Happy Times On The Lovely ICW

Writing this last week onwards: We are now over that magic line, 35 degrees North and will be just pottering along on the ICW from now until we reach the Chesapeake Bay, except for a couple of sounds where we might be able to get the sails up. It is another 160 miles yet to Norfolk and the entrance to the Chesapeake but our insurance excess has dropped to 1000 pounds during a Named Windstorm and we will be insured for anything that comes our way! It has felt like a bit of a slog getting to this stage, as if we had changed our insurance company and paid 400 pounds more we could have stayed in Georgia in the heat and humidity. The cost of the marinas and fuel was much higher than that but I’m still glad we forced ourselves to leave Brunswick, as we loved Charleston, Beaufort, Oriental and passing through the Carolina countryside and can now look forward to exploring a few creeks of the Chesapeake and relaxing.

Another Lovely Anchorage

Another Lovely Anchorage

We left Harbour Village Marina at half tide and gingerly motored out of their channel into the ICW to make the bridge for noon. Being a Sunday it was busy with motorboats whizzing along and making a lot of wake for us but it wasn’t so bad. The wind was from the north/north-east and straight ahead, so it was slow going and cold. Glad we didn’t try to sail outside the ICW as it would have been miserable, in fact a delivery skipper joined us last night on the fuel dock as the conditions were so unfavourable offshore. We got to the dreaded New River Inlet at High Water and used the ‘dip’ route as best we could in the big current. We didn’t see less than 0.7 metres under us and were glad to get through it without running aground.

Motoring Along The Scenic ICW

Motoring Along The Scenic ICW

Just another mile further is a great anchorage in Mile Hammock Bay. It has a marked channel but we saw 1.0 metres (3.1 metres of water) on the way in and had to calculate the lower tide for the morning as we had a long day ahead and needed to leave at dawn. Roger and Dixie were in the bay too, so we anchored near them in 1.7 metres in good mud, which easily held us through the calm night.

The next morning we motored off again to make the 0700, the first opening, bridge and to get through the firing range area before they closed it. Flashing lights will warn boaters not to enter the 5 mile stretch and there is a lookout tower as well. Through all that, we carried on to the Swansboro Anchorage some 10 miles further on as we wanted to wait for low water to pass to go through some shoaling on a rising tide. We had the anchorage to ourselves and spent an hour drinking coffee before we set off. No issues other than seeing a foot of water under us at times in the known shallows and we rounded the south of Radio Island and into Beaufort before 5pm. This channel is also well marked and there is plenty of water right up to the town docks where we had booked a slot. The marina was pretty empty though as it is only for transient boats and it’s definitely low season. The dockhands helped us in between the pilings and pontoon, gave us the wooden nickels for a free beer and told us about the town.

Conveniently Berthed Next To Beaufort Boardwalk

Conveniently Berthed Next To Beaufort Boardwalk

The anchorage area is full of moorings and looks a lot smaller than in the photographs so I wouldn’t recommend it. Although it is expensive, at 2.55 dollars a foot per day for us, the marina location is great, right on the waterfront boardwalk with shops, restaurants and plenty to watch. One couple shouted over to us having seen the Welsh flag we fly, as one of them was from Tredegar. The shower block is a short distance away but clean and cool. We borrowed one of the courtesy cars to go to the Piggly Wiggly supermarket and explored the town on foot as it is quite small. The Dockhouse just next to the boardwalk had live entertainment for us one night, a singer/guitarist who wasn’t bad at all.

Everything Is Picture Postcard Pretty!

Everything Is Picture Postcard Pretty!

I got up early to take photos and visit the old graveyard and we had a coffee in the Cru Café. The graveyard is fascinating, full of history and sad stories. One family lost 4 children as infants, then 3 sons before their 40s, presumably in battle. Another area has a memorial to the settlers killed in their battles with the Indians in 1711. Many graves are numbered so you can use a personal ‘tour guide’ by the gate for more information. On a brighter note, we ate a cheap but good lunch in the Mexican restaurant and ice-cream one evening plus a wander around the shops took up one day and we also visited the excellent and free Maritime Museum with great exhibits and information. There is a lot of history about Beaufort and a whole section on Blackbeard, the pirate. I took a lot of photos of the beautiful houses but Rob says I’ve posted too many already. We also gave the outboard a run up and down the anchorage, then landed it on the beach overlooking the harbour. It is still hot and sunny enough for swimwear and a tan!

Getting My History Fix

Getting My History Fix

After 2 nights we decided to carry on north on the ICW to get over our line and call in on Oriental ‘Sailing Capital of North Carolina’ and home to Ann and Nev, OCC Port Officers. As we exited the narrow section, a huge barge being pushed by a tug came from the sound going south. Glad we didn’t encounter it on our way as there wouldn’t have been much room for us. The entrance channel to Oriental is quite shallow and we were told to avoid the final green by cutting the corner from G3 to R6 as there is no water near G5. The new free town dock is also too shallow for us with depths of 6 feet but it was sturdy and convenient, the only issue being its proximity to a large shrimper, covered with birds and the resulting mess on your boat. It is to starboard of the Fuel Dock, has cleats on the wooden posts and is painted blue and yellow. The marina is also too shallow for us but their Tiki Bar is a nice place to chill out. We anchored though, with a couple of feet of water under us, between the channel and the bridge. It was calm, secure and we had a neighbour, another blue yacht.

Oriental Marina & Dinghy Dock

Oriental Marina & Dinghy Dock

Ann and Nev, who is Welsh, were expecting us and within a couple of hours of arriving, we had been given a tour of the small town and great hospitality at their home with drinks, dinner and a load of washing done. We had a great evening chatting and left with a bag of tomatoes, pecans and squash from their garden. The town is super friendly towards cruisers and has the means of getting everything you need. The chandlery in town sourced us a new AB dinghy oar to replace the one we lost in 2014 and a spark plug for the misfiring outboard. The Bean café is the one to go to for delicious drinks and pastries, so we stayed an extra night to enable us to have a leisurely breakfast, get supplies and walk around the town. Naturally the houses are pretty, made from wood with open grounds. We hardly see fences around the plots.

Just One More!

Just One More!

One house had a gorgeous puppy and adult Australian sheepdogs. Adorable! Rob naturally got licked to death as usual. There is a beach, lots of walks and free bicycles at the chandlery. Further out is a West Marine and supermarkets but Ann offered to drive us anywhere we needed to go. We were told there are 3000 boats for the 900 inhabitants of Oriental and during the evenings we watched several small motorboats circling us trawling shrimp nets. The bigger, commercial ships went out regularly, returning with their catch to transfer to the lorries for distribution. Locally there is a shop selling fresh seafood and the chandlery has milk, fruit, vegetables and lots of storable items.

