Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Surprise, Surprise

A final blog posting tonight (for about 6 weeks) for "Onboard MicMac" as we finish leg one of our trip down the ICW. We're heading back to Virginia, Delaware, Philly, Boston, and SC for a "Christmas break."

We had a BIG surprise this morning as we left the ubiquitous (but necessary) pumpout station at our marina.

We heard "Hello, Pete" from the nearby dock. Then we saw Stu and Claudia, old cruising buddies from York River Yacht Club on their new "home" (a Viking 63' Widebody motoryacht). Hadn't seen them for more than a year. What a coincidence that we'd be staying in the same marina.

Pete with Claudia and Stu
After a round of golf at Indian Hills and laundry duty, we joined them for "docktails" on their new floating mega-home with 4 bedrooms/cabins, 3 heads, full-sized galley, dining room, and huge living room.

Returning to MicMac after a visit aboard this spacious floating home was an adjustment. But as Stu pointed out, "there's always a bigger boat out there." Bigger and bigger mega-yachts are still being built. Then there's the world's newest cruise ship, the Oasis,  that's now in Fort Lauderdale. It can handle 5400 passengers, Now that's a really big holding tank!

Thanks, Stu and Claudia, for a fun night of catching up on "Evening Star."

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Captain Cook did NOT have a blog

And he didn't fly home after 53 days. But WE will!

During this leg of our ICW voyage, both of us read Blue Latitudes: Boldly Going Where Captain Cook Has Gone Before by Pulitzer winning journalist Tony Horwitz. It was a 2002 NY Times bestseller that you might have missed. Cruisers and volunteer crew on replica ships would especially enjoy it.

Horwitz succeeds in telling Cook's story by following in his wake (pun intended) in TODAY's world, talking with South Seas, Hawaii, New Zealand, and Alaska folks about Cook (He was NOT a hero to the indigenous people!), and using Cook's detailed journal for accuracy. He pulls the past and the present together, within the native and English perspective, and with humor too. It's a "laugh outloud" book on many pages.

We learned how Cook redrew the map of the world when we studied "early explorers," but that was in 4th grade. 50 years later, Pete and I stood at the Cook Monument near where Cook was killed on the Big Island of Hawaii after motoring to this hard-to-get-to place. Now we understand the "big picture" of Captain Cook's explorations.

We are SO thankful that we were not onboard the 97-foot long Endeavour with Captain James Cook or on any of his three voyages, from 1768 to 1780. What a tough and demanding life during an era when a third of the world's maps remained blank. Pete and I now hold him in high esteem and respect his navigational abilities.  I thought of him often as we used our GPS chartplotter to weave our way down the ICW, kept up with the non-ICW world through emails and WiFi, never went hungry, and met no cannibals.

Cook's first voyage lasted three years! He sailed more than 200,000 miles on his three trips. Seven and a half weeks is sufficient for this first leg of our voyage and we've covered just over 1000 miles from Two Rivers Marina to Fort Pierce, Florida.

Vero Beach anchorage
We arrived here yesterday, along with Harriet and Skip on "Moondance." We missed them at the Vero Beach anchorage (see photo) where there were more than 100 boats on moorings and got together with them over dinner to swap plans for leg two of our respective trips.

After a few days of clean up and maintenance work, we'll leave MicMac tucked into her slip at Harbortown Marina in Fort Pierce. We'll fly home to Willieburg on Wednesday to reacquaint ourselves with friends (hope they remember us!), eat up three months of food minimum at the club, and celebrate Christmas. The planned second leg of our ICW trip will begin in mid-January when we fly back here and head to Key West, where we'll turn into Parrotheads for a few weeks. The Bahamas will then look inviting, so who knows where leg three will take us.

We'll look for Moondance and Harriet and Skip farther south after Christmas. Maybe I won't get my shadow on Skip's shirt next time! Thanks for the ride to West Palm Beach Airport.
Pete with Harriet and Skip from Moondance

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving from Melbourne, Florida (#3 of 3 postings today)

Looking at Daytona
The Daytona area gave us our first glimpse of mega-condos and highrises. I'm afraid that we'll see lots more of this look as we get farther south, especially around Miami. The St. Augustine city fathers (and mothers?) got it right when they ruled against any additional buildings higher than two and a half stories in the historic area. But the Florida coast is the major example of development gone wild in America. Plus, most of it is build on swampland!

