Jessica, Georgie, & Matt

Delivering the ‘Dip – Part II

Sunday June 7, 2015

Jessica, Georgie, & Matt

Yesterday morning we were out of LaBelle almost with the sunrise in hopes that we may actually make it to the delivery point by nightfall. It was a measly 40 miles from where we stood until the Gulf, but the extra run up the coast to Punta Gorda had us a little unsure.  Once we passed the Franklin Lock at mile 121 there was nothing keeping us back other than the setting sun.  The only issue is without guided mile markers from that point on and doubts of the actual miles from Cape Coral to Punta Gorda, we didn’t know if we could beat it.

Matt had woken up feeling a little under the weather and as soon as we had backed out of our space at the free docks and had all lines back inside, I sent him off to bed.  I didn’t mind having to handle the boat myself for a few hours though, since shame on me, I didn’t want to share the last Donut Stick with him anyway.  Having him down below slumbering ensured I would have it to myself, and trust me, I took full advantage of the sugary situation.  Activating the autopilot on a straightaway I ran below to fix myself a blueberry crumble latte using my AeroPress (can not rave enough about this thing) and once again set the stereo up to play some Florence and the Machine while I enjoyed a quiet morning to myself on the water.

I knew I had a few hours before we came up on our first lift bridge and thought maybe Matt would be up and about by that time. As we came within a half mile though and he was still dead to the world under a heap of blankets I began to stress just a little as holding the boat in place under current has never been my strong suit and I normally hand the wheel over to Matt while I handle the radio.  But…maybe it was possible to do it all on my own.  Getting within a half mile I put the autopilot back on to quickly run below deck and radio ahead that I would need passage in about 5 minutes.  Getting the all clear that they would lift the bridge as I came up to it, I went back behind the wheel to slow our speed and time it just right with the opening. It turns out I may have slowed us just a little too much as they ended up waiting for me after closing the road to thru traffic, but hey, at least I didn’t end up with our mast smashed into any thing.  That is always a success in my book.

With another one coming up five more miles down the river, I hoped Matt would be sleeping still so I could once again prove myself and maybe not hold up the bridge tender and impatient motorist so much this time.  Through the next three bridges I did get better each time and I happily waved to each tender as I passed through and radioed my thanks every time I was clear, each time wondering if they thought to themselves ‘This girl is on a boat by herself?  Good for her’.

Little did they know I just had an apparently very ill husband below deck. Although I could totally handle this boat by myself now.  Except in the locks…that one area I did wake Matt up to give me a hand since even though I am proud of my new confidence behind the wheel while approaching immobile objects, I did not want to show up to deliver the boat with scratched all down the side because I misjudged the speed or my depth perception was off, or any number of things that could cause me to harshly bump against the concrete side.

Okeechobee Waterway

Okeechobee Waterway

Georgie on Serendipity

coming up to a lift bridge

With that task done Matt was back in bed and I was only an hour away from entering the city of Fort Meyers.  Making my second blueberry crumble latte of the day I settled back behind the wheel while Matt settled back into bed with what he was afraid might be the flu.  Not a fun time for him to get sick, but at least this was just easy ICW days with rest stops at night and not like when he had the flu on our Azores to Maderia passage where he was forced to go on shift every 4 hours for 9 days and could barely keep himself awake. I was completely ok taking on a full day of travel myself though and had no qualms with him staying in bed as long as he needed to in order to feel better.

Just as we began to pass the skyscrapers of the city and enter larger bodies of water, it was very evident that some very strong storms were on their way toward us. It was one of those situations where you’re under bright blue skies but just off to your side it’s as dark as night and rumbles of thunder echo through the air.  For the longest time I was thinking we might get by unscathed, everything passing just to the side of us, but unfortunately it kept coming closer.  Just as I was able to get all the hatches and ports closed the wind jumped up from 10 knots to 25.

This obviously wasn’t a bother as we had no sail up and were in a protected waterway.  We would not be left completely untouched though.  Minutes later the winds jumped up into the 40’s and along with it came the driving rain.  The kind that is so bad you can barely see 50 feet in front of you.  All of a sudden my worried turned into oncoming traffic on the water or missing a buoy and finding myself outside of the channel and in the 3 feet of water surrounding us.  My only hopes were that other boaters could make out our nav lights if I couldn’t see theirs, and that our charts were spot on with the markers out there.

And then came Murphy’s Law.  A large motor catamaran came up behind us trying to outrun the storm and threw up a huge wake which in collaboration with the waves, left us rocking very violently side to side.  Truly not a big deal on it’s own, but we were quite low on fuel at the time and this little trick will sometimes kick up sediment from the bottom and cause the engine to cut out until everything has settled back down.  Which of course it did to me right now.  With gale force winds blowing us into the shallows immediately outside the channel.

I had a few minutes to work with the engine before we were too far from saving or before I had to go through the trouble of trying to unfurl the genoa just the right amount to sail ourselves out if need be.  I’ve worked with it in those force winds on our Atlantic crossing though and it takes a very strong arm to keep the wind from grabbing onto the sail and unfurling the full thing, forcing you to round up into the wind just to get it back in.  With already impeded speed and being forced sideways, rounding up was not looking like a good option if need be.  Instead I would most likely find myself running and straight into a sandbar. Luckily the 6th time is a charm and just as I was about to give up, the engine roared to life and stayed on.  I no longer cared about the pounding rain coming down on me, and even had Matt make me a glass of hot chocolate to raise my spirits as I continued to steer through the finally dying storm.

Fort Meyers, FL

storm over Fort Meyers

Jessica behind wheel

 After another hour or two the storm left us completely and left us with overcast skies in it’s wake.  By this point I was now fully exhausted as well and it was only 3 in the afternoon.  We were just coming up on Coral Gables and I was in no mood to push myself all night just to make it to the marina.  All I wanted was a place to anchor and fall deeply asleep.  Consulting our Waterway Guide Southern we looked for a place to drop hook within the next 10 miles.  It was so lucky we had this or else we would have been completely for a loss of possible anchorages along the way.  Also getting the down low on Pine Island Sound we were able to find out that the inside channel was mostly meant for small boats or those with local knowledge.  It looked as if we would be taking the long way around.

Treating myself to one of my last Costa Rican beers I put the ‘Dip on autopilot as as soon as we hit the sound and counted down the minutes until we could drop hook.  Some dolphins kept me company along the way and just before 6 we were once again still and I was right next to Matt in bed, not caring if dinner didn’t get served until 9, because I absolutely had to have a nap.

floating shop on Pine Island Sound

anchored in Pine Island Sound

This morning we woke to beautiful sunny skies and what should have been a very pleasurable and relaxing last few hours on Serendipity, but it was anything but. Yesterday was supposed to be our full clean down of the boat so we could hand her off in tip top shape, but as Matt was sick in bed and I was behind the wheel, there had been no time during the day and both of us were too tired in the evening.

Since Matt was still feeling a little under the weather it was decided that he would stay out in the cockpit since we could still keep the boat on autopilot now that we had a larger body of water to travel through, and I would go through packing up all of our remaining items as well as give everything one last scrub down.  There was still surprisingly 20 miles to go which left me about 4 hours to get everything sparkling once more.  It still amazes me how fast one can get a place dirty just by occupying it.

Amidst all the cleaning I would try and take small breaks to let myself not only enjoy all the stupendous beauty of Charlotte Harbor, but to treat myself to all the last little items in the fridge that I had been saving for our trip.  The last bit of Amish cheese, a small glass of red wine, and real brand name Pepsi.  Not that $0.84 Sam’s Cola that we’ve been living on for the last three months now.  But the work was more than I imagined and snack times were few and far between. Now that I look back at it I’m not even upset that I didn’t get to enjoy all my treats.  I’m just sad I didn’t get to sit out in the cockpit of the ‘Dip one last time and enjoy all the sights around me.  This place truly seemed to be a sailor’s dream inside the US.