Sunset At Anchor In Oriental

Sunset At Anchor In Oriental

Keen to press on, we left without mishap and continued out east along the Neuse River and across Pamlico Sound to round Maw Point into Bonner Bay and west into Spring Creek. There was at least 3 metres of water right into the creek, another big, empty anchorage and well sheltered. We let the anchor settle into the mud for a while before digging it in hard and later we were joined by another British yacht. The following morning we left early and waved to ‘Landfall’ as we passed but they called us on the radio to explain they had engine issues and no phone signal, were also OCC and TowboatUS members and could we call Towboats for assistance once we obtained a signal. This we did and managed to let them know before we got out of VHF range. Hopefully Towboats turned up!

Spring Creek With 'Landfall' In The Distance

Spring Creek With ‘Landfall’ In The Distance

After crossing Bay River we went back inside the ICW and continued to Pamlico River where we had the genoa up for an hour until we reached another idyllic anchorage just off the Pungo River at G23. This is just before you enter a long canal and we were ready to stop and have a sundowner. A few pots are easy to spot and along the sides of the anchorage but we did see less than 2.6 metres on our way off the channel before anchoring in 3 metres near a fishing platform. Another navy blue sailboat joined us and we had a calm and peaceful night. The lightning I saw briefly stayed in the distance thankfully.

Pungo River Anchorage At Sunset

Pungo River Anchorage At Sunset

So, we continued at 0700 the next day along the Alligator/Pungo River Canal. 4 hours of straight lines, a couple of fixed 65 foot clearance bridges and a narrow channel with stumps from fallen trees along the edges. It is really pretty, heavily wooded both sides. Bank erosion from boat wakes is causing a lot of damage along the canal but the ICW channel is deep, up to 5 metres and we stayed dead centre. The other yacht was ahead of us but we didn’t see any other traffic and it was beautifully calm and quiet, good training for our canal boat life. Having a 60 foot mast has made it easy for us to use the ICW and our draft was only a problem for the stretch between Jacksonville and Cape Fear.

Tranquil & Empty ICW

Tranquil & Empty ICW

The Alligator River swing bridge opens on demand unless it is very windy and the bridge tender was probably glad of something to do so he stopped the traffic quite early and they had to wait whilst we motored through. We then turned east immediately and across the bay for more than 2 miles before anchoring nearer the shore, north of the Lodge, the only building. We didn’t see less than 10 feet right across but had to dodge lots of fish pots. It had been getting windy so we were glad it got calmer as we approached our chosen spot and we were well protected in the north-east wind which was forecast to switch to south-east during the night.

Straight Line Motoring

Straight Line Motoring

The next morning we awoke to the rumble of thunder. Not our favourite sound whilst sailing but we checked the radar, having full strength AT&T data signal there. It showed a lot of rain around us but a clear area where we were going, across Albermarle Sound. We were keen to get to Coinjock Marina, 50 miles from Norfolk, as severe thunderstorms were forecast for that night and following day. The rumbling continued and we anxiously watched a black cloud pass south of us but we sped across the 12 miles of the sound with our full genoa and got into the ICW again as fast as possible.

Another First - Alongside Protruding Wooden Posts

Another First – Alongside Protruding Wooden Posts

The ICW has been deep for this section, up to 5 metres or around 15 foot of water and very scenic. We stay in the visual centre of the channel and use the Navionics charts on our iPads, especially when it rained. Then we kept dry under the sprayhood whilst monitoring our position on the iPads and the ICW is just straight with a few turns so our autohelm, Cyril, can easily cope. The markers are all numbered and actually switched sides half way up the Pungo Canal, over to what we are used to in the UK, ie green to starboard. We keep to the charted ‘magenta line’ as the pots are normally outside of this channel but not across Albermarle Sound. Here we had to dodge pots all along the route, not very relaxing with the genoa up.

Tired Puppy - Raven Is Not Playing Thank You!

Tired Puppy – Raven Is Not Playing Thank You!

By 1300 we were tied up at Coinjock, helped in by their friendly dockhands and against a wooden piling for the first time. We had seen photos of the marina, so knew it was all alongside and had posts that stuck out from the dock, requiring our fenders to be horizontal against them. Our teak rubbing strake is also useful in the US as they use pilings a lot and we can’t damage anything other than the teak rubbing strake if we do scrape against one.

The other navy boat in the anchorage was also at the marina, so we had a good chat with Jerry and Lynne in the restaurant later. They had done over 70 miles to arrive the day before us but we tend to potter along doing between 20 to 35 miles as we like to get in early and have a nice evening. The marina is family run and a great stop. Fuel, water, power, food, clothing and a small but really well stocked chandlery are on site, as are clean showers and a laundry. The loads cost 2 dollars each, in quarters, but they have coins in the shop. The bar and restaurant are nice and the famous prime rib was a must for Rob, so we booked it in advance. I had shrimp and Pollock, again delicious but their handmade crisps, given free as you choose your food, were amazing!

Tree Stumps Along The Alligator/Pungo River Canal

Tree Stumps Along The Alligator/Pungo River Canal

Last evening and during the early hours we had thunderstorms with high winds, making us very glad we were safely tied up here. Today it is just raining and between downpours I’m doing the laundry, cleaning the boat a little and doing some admin. The boat is a lot cleaner than in the past as there is no dust in the atmosphere and no swarms of insects that leave their wings behind. The water is now very brown though, like tea and the few inches of the stern that sit in the water is also brown. It will need a good clean once she is ashore.

Fishing For Breakfast

Fishing For Breakfast

We found, to our delight, a black Labrador and puppy sleeping in their bed in the shop. Tired out from playing all night, they enjoyed a stroke but didn’t want to play anymore. If the rain does stop, we will leave tomorrow to do just over 30 miles to the free dock near the lock. There are a couple of bridges which we will need opening for us but they don’t usually slow us down as we aim to be at them for the published opening times, on the hour or half hour. The railway bridges tend to remain open, just closing for trains. After that we have jut 10 miles to the OCC Port Officer’s free dock in Norfolk and are looking forward to meeting Greta and Gary.

Posted in Costs, Domestic Info, Draft 2.1 metre/7 foot, ICW, Tourism, USA | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

On To Southport & The ICW North

We left Charleston City marina using the current to take our stern out and away from the dock. It was a good stay, if a little expensive. We investigated the prices for hauling out in the City Boatyard but having to pay 250 dollars for a simple jet wash and a too high to mention daily DIY charge just for us to do our own work, on top of the daily boatyard storage charge was just outrageous. There are yards on the Chesapeake where you can leave the boat ashore for around 100 pounds a month, as well as live on them ashore. Many don’t allow liveaboards afloat nor ashore, so it pays to find a small, friendly marina that understands the needs of the average cruiser.

South Harbour Village Marina

South Harbour Village Marina

Returning to the anchorage where we spent the first evening, we put plenty of chain out in anticipation of possible thunderstorms that afternoon. Sure enough the skies darkened and the wind direction changed, bringing the black clouds closer until the lightning storm was just above us. It got very windy for a short time but the boat didn’t move an inch in the thick mud and we had plenty of deep water all around us and no other boats. It lasted a couple of hours before settling into a calm night and we slept until the alarm went off for our dawn start out of the Charleston Channel. We had the current with us and were soon sitting reading whilst the autopilot, genoa and engine took us swiftly to the next inlet at Georgetown.