We prefer to see the natural areas surrounding the ICW, although some of the most natural are the man-made canals connecting the rivers. We passed by a number of non-Ritzy "fish camps" yesterday.

We've been looking at the Cape Canaveral missile launch towers in the distance for the past two days as we zigged and zagged in the ICW channels around Titusville. Sure hope that a blastoff is scheduled when we come north in the spring. THAT would be a sight from a close-by anchorage. Most Americans are so blase these days about space launches too, except for the folks who live here.

The Titusville Marina dockhand was very friendly, but we won't get a slip here again. The Titusville Chamber of Commerce should make some effort to make this  neighborhood more cruiser-friendly. No sidewalks into "town," no cutesy shops or restaurants within walking distance, sketchy folks hanging out in a nearby park, and no Bobuli pizza crust in the nearest grocery store! The grocery clerk suggested a crust mix in a box. How bad could it be? REALLY bad, but we were hungry and it had started to rain by the time we got back from our less-than-scenic walk. But we were thankful for the wine!

The funniest thing was courtesy of the frozen Mrs. Smith pumpkin pie that we bought last night. I put it in the frig to defrost and woke up today wanting a slice for breakfast. Captain/MicMac chef Pete took it out this morning, mumbling about the box being drippy. Then he described the pie as "soupy." Not knowing that you needed to bake this pie, we have now earned the "Mr. Du Mass Award" of the month!

We've gone under (or requested openings) from 19 bridges since we left St. Augustine! We noticed the Christa McAuliffe Drawbridge on the chart, but it's off the ICW. That provided the most somber moment of the day as we recalled that tragic mission.

Today's a glum, gray, rainy day. But we can't complain since it's the first day that we've motored in the rain. Not bad when you consider that we've been gone for more than 6 weeks. We headed to Cocoa Village Marina today since it's raining. What a nice marina--with super showers and laundry. If it stops raining, I just might tackle some of the laundry. We got to Cocoa in time to visit all the cute shops. Pete was just thrilled! We enjoyed a fantastic lunch at Cafe Margaux. Then we visited the unique, humongous, historic (built in 1885) Travis Hardware Store. It's the old-fashioned kind of hardware store that has everything and then some.

Tomorrow, it's south to Melbourne Harbor Marina where we have Thanksgiving dinner reservations at the Chart House. We'll finally get that pumpkin pie! So much to be thankful for! Then onto a mooring at Vero Beach, and then a few more miles to Fort Pierce.

Like Being in Sea World

We enjoyed a short day (2 hours) on our way to the Rockhouse Creek anchorage two days ago. Pete explored the mini-island off to the south which turned out to be a spoils area for the sand the Army Corps of Engineers dredged out of the nearby ICW. I spent a LOT of time looking for the elusive manatee.

Yesterday we motor-sailed down Indian River to the Titusville Marina since rain was forecast and it's sometimes a tad bouncy at anchor during a thunderstorm. Again we looked for manatees.

First thing I wished for on this trip (6 weeks so far!) was a dollar for every dolphin that we saw. Hardly an hour goes by on the ICW that we don't see one. There are loners, devoted pairs, and the occasional pod. None of them have had SeaWorld training, however, so they don't leap out of the water. We usually only see their backs and dorsal fins. But one scared the beegeebers out of me one day by blowing out his/her airhole inches from the side of the boat as I was immersed in my book. Captain Pete found my levitation very amusing.

Then I wished that I had a dollar for every pelican we saw. They are definitely NOT endangered any more. Their droppings on docks even less so. We even saw lots of pelican rookeries.

Mary Ann looking for manatees
But what we really kept looking for were manatees. If you believe that "Manatee Zone" signs equate to the manatee population, they must be lurking throughout Florida waters.

This morning we lucked out, just as we were getting ready to leave our slip in Titusville. Thanks to a leaky water hose on the dock near us, five of these huge gentle mammals were taking turns getting a drink. Four of them were at least 6-7 feet long, and one must have been a juvenile. They politely took turns, although one big old guy kept swatting his buddies out of the way.

