A Year Later — ICW Remembrances

Here we are April 2017 — a year after we finished our ICW trip.  As I went through my Word documents, I found my last ‘blog’ that I never published.  Sweet thoughts and memories; smiles continually of what we did.  We especially are thinking of our trip because friends, John and Tom are on their way back home; Pat and Michelle are ‘somewhere down south’; and Stuart and Sondra are beginning their life aboard their catamaran in the BVI’s.  We love you all, and wish you safe travels and fair winds.

This year we are planning some “Bay” trips; one with the sailing club, led by Erick and Maggie Chiang to the Rappahanoeck River and another, who knows where.  Our two granddaughters are in sailing school this year with Bernie and Eve Doyle’s grandsons (should be interesting!), so we are sure they will want to go sailing quite a bit.  Preparing Outward this spring brought back great memories of our ICW trip and we are looking forward to our Early Bird Sail to St. Michaels with long time friends Bitsy and Curt Schroeder — thus far we have about ten boats coming.  Missing our friends John and Kyrah von Senden that moved south — but happy for them being with their family.

Happy Summer to all — and if you are on the water, enjoy!

So, here are our last thoughts from April 2016.

At Home and Thoughts – after two months being home — April 2016

We are actually “home” – our non-boat home. How does it feel after being away since October (except for the six weeks during the Christmas holidays) and then three months straight until now – April???

As I sit and write our thoughts, while listening to my favorite singer, James Taylor, and sitting in my favorite chair – life is good and we are so blessed by having the opportunity to actually accomplish a trip that we weren’t sure we would accomplish – yet we did.

Arriving at Solomons after Crissfield (April 2016), we felt we were close to home; and as we motored into West River – we were ‘home!’   Pulling into our slip was so easy compared to what we had been doing the past few months!

Ok – toughest part was walking into our house. Emotions were all over the place. The yard looked huge and grass was grown. Walking into the house was the most shocking – there was so much room – space, nothing crowded, everything seemed to be in order more so than on Outward.  We were both overwhelmed with what we had.  Made us realize how simple and happy we were on Outward.  And you don’t need much to live and be happy.  Wow — talk about emotions!

The first three days were difficult.  Both of us would wake up and not know where we were, ‘and think oh my gosh, where are we going next?” Only to wake and realize we are not on the boat. We don’t have to get anywhere. We are Home.

So – do we miss that life?  Sort of – but not really.  We have so many cruises planned with our club – some weekend, some longer.  And what is fun with the club cruises is the other cruisers you are with.

But – there are things —

  • What we do miss are the new places, lovely and peaceful anchorages and great folks/boaters you get to meet. The ICW is awesome and everyone should experience the beauty of traveling through it.
  • Learning your boat. We thought we knew Outward. But we feel she taught us more than we thought we knew. The Captain learned how well she responded to power when turning or maneuvering.  The first mate became quite good at handling and tying ropes; knowing almost exactLy where bumpers had to be placed depending on the slip we had.
  • Navigating – whether it was the ICW or offshore. It is a learning experience and we found that patience and understanding was the savior in navigating throughout these areas. What does that mean, you ask?
    • Courtesy – have to admit the majority of boaters are very courteous. Rarely did we meet boaters that over-powered us.  Different from the Bay!
    • Ship to ship exchanges – the use of the VHF radio on the ‘right channel’ always provided important information between all navigators. You were always aware of any hazards you might encounter, upcoming barges or other large ships coming your way.  Quite honestly, we wish our roads were as safe to travel!

As I try and complete this last blog, I realize it is a month since we are ‘home’ and can’t believe how busy life is in our ‘land based home’.  Listening to ‘Sting’ and his meaningful lyrics, I know how complete our life is.  We are so fortunate to have life fulfilled with love of our family, experience a unique trip on Outward southward for five months and enjoying some of the most beautiful places you can only see from the water.  As ‘Sting’ sings in one of his songs ‘when the rain falls — we are so fragile’ – and yes, we are – yet on Outward during the last three months, we felt in charge of ourselves – as fragile as we were at times.

Outward  led us through some tough seas coming home.  Her bow was way too often feeling the breaking waves; however her stern shared much of the southern stormy seas as she ‘surfed’ those often 4 to 6 foot waves.

We were glad to be home and after our Early Bird Cruise to St Michaels (under awful weather),  we had hoped to make more cruises – but between weather and family commitments, we never did.  Outward was pulled the week of June 20th for a much needed cleaning and painting (she was full, full of barnacles and grime – the worst we have ever seen on her.)

Although we have had a few day sails, it just isn’t enough – and once we return from our Outer Banks vacation with family we will plan a two week Bay cruise – perhaps north this year for a change. But it is clear that after spending so much time on Outward we miss her and yearn to return to her warm comfort and feel her sail gingerly through the Bay waters. As I write this, it brings a smile and fills my heart with sweet happiness.

Outward allowed us to enjoy a great adventure; and while doing so, we always felt safe with her. We look forward to new adventures on board her!

 

 

Bellhaven, NC to Galesville — HOME!!

After the second night in Bellhaven, we were happy to see calmer weather, and a higher tide!  We were the last boat to leave, at 7:30 and heading to the Alligator Bridge Marina. We started off in 8 to 10 knot winds and sure enough after a couple of hours, the wind increased to 15 to 20 knots – NE. This part of the trip is through the Alligator River-Pungo River Canal.  We read that you may see deer and black bears with an occasional alligator in this area; unfortunately we still have not seen any bears or alligators and only a few deer!  Miss our Dolphins and Pelicans that have kept us company.  However, we did see something never seen before – Air Force planes doing air to surface target training for about an hour overhead. The Dare County Range has about 46,000 acres of marsh that contain targets for inert weapons delivery practice.  Quite eerie when you see the jets do the same maneuvers and suddenly shoot at the targets!  Am thankful, however, that there are areas such as these that can be used for their practice – all for the protection of our country!  We arrived at the Alligator River Marina in high winds but had a skilled dock master that helped us get positioned with the bow ready to head right out the next day. Well, the next day brought 30 knot winds with gusts up to 40/45!  Five of us boats are tied up and waiting out the wind.  Plans for all of us are to cross Albemarle Sound; navigation aids warn boaters about crossing the Sound in high winds. Our southern trip through the Sound was a challenge and we hope it is a little bit calmer tomorrow!

So, here we are at anchor after crossing the Albemarle Sound and traipsing through the Pasquotank River in not so calm weather. Our friend, Susan, texted us to see if we got across and our answer was: “Yes, but it was a miserable five hours – no further comments needed.”  As we left the open piece of the Pasquotank River and headed into the upper (northern) Pasquotank, we again enjoyed the welcome beauty of so many Cypress trees .  Our anchorage was perfect – small and secure with no real effect from the wind behind Goat Island.  A second sailboat pulled in about two hours after us.  The serenity at anchor, and what you observe can be amazing.  As we sit in the cockpit with a glass of wine, and bask in the warm sunshine; the beauty of early spring becomes so apparent. The clouds in a blue sky had beautiful formations (felt like kids as  we talked about the shapes – a dragon, a whale) – seeing the young lilly pods along the shore line, buds on all the trees; this is the beauty that makes you feel complete and most importantly forget about the lousy five hours you just spent!  Tomorrow is an early rise to make the 8:30 lock that brings us into the Dismal Swamp.