On The Fuel Dock - Easy Diesel Top Up!

On The Fuel Dock – Easy Diesel Top Up!

We didn’t go all the way up river to the town, although it looked really pretty in the guide but anchored near the junction of the southern part of the ICW, just between an island and the coastal mainland in 4 metres of water. Again the holding was great and just as well for the current was very strong. When it changed direction we heard a bubbling noise and saw a wavy band of disturbed water moving along the channel. Haven’t seen anything quite like it before. It was a really pretty anchorage but sadly we were off again at 0200, to make the 80-mile next hop in daylight and to arrive through the inlet with a fair current.

OK - You Go First

OK – You Go First

It wasn’t a very exciting trip, just a lookout now and then in the empty sea until we got close to land again. We saw a 1000 foot cargo boat waiting for the pilot boat and hoped we’d get in before the pilot got aboard but no, they soon caught us up and I pulled off the main channel to get out of it’s way and avoid a huge wake. There was a good depth of water both sides and he was way bigger than us! Once through the channel we had a very quick current with us, taking us north towards a known anchorage at 8 knots with very little engine. Trouble was we couldn’t turn fast enough through the minute entrance into the anchorage with the current dragging us along, so we opted to go to the South Harbour Village Marina a day early. We booked in for a week and were pleased to hear the rate was 1.50 a foot daily but even cheaper to book for a week rather than 5 days with our TowBoatUS discount. It is a nice little marina with very helpful staff, 2 restaurants, a laundry and clean shower rooms. Some reviews mention the wake, as the transient dock is right on the ICW with all the little weekend motor boats but we didn’t find it a problem as 80% of them slowed right down as they passed the marina. Several diesel pumps made it easy to top up the tanks for our couple of hundred miles motoring on the ICW.

It is a bit of distance from anywhere though, so we decided to hire a car for a day to visit Wilmington and the supermarket, through Enterprise. Although we had a firm reservation, when we rang to arrange the pickup an hour beforehand, the local office didn’t have a car and failed to get one all day. Totally wasted day and the Call Centre blamed the local office for not updating the car availability whilst the local office blamed them for making bookings when they didn’t have any cars. Didn’t impress us one iota. We spoke to their escalation team who forwarded it on to the regional manager for some kind of resolution but as I write 5 days later we are still waiting ….. Instead we used Uber for the first time and have to admit it was impressive. They were 4 minutes away immediately, so we had to rush to get off the boat and to the marina office! Being the child I am, I liked watching the driver’s car progressing towards us on the app.

Sand Dunes Bordering The ICW

Sand Dunes Bordering The ICW

Our next step was to get to Morehead City next to Beaufort in North Carolina. We had 2 options: ICW in 4 stages to take the charted shallows at high water and the bridges at their opening times, or go outside from Wrightsville Beach to the inlet at Morehead City. The tides weren’t right for entering the inlet late afternoon and if the winds were strongly onshore it would be rough. I rang up Towboat US to ask about the chance of us getting through the trouble spots on the ICW and they agreed we could make it at high water. This stretch of the ICW is very narrow for the main part, just a dredged channel through mudflats and we couldn’t see many places to pull off to anchor. There was a marina, Harbour Village 45 miles up, that could take us and a well protected, deep bay a mile after the most notorious shoaling inlet at New River known as ‘Hell’s Gate’. Two other less protected anchorages are 17 miles north but we would have added another night if we stopped at either of those. We worked out the tides and bridges and wrote a time plan for the 4 days to get us where we needed to be.

Swing Bridge Beginning To Close Behind Us

Swing Bridge Beginning To Close Behind Us

For the first night we anchored at Wrightsville Beach, a pleasant busy resort with a couple of large anchorages. The best channel in for a deeper draft like us is the southern one. It is hard sand though and it took us 2 attempts to set the hook. A British/American couple, Roger and Dixie sought us out in Southport and were also in the anchorage so we had drinks on Beyzy and discussed our plans. Both of us intend getting a canal boat in the UK so we had plenty to chat about. After a peaceful night without thunderstorms we upped anchor to catch the 0900 bridge opening so we could get the next bridge 5 miles and an hour later. This took us to the next shallows for high water and a midday entry to the marina. You can only dock overnight by appointment as all the slips are private, surrounded by beautifully designed houses.

The entrance is well marked by 6 posts but you have to line up dead centre and dead straight and the strong current was sweeping us past. On top of that a small motorboat decided to cut us off, as the marina camera clearly showed, so we had a bit of a scary struggle against the current to avoid hitting the initial starboard channel marker. It was also quite shallow where we ended up, seeing 0.5 metres under the keel and this was almost at high water. Once we were inside the current lessened and we were able to turn around in the basin and manoeuvre onto the long fuel dock. It is very sheltered inside and we were right next to the WiFi mast, office and showers. It costs 2 dollars a foot but includes electricity and water, neither of which we needed. Mike, the marina manager, sent us an email with photos of the entrance, a video and a plan with very clear instructions. Not seen such great information before. He welcomed us in with a compliment about my boat handling skills, being a woman! Thinking about it, we have never seen a woman steering a boat in the US if there is a man aboard. Not saying they don’t but we haven’t actually witnessed it. So perhaps Mike was surprised to see me on the helm. He was also shocked to hear we’d crossed the Atlantic in Beyzy but then we are the biggest and deepest boat in his marina and with about 200 slips there are only 4 yachts. He said that due to the shoaling of some of the inlets, the yachts have had to go elsewhere.

Yet Another Marina!

Yet Another Marina!

We had been expecting a bad thunderstorm yesterday evening with ‘damaging winds’ but fortunately we had a minor one at dawn instead. It hasn’t stopped raining yet but there is nothing to do here anyway as there are no towns nearby to walk to and no restaurants. A local Italian will deliver pizza so that’s our dinner tonight. In the meantime we are starting to plan the next few months, getting the boat on the market and finding storage for most of the items onboard. We have joined ‘Trusted Housesitters’ and found a beautiful house and pet sit in the UK for over 3 months from late October and are looking forward to spending time in the stunning Lake District with a dog, cats, chickens and doves to care for.

Tomorrow we continue north along the ICW but it will be a rush to meet the high water deadlines further up but also to get out of this marina without going aground. We need to go through Hell’s Gate just after 1300 and will anchor in the big naval bay just after before catching the next high water the following day to navigate the remaining shallows before reaching Morehead City for early evening. We have already telephoned the dockmaster at Beaufort for a couple of night’s stay as the town is said to be very pretty.

Posted in Costs, Domestic Info, Draft 2.1 metre/7 foot, Friends & Family, ICW, UK, USA, Weather | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Charming Charleston

Before we left Brunswick I had my first close up encounter with a manatee. It was just by the office, literally inches away and I hadn’t realised how huge they are! Wish I’d had the camera though. Our overnight passage went smoothly, with just enough wind on the beam to sail most of it. We encountered a couple of yachts and shrimping trawlers, the latter covered in well fed birds. The entrance into Charleston is a deep well marked inlet which we joined half way along as there was no need to add extra miles. We were waiting for a huge container ship to exit although there was room for both of us in the wide channel.

