Friday, November 26, 2004

Beaufort NC � Fernandina Beach, Florida Nov, 2004

We spent the night in a very unusual anchorage, sharing Hammock Bay with a military ship. This was after we had motored through the artillery range, between the tanks/guns and the targets. There was no active firing while we were there, but there were helicopters doing touch and goes during the night.

Off to Wrightsville, where we were able to watch surfing -- another first. Plus we enjoyed some great fish, bought at one of the many fish marts. Leaving Wrightsville we went aground at Green 153. This area had been written up in Skipper's Bob's and we were being cautious but obviously didn't "favour the green" enough. We could see the dredgers up ahead, so we hoped this section might be already done. When Bev called an approaching sailboat to warn them about the "stuck boats", the dredgers called back to let us know they would be dredging that spot tomorrow. Great. We didn't have to wait -- the rising tide and a power boat wake got us off. We had left Wrightsville at low tide, because we needed high tide to get into the anchorage at Pipe Canal.

Nov 11/04 Barefoot Landing, Myrtle Beach A shoppers paradise!! 500feet of free dock next to a huge outlet mall, complete with a live theatre, restaurants and cheap buses into the city. The dock was full when we arrived, our group had gone ahead, (we had stopped for fuel and pumpout), and had secured a place for all of us to raft up. The next day was rainy, so we did our Christmas shopping. It was also Deke's birthday, and that was a good enough reason to "party". We planned to give Deke a weed sprayer bottle like the one we use for our shower. At Walmart, the bottles were sold in pairs -- one "bug" the other "weed" so we also had a gift for Gail on RagtimeII -- both were greatly appreciated, and a lot of wine was drunk at the bash.

Early the next morning we were up, as the winds had picked up, and we needed to put more spring lines to the other boats rafted to us (we had ended up next to the dock). We shoved off to continue south. The ICW at this point is definitely more populated, we had to slow down for 3 dogs crossing in front of us, and watch overhead as the golfers crossed in their gondola cars. We anchored behind a small islaGondolas carrying golfers, crossing ICWnd just off the main channel, but one powerboat thought the channel must be where he saw other boats, and came into the anchorage full speed, fortunately for him there was enough water, and we just rocked in his wake.

We anchored off Georgetown, which is a lovely historic town, with beautiful moss covered trees, great waterfront boardwalk, and nothing open. Guess Sunday shopping isn't available here.

Nov. 16/04 We have made it to Charleston. We will be staying here for a few days waiting for Bill to arrive from Canada to travel with Ron. We are all looking forward to the change of pace and it is finally warming up. Temperature at the nav station is a comfortable 22 deg C. Bev is in her shorts for the first time in weeks. Nights have been colddddd. Happy hours contiue to be a regular occurance. Today is a maintenance day, oil change, grease thru hulls, change alternator belt(cracked) normal kind of things. Bev did laundry and fetched water from the marina. The dolphins are becoming a regular sighting. Everyday there seems to be one near the boat.

We were concerned about anchoring in Charleston! All the guides discourage anchoring due to the current. Since we don't like paying for marinas, we decided to give it a try . We put out a single anchor, in the Ashley River, just south of the bridge, across from the Municipal Marina. The weather forecast didn't reveal anything to be concerned about. We kept swinging with the current, which is strong, but the anchor held fine. We had no difficulty leaving the dinghy at the marina and didn't mind paying the fee, since they allowed us to use their laundry, & water. We spent a couple of days walking Charleston and it is a beautiful town, with lots of history and charm.

We are looking forward to Bill coming, he was on RAFT for the trip from Penetang to Toronto and now will be going with Ron for a couple of weeks. But sadly we are saying goodbye to Chris and Deke, our new friends from New Hampshire. We have been travelling with them for the last couple of weeks and really enjoyed them. They are leaving Chris-Deke in a marina south of Charleston and returning home. It is tough when work interferes with cruising. We had both a goaway breakfast and dinner before they left.

Nov 20/04 Getting out of Charleston Time to go, and we are all ready to put some southerly miles under our keels, but the winds were not really cooperating. The prediction for Saturday was light southerly's, Sunday still light but westerly... We had the choice to continue down the ditch, or go outside, but those winds were going to be primarily on the nose... always a problem with for a sailor. We really didn't want to do the ICW through Georgia. We had heard that the channel weaves around through miles of marshes, and the tides and currents are greater than we had already experienced. Plus, we were cold and wanted to get to the warmth of Florida.

We decided that since the winds were supposed to be light, we would try to motor through them offshore. So 6 am we headed out the Charleston Inlet to the ocean. Of course the winds were on the nose, and a little stronger than predicted. So we ended up motor/sailing/tacking/quartering waves, which the boats could easily handle and the crew, but added significantly to the distance we had to travel.

Bev had the 10pm - 2 am watch and continued the motorsail tack. Ross's shift was 2 am - 6 am. The wind died right down, the ocean went flat and although we didn't sail, we are having a great motor boat trip across and making up some of the time we lost yesterday.

This was our 6th all night sail on this trip, and we are getting used to it. We are sleeping when not on duty. Bev does 6 am - 9am, Ross catches some more sleep. The rest of the day, we just take turns napping.

By mid afternoon we were anchoring off Fernadina Beach and it is hot!! Daytime temps around 30 and during the night it stayed very comfortable, we even had the enclosure windows open . What a nice change from the cold nights we had endured in North Carolina.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Norfolk Virgina � Beaufort North Carolina Nov, 2004

Norfolk Harbour

We have made it to Norfolk, Virginia, Mile 0 of the ICW (intercoastal waterway affectionately known as "the Ditch"). We arrived yesterday afternoon, and motored through the immense harbour -- over five miles of Navy dockyards, on both sides. Many of the docks are empty, presumably the ships are elsewhere, but there were at least 3 aircraft carriers, and about a dozen other ships, some obviously mothballed, and others in stages of retrofit.