Pasquotank River Cypress Trees

Pasquotank River Cypress Trees

Pasquotank River Anchorage

Pasquotank River Anchorage

Cloud Shapes in Bright Sky PR

Cloud Shapes in Bright Sky PR

Yea! Sunshine and Warmth PR

Yea! Sunshine and Warmth PR

PR Sunset at Anchorage

PR Sunset at Anchorage

It took about two hours until we reached the first lock.  This is the day winds were high with gusts expected to be about 40 knots; however the protection in the swamp was amazing — thank goodness.  (Our daughter in law texted us that it was snowing at home!)  There were times (like when we went through the first bridge before the lock that a sudden 20 knot plus gust pushed the boat sideways (scary for 10 or so seconds!) and we had more gusts, but felt the protection of the trees.  By the time we arrived at the second lock, wind and gusts were getting worse and the Coast Guard was continually warning boaters on finding a safe harbor.  We got into the second lock (the other two boats stayed behind) and after talking to Robert, lock master, asking him for advice if, as we turned towards Portsmouth, things were bad, where should we go. Thank goodness we did ask, because as we approached the RR bridge and adjacent bascule bridge in 30+ knot winds, we realized both bridges were closed and neither of them responded to repeated calls on our VHF radio asking for information about when or if the bridges would open (we’ve learned that some bridges will not open in high winds.)  We decided to turn around and within half an hour arrived at Top Rack Marina and with the help of a young dock hand, tied up.  The owner showed up and helped us add more lines to be sure we were secure.  Not a good hour or so; we were both tired, cold, and upset with the lack of response from both bridges.  The captain called Robert the lock master and talked to him about our experience.   He shared enough that we decided to add a ‘hazard’ note in Active Captain.  Thank goodness we had “Mr. Heater” (a propane fired small heater) and stayed warm part of the night with loads of quilts and blankets – yep, we are crazy – who would do such things when the temp goes down to 34?!?!  Crazy folks like us that have nine young “anchors” that are pulling us home.

Trying to stay warm and write

Trying to stay warm and write

Captain planning for next day

Captain planning for next day

Leaving Norfolk and Portsmouth on a Sunday was very strange – it was so, so very quiet.  No barges and other work boats in the river; no activity in the shipyards and just a few boats heading north.  Very different scene from what we observed in our southern trip. Again, it was cold (didn’t go above 46) but we had sunshine and light winds. Our destination was Cape Charles; a town we have been wanting to sail to for the past two years. Well, we didn’t sail, but did get across the Bay without any problems – and we were so happy to be back in the Bay!  Wish the water around the West River and Annapolis areas was as clean and pretty!

Cape Charles is a destination we will probably get to again. The tiny town only has a little over 1,000 residents but is growing after a long decline.  During the week it is busy with railroad barges coming and going between Little Creek and Cape Charles.  The town did very well during the years the New York, Philadelphia and Norfolk railroad carried passengers and freight to awaiting ferries.  The railroad is still functional, but only for freight. As we walked through this old town that is obviously re-growing, we headed towards the Bay and beach. What a surprise!  We felt as though we were in the Outer Banks!  Beautiful beaches, sand dunes and a shoreline that was lush with sandy beaches. A new little Chesapeake Bay gem we have found.  Had one of the best clam chowders and oysters at Shanty’s – fun atmosphere and friendly people.

Cape Charles Library and old bldg

Cape Charles Library and old bldg

Cape Charles Main Street

Cape Charles Main Street

LOVE Sign at CC Beach

LOVE Sign at CC Beach

Walkway to Beach -- CC

Walkway to Beach — CC

Cape Charles Beach and Dunes

Cape Charles Beach and Dunes

Left Cape Charles in sun and winds, heading north to Crisfield.  We didn’t bargain for two things:  constant 20 to 25 knot southerly winds with gusts up to 30 and the largest amount of crab pots we have ever seen – probably more than we saw in Albemarle Sound!  With such strong southerly winds, Outward was continually surfing in 5 to 6 foot waves which made it a challenge to maneuver to miss the crab pots.  A very stressful eight hours!  As we approached Crisfield, we thankfully had attentive marina staff that were ready to help us into the slip as we ‘roared’ in with now 28 knot winds.  Great dock hand; he tied us quickly, got the power on and made sure we were OK.  The next morning was grey and rainy – so we decided to stay one extra day.  Well, around lunch time on the second day, we hear a knock from the marina manager who said they would like to buy us a crab cake lunch – a welcome to Somers Cove Marina because we were the first transients for the 2016 season!  Wow, as one would expect from this town, the crab cakes were delicious and desert was two slices of Smith Island cake.  Who could ask for more on a rainy, miserable day!  As I have said many times before, there is always a silver lining to our adventures.

Crissfield Harbor

Crissfield Harbor

Outward in slip -- Stormy evening

Outward in slip — Stormy evening

Sunset in Crissfield Day 2

Sunset in Crissfield Day 2

Somers Cove Welcome lunch -- Crab Cakes and Smith Island Cake

Somers Cove Welcome lunch — Crab Cakes and Smith Island Cake

We left Crissfield around 7:30 am with hopes to make it to Galesville — foolish us thinking we would be in fine shape with north easterly winds around 20-25 knots and cold weather!  As we headed out to Tangier Sound and north, we found more crabpots — stress, stress because the waves were five to six feet and that made it very difficult to see the pots.  Must say, don’t recall so many active crabbing boats in such high wind and waves.  (We later found out that they have to  pick up the crab pots by the third day, otherwise the crabs die and with the high winds this past week, they just had to tough it out and pull their pots.)  With the conditions being as they were, Outward had a difficult time keeping up her normal 6 to 7 knots — we actually saw 3.7 and 4 knots!  After four hours we realized we would arrive in Galesville between 8 and 9 p.m.; hence we called Zahniser’s Yachting Center in Solomon’s asking them for a transient slip for the night.  As we headed into the Patuxent River, the winds died down and we got to our slip with no problems.  Though the dock hand did say that earlier in the day she had a very difficult time tying another sailboat to the dock because of the high winds.  We showered and changed and had another great dinner at the Dry Dock restaurant.  So glad we decided to take it easy and not fight to get to our marina.  We left Solomon’s with a beautifully sunny day and almost no winds.  The Bay was now calmer than we have seen in a while — no complaints; we needed to relax and get home.  We arrived at our slip by 2 p.m., did some unloading and drove to our son’s house to FINALLY see our new little granddaughter.  It goes without saying that all the ‘anchors’ were happy to finally see us home. Their remarks were ‘Why did you go away for such a long time?  We missed you so much.  When can we have a sleep over?’

Dry Dock Restaurant, Solomon's, MD

Dry Dock Restaurant, Solomon’s, MD

Solomons, MD Harbor

Solomons, MD Harbor

Of course the next day we were more than happy to attend their games and to make the West River Sailing Club’s  flag raising; always a special event.  Our granddaughters and a couple of other kids were assisting raising the flag; our oldest granddaughter, Isabel, remarked that ‘The American Flag is really, really heavy!’

Flag Raising at WRSC

Flag Raising at WRSC

Isabel raising American Flag

Isabel raising American Flag

Kids helping to raise flags

Kids helping to raise flags

Singing as flag is raised

Singing as flag is raised

We are glad to be home after a very enjoyable, interesting and at times stressful trip.  It was without question an experience that we are glad we were able to do.  We met some wonderful people that we hope will be stopping by on their way north as well as renewing friendships with a number of old friends from high school and college.  As I shared our feelings  with Susan Whalen about how it felt when we got into our home ; she suggested we follow up with a last blog, which we will.

Thank you everyone for your support, well wishes and comments.