Birds Waiting For Their Dinner

Birds Waiting For Their Dinner

Our 145 mile trip came to an end anchored a couple of miles south east of the City Marina and we had a good night dug into the mud with 3 metres underneath the keel. We were the only boat but had 2 live groups to entertain us from the nearby yacht club. The next morning we chilled out before hailing the Marina for our reserved berth. Check in is after noon, hence the wait but as they had tons of space I’m not sure why we needed to. They have a megadock, a very long dock, for transient boats but ask for the inside if possible as it gets choppy from the wake of passing boats, especially at weekends. One night we had a big thunderstorm which also made it uncomfortable for our fenders, as we were pinned onto the dock.

Wedding Venue Next To The Marina

Wedding Venue Next To The Marina

The Marina isn’t cheap. We paid 101 dollars a night and stayed 5 in the end. Their washrooms are the other end of the dock, so quite a walk but they will pick you up in a golf cart if necessary. The best thing on offer was the free shuttle bus running you around. It became our personal transport as the Marina was so quiet and we used it every day to downtown and the out of town West Marine chandlery and Harris Teeter supermarket. You just phone again for a pick up.

The Famous Pineapple Fountain

The Famous Pineapple Fountain

I’ve always wanted to visit Charleston and it was a lovely experience. We started at the Visitor’s Centre to get maps and ideas, then planned our days from there. The city runs a free, air conditioned bus known as DASH around town, so we hopped on that several times. We visited the Charleston Museum and their 2 historic houses with tours of the houses being every half hour and very interesting. The museum was founded in 1773 and provides a good history of the city. The Heyward-Washington and Joseph Manigault houses contain beautiful furniture and you get a great feel for how the rich plantation owners lived in their summer homes. One cupboard was for a block of sugar, locked due to it’s value. They had dishes to rinse their wine glasses as even the rich could rarely afford more than one per person. There was also Wedgwood china on display in a rare purple-pink colour, totally different to the blue we usually associate with Wedgwood.

Beautiful Furniture Gracing Serene Living Rooms

Beautiful Furniture Gracing Serene Living Rooms

One great idea, as they moved from one house to another depending on the climate, was a chest of drawers split into 3, with 2 drawers having handles on each side. They could then be easily transported between homes. Unfortunately many got lost, so there are only a few rare examples left. We also learned how a few phrases originated, such as ‘hitting the sack’ due to the beds being sacks filled with hay or materials. Also the dining tables were originally just boards and only one person had a chair, the others being benches or stools. Hence the ‘Chairman of the Board’.

The Info!

The Info!

Outside the Charleston Museum is the first submarine to sink an enemy ship!

The Sub

The Sub

We also visited the Slave Mart Museum and stood in the courtyard where so many lives were sold. It’s a small but very poignant place. The homes along the cobblestone streets of the French Quarter were stunning and so well preserved. The Customs House, Market and parks are also beautiful. I could have walked around for days! You can also hire bikes from many locations, including the Marina, if you want to start early when it’s cool.

The Slave Mart Museum - Poignant Place To Reflect

The Slave Mart Museum – Poignant Place To Reflect

On Saturdays Marion Square hosts the farmer’s market from 0800, another brilliant place to wander around. The crafts are a really high standard as are the foods tempting Rob. Fresh local produce, jams, sauces and breads can be bought. Entertainers keep you there whilst you can sit at tables for breakfast or lunch.

There are endless shops, cafes and restaurants, antique shops and galleries, just not enough time to do even a tenth of it but we loved Charleston and would return anytime.

Which Sweet Shall I Have?

Which Sweet Shall I Have?

So we slipped off the dock at noon after a final wander to see the ‘pineapple fountain’, using the incoming tide to push the stern out and slip the bow. We are now anchored in the same place as last Thursday so we can head out at 0615 tomorrow for the 65 miles to Georgetown, followed by another, longer, day sail to Cape Fear. We will be leaving in the dark on Friday as we need to be underway by 0300. At least we only have 8 hours of darkness this far north, rather than the 12 we are used to. It gets light by 0530 and isn’t dark until gone 2100.

I have far too many photos of the buildings, gardens and graveyards around Charleston to publish, so here are just a few!

P1070614

P1070616

P1070620

P1070621

P1070681

P1070682

P1070688

P1070588

P1070634

Posted in Costs, Tourism, USA, Weather | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tennis Halts Progress But Leaving Tomorrow

It is a fortnight since we left the UK and we have settled happily back into life in this wonderful marina. We attended 5 social events in the first week and the July 4th Party went well. As the marina is pretty much full now, the Yacht Club was busy for a pot luck evening, followed by ‘chicken foot’ dominoes and the city fireworks at 2100. Fortunately they let them off just opposite the marina and we could see everything from our boat. Thousands of locals gathered here too, having picnics on the grass banks whilst they waited for the fireworks.

Visitors For The Fireworks Show

Visitors For The Fireworks Show

The first Friday of each month is open night in town. Many shops serve drinks and snacks and stay open late. There are specials in the restaurants, on top of the 10% we get off in most of them by showing our marina card. Good to see the town was very busy with a great atmosphere, as it can be quiet and a bit dead the rest of the time.

Being avid tennis fans, we lingered longer than intended in Brunswick just to watch the Wimbledon Championships, as it was so comfortable and easy for a change. Gone are the days we had to hike miles to sit on a hard bar stool outside in the heat. Here we wander up to the air-conditioned lounge for 0800 with a coffee in hand and sit on the plush sofas until the last match is over. With a choice of 3 big TVs, a popcorn machine and the bar, it is certainly a lovely way to spend the week and there have been some excellent matches. I could get the laundry done at the same time.

The Second Lounge With Laundry Room Behind

The Second Lounge With Laundry Room Behind

However, we do need to move on as our insurance is void if we aren’t north of 35 degrees by mid August and the clock is ticking. We can’t afford to be uninsured during the busiest hurricane months. Until then our excess is 14K. There have been a couple of tropical waves to excite the meteorologists but so far they haven’t come to anything significant here. We have been ready to leave for a week in reality but for the tennis. Our neighbours, Paul to starboard and Sylvia to port, have very kindly taken us shopping and given us a tour of the area in the process. We have everything we need on board so there is nothing other than our wish to see Jo Konta and Andy Murray continue their great Wimbledon progress, to hold us here.

Cheering On The Brits From Afar

Cheering On The Brits From Afar

Our plan is to leave tomorrow around noon to use the current out of the inlet. Then we head north towards Charleston overnight, a trip of 162 nautical miles. We will anchor near the town for the first night when we arrive and berth in the City Marina for a couple of nights on Friday, so we can explore. Marina charges aren’t cheap here and the 2 nights will cost nearly 160 pounds but we feel happier if Beyzano is safely tied up whilst we are ashore, especially in the strong currents of the river.