All of them did indeed have boat propeller scars on their backs or sides. Ouch!
Finally found some thirsty manatees
Ouch! Those are propeller scars.

Potty Police board MicMac

As we left our quiet anchorage, the Volusia County Sheriff's Department boat speeded up to visit us. We had read postings on fellow boater's blogs about the POTTY POLICE who have been very vigilant about the holding tanks on boats in the ICW.

They politely asked, "When you flush your head, where does it go?" We assured them that our holding tank's Y-valve was locked down and we were frequent visitors to pumpout stations. After Captain Pete told them that he's a Coast Guard Auxiliary vessel safety checks examiner and  looks for locked down Y-valves too, they knew we were kindred spirits. I've been on a pumpout crusade for a few years as well, and written in a number of publications about boaters who choose to dump overboard. My solution is that they should be forced to jump overboard and swim in the "stuff."

They told us that about 40 percent of the boats they check do NOT have locked down holding tanks--and that most of the offenders are sailboats. Yikes. I assumed that sailors were especially environmentally wise. Guess not.

The manatees and dolphins are dumping enough "stuff" in the ICW, fellow boaters! Puleeeze use those pumpout stations!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Now In Daytona

We've had uneventful but relaxing two days after leaving St. Augustine. No scary bridges or shallow spots, and the current was with us all day yesterday--but against us all day today.

Last night we stayed in the super-quiet residential-like Palm Coast Marina and enjoyed a steak dinner on board. It was like staying in Two Rivers Marina.

Now we're in the huge Halifax Harbor Marina in Daytona. I have no idea where the name Halifax came from here in Florida. Maybe we'll sightsee tomorrow and find out. I am NOT interested in any Daytona 500 activities. They must have something here besides cars.

The good green news is that Halifax Harbor Marina gets a gold star for having recycling bins on the docks. This is REALLY a "Clean Marina." MicMac will no longer look like a "garbage barge" with bags of recyclables in the shower and v-berth! We'll have so much free room onboard!

Pete will cook some salmon in a bit. We have NOT gone to the dark side by staying in so many marinas, but good anchorages are few and far between. Plus we have to eat down our freezer, so we can leave it empty when we fly home in 10 days (MAYBE?)

The game plan is to end up in Fort Pierce, Florida, in about a week. It's only about 135 miles. We've reserved a marina slip there on a monthly fee basis. So we'll tidy her up, change the oil, and leave MicMac there and fly back to Williamsburg and north points for Christmas. Then fly back in mid-January and go to the Keys. After that, who knows.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Fountain of Youth is fictional

So we're still the same age today as we leave St. Augustine.

St. Augustine is lovely!
But it sure is a beautiful town and we felt like we were in Spain in the "Old Town" area. There's the oldest house, oldest school, oldest church, oldest drug store, etc. to provide the authentic atmosphere.

We decided to stay at the Municipal Marina for a third night since I wanted to visit the Lightner Museum (in the former Alcazar Hotel) and Pete preferred (anything but shopping) to climb up the Lighthouse and see alligators up close and personal. The Alligator FARM (a real zoo) provided this thrill.

Touring Henry Flagner's Ponce de Leon Hotel (now Flagler College) was one of the highlights of our trip. It opened in 1888 to much fanfare, and it still awes visitors--and the girls who now experience it as the girls' dorm. The dining room has the largest collection of Tiffany stained windows in the WORLD.

The "gilded age" certainly was an opportunity for the rich and famous to spend money. Flagner required hotel guests to book a suite for the entire 3-month holiday period (Jan-March). Women changed their jewelry 6 times each day. The largest indoor pool, spa, bowling, etc. were available across the street at the Alcazar Hotel (also built by Flagler.)

Today, it's the cutesy pedestrian-only St. George Street that entertains most visitors--plus the great restaurants. We left the Grenada look for an hour for lunch in the French Bistro de Leon. It was the first day for the release of Beaujolais Noveau, so ver y appropriate. Then we again boarded the touristy sighseeing trolley-train to check out the rest of St. Augustine.

Gary and Rita join us for dinner
Pete had called one of his old Bristol-Myers buddies and lucky us, their grandkids had just left town. We hadn't seen Gary and Rita for about 14 years, so we had lots of catching up to accomplish over dinner. We'll catch up some more next spring on our way north. Re-connecting with old friends has really been another highlight of this trip. Time and distance are obstacles we can easily overcome.