Southport to Bellhaven, NC

We knew the weather forecast was not good, yet we wanted to get going before it got worse. We left Southport around 7:30 am in a dark, grey, dreary 1st of April (I guess this was Mother Nature’s “April Fools” trick on us.)  In and out of rain all day, but at least now the winds were behind us blowing hard but certainly more tolerable than when they were on the nose!  Cape Fear River is not the nicest place to be traveling through, so it was good to get to Carolina Beach and begin a more scenic, yet challenging part of the ICW. There is a lot of shoaling that keeps you on your toes – and the electronic charts are not always correct!  Keeping an eye on the depth and watching the buoys is a must. Thankfully, the Coast Guard does a pretty decent job moving the buoys as shoaling changes.  As we ran into nasty storms close to Wrightsville Beach, we found a small cove to duck into and let the storm pass.  Turning off the ICW, the first mate ran aground in 3.9 feet of water (we draw 4.3 feet!)  Tide was down, so we just sat for an hour and let the tide float us off.  Anchorage for this evening was in Sloop Point, near Surf City, NC.  What was so unique about this place, is that the Atlantic Ocean is just on the other side of the homes and so close that the breaking waves sound like we should be able to see them.  Because of heavy rains and predicted morning thunderstorms we decided to leave later than normal and had a lazy morning.  The captain changed the engine’s impeller (not so “lazy” for him, since to do this he had to remove half of our stairwell which is in front of the impeller) and around 11 we left the anchorage.

Top Sail (Surf City) NC

Top Sail (near Surf City) NC

Swansboro finally appeared on our bow around 4:00pm!  After an interesting day playing tag with the bridge openings and shallow water challenges, going through Camp Lejune’s firing training range which made you continually jump due to the howitzer’s firing, we arrived at Dudley’s Marina in Swansboro.  This is without question a small fishing town. The Marina is probably the cheapest we have stayed at — .75 cents per foot and no charge for electricity. Not much, but it was convenient and friendly. Good stop for the night so we can get an early start in the morning.  The trip has been interesting because on our southbound cruise, we left Beaufort and were on the ocean side up to Wrightsville Beach – so the past two days were all new for us to see.  A new sight was the large amount of “clammers” along the shallow ICW.  It reminded us of Baldwin Bay, where most kids grew up clamming.

Clamming on the ICW

Clamming on the ICW

 

We decided to miss Beaufort, NC and head to Oriental since we have not been there and Oriental is referred to as the “Sailing Capital of NC”.  We hope that’s a good decision because Beaufort NC is a really neat city to visit.

Oriental was indeed a good pick!  Cute little town and the Oriental Marina and Inn was perfect for us.  Small place with just a few slips;  Tiki Bar and restaurant which we never did get to.  But, they had the best bathroom facilities – clean, fresh towels, soap and shampoo and a hair dryer!  It is the little things that boaters get a kick out of.  We walked around the tiny, tiny town and had a most delicious dinner at M&M’s (recommended by Pat and Joe Casey.)  Very much a down to earth place; yet, the two cooks put out fantastic food!  Captain had lamb that he said was the best he has had in a while; and the first mate had the freshest tuna perfectly cooked medium rare with fresh shrimp served with black beans and rice – and we had to wait for the rolls because they were still cooking.  Before dinner we ventured to a small art/pottery store and met one of the owners on her way closing up for the evening.  As you would expect in Oriental, she opened the door and invited us in. The shop is a co-op of four artists and their prices are very, very good.  This tiny town was a great visit for a short stay.

Entering Oriental Marina

Entering Oriental Marina

Oriental Shrimp Boats

Oriental Shrimp Boats

Oriental Marina Inn as seen from Outward

Oriental Marina Inn as seen from Outward

Dragon in Oriental Pond -- not sure why, but cute!

Dragon in Oriental Pond — not sure why, but cute!

We have been really pushing our travels north – doing 40 to 50 miles a day because you never know what weather one will encounter.  As we arrived in Bellhaven’s River Forest Marina, we said we wanted to stay two nights due to the forecast for Tuesday.  His answer ‘Yep, so are these other folks – not going to be nice tomorrow.”  So he put Outward in a secure spot to be protected from the northern winds; however, when we were at low tide, we couldn’t get from the boat to the pier!  So, our dockmaster got us a ladder to enable us to climb up.  A new technique for us!  We stayed at this marina on our southern trip and were thrilled to be greeted by Henry’s big smile, patience and gentleness.  Felt right at home – and we have clean, nice bathrooms/showers – AND free laundry facilities.  We could not believe that this little town has a restaurant that is classy, unique, friendly and serves outstanding gourmet food – The Spoon River Restaurant. We had deep fried duck eggs with asparagus and carrots served with two different ‘jellies’ for an appetizer -delicious; the Captain had Wahoo and the First Mate had Mahi Mahi for entrees – also delicious.  They also brought out tiny “duckling” eggs – complimentary.  Turns out four of us boaters from River Forest Marina ended up at the same restaurant.  Provisioning here before moving towards the Dismal Swamp will be easy since the Marina has loaner golf carts.  These simple amenities in marinas mean the world to boaters!

Outward at Bellhaven Marina

Outward at Bellhaven Marina

Bellhaven Home

Bellhaven Home

Menu at Spoon River Restr.

Menu at Spoon River Restr.

Table Setting at Spoon River Rest.

Table Setting at Spoon River Rest.

Fried Duck Egg Appetizer

Fried Duck Egg Appetizer

We leave Wednesday, April 6th headed toward the Alligator River Marina.  This is the first time we have stayed in so many marinas; however, weather is not good at all and marinas are more comforting than anchorages when bad weather is around.  The Alligator River Bridge (a swing bridge) was closed on Tuesday, April 5th because of 40 to 50 knot winds.  Temperature has been in the 40’s, and not expected to warm up enough!  Wednesday’s weather is supposed to be better – yet turns bad again Thursday and we need to be sure to get through that bridge and find another safe harbor.  Didn’t expect all this lousy weather; but it is what it is.  Just gets us home a little later than expected.  Of  course, Christopher sends us pictures of Kinsley, our new granddaughter, with a caption of  ‘She can’t wait to meet you.’  Yep, can’t wait to hold this little one soon.

Kinsley, April 3rd

 

 

Beaufort, SC to Southport, NC — March 23 to March 31, 2016

Beaufort, SC is charming.  Once again we are here, and yes – Spring has opened the azaleas, snapdragons, lilies, red buds, and more.  Walking along the waterfront, and having the opportunity to sit among the many community swings that overlook the Beaufort River, you begin to understand why one is drawn to this place.  On our walk along Bay Street, we ran into a young lady who asked if we needed help to get somewhere – we said no, just admiring this beautiful home called Anchorage.  She said she worked there and invited us in to tour the house which has just been renovated and now opened as a B&B.  Oh my – what a lovely and inviting place. We continued walking further down the road and admired the incredible homes and the landscape.  Walked through St. Helena’s Episcopal church and the grave yard which dates back to 1700’s and also saw a synagogue dating back to the 1830’s.  What an interesting city.  Bought stone ground grits for us and the children; and had a great dinner at Panini.  The captain had a low country and Italian mix dish with shrimp, andouille sausage with penne and a rich sauce; first mate had a small fresh Mediterranean pizza with fresh vegetables.   Awesome evening.

Liz on Swing overlooking Beaufort River

Liz on Swing overlooking Beaufort River

View from Anchorage B&B, SC

View from Anchorage B&B, SC

Beaaufort Home on Bay Street with Azaleas beginning to bloom

Beaaufort Home on Bay Street with Azaleas beginning to bloom

We left Beaufort at nine for our next anchorage at “Church Creek” about three hours south of Charleston.  The creek was aptly named for our travels, since we arrived on Good Friday.  It was nice to be in “Church” on good Friday.  It is an interesting anchorage because we arrived at low, low tide and it was amazing to see the amount of oyster beds!  As those of us who ply the Chesapeake Bay know, oysters like to build upon themselves and build reefs.  In the below picture you can see mounds made by oysters exposed during low tide.  We can only imagine what would happen to such mounds if they were in the Chesapeake.  They’d almost certainly be harvested and gone, which of course removes some of the most important filtering mechanism for the water.  Why the South Carolinian’s don’t harvest such “easy picken’s” is a mystery, but we are happy that they don’t.  They’ll have cleaner water because of it.  By the way, these mounds are not unique.  We’ve seen them throughout North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and northern Florida.