Next we head for Georgetown, a trip of about 80 miles but if it looks like we won’t make it before dark, we can continue overnight to Cape Fear instead, another 75 miles further north. Going 26 miles north on the ICW there to Wrightsville Beach means we don’t have to go out to sea 20 miles around the Frying Pan shoals off Cape Fear, so it’s a great shortcut. Our friends, Bob and Lin from ‘Ile Jeudi’ have recently done the same trip so suggested this route and they didn’t have any issues. After a night anchored at Wrightsville Beach we will go offshore again to Morehead City in North Carolina and get back into the ICW for a few days to Norfolk and the Chesapeake. Only a few miles from Morehead City, at Oriental, we will be over that magic line, 35 degrees N and our insurance excess drops to just 1K. Then we can take it easy, stop along the way and investigate a few marinas where we might stay during the autumn.

Leaving Our Boat Card Behind

Leaving Our Boat Card Behind

We have been in touch with several Ocean Cruising Club Port Officers, all of whom have been very helpful and welcoming. Many have free docks we can use, despite our draft and will assist with sourcing provisions, lending cars and finding boat items, not to mention entertaining us at their homes. We are looking forward to meeting the POs in Oriental, Deltaville and Norfolk on our way north. We are also keen to catch up with Bob and Lin as we last saw them in the spring of 2015 in Anguilla.

I’ll be sorry to leave Brunswick Landing Marina. It has been a very comfortable and friendly stop and we would happily return. If they ever installed a swimming pool it would be paradise! We left our boat card on the wall and guess it will get moved to the ‘Dearly Departed’ section in due course. We are off to the ocean once more!

Posted in Costs, Domestic Info, Friends & Family, ICW, USA, Weather | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Back Afloat & Heading North

During the final week in the UK we managed to meet up with lots of family and friends, including Carol who was our ARC neighbour in Las Palmas in 2011 and who we last met in January 2012. 4 year old George took his mum, Sabrina and me to a soft play centre, a good introduction to what being a grandparent might entail. Tearful farewells once again reminded me of how much we miss people when we are away.

Visiting Ely, near Cambridge

Visiting Ely, near Cambridge

Our journey home to Beyzano was superb from start to finish. Steve gamely got up before 5am to drive us to Heathrow’s Terminal 5 where we had the luxury of the business class lounges for breakfast, using our penultimate batch of air miles. We had also been able to pre-book our seats on the Airbus A380, a plane I saw before she went into commercial use as the fuel and landing gear tests were performed at Filton, Bristol. I remember the gigantic wheels continually going up and down for months and the glee at work when the evacuation test was completed well under the required level.

British Airways has changed some of the rules lately, meaning we could only take 2 bags in the hold but they could weigh an additional 9 kgs. Who would want to lug around a bag of 32 kgs is beyond me though, so our 4 bags still weighed under 23 kgs, the allowance you would get in Premium Economy anyway. On top of that, despite the full cost of seats being thousands of pounds, you still can’t reserve one until 24 hours before the flight. This seems poor customer service to me as I wouldn’t want to pay another 85 pounds to book it earlier.

Anyway, gripe over, we had a wonderfully quiet and smooth flight. The upper deck business cabin was only a quarter full, so we had a steward to ourselves and could have sat where we liked. We both looked at one another in astonishment once we were airborne as there was no big power surge or seemingly any effort to get the huge plane off the runway. I have seen her take off empty from Filton and the pilot climbed very steeply and threw her around a bit, as she is clearly a very nimble aircraft. The cabin crew let me explore both decks and talked about how it is to work on board. A bit cramped in fact, as the space has been given over to the customer rather than the crew and they probably didn’t get consulted when the requirements were being written.

Even Our Banks Are Ancient!

Even Our Banks Are Ancient!

The food was top class as was the entertainment system but I could have done with another couple of hours to get some sleep. I was just too excited to finally get to fly on the A380!

We arrived early into Washington DC and as we had used our visa to enter the USA before, we didn’t need to fill out any forms. Immigration was quick and painless and he gave us 6 months as we showed him our cruising permit, valid to April. He told us we can extend for another 3 months in December if necessary. Customs was a breeze too as our bags were already in the hall awaiting us and there was no red channel to declare anything, not that we had brought any excluded items, even dumping our beef oxo cubes before we left the UK just in case. All our jars of chutney and marmalade survived the journeys too.

At the airport we planned to take the 5A bus into the city and then walk for half an hour or get a taxi to Union Station. As the bus barely has any space for luggage we weren’t looking forward to it. Then we saw a Shared Van sign and for just 10 dollars more than the bus and taxi, at 39 dollars, 3 of us were sped direct to the station in a van big enough for 15. Excellent. Only issue was that we then had 5 hours until the train left but again, brilliant service from Amtrak and we checked in our bags for the train to Jacksonville. With just backpacks, we spent time in the multitude of shops and restaurants at the station before sitting in the park for a while watching the commuters go by in the warmth of the late afternoon.

Tranquility At Ely

Tranquility At Ely

The train was big and spacious with lots of legroom and an airline style seat with a table, footrest and seat extension flap so it was really comfortable for the overnight trip. At Jacksonville our neighbour, Sylvia, was there to meet us and our baggage turned up too. In no time we were back on board Beyzano and she was just as we left her with not a trace of mildew or any water in the bilges. Brilliant!

We unpacked, then crashed out for a few hours, waking only in time for the social evening at 1700 so we could eat something and get back into USA time. A couple of glasses of wine later we were asleep again but woke at dawn to get the mainsail back on whilst there was no breeze. This is always a big job with the battens to go in and the 3 reefing lines to feed through the 6 blocks as the sail is hoisted and we needed to get them in the right order. Next the sprayhood and bimini went back on to give us some shade and protection from the rain showers and we washed the decks. It is very humid and hot in Brunswick now, so we quickly packed away the blankets and cold weather clothes for the autumn.

Our plan is to leave Georgia after the 4th of July festivities and head to Beaufort (pronounced Bewfort) in South Carolina on Wednesday, an overnight passage of 110 miles. Next will be Charleston, then on to Georgetown, Cape Fear and back into the ICW at Beaufort (pronounced Bowfort) and inshore to Norfolk and the Chesapeake. We have been busy getting Beyzano ready but still have a few tasks to finish off. The track needs lubricating before we hoist the genoa; the new steaming light bulb has to go in half way up the mast; the gearbox oil and engine fuel filters have been changed; I have a new tap in my heads; we are full of water, gas, diesel and petrol and Sylvia took me to the huge Publix supermarket to do a major restock. I have been cooking and freezing passage food, cleaning the boats and creating routes for our next month. Using parts we brought back from the UK, we have a new water heater element in place, a new life ring light, a new compass light and the ship’s clock works again.

Our Future??

Our Future??