On our "separate afternoons" yesterday, I walked all over Old Town, found something I liked for Dave's 29th birthday in a gallery (sorry Dave, but this small frog bronze was priced at $450), and toured the super eclectic collection of the Lightner Museum. Mr. Lighner took advantage of the 1929 financial demise of many rich Chicago folks and bought up their "stuff." Then he bought the Alcazar Hotel here in 1947 or so and started moving this humongous collection here. In addition to the crystal, furniture, Churchill's stuffed lion, artwork, stained glass from homes that were being demolished, and all kinds of other collections, there's even a shrunken head.

Shrunken head in Lightner Museum
How many blogs have a photo of this shrunken head?

Luckily I was there at 2 p.m. when one of the docents shows off the collection in the music room. She wowed us by playing the 1904 nickelodean, 1800s German orchestrarian, and a gizmo that included a violin.
Flagler College

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

It's NOT easy being green. . . on a boat!

We recycle on MicMac (just like at home)--or at least we attempt it. And I'm now on my environmental soapbox.

Plastic drinking water bottles accumulate faster onboard than wine bottles or soda cans. Fluid intake is important. Vineyards and breweries can't supply it all! And I don't completely trust the water in the 70-gallon tank. We buy a local newspaper too whenever we can.

So MicMac's recycling container fills up faster than our garbage can, but we were able to "deposit" the recyclables in ONLY 3 marinas so far.

Green Kudos to the Oriental Marina (even though in a very small NC town), Charleston City Marina Megadock, and Beaufort (NC) Downtown Marina for providing recycling to boaters.

Much to Captain Pete's chagrin, I insisted on stashing the overflowing bags of recyclables that the NON-GREEN marinas (Coinjock, Alligator River, Beaufort (SC), Swansboro,  Southport, Georgetown, Edisto, Thunderbolt, and St. Simons) didn't accept. "Fooey on them," I said, "We can wait until Florida. That state has always been ahead of the recycling curve."

But NO. Fernandino Beach, and now St. Augustine Municipal Marina, do NOT recycle either. We finally had to throw the recyclables into the garbage. Otherwise, wharf rats might have invaded MicMac! Plus I had to move the stuff to take a shower onboard.

I don't understand how the state of Florida can award its "Clean Marina" sticker so generously. Yes, this program does keep lots of gunky stuff away from the dolphins and manatees (we finally saw one today!), but the program sure doesn't address the waste disposal problem for boaters. I do commend Florida's Department of Environmental Protection, however, for increasing the number of pumpout stations in the state from 135 to more than 600 during the past ten years.

Maybe we'll find some more "super-green marinas" farther south. I'll keep my fellow boaters informed. If you share my concern, complain to the marinas you visit.

We just pulled into a slip here in this historic oldest U.S. town after a very relaxing day of motoring. The nuns taught me lots of info about St. Augustine that I've forgotten. After some engine needs are addressed, we have some serious sight-seeing to do. At least two days here in St. Augustine.

Yesterday was NOT relaxing as we motored against a 5-knot current in the narrow span under the Atlantic Beach bridge. Our speed went from 3.5 to 1.7 knots, and we felt like we were almost "standing still" in the water. The dockhand told us that going with the current was even scarier since you lose control of the boat more when you're being flushed through at 8 knots.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Into Florida waters . . . MILE 717!

After two peaceful nights and hike-filled days at the Sea Camp anchorage on the Cumberland River in Georgia, we motored into Fernandina Beach on Amelia Island, Florida today. Mile 717! Yeah! Only took us 36 days to get here from Norfolk—with a nice side trip to the Suggs’ Edisto beach house. Too bad that there is NO sign on the ICW to welcome boaters to Florida.

Pete the pirate with his parrot
Here is Captain Pete in his pirate motto shirt, along with our new onboard pet, Jekyll. The mustache is back! Baffi!

We got a slip at Fernandina Beach Marina since our batteries needed "topping off." The new solar panels work nicely but the freezer is making it difficult.

I had never heard of Fernandina Beach before a week ago, but what a memorable little town. It seems that Henry Flagler bypassed Amelia Island and Fernandina Beach when he chose the path for his new Florida East Coast Railway.