Church Creek Oyster Beds

Church Creek Oyster Beds

Weather forecast wasn’t too good for Saturday; however we wanted to get to Charleston at slack tide and not deal with the currents.  We left at 8 am and sure enough the storms started around 10 am – so close, yet so far from Charleston.  The lightning and thunder, along with torrential rain came down.  Having experienced a lightening hit on Outward one time, we were quite nervous being on the water in thunderstorms.  At one point, it was so bad, we were ready to drop anchor in the middle of the ICW but rain slowed down enough to allow us to see where we were going.  We decided, after looking at the weather radar, that more bad storms were coming and we needed to get to the Marina.  At 11 am we arrived at the City Marina; however it took another twenty minutes until we finally got docked.  The saving grace again – dolphins playing around the boat as we circled waiting for a dockhand.  Pelicans and Dolphins have become the first mates love and do bring calmness, beauty and peace to the soul.  Can’t begin to explain the feeling – but they always bring a smile.

Warm, real bathroom showers at the Marina were a welcome treat after the morning adventure and days at anchorages!  The remainder of our day was spent walking around one of our very favorite cities and again falling in love with a lovely old south town with great homes, stately gardens and window flower boxes that I wish I had at our home!  Can’t recall when we have walked through so much rain!  By the time we got ‘home’, our shoes and pants were soaked!  Dinner was at one of our old favorite places ‘Poogans Porch’.  Unfortunately, the food was good, but not the caliber it was about fifteen years ago.

Charleston Home 2 (Long One)

Charleston Home (Long One)

Charleston Garden

Charleston Garden

Window Boxes

Window Boxes

Weather for Sunday was as bad, if not worse, than when we arrived Saturday. Thunder and lightning in the forecast convinced us to stay another day. Again, God must be watching over us because here we are, in Charleston, on Easter Sunday and able to attend an Easter service.  We attended the service at St. Michaels Anglican Church – the oldest church in Charleston.  Flowers in the church and on the doors are what one would expect in Charleston. The color, luster and variety were a sight to behold.  The service was unique because of the amount of singing – powerful and beautiful hymns (some that we have never heard.)  You know you are in the south when you see a significant number of the men – from young to old – wearing seersucker suits and bow ties. It really was nice to see this and realize that the southern charm is still alive!

St. Michael's at Easter

St. Michael’s at Easter

Organ and Choir Loft

Organ and Choir Loft

Easter brunch was at a small restaurant ‘Eli’s Table’. Had a new dish that will become one I can make on the boat or at home.  Smoked salmon tartine served on flatbread. Outstanding!  This  is made with capers, pickled red onion and goat cheese; the crowning glory is a sunny side up egg. Returning to the boat, it was time to do laundry and get all the wet clothes washed and dried. The interior of the boat was a mess with wet clothes hanging up all over — not a thing the first mate likes to see!

Heading north from Charleston is one of our many favorite routes – passing Isle of Palm and Goat Island are always interesting diversions.  We motor sailed most of the way and anchored in Five Fathom Creek near the town of McClellan SC.  As we begin to enter the creek, what do you know – our ‘friend’ the wind decided to pick up and test our skills as we dropped the anchor in 20 to 27 knot winds and a strong current!  First take didn’t work, but the second one was better and deeper (remember, we have to account for a seven foot tidal change!)  We sat in the cockpit for about two hours to be sure we were ok and not dragging anchor.  We are thankful we bought the ROCNA anchor and 120 feet of chain!  Well – no the winds never died down until after eight. We did grill some grouper and asparagus and played yet another game of 500 rummy.  When ready to check outside and be certain we were holding, we were welcomed with a most beautiful star light evening.  This is what makes anchoring so special. We found Orion’s Belt, the Big Dipper and other stars  that we are not familiar with, yet all so clear in a sky that was not marred by city lights.

Five Fathom Creek with stranded boat

Five Fathom Creek with stranded boat — didn’t want to end up like this!!!

Continuing north, we were looking forward to the Waccamaw River portion of the trip.  But before we even got close, we encountered continued winds, again up to often constant 22 to 27 knots NE – right on the nose. Yes, we were miserable!  Thankfully, we take half hour shifts on the wheel; so when you are off you can shield yourself from the wind and, under cover of the dodger (like a windshield for you land lubbers) bask in the sunshine!  Again, we were often distracted by the Dolphins and Pelicans. We had one Pelican that seemed to be following and I managed to get a picture as he was landing. Spring has certainly started to show her colors along the river. As we get further north and into the beautiful Waccamaw, the greens in trees and bushes  have that light green color; wild pink honey suckle blooming along the river; cypress trees, Eagles, Osprey and turtles dot the shore line. The Waccamaw River is a glorious place to be in, and as we see motor boats rush by, you sort of feel sorry for them because they are missing such natural beauty that we see at our stately 6 -7 knot pace. We anchored in Bull Creek, as we did on our southern journey, only because it is one of the prettiest off the river.  And NO wind!   So we were able to have a great dinner in the cockpit — what a treat.  Calabash Creek was our in between stop before a short hop (4 hours) to Southport, NC.

Pelican Landing

Pelican Landing

Cypress trees in Waccamaw River

Cypress trees in Waccamaw River

Dinner on Outward _ Bull Creek

Dinner on Outward _ Bull Creek

Bull Creek with reflection of trees

Bull Creek with reflection of trees

Waccamaw River

Waccamaw River

 

Arriving at Southport, we couldn’t wait to get to the showers quick enough!  The Marina has a shuttle service into town, so we took advantage of  that to reprovision – do believe we are set for at least a week.  After laundry, filling up with more water and cleaning the ‘rub marks’ we got at the fuel dock, we were anxious to meet up with Larry and Linda Baker (our WRSC friends that hosted us on our southern trip.)   It was great seeing them again; had a great dinner at the Provision Company – a most unique restaurant.  There are no computers; the waitresses and waiters use white note pads to write down your name and what you would like for dinner (selection is on the blackboard) and the beer, wine, soft drinks are yours for the picking from the refrigerator– on the honor system.  When you are finished with dinner, you check out by giving them your name and letting them know how many drinks you had – Bingo you are done!  Linda and I were amazed at the organized chaos, paper and pencil tallying and the honor system.  Above all, the shrimp and tuna we had was delicious.  Great place to catch up again with good friends (and they may charter a boat in  Annapolis and join us cruisers this summer!!!)  Oh yes, Larry and Linda — now the pressure is on!

Provision Company Rest. at Southport

Provision Company Rest. at Southport

Larry and Linda Baker at Dinner_Southport_Provision Company

Larry and Linda Baker at Dinner_Southport_Provision Company

Rainy weather hasn’t dampened us – but we shall see what tomorrow brings!

 

Pine Island, GA to Beaufort, SC — 5/15 to 5/23/2016

There are times that careful planning doesn’t always work in your favor!  To ensure we left St. Augustine at slack tide, when maneuvering out of dock space is easy,  the Captain planned very well – we did indeed leave at slack, slack tide and as we called the Lions Bridge requesting a noon opening, we were informed that there are no noon openings on weekdays – next opening is at 12:30 (obviously we did not read our chart because it clearly provides this information!)  No problem, we hung out in the harbor admiring all the boats, skyline, etc.  As 12:30 approached, we are hailed by the bridge tender and informed he has mechanical problems and can’t open (earlier in the day there was a bad accident and the eastbound gate was broken; they repaired it and opened twice more until it was our turn and it would not work.)  Ok, we can deal with this. Not knowing how long the repair would take, we asked the Marina for permission to tie up at the fuel dock.  Fortunately, things got fixed and we made the one o’clock opening.   Thankfully we chose Pine Island as our anchorage, just a couple of hours north of St. Augustine. Arrived as the rain began; anchored, put up our rain umbrella over the main hatch and enjoyed the remainder of the day quietly.