Pulling up to the marina just after noon we had all of our belongings packed up and every surface shining. Meeting up with the new owner we gave him a full run down of Serendipity and her systems before moving all our things off and signing the final paperwork.  And just like that, she wasn’t ours anymore. Ready for a new keeper and new adventures. For as many wonderful times and adventures we had ourselves, I was prepared to let her go.  She’d done her job and served us well. But that part of our lives is now done and we have our own new adventures to start without her.  Not that we won’t always hold a special place for her in our hearts though. Nothing can replace your first boat love.

Serendipity at Burnt Store Marina

lighthouse in Jupiter Florida

Welcome back to ‘Merica!

Saturday March 7, 2015

lighthouse in Jupiter

Even though I knew this day has been coming for about the past six months now, I still can not believe that we are all the way back in Florida, making our way up the ICW to see our new boat.  Part of me is extremely excited to finally see her in person and get started on working on her.  The other part of me….kind of wants to turn around and high tail it back to the Caribbean. Not because I don’t want this new project of fixing up a boat, mind you, it’s because we’re now back in Florida doing it.  The place we can never seem to escape.

I had been soooo looking forward to getting back to the land of convenience for awhile now that I forgot everything that comes along with it.  For so long I had been eager to pick up a radio station once more that didn’t soley deal out tunes based on sailing or drinking or anything to do with the water (the only station we could clearly get in the Virgin Islands), but as soon as I picked one up outside of West Palm Beach I promptly regretted it. My ears were immediately assaulted with advertisements for personal injury lawyers or lawyers helping with wrongful death cases, annoying auto insurance commercials, and purchases you absolutely must have to make your life better, because we all know that just by buying into it that’s exactly what will happen.  Objects bring happiness, right?

I instantly wanted to scream to all these people, “What are you listening to this waste for?!  Don’t you know that in the grand scheme of things, none of it matters?  That there is so much more to life than finding a way to blame someone else for your problem or watching some unknown’s musical performance on whatever reality tv show!”.  They are distractions, I know.  But trust me, there are much better ways to distract yourself.

I kid you not, I literally had to keep myself from turning the wheel 180 degrees and heading right back where we came from.  Life was pure and authentic in the Caribbean.  People knew what was really important.  And now we’re back in the land of superficiality for a bulk of the population.  Which, to be fair, could have been the same in some of the Atlantic islands we visited but since I wasn’t fluent in the language I was blissfully ignorant of it.

Well, that’s my rant for the day.  You might hear me complain a little bit but I did have a ball at Publix the other day having whatever my heart desired right at my fingertips.  So maybe convenience isn’t all bad.  I’ll just have to learn to tune out the rest of the crap.  Plus, it is nice to be back in a land of friendliness between strangers, even if it is fake and superficial. One thing that was beginning to drive us absolutely insane in the Atlantic islands was how no one would smile or say hi, and if you went into a shop you were greeted by someone who treated you like you just ruined their day by asking for help with something.  And don’t even get me started on common courtesy of making room for someone to pass on the sidewalks. Ugh!  Ok, rant really done this time, I promise.

So…we’re back on the ICW now!  Traveling north from the same area we departed to the Bahamas from back in March of 2013.  Yesterday was a day spent trekking a somewhat familiar route as we backtracked our way up to Stuart.  Leaving at the crack of dawn we put Serendipity’s engine to good use for the first time in a long time and logged endless miles through the narrow (to us now) canal system and under countless lift bridges.  After a good 9 hours on the water we dropped the hook in a nice little bay just across from Sunset Bay Marina.  It was so strange to slip back into our old routine of traveling during the day, relaxing in the evening, and prepping yourself to do it again the next day. Now we’re so used to ‘go go go, rest rest rest’.

Today was the trip up the St. Lucie River to our new home for who knows long at the Indiantown Marina.  The morning started out extremely foggy and actually delayed our departure for a few hours, and I can’t say that I was upset to crawl back under the warm covers and wait it out.  Just after 9 we got our butts in gear though and sipped on warm coffee while wearing our foulies out in the cockpit.

This journey only took 5 hours in which time we saw our very first alligator poking it’s eyes out of the water and transited one lock.  By late morning the fog began to lift and we felt rays of sun sneaking through the clouds here and there.  This to us was a good omen since arriving at Indiantown was going to give us our first glances at our new aluminum boat that we purchased sight unseen six months before.

Well, we’re here now, safely tied up to a dock at the marina, and yes, we did get our first glances at the new boat.  But to find out if the good omen of the sun or the bad omen of the fog won out as to what we found waiting for us, well, you’ll just have to tune in tomorrow to find out.

lift bridge on ICW

lift bridge on ICW

lighthouse in Jupiter Florida

Hobe Sound

plane over Serendipity


Done With the ICW

Sunday March 10, 2013 image I should probably explain our rush to you, or why we’re not stopping to experience Florida more than a quick trip to shore to get some nuts and bolts from Home Depot, or buy the Big Box from Pizza Hut, with enough pizza to feed us for a week.  There are two very simple answers.  1.  After spending three months in St. Augustine, we feel we have experienced Florida enough.  It may not have had the interesting sights of the Space Coast, or the warm sunny beaches of the Treasure Coast, but we’re ok with that.  What we want now are white sandy beaches with clear snorkel worthy water, teaming with brightly colored fish for us to look at.  2.  We’ve been keeping a close eye on the weather since before we left St. Augustine, and there is a window to cross the Gulf Stream and get to the Bahamas on Tuesday.  There is no way we’re going to let ourselves miss that chance by running slow.  We figured that we could get ourselves to Lake Worth by Sunday, run errands and stock up on any last minute items on Monday, and then be ready to leave on Tuesday morning, for a run over to the Berry Islands or maybe even Nassau.  And that also means getting ourselves close to being back on schedule, and possibly even meeting up with our friends.

As today was the last day of running down the ICW, both of us could not be happier to finally be done with it.  Maybe it’s our Great Lakes upbringing where you set a course, hit the autopilot, and just keep an eye out for the boats around you, but we were not meant for these little channels that require meticulous attention to your course every single moment.  One person has to be behind the wheel at all times, either hand steering or (as Matt does) adjust the autopilot every 15 seconds.  Not to mention that the channels down here have been much narrower than I remember them in the north, barely allowing for any error outside of the red and green markers.  Call us un-attentive, but we prefer to sit back and just crane our heads in a circle every 10-15 minutes with an update of “All clear!”.* ** There were only 50 statute miles to cover today, which with the 12 or so daylight hours we’re getting now, was to put us at our anchorage a few hours before sunset and give us a chance to relax instead of just eating dinner and going to bed.  For the first half of the day there wasn’t much to see around us, but there was a lot of chatter on channel 16.  Lots of radio checks, which get very annoying (channel 26 or 27 people!!), but there were also a fun few minutes listening to a couple boaters talk about the conditions of nearby inlets and the conditions outside.  Our forecast upon leaving St. Augustine showed constant winds in the 25-30 knot range, which is why hypocritical us are taking the ICW instead of jumping outside.  Listening to the men talk on the radio, they regaled tales of wind and waves on the Atlantic, and how chances were that if you were lucky enough to make it out of an inlet that morning, then good luck on getting back in between the rolling and crashing waves.  I think I will stick with monotony at this point, thank you very much.  There were also a few dinghy (Laser?) races going on at several points along the way for us to momentarily enjoy, so it wasn’t all bad.