We had seen several "warships" as they call themselves on the VHS radio, in the Chesapeake, and they appeared to be on training exercises. The military presence in Norfolk is actually less than we expected, certainly less than what we had experienced in New York. We have seen a couple of small high powered grey inflatable boats, and a couple of grey patrol boats guarding the ships, but they stayed on the sides of the channel, no up close inspections as we experienced in New York.

Norfolk Harbour

Based on what we have seen so far, Norfolk is a dichotomy of military/commercial ships in all repair, docked next to cruise liners, beside five star hotels and regenerated waterfront cafes, across the river from lovingly restored 1800's houses and buildings, next to marinas, and a canopy covered theatre. Last night we walked around historic Portsmouth, the west side of the Elizabeth River where we are anchored. They were having a Ghost walk, where they had reinactors performing in front of many of the historic buildings. All were in costume and carrying oil lamps. Lots of people were following the activities, and in the several restaurants, but otherwise the other streets were empty, and the only stores were antique stores and pawn shops.

We are anchored off the Hospital Point, beside the Naval Hospital, in a wider section of the river/channel. In this small anchorage, there are about 30 pleasure boats, mostly sail and this morning we woke up to find out that a 700 ft cruise ship, 8 stories tall is tied to the dock on the Norfolk side, less than 300 feet from us. It is all decked out with lights, and sounds, lots of bells & loudspeakers giving boarding instructions. (Another similar ship, is just down the river about 1/4 mile, being renovated). As we sit in the cockpit, tugs and barges, container ships & ocean going ships, water taxis & small ferries, continue to pass by. Always something to watch, and be rocked by. It is still hard to get used to being anchored (for free) in such close quarters.

Today, we are going to explore Norfolk, and try to find a place to refill our propane tank. We have been told we have to walk/taxi about 4 miles to find a filling station. This has so far been the only problem we have had in finding things. Because so many land people just tank swap, places that will actually fill our specialty aluminum tank have been difficult to find, and rarely close to where we are anchored. We have 2 tanks, and the last time we had one filled was in Sarnia, we are getting 6-8 weeks out of each tank, so it is not an emergency, but we don't want to pass up an opportunity.

Historic Lightship permanently docked in Portsmouth

Tomorrow, we plan on starting down the 1000 mile trek down the ICW to Lake Worth. We expect we will be traveling 40 - 50 miles a day (8-10 hours of motoring) so expect it will take us about a month. We are still traveling with Ron Marshall & Larry Webb (on their own boats) and Ted and Gail on RagtimeII.

RagtimeII and Inukshuk docked at Great Bridge

Great Bridge: what at great overnight stop. Free dock just south of the lock, complete with picnic tables. We walked over the bridge to the mall, and found that if we would have been better off to do all of our shopping here. Within an easy walk were groceries, restaurants, Radio Shack and a place to get propane. If we ever do this trip again!

Coinjock is our next stop, and we are in our first marina since Castleton. Here we treated ourselves to a meal out, and we have met Chris & Deke, from New Hampshire (boatname Chris-Deke) and it looks like they would like to join our group.

Sharing the ICW with a barge

Tues. Nov. 2/2004 Election Day, but since we are Canadian, we aren't looking for a place to vote. We motored across the Albermarle Sound, for once we appreciate the lact of wind, as this is a part of the trip, that can be rough. We even got through the Alligator Swing Bridge before there was a car accident on the bridge causing delays! Must be our lucky day. Anchored at mile 105, entrance to Alligator Creek.

It is so hard to keep track of time, during the day, night, day or date. Sunrise, sunset, tides, winds and weather are more important than watches and calendars. The other morning in Bellhaven, we woke up at our normal time -- sunrise, did our morning routine, and set off to town, to do our errands and gather supplies, but found out that nothing was open yet!! Also happy hour ends, it is dark, and time for bed -- sometimes as early as 1900.

Another Word about Bellhaven, it is impossible to walk there. Everytime we left RAFT with our yellow raincoats and backpacks, you hardly had parked the dinghy and started walking when someone offered you a ride, and the same thing when you left the store to go home. We had rides in pickup trucks, cars of all descriptions and everyone wanted to take up right back to our dinghy. It is just amazing how nice people can be to strangers. All of the cruisers recognize that we have to change and be more friendly when we do get back home.

Everything else is great. Have had no more problems with RAFT, Ross has been doing his routine maintenance, and we are learning quickly what salt water does to freshwater boats -- who made up the name "stainless steel"?

Nov 6/04 Beaufort, North Carolina We continue to see porpoises on our trip, this time as we enter Beaufort. Adams Creek is a very popular anchorage and it is full when we arrive. We anchor off the town, just inside the markers for the main channel, along with a lot of other boats. We see a wild horse on the island, so we go over to investigate. While we are away from RAFT, the Coast Guard board RAFT and post a bright orange notice, telling us we must move from the main channel. It is getting dark, about 20 other boats including ourselves are being forced to reanchor into a smaller area. This is really unfair, and could be dangerous. Some of the boats who were posted had been anchored in the same location for a couple of days, and are upset that they have to move. After we got settled, a catamaran, 40 ft. square, anchored right beside us! It wasn't their fault, but we did have a difficult night keeping the boats apart as we swang together with the tides.

Beaufort Anchorage

Apart from this we had a great time in Beaufort. We were going to go to do a side trip to Cape Lookout, but weather didn't cooperate, so we had breakfast out with Chris-Deke instead. Beaufort has a free marine museum, and if you are going to be there awhile, you can arrange to borrow their courtesy car and go shopping.