As usual, the weather can change as quickly as one can change his/her mind!  Seriously, the forecast was awful when we went to bed, and it rained all night.  We got up for  our early departure with foulies ready – low and behold the sun began to squeeze through the clouds and we spent the entire day in sunny/cloudy skies, with a terrific current pushing us north.  This part of the trip, along the Tolomato River with beautiful homes on the east side and a most interesting swamp ‘Cabbage Swamp’ on the west side, was interesting and very peaceful. AND going under the Atlantic Bridge at Jacksonville was not as hairy as the trip south. The current pushed us two knots faster than our normal boat speed and by the time we were under the bridge towards the famous green buoy 19, we hit 8.7 knots and the captain had to really hold onto the wheel to keep straight. An easy passage this trip.  Whew!!

Our “new” destination was Fernandina on Amelia Island. Passing this area on our southern trip, we were not at all drawn towards this place.  However, friends (Casey’s and Derrick’s) loved this town – as did some of our new boating friends. This area is very industrial and not at all pleasing to look at from the water – until you get into the town. Fernandina dates back to the early 1800’s when it was a thriving seaport town.  In 1862, confederate forces were forced to abandon the island. As Federal troops advanced into the town, the towns economy was ruined; the port, shops and warehouses were destroyed and the railroad badly damaged. The town began rebuilding in the 1870’s and again became a thriving seaport that relied on the shipping industry, shrimping and the tourist trade. Sadly, it was again challenged with a huge fire destroying much of the town, but slowly rebuilt. Interesting note, one of the buildings rebuilt was occupied by the first U.S. Custom house in the U.S.  It was occupied until the early 1900’s.

We anchored at the Marina and were thrilled with what we found – a tiny, historic fishing town that is quaint with great seafood restaurants. The huge industrial factories that were so prominent from the water view weren’t in site and there wasn’t evidence of noise or smell coming from them.  Any opportunity to buy fresh seafood is always a plus – and we found a tiny place next to the Marina where we bought fresh shrimp and Mahi Mahi.   Our next anchorage will most certainly be grilled Mahi Mahi – yum!  Pat and Joe Casey recommended the Salty Pelican for Shrimp Tacos – and oh my what a great place including my Sunset cocktail.  Wish we had another day to spend here. Met up again with fellow boaters from Michigan (Sadie Too!) that we originally met in Marathon, then St Augustine and now in Fernandina and had cocktails on board Outward.  Hope to continue meeting other friends as we travel north.

Salty Pelican Restaurant, Fernandina

Salty Pelican Restaurant, Fernandina

Main Street, Fernandina

Main Street, Fernandina

Azaleas blooming, Fernandina

Azaleas blooming, Fernandina

Fernandina Main Street Corner

Fernandina Main Street Corner

Fishing tournament

Fishing tournament

Plans were to leave around 7:30 am, but we were not aware there was a fishing tournament starting early. Wake up call came at 6 am (Outward was docked immediately next to the tournament tent and announcer!)  First mate was up and trying to figure out what was going on so early, and wow – the number of fishing boats was amazing.  A total of 93 boats were in the tournament. Fun and interesting to see how it was organized and how they set off.  The one picture was foggy because it was raining and yucky.  Fortunate for us, they went south and   we went north!

Weather forecast was again wrong – thank goodness!  Though we did have early rain showers it turned into a beautiful, sunny day.  Do believe God is watching over us during our journey home. It is amazing how quickly the landscape changes when you get into Georgia. Southern Georgia is so open, lots of water and islands.  Traveling north, we were reminded again of how many twists and turns the ICW takes – and how much more bird life you see. We took the ‘old ICW’ which runs into the Frederica River (a little longer, but more scenic than the ICW) and anchored about half a mile in for a peaceful, light wind, sunny evening – and of course grilled Mahi Mahi!

Frederica River Anchorage

Frederica River Anchorage

Wahoo River, off the Sapelo Sound, was our next anchorage.  Again, lots of twists and turns; some rather difficult areas with ‘thin’ water but we did great. Currents again either boosted our speed to 8 knots or quickly slowed us down to 4 knots!  Tides are about eight feet, so it is always a shock when you go to bed at low/mid tide and wake up with 8 feet more in the morning!  It always feels like we have a welcoming party as we turn into an anchorage and Dolphins are all around the boat. One very young baby jumped high out of the water (decidedly for the captain’s watchful eyes!)and as we were deciding where to drop anchor, the first mate jumped as two Dolphins came immediately next to the boat and ‘snorted’ as they jumped!  The anchorage is behind a beautiful patch of pine trees; very protected and quiet.

Wahoo River Anchorage

Wahoo River Anchorage

Wahoo River sunset_3

Wahoo River sunset_3

Wahoo River Sunrise

Wahoo River Sunrise

Started out in the morning – 44 degrees outside and in the boat because we didn’t close all the hatches – ugh.  Mr. Heater warmed us up and we were set to take off.  Problem – our display for the wind and depth were on night mode and not visible.  Took off thinking it would fix itself – no way. By the time we were ready to get back into the narrow ICW stretch and could not see depth, with 18 to 20 knot winds on the nose, and a rising sun, we turned back towards our anchorage. We finally got the display to work and we left towards a different anchorage in the early afternoon.   Wow – here is another example of some planning going awry and you find yourself in a place that you really would have preferred to be in.  Buckhead Creek (that turns into Cane Patch Creek,) about eight miles before the dreaded ‘Hell Gate’ crossing allowed us to settle down to a beautiful evening, full moon and quiet. In the morning we could cross ‘Hell Gate’ at the right tide table!  So, Beaufort is yet a day later — but who cares? Since we left at a high tide, we went through Hell Gate with plenty of water under the boat.  Next was crossing the Savannah River.  On our southern journey, crossing was frightening and overwhelming – this time we honestly thought ‘this can’t be the Savannah, no ship traffic and even the radio was quiet.’  So far, so good – we certainly have not had the same scary times as we did going south!  Our anchorage before getting to Beaufort, SC was Bull Creek – only about 3 hours from Beaufort.  Beautifully sunny day – but of course our friendly (?) winds continue to stay with us and it was indeed cold!  This morning we woke to 37 degrees – so, why are we heading north?!?!?  Forecast for tomorrow is warmer, we hope.

Full Moon with flag

Full Moon with flag in Buckhead Creek

Bull Creek was again another welcoming anchorage and away from winds.  We left ‘late – around 9 a.m.’ towards Beaufort, SC.  Nice, yet again a very windy and cold trip, but beautiful day.  And passing Hilton Head is always pleasing.  We arrived at Beaufort around 1 p.m. and found that ‘spring has sprung.’  We will spend one day enjoying a down day until our next anchorage and off to Charleston for a quick visit.   Happy Easter to all.

Bull Creek Anchorage

Bull Creek Anchorage

Spring in Beaufort, SC

Spring in Beaufort, SC

Vero Beach to St Augustine — March 10 to March 16

Left Vero Beach early on the 11th. Hardly any wind and we were able to literally let the lines off and slowly, easily back out. Didn’t take too many miles until the winds (our friends now) came again.  But, they were SE and we took full advantage of them and motor sailed the entire day going almost eight knots! Glorious day heading up the Indian River towards Cocoa.

We don’t normally spend so many days at Marinas; however when you want and can meet up with friends you find the most convenient marinas.  Trying to ferry people back and forth with our little dingy is a bit of a pain.  Cocoa Village Marina, our next stop, gave us an opportunity to meet up with the captains college Fraternity Brother and friend, Pete Skiba.  We enjoyed a great evening on board with dinner and lots of memorable conversations about GW years and onward.  Pete is a journalist and it was interesting to hear all his stories!