Although we were finally making progress south and I was counting each minute on the latitude still and checking weather channel updates for current temperatures just to make sure we were in an area that’s warmer than we were the day before, there have still been plenty of high winds on this journey, forcing us into more layers than we’d like.  Although each day we seem to be able to shed one of those layers, today that brought me down to two layers top and on the bottom still.  Which is why I was surprised that while entering the city of Jupiter and traveling through it, to see so many people out on the water in only their swimsuits.  It may have been 75 degrees out, but the winds were blowing off the still cool water at 20 knots and still leaving me shivering a little whenever I wasn’t behind the protection of the dodger.  Has my blood really thinned that much in the past few months?  I’m a Michigander, I should be able to sport a swimsuit in 60 degree weather.  In fact, I think I just did that at my parent’s house a few months ago. Eventually the winds calmed as the channel narrowed and all the mansions towering up from Hobe Sound helped to block them.  It allowed me to take off one of those extra layers, although part of it was just to appease a few friends that had already started to tease me after a post on Facebook.

Forcing Matt to take the wheel for a bit since we were in the last run of lift bridges before our anchorage, I was even able to sit back behind the protection of the dodger with the sun pouring on me and enjoy a glass of wine.  Time started to fly a little faster and before I knew it we were under our last bridge and only had a mile until our anchorage.  Just after we were about to turn off the ICW and head up the channel to where we needed to be we both happened to be looking up at just the same time to see something jump out of the water.  We’d seen one or two fish do that before, but this was something much better.  It was a stingray!  Who knew those even jumped?  It was a fairly small one and was only out of the water for a few seconds, but I never took them for being show-offs.  I think we may finally have something over our friends Brian and Stephanie on Rode Trip, who normally can pick wildlife out of the most obscure places where we never usually see the things that are right in front of our faces.

*If our entire goal was only to travel the Eastern Seaboard, I’m sure we’d have a much different opinion of the ICW.  There are a lot of really nice towns along the way, and if you only limit yourself to traveling short distances I’m sure that you’d avoid the monotony that comes of it, which is comparable to doing highway driving day after day after day.

** The only time we don’t give constant attention to our course in open waters where the only thing to look out for is other boats.  We pay close attention when necessary to avoid any other obstacles that may come up. image image

Barge on In

Saturday March 9, 2013

Our second day of traveling put us right in front of a barge when we left our anchorage, and also much closer than we thought to our first lift bridge. Even though we were a good half mile in front of the barge, the bridge tender ask that we wait off to the side until the barge had passed under the bridge, and then we could follow him. Obliging, we stepped in line behind the barge, ready for it to take off at 10-15 knots as soon as it was clear, since that’s what they always seem to do. Not the case on this one. We had already only been traveling at 2000 rpms and had to back it down to 1800 behind this guy. It was a good thing the currents had picked up and we were still traveling at close to six knots, or else we would have been pulling our hair out getting stuck at such slow speeds first thing in the morning.

 We tailed the barge for the good part of five hours, always waiting for an opportunity to pass but one never came. In the area we were traveling through, although the waterway itself was quite wide, the channel was very narrow with 2-4 foot depths on each side. Trying to pass him in most areas meant a very good chance of running around. So we accepted our 5.5-6 knots and kept our eyes out for an opportunity. Finally one presented itself after we had gone under yet another lift bridge and the channel widened out in a straightaway. Calling them on the VHF, we gave our intentions to pass them on their port side, and while they gave their permission for this, did not sound too happy that they’d have to temporarily slow down while we passed. Making it past them in just under two minutes and wary for a moment that we might have to play chicken with a northbound sailboat heading our direction, we slid in front of the barge keeping our speed on full. It wasn’t until we had gotten just in front of them that I realized our Waterway Guide showed yet another lift bridge just two miles ahead of us, and we were worried that once again we’d be pushed to the side while they passed through first. Luckily, upon closer inspection, I read that this was a lift bridge for a railway and was only down if there was a train coming. We still had eight miles to put the barge behind us and hope he didn’t catch up.

Eventually leaving him in our dust, we took a look at Florida’s Space Coast surrounding us. We were still a ways in from the ocean and couldn’t make out any sights there, but what we did see off in the distance was the Kennedy Space Center. Barely making forms from the haze, we could see the launch pad and control tower. It would have been a fun place to stop and visit, but we had a schedule to keep and needed to get south ASAP. Keeping our engine running high until we had crossed under the last lift bridge for the day, we scoured Skipper Bob’s and our Waterway Guide for a suitable anchorage that night in Coco. We ended up getting there quite early, around 3:30, and if we didn’t have errands to run around town we could have made it another 15-20 miles south. But after a stripped bolt and a leaking packing box, a stop at Home Depot was needed to replenish some supplies. At least we had made it three days this time without visiting one instead of the normal two.

Today there wasn’t much happening on the water.  There were areas it turned from a murky brown to a brilliant blue green, and it made me smile thinking we were that much closer to the Bahamas.  With a little wind off our port side, we were able to unfurl the headsail and do a good bit of motor-sailing through the day.  The intended anchorage for the night was Fort Pierce, and I wanted nothing more than a little extra speed to get us there early and give us a little time to relax.  You could definitely tell it was a weekend since there were power boats galore out, speeding past and throwing up huge wakes that we had to turn into to keep from viciously rolling from side to side.  There were a few nice ones though too, that would slow their boat just before they got to us to allow their wake to fall off.  Looking back at it, I think the worst offenders for throwing off the big wakes were Sabre power boat owners.  Not only would they fly by at 30 knots, but it’s almost like they wanted to play a game of chicken and see how close they could get without hitting us.  Damn Sabre owners.  Someone needs to lock them up.

A really crappy shot of the Kennedy Space Center.

Just as We Left It

Thursday March 7, 2013

We did not leave yesterday.  Our grand plans to push off the dock and begin heading south again were once more foiled, this time by high winds. Not only were they blowing at over 30 knots constantly through the night and into the morning, but they were pinning us directly against our dock. To leave under conditions like that would be hard for even an experienced sailor, and we’ve been out of the game for three months. We had the alarm set for 6 am anyway, ready to check the conditions again when we woke up, but I had been up since 3, listening to the winds howl outside and push our boat on it’s side toward the dock. As soon as the harps sounded and Matt rolled over to look at me, we didn’t even have to have a conversation. “Back to bed?”, he asked? Getting interrupted by a loud whistle and a rock to the side I agreed, “Uh huh”. Knowing that we would not have to try and fight wind and currents that day and end up worse than the catamaran next to us, the knot in my stomach unraveled and I was able to fall back to sleep.

 Trying to keep from having the staff see us and charge another night at dock (you never heard this Claire), we thought the best thing to do for the day was lay low and not leave the boat during business hours. Out of sight, out of mind, right? Besides, conditions were so bad that the travel lift wasn’t operating which meant that there were no other boats that would be needed our spot anyway. The yard was virtually resembling a ghost town, so we didn’t think it would be a big deal that we were occupying our spot for one more night. Picking up on a wifi signal much closer (thanks, ‘Boat’), I was able to get more work done and keep myself entertained. Matt….was probably on Cruisers Forums or Yacht World again. Disappointed that we were dock locked just as we were finally ready to leave, it wasn’t all bad. I wasn’t a nervous wreck that we were going to crash the boat, I ended up finishing some much needed work online as well as got to have one more night to message my friends back home, and best of all. One last hot shower. It may have lasted over 20 minutes, but considering all the water I’ll be saving in the near future, I figured it was worth the splurge.