Fernandina Beach is a cute town.
So Fernandina is almost frozen in time. Little has changed since 1900. It's the epitome of "old Florida." We walked around town for a few hours trying to see the 450 historic buildings in the 50 blocks that are on the National Register of Historic Places.

Now it's 5 o'clock somewhere. The Palace Saloon claims to be the oldest bar in Florida. Dinner at Gennaro's was fantastic.

Below is the Lesesne House, one of the oldest homes here. I think we'll prefer this "Old Coast" of Florida to the "Gold Coast" of mega-condos.
Lesesne House in Fernandina Beach

Bigfoot was in Georgia

I never knew that pelicans on Cumberland Island had such big feet!

Last stop in Georgia

Finally, blue skies! It was time to leave St. Simons Island at slack tide on Friday. Melissa at the docks was a great help. Getting through Jekyll Creek's shallow spots was a "piece of cake" thanks to Captain Pete's adept use of our depth sounder. The sailboat in front of us was a good guide too!

We anchored alone on Friday night in Delaroche Creek where I saw three shooting stars after dark--which comes very early these days (around 6 p.m.). I was hoping for a pitch dark night for sky-watching, but the nearby Navy's Kings Bay submarine base is lit up like a Christmas tree.

Delaroche is another marsh creek anchorage where we heard a unique new sound--that of the marsh hens called Clapper Rails. They should be called clacker hens since they make loud and rapid clack-clack-clack calls as they look for dinner as the tide drops. They are skinny little things (although we never saw them) and supposedly the source of the saying "thin as a rail." They go to sleep at dark, so their loud noises soon stopped. Photo is from Google.

Yesterday we saw a sub (they are huge!) coming down the Cumberland River as we turned to go up a side branch to a popular anchorage. Friendly-looking fellows in flak jackets with machine guns were in small Navy patrol boats to "discourage" cruisers from approaching.

Anchored off Cumberland Island, GA
We soon anchored, "splashed the dinghy" for the first time this voyage, and dinghied to the nearby Sea Camp dock where campers can arrive. The only way to get to Cumberland Island is by boat and it's now run by the Park Service as a National Seashore.

We took a 5-mile hike to the ruins of Dungeness, a big mansion built by Thomas Carnegie (Andrew's brother) that burned down in 1945. Mrs. Carnegie requested that her horses always be allowed to remain, so MANY of these wild horses wander the beaches and island. MANY piles of road apples were proof. It was much worse than Duke of Gloucester St. in Williamsburg. We saw some armadillos too. No one knows how they got here.
Dungeness House ruins

The history of Dungeness dates to James Oglethorpe, founder of the Georgia colony, who built two forts and a hunting lodge he called Dungeness on the island in 1736. In 1783, Revolutionary War General Nathanael Greene (who sounds familiar to Governor's Land folks) acquired nearly 11,000 acres of the island in exchange for a bad debt. After Nathaniel died from sunstroke, his widow built her own Dungeness house in 1803, which burned in the middle of the 1800s. Looks like bad karma for a home in that spot!

We walked along the almost deserted beach for a mile or so, then returned to the dinghy where we bumped into Art and Jeannie. We had talked with Art back on the docks in St. Simons, so of course we were invited to their trawler, Change-O-Pace III, for happy hour. Art is a bronze sculptor who has done some impressive life-size golf scuptures.

Then we noticed Moondance anchored near us, so dinghied over to say "Hey" to Harriet and Skip, whose progress we've tracked on their blog. We last saw them in Beaufort, NC, and they invited us onboard later for a drink. But we really didn't want to drink our way around the anchorage, so we had to decline. If you see a trend here, you're not mistaken. Cruisers do become instant buddies, and we have one major common interest--happy hour!

On the next day, we took another long hike to Greyfield, a very exclusive luxury inn on Cumberland Island. We had hoped to dress nicely and eat lunch there today, but a phone call confirmed that we could merely peer in through the gate. If I was paying $500+ per night, I guess I'd prefer to not see riff-raff boaters in my dining room either. BTW, this hotel was the site of John F. Kennedy Jr. and Carolyn Bessette's  hush hush wedding reception.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Hunkered down on St. Simons Island, GA

We have a mild case of "cabin fever" as we wait at the Golden Isles Marina for three days/four nights. But Coastal Cafe is a great place to dine out, and the marina delivers muffins and a newspaper to your cockpit every morning!

