  Fortunately they made room for us to stay three days, thanks so much dockmaster Clark and Homer Smith Marina.  We were able to use the courtesy car to replenish supplies.
Sunday we walked to the grocery store and even found a squash display in the produce department featuring all the squash from Hudsonville, Michigan!  Roasted delicata is our new favorite.

We also took nice walks and even checked out the so called farmers market.  Unfortunately, it was 98% crafts, not produce…. 
 Most of these homes were built in the 1700's!

The forecasted path of Nestor comes right over us.

The wind and rain really only kept us aboard on Saturday evening and Sunday morning so it was another nice stay in Beaufort.  And it was no where near the intensity that they forecasted, the highest gust we recorded was 29 knots.
Next stop is Wrightsville Beach.