Setting the alarm for 6 am once again, this time when the harps went off we were both raring to go. What we had not been expecting, after all our weeks of sleeping in until after 9, is how cold out it is at 6 am. The temperatures hadn’t even hit 40 degrees yet. Just like our travels down the ICW months earlier, we bundled in as many layers as possible, each managing to slide into long underwear, athletic pants, and then jeans on our bottom halves. Turning the marine engine mounts on and letting it warm up for a few minutes, we discussed our exit strategy. What we wanted to do is walk the boat back to the edge of the dock, and while I kept a loose hand on the line wrapped around the dock cleat near the bow, Matt would push us out in hopes that the current which was now flowing out of the river, would catch the bow and turn us around. All things were looking good to start, but right when the bow should have been turning away from the dock it would begin to come back. After two attempts at this with the same results, we realized we’d have to motor ahead and turn around once we were away from the dock. Giving one last push, Matt jumped on and behind the wheel. I still stood at my post near the bow, ready to fend ourselves off the dock if necessary, but with a little power behind us we were able to move forward with ease and get ourselves turned around.

What a feeling to finally be moving again. I stood up on deck with a dopey grin on my face, passing by all the boats at dock and waving to the ones who were already up and about. Then picking up all fenders and wrapping up dock lines, don’t want an issue with lines in the water again, I joined Matt in the cockpit where we watched our river merge with the ICW, and watched St. Augustine disappear behind us. Hoping to get a few last sentimental photos of the town, we were too far away to make out anything distinguishable, and so I just set my eyes to all the new sights ahead. It wasn’t long before we got to our first lift bridge, one of seven that day, and went through with ease. The bridge tender was curtious and had the bridge open before we even got there. I was worried that coming up on so many lift bridges would put us behind our goal of squeaking past Daytona Beach that night, but if they were all as easy as this it didn’t look like it was going to be an issue.

Going below, I made some coffee in our french press that would warm us up a little above deck, but I also wanted to check to see how Georige. As soon as the engine was thrown on that morning she went running for cover under the covers of our bed, and we hadn’t seen her since. Still not seeing anything when I peeked in the v-berth, I called her name until a little rustle under the sheets sent two wide eyes peering up at me. Other than being a little scared and confused, she seemed to be doing fine and I left her to adjust by herself. As the day grew on, Matt eventually pulled her out from under the covers and stuffed her into his jacket to bring her out in the cockpit for a bit. It didn’t take long for her senses to go wild, wanting to check out all the new sights and smells and she roamed the cockpit, still sure not to venture any further than it. She was doing really well for a long time until something scared her, possibly a wake from a passing boat, and sent her rushing to her old hiding spot under the combing where we store winch handles and sail ties.

We continued to motor south, and every twenty minutes or so I’d look at the latitude on the chartplotter, watching the minutes fall. It was almost as if I had to prove to myself that we were actually heading away from St. Augustine, and in the right direction. I didn’t want to have it all be a dream, and wake up still on the hard with weeks of projects still remaining. Every bridge we passed under, I’d check against our Waterway Guide for mileage that we had done and what we still had left to go for the day. I’d try to judge the approximate time we’d get to the next lift bridge, and when we were coming up to one of the last ones of the day I was excited that we were ahead of schedule. By this point we had actually fallen behind another sailboat heading south and assumed he had made the call in to lift the bridge. Having forgot to change the VHF to channel 9 until we were right at the bridge, we thought it would be rude to call in a second request if someone had supposedly just done it five minutes before us. We arrived there a few minutes after 1:00, and when we sat for 10 minutes waiting for it to open, we assumed it only opened on the half hour and continued to wait.

At 1:40 the bridge had still not opened, and we thought ‘Oh, it must only be on the hour. What a shame that we only missed it by a few minutes last time’, and we continued to wait. At 2:10 the bridge had still not opened and we were growing impatient. We had been waiting for over an hour now, there’s no reason it should have stayed closed this whole time. Finally getting on the radio I called the bridge tender to see what the hold up was. He came back stating that there was currently construction being done, and he could not open until the barges in the water were finished for the day, and had moved out of the way of passing traffic. “Probably around 3:30”, he responded. By this time we were almost fuming. Not only had we wasted an hour motoring in front of this bridge, constantly reversing so the current didn’t throw us into it, but now we’d have to wait an hour an a half more. Throwing up my arms I turned to Matt, “We may as well just anchor off to the side, there’s no reason to keep motoring around until they open”. It was also now clear that the sailboat that had beat us to the bridge must have been relying on our call, having never made one himself, since at the same time, he turned around and began to motor north up the ICW as well. Now I know, never trust that anyone else is going to take care of business for you.

We dropped anchor just off to the side of the channel and began our wait in more relative comfort. Turning back to check on the other boat, he appeared to be stuck, water churning up around him but with no forward or backward motion. Hailing him on the VHF he confirmed that he had run aground, and after we offered to put down our dink to tow him off, he declined and said there was slight movement and he was going to work on it for awhile. We told him we’d be standing by if he needed us. Going to the dishes that were now stacking up in the sink, I constantly peered out the window to keep an eye on him, and sure enough he was off in a matter of minutes. Joining the two of us, a southbound catamaran crept up to the bridge as well and we waited to hear his reaction when he was told what the wait time was. It was only moments after he was told that he’d be stuck in that spot for at least another hour when either the bridge tender or one of the barge operators came on the radio and said “If you’re all looking to pass through here, we can temporarily move the barges out of the way for you to be able to pass”. Whaaa??!! What was any other reason that we’d be out here?! Did they think that we were all tipped off that this ONE spot was the best place on the ICW to watch a sun set, and we all wanted to stick around on the north side of the bridge until it was down? Enjoying sundowners and laughing at all the imbeciles that actually used this waterway to move from one location to another?

Giving Matt the ‘let’s go’ signal (or was it the ’round up’?, I may have given the incorrect one), I ushered him towards the bow to begin bringing up the anchor while I inched Serendipity closer to it. Before it was even all the way up, the bridge was now open and our fellow cruisers were passing under it. Handing the wheel back over to Matt he threw it in full and we hurried to catch up. Barely backing down on it once we had passed under, we tried to keep our speed up since we had now just lost over an hour sitting around. Daytona Beach we could still make, but we were aiming for the Ponce De Leon Inlet about 12 miles south, and now that was becoming a stretch. Pushing on and pushing on, we lost the catamaran to an anchorage in Daytona Beach, and the other sailboat shortly after. We kept looking at the sky and then at the clock, hoping we’d get to our intended anchorage with at least enough light to safely get the anchor down. It ended up coming down to just that, and minutes after the sun had gone down and hints of midnight blue crept over the eastern horizon, our anchor was down, nestled in a little creek just across from the inlet. So far, everything was right on place from where it had been the last time we were cruising. Getting up at the crack of dawn and piling on as many layers as possible while sitting out in the biting cold, boats running around in the middle of channels, and getting to your destination just after the sun has gone down. It looks like everything is just as we left it.

I wish I could say we enjoyed our first night back at anchor in peace, grilling up a nice dinner and enjoying a beer in the cockpit, but there was work yet to be done. For the next three hours we went between jobs, and stuffed down a few hot dogs in the process. Matt was back to work in the lazarette, checking the stuffing box and trying to pinpoint where a small leak was dripping water into our bilge. We think it was from a packing gland, and after working at it for an hour, think we have the problem fixed. After that it was onto engine projects. Checking the oil, changing the coolant, and so on. It should have been a quick enough project, still leaving us with an hour or two to enjoy the night, but a bolt was accidentally stripped while being tightened, and this meant that multiple parts of the engine had to be taken apart and reassembled. I shouldn’t complain since I was only the ‘tool fetcher’ or ‘step holder’ (to allow access to the engine), but once everything was cleaned up for the night I was still exhausted and ready to pass out in bed. Another 6 am morning tomorrow to get in as many miles as possible. After all, there is no rest for the weary.

See ya later St. Augustine Marine Center!

The engine is on, Retreat!!

Not a shabby little anchorage.

Honey Bear Don’t Care

Monday November 19, 2012

Quick post about the rest of our time in Charleston. It’s almost perfect that the weather was too bad for us to leave our bed yesterday because after the good time we were shown on Saturday night, I don’t think we would have been able to. Our plans had originally been to leave Charleston this morning but after realizing we’d only spent one day actually exploring the town we had to fit another one in before we could force ourselves to go. Wanting to see a few of the parks along the water, I tried to memorize directions from the miniature map on our Waterway guide. Going past some of our favorite houses on Montague, we hooked a right on Ashley were all I knew is that we had to follow it until it dead-ended in the water. Getting there, we could tell it was a big money area although the houses looked much newer, mostly made of brick with large staircases and porches. If we were here three weeks ago, this is definitely the area I would have hit up for trick-or-treating. Meanwhile, for those who are highly interested to acquire such properties, contacting professionals like the conveyancing solicitors in London may help ease the process.

We came up to the park where tours on horse driven carriages were being given and the area was surrounded by cannons, gazebos and statues. If it was a sunny warm day, it would have been the perfect place to have a picnic and lounge around just reading a book or listening to music.

 Since it wasn’t a day for that though (remember, just let me rant) we kept walking along the waterfront back into the antebellum area and stopped at every house with a plaque to see how long it had been there and who originally built it. Following the Cooper River now we were dropped out in another park filled with benches off to the path on the side with tables ready for games of free solitaire or chess or board games or just a place to set your cup of coffee. The sun was beginning to poke out and throw it’s light on a large fountain in the center where wading was allowed and children were running around. Picking up the pace on our walking tour of the city we ducked in back towards town and wandered through an enclosed market/bazaar where things like knit hats, cloth purses and reed baskets were being sold. Walking through without actually stopping at any of the stands Matt joked that it was the perfect pace to view the shops. Souvenirs are never very high on his list. We’re not giving gifts this year and there is absolutely no space on the boat for such things.

Doing some more gazing through the town we ended up at a Moe’s which we always seek out on Mondays for the great burrito specials they offer then. With access to the internet in the warmth I was content to sit for the next hour and a half and get as much work done as possible. It’s surprising but with being thrown around the boat and touring cities and visiting with friends there isn’t room to do much else. (You can tell I’m joking, right? I love this life) With lunch done we felt we had actually seen most of Chuck Town and headed to the grocery store to get ourselves prepared for the next few days of traveling. It seems like every town we go to has a different chain of grocery stores and each chain has it’s own club savings card. This town was no different and as we entered the Harris Teeter we signed up once more and added to the collection of plastic cards growing in our wallet. You may ask why we even bother but it only takes us five minutes and we usually end up saving $5-$10 so for us it’s worth the time. We were told that Harris Teeter was more of a high class grocery store and it did not disappoint. Rode Trip would have gone crazy here as they seemed to have every exotic kind of food or sauce or spice you could ever need. I actually turned a little foodie myself and bought hoisin sauce from the Asian aisle to try my hand at sesame chicken sometime.

When we were out in the parking lot taking everything out of it’s cardboard box and stuffing it in the backpack it was starting to get dark out and we made our way back to the dinghy. Attach to one of our handles was a plastic bag and I tore it open to see what kind of present was left for us. As I opened it up I saw a jar of honey, a ginger root and a postcard. Quickly flipping it over I saw it was from Scott and Kim on Anthyllide. On it they had written a recipe for ginger tea that settles upset stomachs. After our journey in from Winyah Bay they found out that the confused waves had made me sick a few times and wanted to give me something to make me feel better the next time. Amazingly nice people and we’re so glad we’ve met them as they’ve always been there before so they know just what we’re going through. The best part of the gift was on they bottle of honey shaped like a cute little teddy bear they had written Honey Bear Don’t Care, a reference going back to the Honey Badger clip online that we just introduced them to a few weeks ago. I think even just seeing that bottle now will be enough to make me feel better.

Just after we had started the motor we joked about how low the fuel was in the tank and hopefully it would last us long enough to get back to Serendipity. We rounded the 2,000 feet of dock separating us from the dinghy dock and the Ashley River we got 200 feet out and the motor started sputtering and died. The current was so strong that it took less than five seconds for us to stop moving forward and actually start floating backward. Very quickly the paddles were unattached and Matt was starting to row us in. Looking at the boat next to us it took him a good two or three hard minutes of rowing just to get past it. From where we were we could barley see Serendipity. It didn’t take very long to figure out there was no way we’d make it to Serendip. Sitting much closer to us though was Anthyllide and we thought if we could just get there they’d have fuel for us or could tow us or at least let Matt rest until he gained enough strength back to make it the rest of the way. Continuously encouraging him we made it inch by inch closer to the aluminum boat that would give us safely. When we were just a few hundred feet off I saw Scott out on the deck and started yelling and waving our dinghy light in the air. Matt turned around to look as well and we could see they had just lifted their dinghy out of the water and deflated it on their deck to prepare for jumping out in the ocean the next day. What we didn’t expect is that there was another dinghy about to pass by on their other side and they were able to flag him down and send him our way. As the guy pulled up next to us he tied our rope to the back of his tender and with the 25 horses on the back had no problem bringing us the rest of the way home. We were so thankful and grateful and all that he asked is that we return the favor sometime to anyone in need. I don’t see a problem of that being arranged.

When The Sun Goes Down On Chuck Town

Saturday November 17, 2012

Finally dragging ourselves out of bed and off the boat for the first time in five days we were ready to tour The Holy City (named so because of the number of steepled churches around) with no real destination or plans in mind other than we’d stop at a hardware store at some point to finally break down and buy cans of propane to attach to our Coleman heater and warm the cabin at night.  Not even sure where to go we only knew there was a dinghy dock at the marina we had anchored in front of with a charge of five dollars a day just for dinghy access alone.  Following another dinghy in as we always do when we’re not sure where to go we got talking to the couple and found they were also anchored in the harbor on a sailboat named Serendipity.  Very nice people and quickly got the approval to carry the same boat name as us.  Locking up the dink we wandered out into the main road and found out the direction we were planning on heading had a flooded road.  Taking a side street and then trying to get back on course again that road was also flooded and we were forced back to our side street.  As luck would have it we were lucky to have to travel on the little side road we did as this is where all the antebellum homes from the 1800’s were lined.  This is exactly what we wanted to see while we were in town and we gawk and peek through gates and snap photos (ok, that was just me) like a couple of crazy tourist.  When I came across the big while home that was used in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button I almost lost it.  I could not imagine what the upkeep to own one of these homes would be, but the history is immeasurable.  If I can get this excited over something two hundred years old, imagine how geeked I’d be in Europe.