Looks like Willieburg is getting more rain than we got here from Ida, but the winds have been relentlessly howling here. 30 mph gusts are not what we want when we go across two rather notorious sounds south of here. So we wait, and wait.

Christ Church on St. Simons Island
We rented a car for two days, got our land legs back, and did laundry.

We checked out historic Christ Church and the National Monument "ghost town" of Fort Frederica on St. Simons (no apostrophe) Island and were quite impressed. Each home site ruin has a storyboard about the 1740s era family that lived there after James Oglethorpe founded the place. We don't have that advantage at Jamestown, but then again, that was in 1607.

The Georgia live oaks could really tell some stories, I'm certain. They reminded me of the walking trees in Lord of the Rings, and they have more Spanish moss than any trees I've ever seen.
Barbara Jean's on St. Simons is a great choice for lunch for good home cooking. St. Simons was more developed than we expected, and boaters definitely need a car to sightsee.

Jekyll Island "cottage"
Yesterday, between raindrops, we drove to Jekyll Island where the rich and famous (Vandebilts, Rockefellers, Astors, Pulitzers, etc.) "wintered" from the late 1890s to the "last season" of 1942. It was aptly called the "Millionaires Club." We expected Newport, Rhode Island type "cottages" and were surprised to find a rathered deserted "compound" of big homes, centered around a clubhouse. It's the off season and things are really slow. But it's a popular spot for destination weddings and golf vacations.

Robin Leach missed the heydays of grand living, but it must have been quite a scene. By law, 65 percent of Jekyll must remain undeveloped, so it won't change much. It actually looked like it was frozen in time--in the 1950s.

Maybe this rainbow is a good omen for tomorrow! MicMac is itchin' to get off this dock.
Fort Frederica ruins

For the birds

Good news yesterday (unless you walk the docks frequently): The brown pelican is coming off the endangered species list. Thank you, Rachel Carson!

Teddy Roosevelt set up the first national wildlife refuge at Florida's Pelican Island to protect the species. We must have seen 100 pelicans plunge headfirst into the waterways last Monday on our long haul down the ICW. We see them now on the Chesapeake too as they move farther north. Global warming?

DDT had reduced their numbers, along with that of eagles. Overhunting was a serious threat to them and egrets too during the early 1900s. Hats with egret feathers made quit a fashion statement then!

After DDT was banned in 1972, pelicans and eagles had a fightin' chance. But I've watched the endless washing down of docks every day at this marina--as we wait for the winds from Ida to lessen. It's a losing battle to deal with pelican, heron, and egret "droppings" on the docks.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Ida watchin' & waitin'

Ida was still a hurricane in the Gulf this morning, so we decided to make it a LONG day (as in 9 and a half hours) of motor sailing to get to a marina tonight.  It looked like the Georgia coast was in Ida's path, and we prefer safe docks during any major blows and rain.

We celebrated our LAST bridge opening for a while! I've stopped counting.

We left our Walberg Creek anchorage, off St. Catherines (no apostrophe) Island, at 7 a.m. today. We had hoped to anchor out 3 nights as we slowly made our way down the chain of Georgia sea islands. But Mother Nature intervened.

Plus, Walberg Creek turned out to be a much more wide open anchorage than we expected, and the super bright security light on the dock (at the nearby NY Zoological's survival center for endangered animals) ruined my sky watching plans. The island actually made us think of Jurassic Park. But neither dinosaurs or zebras could be seen.

Captain Pete called ahead yesterday to reserve a slip at Golden Isles Marina in St. Simons (no apostrophe) Island. Better safe than sorry. We plan to hang out here for three nights. Better safe than sorry. But it looks like heavy rain and moderate winds is all we'll get.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Size is relative

We are in a slip at Thunderbolt Marina in Georgia. Across the way sits this 177' megayacht, Maridome. (MicMac is 36 feet.) I googled her and discovered that she's available for charter! Only $182,000 a week! The bad news is that she can only handle 10 guests, and she has a crew of 14. There are many private yachts bigger than her. Microsoft's's Paul Allen only has a modest 413' yacht, but the newest biggie yachts are 500' plus.

When Maridome (above) was built in 1989 in Great Britain, she was the largest private yacht to be built there for more than fifty years. To get an idea of her size, notice the deckhand on the dock scrubbing her. Maridome can cruise at 16.5 knots (MicMac at 5-7 knots). Maridome includes a private cinema, a large air conditioned tender, parasail, and 4 waverunners. (MicMac includes a TV and DVD player that are finicky and an 8' dinghy.)

Kinda puts things in perspective. But, then again, ALL of us get fresh Krispie Kreme donuts along with our newspaper at this marina tomorrow morning. Some things are equal!

Thunderbolt, Georgia--Mile 583

Betcha never heard of this town! Never did we until we read the cruising guide. It's a little town along the ICW just south of Savannah that's known for its shrimp boats and boatyard for mega-yachts. Plus a friendly marina.

We left Hilton Head this morning and motor-sailed past Daufuskie Island. I wore Pop Pop's "dopey hat" as we went by, since my parents had toured Daufuskie many years ago before it was developed and included spas and golf courses.

Mindy and Tom played golf with us here a few years ago in August. Tom remarked that it "was the hottest place on earth that I've ever experienced." November temps were about 70 today.

Pete and I talked, of course, about the movie Conrack and Pat Conroy because this was where he taught the local kids for a few years. Never could teach them to swim though, since the locals have an overwhelming fear of drowning.

Then we passed a humongous "convoy" of tug-pulled barges loaded with dredging pipes (we think) in one of the cuts. Glad it was high tide. This train-like string of barges was about 200 yards long. I was a tad spooked, but Captain Pete said that we had "plenty or room and plenty of water."

Got a slip in Thunderbolt Marina, famous among ICW boaters as the marina that brings you fresh Krispie Kreme donuts and newspapers in the morning. Can't wait. We ate at a local hotspot, Tubby's Tank House tonight.

Friday, November 6, 2009

"Someday" finally came -- going to Hilton Head

We drove over the bridge to Hilton Head Island MANY times over the last 30 years, going to our August timeshare weeks in Sea Pines. I'd look at the ICW under that bridge and say "maybe someday we can come down the ICW and arrive by boat." Someday was yesterday, and it was a nostalgic moment for us. LOTS of happy memories on Hilton Head with our "kids" and parents. It was very appropriate that I was enjoying leftover boiled shrimp for lunch as we motor-sailed (on another picture-perfect day) past Hudson's Seafood Restaurant.

We passed near Sea Pines' well-known Harbortown Lighthouse on our way up Broad Creek to Shelter Cove Marina (in Palmetto Dunes) to rendezvous again with Ray and Betty for dinner at Bistro 17 --an excellent choice! I enjoyed a scallops with fois gras appetizer and mac and cheese with black truffles! If you see a pattern with our onshore dining choices, it's due to Captain Pete's perference for bistros. We're definitely doing a comparative study of bistros on the ICW. Looking for Anthony Bourdain too.

Ray and Betty at Palmetto Dunes
Played golf with the Whites today at Palmetto Dunes. What a beautiful course. I was distracted by the views--especialy the signature hole with an ocean view. My sketchy back problems for the past week have improved a bit, and I lasted for 18 holes. Hope I don't pay for it tomorrow.

Distracting views
If we hadn't wanted to play golf,  we would have anchored out, since Shelter Cove is a definite "destination." It took us about 90 minutes to go the 5 miles up the creek, refuel, pumpout, and get into a slip. Current and wind were against us.

This harbor is the mixed residential-retail development that we used to visit by land. VERY few shops however--then and now--but a charming and scenic place.

Beaufort, SC

Motor-sailing from Edisto Island to Beaufort, SC, (that's BYOU fort) we saw more gorgeous homes, dolphins, lots more Spanish moss on a picture-perfect day. Ray and Betty White (from our Stingray Harbor Yacht Club) heard us on the radio. They were right behind us for the next opening of Ladies Island Bridge, as we docked at Beaufort Downtown Marina.

Pete and I walked around the beautiful old section of Beaufort and marveled at the well-kept old homes--most of them very large homes from the days when cotton was king.

We got together with the Whites for a MicMac happy hour, then went to dinner ashore at Plum's.

More on boat tappings

I "misspoke" in an earlier posting about the Snap, Crackle, Pops we sometimes hear on MicMac's hull when we're below deck. It's a minor tapping, but it drives me to earplugs when I want to sleep.

I was half-right when I attributed it to shrimp-like krill critters. A Beaufort, SC diver added even more info than what I just found in one of our cruising guides. He told us that he sees these "grass shrimp" under hulls as he scrapes off barnacles and other "under-boat growth." He laughed when I asked if these shrimp are eating the algae, and said "that would put me out of a job."

The cruising guide says it's the sound of snapping shrimp. It seems that these little guys eject water jets as their claws snap shut at 62 mph. Really--not at 60 or 65, but at 62 mph. There's a bit of trivia for your next onboard happy hour!

The technical term is "cavitation" or similar to the the water jets formed by boat propellors. Scientists still don't know if they do it to stun their prey or to attract a mate. Whatever it's called--or whatever the reason--it's a distraction to my sleep.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Getting our "land legs" back, in Edisto SC

We're here in Edisto, SC, at Laurel & Arthur's beach house with two infants and two toddlers--and their mommys and daddys. Brody is having fun with his cousins. Water was a tad too cold for him--NOT bath tub warm!

Brody is REALLY into his first Halloween!

Captain Pete can always have a corkscrew with him now!

Friday, October 30, 2009

An ICW Alert

I almost forgot to post this warning to fellow boaters: We had a tense hour yesterday in the Dawho River, as we left the North Edisto River. It began at Red 110 and ended at Green 143. The narrow Watts Cut to the South Edisto river was the most intense as a barge pushed by a tug came into view at a bend at the narrowest part at the end of the cut. Yikes, which way will the tug turn? Do we have time to move starboard for a traditional pass. Unfortunately, it was also mean low tide. NOT the best time for this to occur. We certainly will wait for a rising tide on the way north—whenever that is.

We tried to stay at the edge of the channel, as the tug churned up LOTS of the bottom as it passed by VERY closely—closer than we’ve ever been to a barge! Then the depth sounder went from 3 feet under the keel to .2, then to ,1 foot. That’s just more than an inch! We like to set it to water under the keel instead of true depth, to save us the seconds it would take to add 4 feet 11 inches for the draft of MicMac. One theory we came up with was that the chunks of mud affected the depth sounder reading.

Then we heard lots of chatter on the VHF from boaters just entering the Dawho River. They were also finding VERY shallow water. The funds for dredging have been very inconsistent during the past few years, and it may get worse.

"I can see your anchor light!"

That's what Susan Stevens called to tell us on Wednesday night after we anchored in Toogoodoo Creek. Don't you love these Indian names?

We didn't know that Pete's Clemson fraternity brother, Bill Stevens, and his wife, Susan, lived on this beautiful creek. We could see a few homes further up the creek, but all that surrounded us was marsh, egrets, and dolphins. Then we saw their porch light too. Susan invited us to "come to supper," but Pete already had the chicken on the grill.

Pete then remembered that he was actually in this home in 1968--for a barefoot blacktie fraternity party. But he had no idea what body of water it backed up to at the time. Now ain't that a coinkydink and small world story?

We met up with Bill and Susan at the Edisto Marina dock last night, and then went out to dinner with them. Susan and Bill entertained us with lots of tugboat stories (Bill's family has run a tug business for 4 generations now) and of course fraternity stories. They invited us to visit on our way north. I really love this "Southern hospitality" that we've experienced so far.

We're leaving MicMac later day at the Edisto Marina as we stay at Laurel and Arthur's beach house from tomorrow on. Lots of shrimp boats and gulls keep passing by.

More krill nibbled on our hull here last tonight. It will be SO nice to sleep on land after 3 weeks. Plus my back "went out" a few days ago, so I need some R&R time. Some rum "Painkillers" might help too.

I'm writing my newspaper column for next Saturday. Pete just returned from a round of golf. He was paired up with a guy who graduated from Pete's high school--only 2 years earlier. South Carolina is providing lots of small world stories.

I'll be on sabbatical from blog postings for a few days. I'll be too busy being a Grandmom (Mimi).