Both the engine and generator worked straight away and even the outboard started, something that can be an issue after a few weeks idle. So all in all Beyzano has been wonderful as usual and we can head off as planned. Having said all that, we have made a big decision, one which we hoped being in the UK would help us make and we are going to put our beloved home on the market later this year or early next. It was certainly easier to leave for our adventure than decide when to give it up but we now feel we have done all we wanted to do, spent time in virtually every island in the Eastern Caribbean, sometimes many times and we had the wonderful season in the Western Caribbean and Cuba learning about different cultures and immersing ourselves in their ways of life. We contemplated going down the Eastern Caribbean chain one last time and spending a year diving in Bonaire but we don’t want to keep going round in circles and have other things we want to do, such as skiing, getting a puppy and seeing the cities of Europe. Once we have cruised the eastern coast of the USA and possibly the Bahamas, then we will be happy to return to the UK so we can spend more time with family and friends there. Not sure we will move into our house for a few more years though, as a canal boat life has caught our attention again and would make the perfect stepping stone to being back in a static home. We hired a narrow boat twice before for holidays in England and Wales and already know what type of layout and equipment we need and I have over 20 canal related websites bookmarked. A real plan but for now we will continue to enjoy Beyzano and exploring the USA.

Posted in Friends & Family, Tourism, UK, Uncategorized, USA | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Busy Month!

We have managed to be manically busy during the past month, getting ready for our daughter’s wedding, buying things to take back to the boat, visiting friends and family, spending time in Thatcham, Cambridge, London, Brecon and the Cotswolds. We celebrated our 21st Wedding Anniversary with a night in The Pear Tree, Purton where we had our reception in 1996 and have enjoyed being with our ‘children’ again. We do miss them more than they realise and struggle with not being there for the big events in their lives, as well as the times they need to talk or just have a hug.

Mind you, being back comes with a price and I can’t remember when we’ve done more on so little sleep but Kym and John’s Wedding was just amazing and worth every second of effort and planning. Having the reception venue in a huge park meant the 4 of us started work 3 days beforehand and we finally finished a week later when we saw the tipi packed away again. Friends and family all chipped in with help so we got to know everybody.

It was a wonderfully happy day for the new Mr and Mrs Rutterford, followed by a BBQ the next day for the families and everything went to plan, being all they had dreamed of. Even Lord and Lady Bathurst dropped by to wish the newlyweds well and toast a few marshmallows. Rob and I danced until almost 2am and I was immensely proud of him fulfilling his role as father of the bride. Kym looked so beautiful and I have to admit I’ve been shedding tears since I first saw her in her dress a few weeks ago, a few more as she walked down the aisle with Rob and many more during the day as people said the kindest things. John is the perfect match for Kym and already a big part of the family. I think he cried the most, bless him.

I promised a lot of friends, not on Facebook, that I would post some photographs and here they are.

Posted in Friends & Family, UK | Tagged | Leave a comment

Long Journey To The UK

Our taxi was waiting to take us the 20 minutes to the Greyhound Bus stop and I held it up whilst I took a final photo of Beyzano, looking rather bare without her sails and canvas. We managed to put cases inside one another to cut down on the luggage. It is always on the way back we need the extra space.

All By Herself - Bare Beyzano

All By Herself – Bare Beyzano

The bus was late by half an hour but we still got into Washington DC on time as the 2 changes of buses caught up with the schedule and we still had plenty of time between buses. We wondered at first if we’d done the right thing going by bus due to a screaming child and people talking to themselves but it was actually far better than we imagined. Comfortable seats, plenty of stops to stretch the legs and people watch. Rob managed to sleep whilst I looked at the countryside in the dark as we sped through Georgia, the Carolinas and Virginia. There was WiFi on the bus and a toilet! For less than 160 dollars for both of us, it was pretty good value too.

Board Says On Time 25 Minutes After Departure Time Has Gone!

Board Says On Time 25 Minutes After Departure Time Has Gone!

We had 3 hours in the capital to quickly whizz around to see a few of the main sights but I want to go back for several days in order to visit the Smithsonian museums and see more of the city. We left our luggage at the Union Street train station. The hourly rate was the best option. I was surprised that no trains go from there to Dulles Airport and had investigated ways of travelling. Uber and shuttles make the trip but the cheapest option was another bus, leaving from near the metro station. We took a taxi to the bus stop rather than use the metro, due to the cases but it was only 12 dollars. The bus runs every half hour and takes about an hour if its the express one. You need the exact money of 7 dollars to feed into the machine on the bus but no special travel cards, like you do on the metro.

Capitol On A Cold, Sunny Day

Capitol On A Cold, Sunny Day

We walked to see the Capitol and government buildings nearby but didn’t get to the White House or museums. Next time.

Grecian Style In Washington

Grecian Style In Washington

British Airways proved to be a bit of a pain this trip. We tried to check in online 8 times to choose our seats but the system just said ‘go to the airport’. In addition, having dreamt of going on the A380 for years, since I worked on it at Airbus in 2006 and 2007, BA changed the plane to a Boeing 747. Not impressed! We got to the airport and had seats almost next to each other but the passenger in between us kindly offered to move as soon as we arrived.

Government Buildings

Government Buildings

A 7 hour flight is short in our book and we were soon in London being met by our friend Steve. I had a haircut booked that afternoon, a year on from the last, bought my wedding outfit and shoes the next day, had optician’s appointments the following day and a variety of meetings and socials are scheduled for the next few weeks. Kym came over this weekend to go through all her wedding plans, which was lovely to see. There is a lot to do but she is well organised and I’m sure it will be a wonderfully happy day. The weather needs to cheer up a bit first, as it is cold, wet, windy and grey at the moment. Not what we want at all.

Whyteleafe Grammar School

Whyteleafe Grammar School

On Saturday I attended the final reunion of my outstanding school, Whyteleafe Girl’s Grammar, in its 110th year. 11 girls from my year, the 1973 intake, were there, 5 from our class and it was a decade since we last met, 39 years since we left the school when the government axed the Grammar schools in most of the UK. 200 attended in all, the maximum capacity. Several teachers were there too and we had the chance to look around our old science labs and classrooms. So many happy memories, especially playing cricket, lacrosse and tennis. We sang our school hymn, recited the school prayer and reminisced about our days growing up together. It was a poignant occasion but great to see everyone again. Hopefully we will meet in the future and continue to keep in touch on the Facebook page.

The x.1 Half Of Our 1973-78 Year!

The x.1 Half Of Our 1973-78 Year!

We miss Beyzano still but keep an eye on the weather in Brunswick to make sure she isn’t in any danger. Our annual insurance has actually dropped considerably this year just as I was doing my usual muttering about it being outrageous. Guess there is less risk in the USA but our Third Party liability has been reduced from 3 Million to just half a million due to the way the US courts award payments.

Apart from feeling cold and getting a nasty cold with chesty cough, all is well with us. I’ll next post after the Wedding on June 10 as I’ve promised a lot of people to share the photos. There won’t be too much to say until then.

Celebratory Cake For The 110th Year

Celebratory Cake For The 110th Year

Posted in Costs, Domestic Info, Friends & Family, Tourism, UK, USA, Weather | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Home Time – Beyzano & Us

After another uneventful passage from Fernandina to the sea buoy off St Simon’s Sound, Beyzano is tucked up in her new home for 2 months at the Brunswick Landing Marina in Georgia, whilst we head off on a long journey back to the UK.