Having found our way to the hardware store we stuffed our backpack with more propane than it could hold and made our way back to a part of town that looked really interesting.  Landing ourselves on King St. we were surrounded by upscale boutiques and designer labels that are usually only found in Manhattan.  We didn’t go in any of the shops but consumer part of me still let my mouth water as we passed Kate Spade and Anthropology.  What consumer part of me also realized was we were severely underdressed in this area with our cruising uniform of sneakers, jeans and sweatshirts.  Everyone else was wearing the designers being sold on this street and dressed down meant you were in designer athletic wear.  Peeking in some of the windows we circled around the other side and kept walking until the shops went back down to our social class and were starting to find bars and restaurants lining the road.  Stumbling upon a park we found there was a farmers market going on and went in to check it out.  Although there were a few goods actually being sold we were more interested in the foods and wandered from booth to booth where there was Nutella Crepes, homemade ravioli, and gyros.  Landing on the Mediterranean cuisine we sat down at a plastic table in the park and listened to a live performance of someone playing on a stage with their guitar.  Even better was the park offered free wifi and I was able to get some work done before my fingers went numb from keeping them exposed for so long.

Back on the road we were just walking up and down random streets when we got a message from Tasha and Ryan.  Their friends Bill and Grace whom we had met in Manhattan were in town visiting and everyone was going out that night to celebrate Ryan’s 40th birthday.  Jumping at the chance to get out and explore the town at night while at the same time hanging out with friends sounded like a good idea to us.  Back at the boat Matt napped to prepare for the night while I tried to get myself a little more fancy by actually styling my hair and trying to find the classiest outfit I could wear while still keeping warm.  These bars deserved more than my U of M sweatshirt.

We started out at  Hideaway for a pre-bar cocktail that evening and before I knew it cabs were being ordered to take us into town.  Assuming it was just going to be a bar hop the two of us had already eaten but it turns out dinner was in the plans for the evening as well.  Trying to make last minute reservations in Charleston on a Saturday night does leave you with a 9:15 reservation though so when the cab dropped us off on East Bay St. at eight o’clock we had a little time on our hands to kill.  Trying to find a wine bar to pass the time at, Tasha and Ryan starting asking a girl at a local shop what places we could visit and she made it abundantly clear that our jeans and foul weather jackets would not get us in the door to the wine bar here and our choices because of our attire would severely limit our options.  Not even realizing that jeans might be an issue in the area Ryan quickly ran over to where we were having dinner next door at Magnolias to see if they would let us in.  Coming back he stated that there might be somewhere in the back they could stick us in as not to offend the other classy diners but our reservation still stood.  Still having that hour to kill we found a microbrewery just down the street that would accept us and threw back a pint while waiting for our reservation.

When it did come time for dinner we were in fact lead to to a back room of the restaurant and were sat down with white tablecloths and lots of silverware that I was once taught what to do with but now can’t really remember.  I had only been planning on drinking a beer while the rest of the group ate but before I knew it there was a wine and a champagne glass set in front of me where the champagne glass was filled up and a bottle set on the table with instructions to bring another as soon as it was empty.  The four members of Hideaway ordered steak and seafood meals while Matt and I  were forced to get something so I went with a blue crab soup while he put in an order for dessert.  The food was absolutely delicious and the company was even better.  Who would have ever thought that the six of us would wind up together at some swanky restaurant in Charleston?  Raising a glass to toast Ryan I commented on what a bit of serendipity it was which started each member to go around the table and add to the toast with their own boat name.

As the glasses emptied our voices grew and you could tell the people around us trying to have quiet dinners or enjoy a special occasion (hey, we were too) were surprised that such despicable company was allowed through the door.  It unfortunately did not help us to become quiet and we closed down the restaurant with the staff glad to get rid of us I’m sure.  They were very persistent on trying to order a cab to take us out of there as soon as possible.  Instead of going back to the microbrewery or any other bars in the area we made our way back to Hideaway where the party continued until 4 am.  Cats were cuddled too hard, drunken hugs were abundant and we even picked up a stray college kid to come aboard and have a few drinks. If this is how you ring in 40 I have no problem getting there. Even though it was someone else’s birthday we were wined and dined in one of the most beautiful places, had the best time ever, and it will surely be a night to reflect back on for years.  The time the sun went down on Chuck Town…..

Birthday boy Ryan and his beautiful wife Tasha.

And the silly-ness begins.

Tasha, Grace, Ryan, Jessica, Bill & Matt

Coast Guard Approved

Friday November 16, 2012

When I got back to Serendipity after enjoying a few cocktails and playing with two adorable cats on Hideaway on Wednesday night Matt uttered some of the sweetest words I’ve ever heard. The waves might still be too big to jump out tomorrow. We never discussed it much further after that, Ryan’s Painkillers had put me into a sleep coma, and we went to bed with the alarm set for six-thirty the next morning. As we were letting the engine warm up Matt made a comment about how far he thought we’d make it that night which I interpreted as another day on the ICW instead of going out Little River Inlet like we’d originally planned. As soon as the anchor was up I turned right into the ICW. We passed through some small towns and casino boats and came up to the town of Little River. Surprisingly we had been the first ones out of the anchorage that morning and the following current was pushing us along at over seven knots giving us a very big head start and making sure no one was behind us. Passing under a large fixed bridge there was a swing bridge ahead of us so I called in to try and get passage through. Coming back on the radio the guy immediately asks “How many boats are behind you?”. “None”, I replied. After going back and forth a few more times he could not comprehend that during the busy season for boat traffic there might actually be a time where there might actually be one all by itself without the chance of someone coming up behind them in the next few minutes. Still being polite about it he must have still thought he was right because he said it would be ten minutes before he could open, meaning that in that time surely someone would catch up. In the mean time we were now fighting the strong current trying to push us into this immovable structure. Handing the wheel over to Matt as usual he eventually couldn’t fight it any longer and had to start circling the area until the bridge swung open. At which point we passed through alone.

 Seeing that there were two more swing bridges along the way that day he started grumbling that we should have jumped out that morning as we’d be doing so much better pounding into waves than waiting for bridges to open for us. Promising to make him happy since we had always been going by what I want to do for awhile now I told him that we’d jump out at the next class A inlet and keep traveling until we hit Charleston. Turns out that inlet was sixty miles from where we had anchored that morning and now it was a race against the sun to get to it before dark. The day was another cold and crappy one which I actually have something to say about. I know I’ve been complaining about the bad weather lately but it is something that does have a huge effect on cruisers, especially if your boat isn’t fully outfitted like ours. I’ve talked about it being in the 50’s and then I start to get a lot of slack from our friends back in Michigan that I should be thankful for 50 degrees because it was now down in the 30’s there. That is true. If I were walking outside from my heated home to my heated car to the heated grocery store, wandering around in 50 degree weather for ten or twenty minutes at a time would be quite pleasant. But that’s not even close to what we experience. We get up at the crack of dawn when it’s still in the forties and put ourselves outside for ten hours at a time. The wind is blowing hard, the sun is not shining, and there is no escape. The only relief is when you run below deck for a few minutes and no longer have the wind blowing on you. The bus heater runs while the engine is on but the heat always escapes by bedtime and we’re left sleeping in a room that’s in the low fifties when we go to bed and in the forties when we wake up. And then we do it again and again and again. It’s all going to be worth it in the next month when we get down to warm weather and I’m happy to make the sacrifice for the benefits I’ll reap later, but when I start to complain about it, just let me rant because it’s the only way I have to deal with it at the moment. Sympathy votes actually do make me feel warmer inside.

This particular day was so cold though that even though we both usually stay up in the cockpit together all day we started taking turns to go below and enjoy the heat pumping into the boat for a few hours at a time. Then the rain started in and I was just happy we weren’t in the ocean. In late afternoon when the rain quit and winds were starting to die down below twenty we were both in the cockpit when we were hailed on the radio. At first I wasn’t sure if it was for us, they were calling for a southbound sailboat, but the only other boat I could see was a little powerboat and we were in a wide river with plenty of room to pass. When they starting getting more specific and asked for the southbound sailboat passing marker red whatever it was I knew the call was for us. It was a Coast Guard fastboat and they were preparing to board us for a routine inspection. The whole process was very easy, we were allowed to keep our course and speed, and two guys jumped on and brought out all their paperwork to start checking Serendipity and making sure she was up to code. I let Matt go below and show where all our safety equipment and necessary papers were while I stood behind the wheel next to the other guy who was just asking basic questions. In the end we were all up to code except we didn’t have a sticker for waste and that was just a write up but not a fine. They were on the boat less than thirty minutes and it was painless and easy. They said they usually never stop sailboats but their numbers were down and they needed to meet quota. Oh well, I’m sure it would have happened at some point and now if we’re boarded again we just flash them a little paper and they leave. Which I’m happy about going into Florida because I have a feeling the Coast Guard there isn’t always as cordial as these two guys (basically boys) were.

Right after they left we were in the home stretch for the inlet.  Getting myself prepared I popped a Dramamine and put on my pressure point bracelets.  I was ready to go.  Entering the channel in pitch black the waves began to roll in and throw us side to side.  I kept a close watch on both the chartplotter and the lights ahead of me to make sure we stayed right in the middle and didn’t bash into the rocks on the side.  It was a very long channel and took us almost an hour to get out.  I thought we’d be much better off once we turned southwest towards Charleston since we should have had the waves on our stern now, but there was a large shoal we needed to go around so there was another hour of bashing into waves.  Matt came up to relieve me for my 9:00 sleep time and we had also gone far enough to switch to our desired course.  Most of the waves were now on our stern which did make for a more comfortable ride overall, but every so often one would hit us on the side.  Those weren’t so bad while sitting in the cockpit, you just braced yourself a little more, but down below deck it threw around all our belongings and trying to put them away while pitching side to side was not doing wonders for my stomach.  Finally I was able to take off my gear and lay down, counting the seconds between rolls.  One, two, three to one side.  One, two, three to the other side.  I’m not even sure if I fell asleep during that shift.

Waking up for the next shift I was told there was twenty miles between us and the beginning of the channel to Charleston.  I think the math was a little wrong and we were going much faster than anticipated by doing 6-7 under headsail alone and just as I was getting Matt up for his 3-6 shift we were coming up on the channel.  Staying up with him a little longer to spot beacons I couldn’t keep my eyes open any longer and went back to bed.  This channel is also so long as well that when I woke up three hours later we had just entered the harbor and were making our way to the Ashley River to anchor.  The sky was just light enough that we could make out where we were going and could miss the unfortunate sunken ships in the harbor.  Dropping anchor at 7 am we passed out and did not wake up until afternoon.  With the winds howling outside and my stomach still on the fritz we stayed on the boat all day and did nothing but lay in bed and watch movies.  There was a nice visit from Anthyllide later at night as they had gotten in just a few hours before us.  We all made it in safe but what I realized is  the overnight trip was basically for nothing because even if we kept on the ICW we would have gotten in tonight, well rested and with a boat that didn’t look like a hurricane blew through it.


Even Score

Wednesday November 14, 2012

Waking up to another cold and blustery morning we continued on our way down the ICW, making our way to the Cape Fear Inlet where we’d decided if we were going to jump out or still stay inside. Winds had been howling all night and into the morning and it wasn’t making me feel any better about going offshore again. Rounding through the channel to get to the marina we passed Hideaway at the dock and waved good-bye as they wished us well with our ocean voyaging, should we choose to go that route. Filing in line behind the other boats on the ICW we were treated to a few dolphin sightings and two even came up right next to the boat. They popped their heads out of the water and stared at us for a moment before continuing on their way. After seeing the dolphins Matt told me to keep an eye out on the marshy islands separating us from the ocean as they were supposed to have wild goats roaming around them. Since we had been lucky enough for the ponies (and probably only because Rode Trip was with us, they seem to find every kind of wildlife there is out there) I didn’t have high hopes for a goat sighting that day.

 Traveling down the waterway you could tell this was the area where big money was coming in to play. All of the homes on the water started ranging from wood-shingled Hamptonesque homes to gaudy Malibu mansions and everything in between. There was even a spot on our charts called Money Point. And they homes placed there looked like they had it. When the homes began to turn to marsh again I looked over the little islands to the east of us and could see what looked like white foam in the distance. We were coming up on Carolina Beach Inlet, the one I almost mistakenly brought us to the night before. The shore flattened out and all you could see and hear where thunderous waves crashing to shore. Coming up on the actual opening to the inlet it was rolling seas as far as the eye can see. I know that the crashing waves are only close to shore and we’d be rid of them once we were a few miles out, but it was not helping Matt’s case to want to go out in it that afternoon. One thing I did see there as well was how shallow the entrance looked. It’s a very good thing that Matt had caught my mistake yesterday or there’s a really good chance we would have run aground on our entrance and probably have run into some of the buoys because they were very small and didn’t look to be marked with lights. Add in that there is no place to anchor in the area and the end of last night could have been much worse than it was.

With both of us wanting to seek the shelter of a warm comfy bed I let Matt go below to lay down in the late morning while I manned the helm. We were coming up to the area where the ICW connects to the Cape Fear River which eight miles later flows out to the Atlantic. Fighting a decent current to get through the connecting channel it more than made up for it once I got into the river. I thought we had been doing great down the ICW at six to six and a half knots but the river shot me into the upper sevens and close to eight. This also made me happy because it meant that I would only be traveling down the river for an hour before I had to make the decision to jump into the Atlantic or continue on the ICW and Matt would most likely still be sleeping so I could make the decision based on what I felt comfortable with and not having him coax me into anything else (can you guess which one he’d like to do?). Not only did Serendipity keep moving forward at that fast pace, but she kept speeding up. I brought out the camera to snap a photo when we hit nine because I wasn’t sure Matt would believe me, and then just a moment later we were up to 9.9, the fastest we’ve ever seen her go. I throttled back a little bit to bring her down since if the current was going to carry us we could reserve a little fuel but before I knew it we were at the fork in the road and I had a decision to make. Probably knowing in my head all morning I would make this decision if it were up to me alone I turned right into the ICW with many extra miles and hours but guaranteed safety. I’m sure we would have been fine if we jumped outside but I was still too intimidated by the day before to take on another ride like that in the overnight hours on watch by myself.

When Matt woke up he asked where our stop was that night, aware I had made the decision and there would be no ocean sailing for us that day. As a compromise I found an inlet forty miles south of us that I told him we’d anchor near and jump out in the morning, once we’d had one more day for conditions to calm. He seemed fine with it although I could tell he was a little disappointed to not be out riding waves again. But he’s very familiar with the saying ‘Happy wife, happy life‘ and acted like it was no big deal that I had just added another day on to our journey. Settling in to spend the rest of the afternoon on the ICW we took turns at the wheel and read from our e-readers. As I was sitting in the companionway enjoying the warmth from our bus heater below I looked up to see the bow of a boat overtaking us and didn’t think much of it. When I checked again it was Hideaway and immediately jumped up to talk to Ryan and Tasha in the cockpit. We compared notes for the day and found out we were both planning on anchoring at the same spot that night. When we told them our plans for the next day Ryan looked at us surprised and in his British accent shuddered, “You mean you’re going out ….there?” and pointed past the lavish mansions to where the Atlantic was sitting on the other side. We told them that conditions were supposed to lighten and we had a report from Rode Trip a few hours earlier verify that winds were only 20-25 and waves were 3-4 ft on their stern. Our optimism didn’t seem to rub off on them and they established they were still going to continue down the ICW all the way to Charleston. I don’t blame them.