Leaving Cocoa we were not sure where our next anchorage would be.  This is a difficult part of the ICW because there aren’t too many places to stop.  And, as the first mate kept looking at all the possibilities, there were more negatives than positives.  At long  last we found Rockhouse Creek just north of New Smyrna.  OMG what a find!  Small creek, sort of difficult to get into, but we managed to squeeze in between two sailboats and dropped the hook.  To the east were sandbars leading to the ocean (this is the Ponce de Leon Inlet).  Full of Sunday pleasure boaters. Love, love seeing so many enjoying the waterways!  As we finished anchoring, we realized the boat next to us was the same one we moored next to at Ft Lauderdale!  Spent a most beautiful evening; beautiful sunset, Dolphins, birds and peace.  Love anchorages!

Rockhold Creek Anchorage

Rockhold Creek Anchorage

Rockhold Creek looking at ocean

Rockhold Creek looking at ocean

Ugh – daylight savings time!  Meant to get up early –oh yea!   Our next stop was about forty nautical miles – Marineland Marina.  Strange weather day – humid, cold, windy, not so windy – on and off.   Frustrating day, yet quite interesting going through the waterways that take you through Daytona Beach, Palm City, and areas that are abundant with inviting homes on the ICW.  Again, Dolphins are our companions.  Who could ask for more.

Arrived at Marineland Marina by 2:30 and settled quickly into a floating dock.   Great place for a couple of overnights.  Internet is awful here, so we had to sit under the palm trees on picnic tables near the marina office and the WiFi transmitter (yea, yea rough,rough) so we could have Internet connection.  Actually, spent a beautiful morning under the trees getting our last blog out.  As we sat  in the cockpit later that evening in  beautiful silence, couldn’t believe we could hear the  breaking ocean waves!  Settling in for the night with the peaceful quiet you can only find on the water, we fell into a sweet sleep with the sounds of the waves across the way. Life can be so beautiful.

Marina -- working under the palms

Marina — working under the palms

Marineland Marina

Marineland Marina

Marineland has quite a history since it was really the first dolphin and large fish aquarium in the country. Originally created in the 1930’s with financial support from the Vanderbilt, Whitney and Tolstoy families, Marineland became a studio for movies such as “The Revenge of the Creature” and TV shows like “Sea Hunt”.

The history was without question fascinating; however the the Dolphins were the truly enjoyable site to behold. They absolutely love people and attention – we chuckled at how they would swim close to where nine of us were standing and do tricks on their own (and splash!)   At one point a young girl of about nine was surprised to see the young dolphin come up to her and rest her head on the side of the pool!  She did a similar thing for us, turning her head to look at you and obviously wanting her picture taken!   What a place to bring kids to – even us ‘older kids’.

Dolphin looking at us

Dolphin looking at us

Marineland - friendly dolphin

Marineland – friendly dolphin

After visiting Marineland and returning to the Marina, we saw a tiny turtle struggling and alerted the dock master who asked for a University of Florida Turtle Hospital (also in Marineland) staff member to come out with him and get the turtle.  Turns out it was a young green sea turtle that was in obvious trouble and could not dive below the surface.  They would examine the turtle and then determine what hospital it would be sent to. This particular Turtle Hospital only treated Turtles with tumors which were not in evidence on ‘our’ little turtle.

Turtle rescue at Marina

Turtle rescue at Marina

Rescued Green Sea Turtle

Rescued Green Sea Turtle

After the turtle rescue we joined a guide for a 2 ½ hour eco kayak trip. It was a vigorous and interesting trip.  Our guide spent a lot of time carefully explaining the entire ecological system in the marshland surrounding this part of the ICW and how it works; the different plant species, mango trees and bird life.  As we returned, we were treated with dolphins feeding at the mouth of the Marina – so we just drifted and watched. Perfect day that ended with yet another new yellow tail fish dinner – this one with tomatoes, onions and feta. Not too bad for a long day!

Kayak Trip

Kayak Trip

Up at 6:30 am so we could get to St. Augustine at slack tide.  Tides in St. Augustine along with the current are horrible and we didn’t want a repeat of our southern journey!  We arrived around ten, fueled and settled in our slip by 10:30. Again this Marina has outstanding dock hands – and today we learned something new from dock hand Alex, as we were doing a pump out of sewage waste water.  Attention boaters!  To thoroughly clean your holding tank and eliminate odors, after pumping out, add one ounce of Dawn detergent per ten gallons of the size of your holding tank (we have a 45 gallon holding tank, and added 4 ½ ounces of Dawn). After adding the Dawn, put a fresh water hose nozzle down the waste pump out tube with a very strong spray – Spraying about 4 ½ gallons of water into the tanks (we filled it for 3 to 4 minutes) to create lots of bubbles going up the walls of the tank.  Then pump out again to remove all the residue.  After washing down the boat and cleaning windows, we finally showered and headed off to one of our favorite bars for a light lunch and good craft beer. Then we walked a few miles to re-provision with wine, beer and rum – taking a $5 taxi cab back to the Marina.  We were anxious, however, to get to our little store that we found on our trip south.  Again another long walk across the Lions Bridge, yet well worth it because that is where we get fresh oysters, clams and shrimp; and they have fresh meats and vegetables.  Best place to pick up good food instead of a public grocer!  Dinner tonight – oysters, clams, shrimp and salad as we sit in 85+ weather listening to Jim Morris  from Key West. ‘Tis good.

Our second day in St. Augustine was spent walking through beautiful ‘old town’ enjoying the unique character of so many historic homes dating back to the 1700’s. Next stop was the Lightner Museum that is  in what was originally known as the Alcazar Hotel, built by Henry Flagler in 1888.  Flagler built the hotel for the wealthy winter visitors. It was later purchased by Otto Lightner, to house his extensive antique collections. The gardens and beautiful rooms are often used for weddings and other events.  Our last stop was Flagler College. Originally, this incredible building was the Ponce de Leon hotel (built and owned by Flagler.)  The architecture of this building is something to behold; hard to imagine that it now houses college students!  In the morning we are off to an anchorage, then Fernandina Beach and Georgia!

Lightner Museum St. Augustine

Lightner Museum St. Augustine

Lightner Museum _ Pond 2

Lightner Museum _ Pond 2

Fountain at Lightner Museum

Fountain at Lightner Museum

Flagler College Entrance

Flagler College Entrance

Frog and Turtle Fountain in Flagler College

Frog and Turtle Fountain in Flagler College

Ft. Lauderdale to Vero Beach March 5 to March 11th

We had an interesting and rather rousting wake up in Ft Lauderdale – a trainer with very loud music leading a Zumba class!  Mind you, this was across the waterway!  No, we didn’t do Zumba on the boat (sorry Erick and Maggie!)

After fueling, we just managed to make the 8:30 bridge opening and off we were. Wow, what a busy place Port Everglades channel is. The number of private fishing boats was amazing; of course for a Saturday there were more than one would normally see.  Winds 15 knots, NE – one ‘oops’ — didn’t put up the main sail in the harbor.  Once outside with at least six foot seas, and a Captain who didn’t want to get up on the fore deck and deal with mainsail raising in rough seas,  we only put out the head sail – easily done from the safety of the cockpit.  Beautiful, fast, but very, very bouncy. Our bow was continually under water – but Outward likes this kind of water and she did great!

Fishing boats in this area use a new fishing technique – ‘kite fishing’.  Problem – very difficult to see these kites with their lures until you are there!  We missed a number of these flying lures, but one finally caught on our head sail. Lo and behold we suddenly had a lure with a six inch bait fish dangling from our port halyard. The captain donned his life jacket and went up to snare the fish but with no success in taking down all of the remaining fish line and lure – but he did a good job cutting his toe and bleeding all over the deck!   To be sure we wouldn’t make things worse with the remaining fishing line winding around everything, we safely pulled in the head sail and motored to Lake Worth (West Palm Beach) where we got most of the stuff untangled.  Unfortunately there was still a good bit of line wound around the lazy jack line — too close to the main; afterward we did get it all down while going down the ICW in strong winds because it totally untwisted and the first mate managed to get the remainder down.