Rough Outside The Channel

Rough Outside The Channel

The sea buoy is miles from the coast as the waters are so shallow and shift regularly further in. It took us 3 hours to motor down the well marked channel to the marina but just outside the channel you could see the water crashing onto the shallows, not a good place to get caught out. The channel is deep and wide and we didn’t see anything under 7 metres all the way to the marina.

St Simon's Lighthouse

St Simon’s Lighthouse

We decided to anchor off for a last night before topping up the tanks with diesel (to counteract condensation) at the Marina’s big and easy fuel dock. Next we moved to Dock 11, close to the hub of marina life, the Yacht Club. This marina is in a hurricane hole, surrounded by land in a very narrow strip of water. There is virtually no current and no wake, so a lovely peaceful place to berth. The staff are very helpful, guiding us into the dock and taking the lines. Their welcome pack held lots of information about the town, marina and social activities, of which there are many.

Every day there is free beer on tap and on Monday, Wednesday and Friday they hold a wine party, with nibbles and good wine. Yoga, film nights, special meal nights, jam sessions etc etc go on every week plus a new kind of dominoes game ‘chicken foot dominoes’ which we were taught on Sunday.

Peaceful Dock With The Countryside Beyond

Peaceful Dock With The Countryside Beyond

The bathrooms are spotless and include hairdryers, all in self-contained rooms. The laundry is free and they have state of the art machines. The lounge is a really nice place to hang out, as is the smaller lounge with a huge book exchange and board to pin up your boat card and spot people you know.

The town is small and sadly many of the shops are empty, so it has seen better days. The marina card gets you a 10% discount at many restaurant and cafes though and we plan to have a Thai meal on Saturday. The nearby park is a venue for outdoor music concerts, spanish lessons are available at the library and the beaches of Jeckyll and St Simon’s Islands aren’t far away. A classic car show event took place last Sunday, there is a farmer’s market three times a week and a cruiser’s net on Ch 69 at 0900, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.

The Yacht Club With Big Insect Proofed Balcony

The Yacht Club With Big Insect Proofed Balcony

Using the free bikes, we got up early and found the West Marine chandlery and Winn-Dixie supermarket, less than 2 miles away. There are plenty of shops in the area and many people at the marina have cars and keen to show you around. We have only had a week to put Beyzano to bed, so have got the sails off, canvas will come down just before we go. Lots of cleaning and polishing to do inside, clearing out things we don’t use and we got the salt off the hull after another season of over 2000 miles sailed. This time it was just mid December to end April though, quick a lot of miles in a shortish time. Engine and generator oil has been changed and we’ve covered half the solar panels to stop them overcharging. With the cooler nights, our batteries are still at 97% in the morning, despite running the fridge and freezer.

Exploring Brunswick By Bike

Exploring Brunswick By Bike

We have to use up all the food, so the freezer and fridge can be emptied and as the marina provides a gas BBQ at the top of each dock (18 boats to a dock) with a covered area, we’ve been cooking our last Cuban red snapper and lobster on that.

City Hall

City Hall

The marina provide a guardianage service, checking on the boat as often as you specify. We have booked a Greyhound bus from here to Washington DC where we should have a few hours to wander before getting another bus to the airport. We have 2 nights sleeping ‘upright’ in a bus then plane seat, so not sure we will arrive in the best of moods at Heathrow. Steve, who is picking us up, has been warned! We are looking forward to getting back and seeing everyone again, it has been a long time.

Posted in Costs, Domestic Info, UK, USA | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Fernandina Beach – Lovely Surprise

Using the strong current to aid us, I let Beyzano’s stern lines off whilst Rob waited in the bow until I called out for those lines to be let go and we were able to easily motor astern and off the Met Park docks. The current had pushed us at right angles to the dock by then.

Calm Ocean For Our 'Outside' Hop

Calm Ocean For Our ‘Outside’ Hop

We motored along St John’s River at the same rpm throughout but the changes in current gave us an initial speed of 4.9 knots, increasing to over 8 knots by the time we reached the big, well marked inlet. It was our first trip outside the ICW since April 5 but it was a very calm day, so we were once again under engine power but it meant a comfortable, fast passage. There were some shrimping trawlers out, dragging their nets along the seabed but not much else to see. We got into Cumberland Sound before 1400 and turned south towards the Fernandina Marina which is being rebuilt since it was badly damaged in Hurricane Matthew last year. Their fuel dock is closed but the inner docks are fine and we tied our dinghy there for $3 the following day.

Active Mill At Dawn

Active Mill At Dawn

From there we went west into Bells River as it was empty and suffers less current. We had good holding in 3 metres at low water. The Active Captain reviews make much of the noise and smell from the mills at Fernandina Beach but we didn’t really notice either during the few nights we anchored just west of the town. Amelia Island and the town was a lovely surprise as it doesn’t really look very inviting from seaward. Just a street back are several streets of pretty buildings housing shops, cafes and restaurants. The roads are lined with trees and everything is immaculate. I especially enjoy seeing the old houses and a free leaflet enables you to do a historical walk on your own, with information about each building, who built it, what they did and when it was built. A modern tourist centre has all the local information and there is a bus to take you around town, to the Walmart supermarket and to the beach and costs just a dollar.

Amelia Island Trolley Bus

Amelia Island Trolley Bus

We indulged in some huge ice creams for the rather princely sum of 4.50 dollars each despite having asked for a single cone. It was just that the single cone was enormous and we couldn’t face lunch after that. We saw a wedding taking place on the pavement, a rather sad affair I thought, with the bride all dressed up complete with veil and flowers but the registrar in jeans, the bride’s father on his mobile phone and both bridesmaid’s taking photographs on theirs. There was an official photographer (who was in shorts) too, so no real need for the main guests to be taking any. I just didn’t think it looked like anyone’s dream wedding, with pedestrians walking by but may be mistaken.

This House Also Serves English Afternoon Teas

This House Also Serves English Afternoon Teas

The weather was forecast to get a bit windier and more southerly so we stayed put on the boat for a couple of days, talking on Skype with Kym whose own wedding is less than 7 weeks away now. I can’t wait to get back and be a more physical part of it but she and John have done a great job in keeping us in the loop and sharing all they can via the internet. Not the same though and I have to make sure Rob can’t see any of the photos of the dress, hairdo etc. as it is all going to be a wonderful surprise on the day. Having a generous bride who doesn’t think the day is only about her is refreshing and she is certainly aware it is also about families blending together. Rob has got that speech to write yet as well.

The Main Street & Oldest Saloon In Florida

The Main Street & Oldest Saloon In Florida

Once the weather calmed down we headed into town again to see more of the historical buildings, ride the bus around to the beach and park and have a quick look in the museum. We bought plump fresh shrimp at the Atlantic Seafood shop just south of the marina and had a BBQ one evening. We need to start using up all our food in preparation for leaving the boat for 6 weeks and suddenly we seem to have loads, the opposite of our Cuba experience.