After we had been passed by Hideaway and Northern Cross, one of the boats we’ve been seeing on and off since Norfolk, we were trying to beat the sun so we didn’t have another nighttime anchoring. I had left Matt at the wheel while I went below to try and perfect my pizza dough, something that’s getting better each time but still isn’t quite there yet. As I was kneading the dough I hear Matt moving around above and pulling out the headsail. There was less than five miles left to our anchorage and when I called that up to him he said he was getting bored and needed something to do. The line must have gotten stuck on one of the stays so with the autopilot on he went above to release it. I should have warned him that depths had been changing frequently and to keep a close eye on it at all times, but in the time it took him to run up to release the line and come back into the cockpit we had run off course enough to run around in five feet of water. Throwing it in forward and reverse we could wiggle around but could not get free. We were good and stuck once again. That now leaves me at two and puts Matt up at one. I wasn’t even upset at all, in fact I was kind of glad the score was getting evened. The bottom was soft so there was no damage to the boat and the only thing it was costing us was daylight. Checking the tide tables we saw that high tide was coming up in three hours and by then we should have enough water under us to keep moving along. As if knowing we needed a little spirit lifting once again Matt looked off our port side to the little islands that separated us from sea and called, “Look, … goats!!” Sure enough a heard of about four wild goats were making their way down to the water a few hundred feet behind us. Knowing we weren’t mobile anyway (at least in the large ship capacity) I suggested we dinghy to shore to get a little closer to them. “Who knows”, Matt replied, “Maybe they like carrots”.  Putting down the dinghy I thought he was actually going to bring us to the goats but instead he tied a line to the boat and pulled us off.  It’s amazing what a 3 hp engine can do.  Getting to the anchorage just after dark we laughed about the day and I tried to mentally prepare myself for another ocean voyage tomorrow.  I can do it, I can do it.

The inlet I almost brought us in the previous night.

Following the well laid markers.



If At First You Don’t See A Pony, Try, Try Again

Monday November 12, 2012

Our last day in Beaufort and we weren’t going to leave it without seeing a pony. Nevermind that we hadn’t seen town at all and checked out the local stores and shops, we know what’s really important. After the first attempt, the only two we saw were across a deep marsh that we couldn’t have walked over but it looked like the dinghy would be able to make it’s way through. So caravanning with Rode Trip in their dinghy we made our way down the parts of Taylor Creek where no one has their boat anchored. Getting my binoculars out of the bag I started focusing them on shore just so I could search down and try to find the inlet when something whizzed past my sight. I don’t know if it was a pony or a bird, but looking back at Rode Trip they were pointing to shore and taking photos as well so I figured it had to be something. Deciding to pull our dinghies off to the side there we walked up a small hill and saw groups of ponies grazing in the grass. They were still close to a mile away and some definite marshy-ness between us. Now seeing that the inlet was just a few hundred yards away we piled back in the dinks for a better approach.

 Slipping through the channel that a few other small boats were fishing in we crept up to the ponies as quietly as one can with an outboard running although I don’t think they even noticed or cared we were there. Bottoming out a few times I jumped out in the calf high water and dragged us to a point it was deep enough to run the motor again. When we finally crashed into shore we were less than two hundred feet from a group of four ponies grazing. Grabbing a carrot out of a bag Matt and I started slowly walking toward them not wanting to startle them and send them running. The ground we were walking on was thick and muddy and acted like a suction cup on your feet. We basically had to sneak up on them because we couldn’t move any faster than that. While Matt went straight for a group of three I stayed off to the side, partly so I could try and get a photo of him feeding his carrot to the pony should that ever happen and party so I could come up on a female all by herself that kept watching me. Maybe we had some kind of special connection and she’d let me ride her off into the setting sun?

While Matt came up on the group of three they ignored him until he started getting a little too close and then turned their backs to walk away. Thinking they might want to come back to us if they knew just how good our carrots tasted he haucked it in their direction only to frighten the crap out of one and make it do some fancy sidestepping. I kept working my way toward the female who hadn’t moved yet but kept watching me. Just as I was getting to a 5-10 foot distance she also turned her back to me and trotted away. Just as we thought we were getting nowhere (we including Stephanie now, Brain was hanging back at the dinghy with his cousin who had come along) a large male a half mile off to our left threw his head back and neighed, bringing up a group of four other ponies behind him. We joked that these must be the show ponies, the ones that come out for the tourist. Changing course now we began stepping and sliding in their direction getting stuck in the mud with every other step. Finally making our way through the marshes and over to them we stopped for just a minute to let them take us in and then began taking small steps forward, only one or two at a time, before stopping again. Either these were the show ponies or our baby steps were working because they seemed to care less that we were less than ten feet away.

Getting the attention of another female I walked ever so gently forward with my arm extended and a carrot in my flat palm. She didn’t move away as I inched closer and actually appeared to be interested in me. I let my body stop about three feet away from her and leaned in with the carrot. Instead of going back to grazing on the dry grass she leaned her head in toward my hand and took a sniff of my palm. I didn’t know what to expect since it’s been about fifteen years since I’ve fed anything to a horse and I was just hoping my hand would still be intact at the end. The same hand that had just jammed it’s way into a block a few days earlier. The pony sniffed a few more times, her soft snout brushing my hand, and turning the carrot down went back to her grass. Stepping a foot closer this time she didn’t want what I was selling and turned her back to me as she walked away. For five or ten more minutes the three of us continued to step up to the ponies surrounding us just to have them turn away at the last second. I don’t know what I was originally expecting of these wild ponies, eating out of my hand, letting me run my hand across their coat, but they were making it pretty clear that they were interested in looking but not touching. Deciding we’d let them be we bid our ponies farewell and rode our dinghies back home.

With the unusually nice day we were having the rest of the afternoon was spent lounging outside in the cockpit just for the fun of it. I don’t think that’s been done since we were in Deltaville, before hurricane Sandy. It felt so good to get the outdoor living space to our boat back. As we were sitting there with the fabric of the dodger blocking the view to our sides I could hear another boat was anchoring and a British voice calling out instructions to the person behind the helm. I didn’t think to even look up but when they began chatting with the boat behind us I thought another anchor dispute was about to breakout as we had experienced one earlier in the day (not involving us) with the boat behind us and a guy dragging a grappling hook in the area looking for his lost anchor. Let’s just say that he caught the anchor of the boat behind us (liveaboards in that spot for the past six months) and things quickly escalated to Jerry Springer level. But this time the boat behind us was welcoming in the new one and I popped my head around to take a look. Right away I recognized the name printed on the side, Hideaway, as it belonged to a hopefully new friend of mine, Tasha. Although we had never met in person she had found our website through her friends that we had met in Manhattan (Bill and Grace). She e-mailed when we were back in D.C. to let me know she was following and that her and her husband Ryan had just left out of Manhattan and were also making their way south. We’d sporadically message each other on Facebook and I kept an eye on her location through her website, to see if they were catching up with us, and boy were they! As soon as their anchor was down I was busy sending her a message that we were right next to each other and they should stop by that evening for a drink. Quickly stopping by to say hi and introduce themselves while on their way in to town for a quick bite to eat and a little exploring they were over at Serendipity. Trading experiences on the way down so far and finding out they had it a lot worse in Sandy than we did just due to the winds in their location we were soon joined by Brian and Stephanie.  Through the night new friendships were formed and I was able to add another couple to the Young Cruiser’s Club  I’m planning on starting.  It was a great day from start to finish and just reinforced why we’re out here doing what we do.