Lure caught in Sail

Lure caught in Sail

Arrived in Lake Worth around three – calm and cloudy. Time to relax after a strenuous ride today. As we were planning our next leg, sitting in the cockpit; a boater comes up and asked if we were really from Galesville.  We said yes and he said he never thought he’d see a boat hailing from Galesville!  Turns out he is Erick Shultz (sp?) who sailed with the WRSC junior sailing fleet in the ‘70’s and knows the Wagner’s the Hartge’s and the Schlegel’s and other members very well.  Small world again!

So much for a ‘calm’ ride up the ICW!  High winds have become part of our lives along with very choppy water!  West Palm and Jupiter on a beautifully sunny Sunday brings out all the boaters; but it made for an interesting day as you watch the coming and goings, paddle boarders, jet skis and everyone enjoying the water.  The Jupiter area is beautiful and looks like a place we would enjoy.   Arrived back in Stuart at Sunset Bay Marina late Sunday and left Tuesday (after a nice lunch with Jerry and Lynn Snyder, our dockmates in Galesville, who have been important ICW mentors and great helpers with logistics in Stuart) for Vero Beach and catch up with close friends from our Baldwin High School: Linda Swenson/Barnes and her husband Dan and Analinda Keener Baldwin.  Oh yes we finally got the rest of the fishing line down from the halyard!  Our son Christopher said we sound like the ‘Griswells on vacation’ with all the things that we get into!

Vero Beach City Marina was a welcome, protected Marina from the high winds we had all day.  Friendliest bunch of people here; nice Marina with beautiful tropical foliage. We were thrilled to find that there is a free bus service to the beach area as well as grocery shopping!  We took the bus to the beach area and realized why so many visitors end up staying here (Harriet and Skip Hardy – fellow Sabre sailors live here but were away during out visit.)  We’ve heard from other boaters that Vero Beach has the knick-name “Velcro Beach” because once you come here, you stay here.  We understand that now. Beaches are beautiful, town with shops, restaurants, etc are similar to the Charleston city area, just a bit smaller. We met our high school friends (Linda, Dan and Analinda)  for lunch and then came back to our boat and talked about everything under the sun!  Since we had an open day the next day, we took the bus into town and re-provisioned.  After unpacking, we decided to walk back to the ‘beach side’ of town to eat lunch at the Orchid Island Brewery (they make their own beer – very good!) then on the boardwalk along the ocean and back to the marina.  Vero has been a very enjoyable place to spend a few days and one that we would definitely consider for a future trip.

Vero City Marina Mooring Field

Vero City Marina Mooring Field

Ferns and Foliage at Marina

Ferns and Foliage at Marina

Lunch with Linda, Dan, Analinda

Lunch with Linda, Dan, Analinda

Staghorn Ferns growing on trees

Staghorn Ferns growing on trees

We leave in the morning for Cocoa Beach to meet up with the Captain’s George Washington University’s fraternity brother, Pete Skiba.

Marathon to Ft. Lauderdale February 29 to March 4, 2016

Since the majority of our trip south was via the ICW, we decided to start our northern trip going out the Hawk Channel. The Channel (ocean) is the body of water between the reef and Keys mainland. Normally the chop is less than in the ocean due to protection from the reef and ‘normally’ you have a better chance to sail because you don’t have to deal with the shallow, and usually narrow waters of the ICW.

We left our slip at Faro Blanco in 14 knot winds and once out of their harbor winds went up to 19 knots.  Tolerable and we finally got out!  Our first anchorage was only ten miles away – to Sisters Creek where we anchored very, very close to the mangroves.   Very relaxing afternoon ending with a grilled lobster dinner.

Mangroves at Sisters Creek, Marathon

Mangroves at Sisters Creek, Marathon

Rodriguez Key next to Key Largo was our second anchorage.  We were anxious to get going in hopes that the winds were in fact going to turn SE so we could sail – no luck!  We had beautiful winds on the nose the whole way. Oh well; though there was no sailing, we travelled through the most beautiful Caribbean blue water where you could see bottom at 19+ feet!

Arrived at Rodriguez Key around 3:30 and again, very clear water where you can see bottom.  The captain jumped in, but wow it was cold!  Didn’t last long at all and said there was nothing but grass to see. Tomorrow will motor to Key Largo and stay at the Pilot House Marina to refuel, etc so we can make a direct run to No Name Harbor in Key Biscayne early the next morning.  One of the reasons for this stop was to meet up with Lillie Barrett and her friends for happy hour and dinner.  Lillie is our daughter-in-law Karli’s aunt.  We have been so lucky throughout this trip to meet friends!  Had a blast with Lillie and friends – the Granny Bunch – as they refer to themselves.  Can’t recall when we have laughed and shared so many stories.  These ladies are amazing.  We had cocktails on our boat and then dinner at the Pilot House Restaurant.  Fun, Fun to say the least!!

Cold swim at Rodriguez Key

Cold swim at Rodriguez Key

Lillie and Liz

Lillie and Liz

The Granny Bunch!

The Granny Bunch!

 

You will surely recall my many mentions of how I have fallen in love with the Pelicans – and they seem to be just about the only birds we saw for over a month, gracefully flying over our boat. Well, today sitting on our boat at the marina in Key Largo, we are surrounded by not only the Pelicans, but the noisiest sea gulls we have heard in quite a time!  Our ‘elegant and peaceful quiet’ is now replaced with the noisy gulls – and though noisy, they are funny to watch and figure out their interactions!

Seagulls at Key Largo

Seagulls at Key Largo

Left Key Largo at 7 a.m. thinking we had a long trip to Key Biscayne.  Wrong – we got there around two p.m.  Must say, it was sort of sad leaving the Key Islands behind – the further north we travelled and kept looking south to the diminishing spec of islands, the sadder I became knowing they were not to be within our sight for a while, yet glad that we were heading home – but do love and will miss the Key Islands!

No Name Harbour in Key Biscayne was too crowded, so we anchored out along with a number of other boats. Nice and peaceful evening.  Woke to a beautiful morning and ready to head up to Ft. Lauderdale.  Weather and wind were perfect!  We actually sailed – no motor! – just sailed for about three hours.  What a delight!  As usual, winds slowed and we motored into Ft. Lauderdale.  This city is incredible.  Mega, mega yachts and canals throughout with beautiful homes.  This time, we took the safe route (you may recall the New River when the Captain and First Mate almost lost it!!!) and picked up a mooring ball at Los Olas bridge.  Beautiful evening – grilled  more of the yellow tail fish and delighted with the evening atmosphere only a place like Ft. Lauderdale can offer.

No Name Harbour

No Name Harbour

Ft. Lauderdale

Ft. Lauderdale

Los Olas Bridge @ Ft. Ld, our mooring field

Los Olas Bridge @ Ft. Ld,
our mooring field

Our mooring at Los Olas Bridge

Our mooring at Los Olas Bridge

A yacht in the frint yard?! Nice!!

A yacht in the front yard?! Nice!!

Ft. Lauderdale at night!

Ft. Lauderdale at night!

Tomorrow off to Lake Worth (West Palm Beach).

 

Our last week in Marathon – time to head north!

We decided to find an Episcopal church today, Sunday, February 21st and found St. Columba. We rode our bikes and attended their ‘contemporary’ service. Nothing like we have ever been to before; it was wonderful, enjoyable and very meaningful. With a 5 piece band at the altar and a singer, the tv screens that projected the service litany for you to follow, to the amazing friendliness and happiness – we really fell into something special and felt blessed that we found this church and were so drawn into it.  The altar is so appropriate for this area – sea shells line the altar table.  The gardens around the church are full of trees and shrubs from this area — all marked as is our Rector’s garden at St. Jame’s;  sea shells are on the walkways throughout beautiful gardens surrounding the church.  Great morning!

St. Columba altar made of seashells

St. Columba altar made of seashells

Such a great start to the day, so we decided to go to Key Fisheries for lunch. Had a great Lobster Reuben (which they are famous for) and delicious fried conch – and of course a cold beer!  Getting back to the marina, our dock mate said he had hoped to stay longer into March and was told ‘No’ they have booked everything for March and he had to leave.  Well, come to find out we fall into the same situation – hence, we now have a leave date of February 28th!

Decided to make a gourmet dinner with our freshly caught fish – Passion Fruit Yellow tail Snapper with Mango, red quinoa and snow peas. The recipe is easy enough to make, but with limited cooking space (using my electric hot plate) it seemed to take forever.  End result was well worth the effort!  Next time, I plan to cook with my stove since we’ll be at anchor for at least four days before getting to Ft. Lauderdale.  We have enough CNG gas to allow me to splurge and still get home in April!  For those that don’t have CNG gas and use propane — the gas cooks very hot and quickly — hence why we like it and really don’t want to part with it.  Problem is:  difficult to get the tanks filled up when not in the Annapolis area!

We cleaned the boat again and did some teak work. As we finished, a couple from the condos walked by and we invited them on board because the day before they kept asking questions about our boat (they are non-boaters).  They were amazed at all the comforts we have – cute reactions!   Here are a few pics of our interior – including our aft cabin that is used for storage during this trip!   BTW – we really are looking forward to getting home; as much as we love the boat, we are not the ‘live aboard’ types!  Our evenings are playing cards (I love to win 500 rummy) and we enjoy watching movies on the iPad (thanks to our granddaughter Isabel that installed it for us!) and reading lots of good books,  we still prefer being home.

Cabin w/ bookshelf

Cabin w/ bookshelf

Chart table

Chart table

Cabin on Starboard side

Cabin on Starboard side

Galley

Galley

Our resident manatee paid another visit!  This time, our neighbor threw Romaine lettuce to him/her and we were amazed how quickly it managed to devour every piece!  Most interesting was watching Benji, the golden retriever, watch the manatee – especially when it was eating the lettuce.  Benji kept walking around surely thinking ‘what is this thing doing and eating’.  A very well behaved dog, always looking up at his master to get some answers!

Manatee and Benji

Manatee and Benji

Manatee eating lettuce

Manatee eating lettuce

Manatee with Benji and Al

Manatee with Benji and Al

Manatee and Benji3

Manatee and Benji

Finally had my Florida lobster at Castaways restaurant!  Interesting place, full of memorabilia.  Turns out the owner loves to fish, and the walls are full of some of his ‘big’ catches.

Winds today, Thursday, the 25th are gusting to 31 knots and we are again listing towards starboard.  Difficult going from 80’s and a bathing suit to a sunny, windy and cold day wearing a jacket — but sitting at the pool reading!   We do hope they slow down just a bit by the time we are ready to leave on Sunday.  We have been told, thankfully, that if the winds are as they are today, we will not be expected to leave.

Putting off leaving one more day due to high winds.  We are now scheduled to leave Monday 2/29.  A number of boats are just hanging in here with us for the same reason.  Thankfully we don’t have any schedule to worry about!

OMG — Where is the time going?

Life is good riding bikes and walking all over the place – even to the movies!  Marathon has a movie theatre that costs $7.00 each to get in and you can buy beer, wine and popcorn!  I know it sounds sort of hokey – but it is true and we saw Revenant without paying those high prices that are back up north!   Then we rode our bikes back to the boat. Valentine’s dinner was at Burdines on the waterfront as you look onto Boot Key, which is a big harbor in the middle of Marathon.  Great atmosphere and food, and a short bike ride for a change!  Keep reminding ourselves that we do have to go home – a body could easily get used to this sort of living!  Though we miss our family an awful lot.

Marathon Movie Bar

Marathon Movie Bar

At the movies!

At the movies!

Burdines

Burdines

Burdines at Sunset

Burdines at Sunset

Boot Key Harbor

Boot Key Harbor

As we were sitting in the cockpit today, we hear someone calling ‘captain, captain’ — we turned around there was this gentleman in a bike outfit asking ‘Is this a Sabre 38?’  We said yes and continued to talk. Turns out he is from Severna Park MD and knows a number of our Sabre sailors as well as Will  and Logan Hottle good friends of ours from West River Sailing Club because he owns a Bristol as do Will and Logan.  Small world again!

Since we have been in Florida, I am continually amazed at the Pelicans.  You may recall  earlier blogs when we mentioned how interesting these birds are – and they seem to show up everywhere.  Being at Faro Blanco on Outward, at the pool, or just riding the bikes—you always see Pelicans flying overhead.  Pelicans are abundant – seagulls are much less prevalent – so different from the Chesapeake and even the North Carolina Outer Banks .

We took a charter fishing trip and we couldn’t believe how pushy these Pelicans were as the fish were being cleaned.  They truly are interesting and sort of “cute” birds – if you can imagine that.

Our charter fishing trip was for me, the first mate, a new experience because I had not been on one before. But true to my upbringing (and not wanting to let my dear husband down) I always try things.  Needless to say, I was not looking forward to baiting my hook and most certainly not taking the fish off the hook!  Lo and behold!  I’ll do this all the time — didn’t have to put bait on the hook and when I pulled in the fish there was always someone to take the fish off and decide if it was a keeper or not.  My kind of fishing!!  Best part – six of us fishing and we went home with ten yellow snappers each – cleaned and filleted. We probably caught 2o each because we could only keep 12″ yellow tail snappers, the smaller ones had to be returned.  We caught fish at a rate of one every few minutes.  Amazing.   We made a great dinner and froze enough for four more dinners!  An exciting, yet daunting feeling was when I was pulling in a fish and a huge shark comes after it and narrowly misses taking it!  No swimming around here.

Fish catch

Fish catch

Fish Catch 3

Fish Catch 3

Winds continue to be an issue here – almost daily we have 20 plus knot winds. Had a sailboat come in for a night because of the high winds. Water temps are also low; so between the constant strong winds and low water temps, snorkeling is still a maybe. We’ve been told that visibility is not good because of the water constantly churning.  Hopefully things will die down and we can get into the water!

We ended the week with a pig roast to show our appreciation to the dock hands. Most of us will be leaving by March 1st to head back north. Majority of the boats are “Loopers” that came down from the Great Lakes and will now journey back north on the ICW  to complete the Great American Cruising Loop.

Pig Roast

Pig Roast

Pig Carving

Pig Carving

Dock Hands, Mike, Jose, Selena and Nick

Dock Hands, Mike, Jose, Selena and Nick

Thank you card

Thank you card

Spent our Saturday by taking the bus to Big Pine Key’s Flea Market.  Very interesting place – didn’t buy anything except fresh tomatoes and snow peas.  To kill time before our return bus, we walked over to the Big Pine Key Visitor Center.  Returning back to Marathon, we met my dad’s business acquaintance,  Jim Smith at Burdine’s.  After spending a few hours talking to him, we realize we need another trip down here and sail to various Key’s.  He is an amazing and most interesting man to talk to; his experience in boating and fishing is amazing.  Stories are abundant!!  Great resource person to have when visiting this area.

We started planning our return trip.  Plans are to go via Hawk Channel – this channel is between the Keys and the Atlantic.  On the way south, we went between the Keys and the Gulf of Mexico.  Going back north between the Keys and the Atlantic is more challenging because it is not as protected, but the water is supposed to be clearer and prettier – more to come.

 

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