One Of Many Lovely Churches

One Of Many Lovely Churches

Via Facebook we heard that our friends, Jeff and Di on ‘Horizons’ who we have travelled with intermittently over the past few years, had had to set off their EPIRB (emergency beacon) which alerted Falmouth, Solent and Miami Coastguards. They had been crossing from Cuba to Florida and were dismasted in 25 knots of wind and 4 metre seas and had then realised they would run out of fuel before they got to their destination, so their only option was to be picked up by the US Coastguard and towed 120 miles to Key West, which took 26 hours. We are just thankful that they are safe and Horizons is still afloat but what an ordeal and it always happens at night, of course. I have sailed for as long as I can remember but never met anyone who had to set off their EPIRB before, so it is quite an adventure they had.

Charming Town To Spend The Day Just Wandering

Charming Town To Spend The Day Just Wandering

We also heard of increasing violence in waters we have recently sailed and again count ourselves very lucky that we weren’t victims. In June last year we anchored alone in Bahia Graciosa near Livingstone, Guatemala, seeking shelter after a westerly squall. Although some fishermen saw us go in, we had a calm night and no issues. Another boat did the same this month and were robbed, the skipper falling in the water during the struggle and being held down. The criminal had a gun in his belt, which he reached for but fortunately did not take out and he got away with the outboard but the sailors weren’t harmed further. Several boats have been robbed just off the coast of Honduras and also in the Bay Islands themselves. Unhappy times.

Posted in Costs, Cuba, Friends & Family, Guatemala, Honduras, ICW, Tourism, USA, Weather | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

St Augustine & Jacksonville

We enjoyed our 2 nights in St Augustine, despite the mooring buoy banging into the hull at times when the wind and current were opposed. Being so close to the City made it easy to explore and we spent many hours wandering the lovely streets and browsing the shops. The marina launch will pick you up from the mooring if you don’t want to use your dinghy but as the service stops at 1800, we didn’t use it in case we were later back.

Bridge Of Lions At St Augustine

Bridge Of Lions At St Augustine

You can’t go hungry in the US and we have finally learned to order a meal between us, even a starter will feed the both of us at lunch time. We visited the coffee shop in a little wooden hut, serving a huge choice of coffees, shakes and smoothies. Their shady garden was a nice place to stop and check the map and plan the day.

Coffee Shop

Coffee Shop

We decided on a handful of tourist attractions as we only had the day, plus an hour out to watch the Easter Parade at 1500. The Lightner Museum houses a stunning collection of glass, china, furniture and items from all over the world. Even a stuffed lion, apparently given to Sir Winston Churchill by the London Zoo, as a thank you for the WWII efforts. Doubt that would be PC these days. They had some life size cardboard cut outs of the main Downton Abbey characters which were a bit unnerving but they were advertising a display of the clothing from the time later in the year.

Lightner Museum

Lightner Museum

There are many beautiful buildings in St Augustine and we enjoyed seeing the historical information posted outside some of them, including where Martin Luther King stayed.

Another Pretty Building

Another Pretty Building

The Oldest Wooden Schoolhouse was another interesting place to visit, with an animated teacher and ‘graduation’ certificate but it is very small. We had a tasty lunch of beetroot and feta cheese salad for me and a huge pile of french toasts with cinnamon apple in between and cream on top, at the Ice Plant in the Distillery before heading back to the main road for the parade.

The Oldest Wooden Schoolhouse

The Oldest Wooden Schoolhouse

A marching band of over 120 people, ‘royalty’ on horseback, the local police and sheriffs, plus many town clubs all took part and it was fun to watch. The easter bunny was there of course.

Marching Band

Marching Band

After a long day of walking, we dinghied back to the boat but spotted our friends on ‘Atalanta’, from the Rio Dulce and stopped by for a catch up. Murray gave us an enthusiastic welcome before going back into ‘Murray mode’ and ignoring us the rest of the time! Kay and Richard asked us out for dinner but the lunch had already filled us completely so we promised to catch up in Charleston instead.

Murray - Not Posing

Murray – Not Posing

The following day we dropped the mooring, requested a bridge opening and headed north on the ICW towards Jacksonville. We didn’t see any shallows on the trip and anchored in a bight near Pablo Creek in 9 metres of water. As usual, we were the only boat and had a very peaceful night.

Sheriff's Car!

Sheriff’s Car!

Looking at the weather, we decided, reluctantly, that we wouldn’t be able to make it all the way to Deltaville in the Chesapeake in time for our flight and looked at alternatives. Brunswick Landing is a renowned hurricane hole and through last year’s storms the boats there remained undamaged. We contacted them and were glad to hear they have space for us for May and June, so decided we would book in there. It will be 150 pounds a month more expensive and we have extra flights to book but it takes the pressure off as we are nearly in Georgia and enabled us to enjoy Jacksonville and move more slowly north for the remaining 10 days.

Downtown Jacksonville

Downtown Jacksonville

Jacksonville is a long way up St John’s River and we motored another 20 miles to another empty anchorage opposite Exchange Island. It is a pretty spot with a great dinghy dock, BBQs and tables on the island and marked trails. They also have recycling bins.

Exchange Island Anchorage

Exchange Island Anchorage

We stayed a night, then motored in the dinghy to the Met Park docks, a free marina where you can stay for nothing for 72 hours. There was another yacht there and a small motorboat, that was all. We decided we may as well move Beyzano to the dock as it had a good 10 metres of water and take the water taxi into town. Half an hour later we were tied up in the fast current and by 1100 on the water taxi.

Empty Marina With Free Docks

Empty Marina With Free Docks

The taxi can be hailed on Ch. 11 and runs from 1100 to 2100, going to about 5 different stops along the river. It cost $10 each for the day. We looked around Jacksonville Landing first, then walked over the bridge to San Marco which is a little bit prettier. It was a long walk but took in the fountain and on the way back we did the Science and History Museum. This was a little bit too child focussed for us, as the information and exhibits were simple but the history of the town exhibition was really good. Outside a little pond had some terrapins sunbathing. We also attended the planetarium’s lecture on Orion, again for young children but we learned a little.

Church In San Marco Area

Church In San Marco Area

We got back to the water taxi dock by the fountain in time to see the bridge lifting for a couple of yachts. It was the first we’d seen which lifted the entire middle section up rather than 2 halves opening to the sides but it worked well.

Up She Goes - Bridge Lifting For The Yacht

Up She Goes – Bridge Lifting For The Yacht

The city skyline was a big contrast to all the low level anchorages we’ve been frequenting and a beautiful sight at sunset. The following day we were off again, this time on the ‘outside’ in the ocean. Our first trip in blue water for over 2 weeks.

House In St A Decorated For Easter

House In St A Decorated For Easter

Inside The Lightner Museum

Inside The Lightner Museum

Fountain Next To Water Taxi Stop In Jacksonville

Fountain Next To Water Taxi Stop In Jacksonville

Sunbathing Time

Sunbathing Time

Celebrating Being Florida's 'Oldest City'

Celebrating Being Florida’s ‘Oldest City’

Posted in Costs, Draft 2.1 metre/7 foot, ICW, Tourism, USA, Weather | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment