Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Home again in Williamsburg

Captain Pete and new swabbie Jake back MicMac into her slip.
We can now cross out "cruise up and down the ICW to Key West" on our Bucket List.

Seven months after MicMac left Deltaville (10-11-09), she backed into her old slip at Stingray Point yesterday, thanks to help from good friend, Jake.

This "first rate first mate" gladly turned over the crew position for the final day because 1) Jake is always happy to sail, and 2) some feisty winds were still possible. Jake and Pete had a rolicking good sail up the bay and it was indeed "rolly," chilly, and drizzly. I picked them up in Deltaville. We loaded the SUV to the top with LOTS of clothes (many of which were neither worn nor needed since we only got in the water once) and many of the 40+ books we've read during this voyage. Most marinas have book exchange shelves, so we kept swapping.

Our laundry room now looks like a disaster area because I want to wash everything that was on the boat. The pile of magazines is gargantuan, and the yard has lots of weeds. So it's back to normal for now. I don't think I need any long cruises on MicMac for awhile either. We did fly home in December for about a month and again in March, but 7 months is a long time.

 Captain Pete compiled some nifty figures about this voyage.
  • Departed: Oct. 11, 2009
  • Returned: May 11, 2010
  • Farthest point south: Key West, FL
  • Total days: 212
  • Days on board: 115
  • Days ashore (flew home twice, ashore with friends, famiy visits, travel etc.): 97
  • Miles covered: 2728 statute miles
  • Marinas: 56 (more than we really wanted)
  • Anchorages: 37
  • Engine hours: 530 hrs.
  • Diesel fuel consumed: 300 gallons
  • Wine consumed: Don't ask!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Tied up in Hampton, VA

Where did all this scrap metal come from?
The day we left the Dismal Swamp Canal was delightful and much cooler than the day before. We were happy to see the sights of Norfolk and Portsmouth, commercial though they are. Even the huge pile of scrap metal looked great. The Norfolk Navy Shipyard and Navy Base never looked so good to me either.
"Star Wars" anyone?
This stealth ship was impressive too. I called it a "Star Wars Ship."

Sailing through Hampton Roads always involves dodging barges, tugboats, and Navy warships. Today was no different, but Captain Pete remained calm as usual.

But the weather forecast for the next three days did not look so appealing for sailing up the Bay to Deltaville the next day. Winds of 30-35 knots and 5-6 foot seas in the Bay? I think not.

So MicMac has been tied up at Bluewater Marina in Hampton since last Friday night. We phoned friends Jake and Diane to come rescue us and drive us home. Yeah, they were happy to oblige. Three or four nights at home (with the big luxury of flush toilets) sounded too good to pass up, as we wait for less wind--and NOT from the north.

Back in Virginia

Last Thursday night, just before dinner onboard at the Dismal Swamp Visitor Center, four more sailboats arrived. They needed to raft up with us and the two other boats on this short dock. We finally got to meet Dwayne and Janet on Mystic Rose (after talking to them on the radio several times during the past few days) as they rafted up on our port side. Then we enjoyed happy hour with them and Warren and Patty from Warr de Mar. Those blasted no-see-ums and skeeters drove all of below after impromptu cocktail parties. It was really hot then. Thank heaven for fans.
That's a LOT of honeysuckle.
After awakening to a bird concert (there are 200 species here) and a cool morning, we enjoyed a “Honeysuckle High” as we passed through the upper half of the Dismal Swamp Canal the next morning. The honeysuckle (probably the invasive variety) was in bloom and covering the banks up to 30 feet high along both sides. Guess it’s better than kudzu, but it really chokes out everything, and the scent was almost overwhelming.

The canal is only a small part of the Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge’s 112,000 acres. We noticed that the trees immediately changed when we entered the manmade canal. Maple, oak, cedar, and the infamous sweetgum (Jeez, I hate those gumballs) joining the loblolly, tupelo, and bald cypress.

Bambi had to find a rare spot along the honeysuckled banks to get a drink.

A state park staffer showed us on a map where the 3-month long fires burned in the Virginia portion of the swamp bogs a few years ago. Nothing burned along the canal!

We really felt like we were getting close to home when we saw this sign. Goodbye North Carolina; you offered some great sites and sights.

After about 20 miles (and one thunk as we hit a small submerged log), we arrived too early at the lock and bridge at the north end of the canal, so Pete had “fun” keeping MicMac in the deeper center. Ever try to tread water with a boat?

The Dismal Swamp ICW passage cuts through the heart of the great swamp that straddles the North Carolina-Virginia state line. Part of the route is composed of the long Dismal Swamp Canal, which is situated between two locks, one at Deep Creek, Virginia, and the other in the small North Carolina village of South Mills. Both locks raise or lower cruising craft about 8 feet, and care must be taken when mooring to the lock walls. The locks currently operate four times a day, and skippers must take this schedule into consideration when planning their voyage.

Deep Creek lock is filling up.
The Deep Creek lock-tender (and bridge tender), Robert Peek, is a legend of sorts among the cruising folks. He can blow a conch shell like you've never heard. He can coax an entire song out of one! He has a "conch garden" (gifts from cruisers) and some healthy looking banana trees growing nearby. Our last look at tropical foliage for a long time as we waited less than 30 minutes for the water level to fall!

He easily fit all six of us boats along the sides of the canal. He's been at this job for 16 years. He told me had once fit 32 boats into the lock at once. That's gotta be tight!

The Dismal Swamp passage is definitely a treat for those interested in natural scenery and isolation. The canal allows a magnificent view of the swampy terrain, still for the most part in its natural state. The water is like strong coffee, although at this time of year, it has some pollen on top. We encountered very little boat traffic either. It's definitely the "road less traveled." Robert Frost would enjoy it.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Cruising the Dismal Swamp Canal

Open Sesame.
After a very hearty artery-clogging breakfast at Colonial Restaurant (where all the locals eat), MicMac requested a 9 a.m. opening of the Elizabeth City bridge and slowly meandered up the rest of the Pasquotank River. It's a pleasant hybrid of the Chickahominy and Waccamaw rivers. The only things in abundance (in addition to water and trees) were mistletoe and turtles. We only saw one water moccasin (identified because it swims with most of its body above water), one cormorant, one osprey, and one fishing boat.

After about 18 miles, the waterway got very narrow, thanks to George Washington, William Byrd (of Westover Plantation fame), and some guy named Turner for whom Turner Cut is named. The other boats on the Elizabeth City docks left early and we had the lower section of the infamous Dismal Swamp Canal all to ourselves. Kind of eerie and serene.
Tranquil Dismal Swamp

This 22 mile canal is the oldest continually operating canal in the United States. Now a National Historic Landmark, a National Civil Engineering Landmark, and on the National Register of Historic Places, the Dismal Swamp includes a new visitors’ center (that we visited after tying up to their dock for the night) and is part of the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom Program
The South Mills lock opened (and closed) just for MicMac. The lock we had gone through in the Virginia Cut on our way south had a minimal few inches of difference. But the water level in this one changes about 8 feet. As we floated out of the lock, two powerboaters who didn’t know about timed openings arrived.

“Dismal” it is not—unless you come here in buggy hot July or August. But hey, it’s upper 90s right now. A breeze makes all the difference. I wonder what it was like when George surveyed it in 1763 (so they say) or when the hundreds of slaves cut and dug through here for 12 years, ending in 1805. Now the Corps of Engineers keeps it dredged and free of flotsam and fallen trees.
South Mills Lock opens for MicMac.

Gentle Bens
There are only two other boats with us on this free dock. Free is OK, but AC would be great on this first really hot day of our trip. Tonight we’ll watch for black bears after dark. Pete is cooking mahi mahi tonight and I understand that they like that, and the Visitor Center log indicated that some had been spotted here this week. NOT these friendly chaps.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The "Rose Buddies" of Elizabeth City, NC

On “crab watch” across Albemarle Sound to Elizabeth City, NC

We lucked out on our return crossing of Albemarle Sound today. No major wave action or high winds to make it fearsome; just more crab pot floats concentrated in one body of water than we’d ever seen. It was an obstacle course of the worst kind and we had to keep all four eyes (or eight eyes including sunglasses) open all the time.

Was Goodyear Blimp born here?
Blimp City
As we headed into the Pasquotank River (related to the Piankatank?) to Elizabeth City, we noticed a huge structure to port. A huge blimp next to it reminded us that we had read in the cruisers’ guide about this “blimp factory” being here since WWII days. It seems that the blimps of that era greatly reduced the number of German U-boat sinkings along the NC coast. Now all blimps except for the Goodyear one are manufactured here.

Elizabeth City Legends
We had read so much about the welcome mat that Elizabeth City lays out for cruisers and were anxious to experience it. I’m happy to report that the “Rose Buddies” legend of hospitality continues.

Although Elizabeth City was founded in 1793, it wasn’t that important economically until the Dismal Swamp Canal was completed in 1805. That’s when the area planters and lumber companies got their link to the port of Norfolk, and commerce thrived. It's a city on the cusp of their Renaissance to to speak. LOTS of old commercial storefronts and historic homes. There's a humongous walking tour if you're gung-ho. Pete and I were only mini gung because it was kinda hot today, so we only walked around a small bit of the town, plus visited the Museum of the Albemarle--that includes a cool exhibit about the nearby Coast Guard aviation base (largest in the US). They've had their hands full lately overseeing the oil leak in the Gulf.

Nearly another 100 years later in 1983, the complimentary (as in free) city docks were built and cruisers (who love anything free) began to arrive. Two long time residents, Fred Fearing and Joe Kramer (may they rest in peace) started hosting free wine and cheese parties for visiting cruisers and giving roses to the “First Mates.”

Dave Thomas and his wife are "Rose Buddies."
Dave Thomas, a friend of both Fearing and Kramer, is now the “Senior Rose Buddy.” He and his wife now come by when the Elizabeth City Area Visitors Bureau lets him know that 5 or more boats have arrived. Dave warmly welcomes everyone and briefs cruisers on what to expect on the Dismal Swamp Canal. At least he did tonight since all of us were heading north. Dave's been offering this volunteer sevice since 1986! Talk about devoted!!!!

The ex-mayor, Steve Atkinson, also gave us heads-up on the local restaurants, wine tastings, free concerts and classid movie nights, Saturday farmers market, and Museum of the Arbemarle (also free though they accept donations). He's quite an ambassador for the city too. Elizabeth City Convention & Visitors Bureau Director, Charlotte Underwood, warmly welcomed all of us as well.

Roses are still given to the wonderful first mates at the end of this party. Small town hospitality never felt so warm and genuine. I asked Dave if he’ll hand the Rose Buddy baton to anyone some day, and he assured me that there’s someone in the wings.

This was only the second Rose Buddy party this year since they only hold it when 5 or more boats are in the slips. Guess we’re on the front end of the snow bird parade north. Hope you can be so lucky.

Southern NC Hospitality
Cruisers will also meet the very super-friendly Sam, a WWII vet (not many still with us) who has unofficially appointed himself dockmaster. He stops by every afternoon around 2 to greet the cruisers. I asked him if he'd be staying for the "party," but he said "No, I go visit an elderly lady in a nearby nursing home every day from 4 to 4:30 because no relatives visit her." That's the kind of folks who live in Elizabeth City.

After the Rose Buddy wine and cheese, we headed to a yummy dinner at Cypress Creek Grill.

Elizabeth City deserves this self-proclaimed nickname, "Harbor of Hospitality." Sometime ya just gotta toot your own horn.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Now at Alligator River Marina

Rain throughout the day, and nothing too remarkable in the Pungo River-Alligator River Canal except for one Stevens tug and barge and some wild turkeys. Too dreary for photos.

We passed  Mile Marker 85 today. Wow, only double digits to Norfolk! Staying again at the Alligator River Marina where Miss Wanda herself helped us tie up. They have a strong signal Wifi connection here too. Our BVM (Blessed Virgin Mobile) has not been getting signals out here in the NC boonies for the last few days. I'm lost without my internet umbilical cord.

Captain Pete just phoned the Dismal Swamp Welcome Center to confirm that they have enough water for a 5' draft boat. So tomorrow we'll cross Albemarle Sound and stay in Elizabeth City tomorrow night. All the powerboaters at Dowry Creek were talkin' scare stories to us yesterday about bent props, etc. But we're not listening to them. We came south in the Virginia Cut, and really want to experience both Elizabeth City's hospitality and the Dismal Swamp.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Mile Markers promise home soon

Mile Marker 200 on the ICW
The ICW in North Carolina has mile marker signs indicating the miles to Norfolk. That is real incentive for us to tackle some longer motor-sailing days. This voyage has been terrific, but it's feeling great to be getting closer to home. Only about 180 more miles, so less than a week to go! Key West, by the way, was at Mile Marker 1250.

After leaving Surf City, we had great southwest winds and were able to use those big white things on our boat. With the sails up and a current that was with us for a change, we were flying to Morehead City at 6-7 knots all day. We had stayed in Beaufort, the cutesy touristy town with lots of fine restaurants and bistros, on the way down and opted for a change this time because we had two pounds of shrimp that needed to be consumed soon.

Would you dine at an Unsanitary Restaurant?
Morehead City is a major NC port city and a sport-fishing mecca. Not too many sailboats in the Morehead City Yachtbasin marina. But the town is famous for its "boat to table" seafood restaurants. Where else would a restaurant called “Sanitary Restaurant and Fishmarket” be a big success since 1938?

Sanitary landfill is a misnomer as well!

The “Reelin’ for Research” fishing tournament and fundraiser for the children's hospital was ending, and the testosterone-laden fishing crews were heading in with their wahoo and dolphin. Lots of hoopin’ and hollerin’ on the docks as they weighed their catches. Little kids got into the act too.

Wow, that's an impressive catch.
There were a few open antique stores and gift shops within walking distance of the marina, so I had enough to keep me happy as Pete took a long walk.

There’s still a lot of nasty looking orange and red “stuff” on the radar heading our way (caused tornados in Arkansas and flooding in Tennessee) and the winds were very favorable, so we bypassed Oriental yesterday, instead anchoring much farther north in Campbell Creek last night.

Record-breaking highs yesterday along eastern North Carolina and an approaching front encouraged us to think marina for tonight. The 15 knot breezes kept us cool in our anchorage last night. But AC tonight will be even better.

I spotted Bum’s Rest with the binoculars and radioed them as they were heading to Oriental. We met them last January before they headed to the Bahamas with Sheet Music, and have been following each other on our mutual blogs since then. “It’s a small world after all” on the water. Perhaps we'll meet up farther north. We're planning on taking the Dismal Swamp route home--if there's enough water in it.

Examples of upcycling
We stayed in Dowry Creek Marina in Belhaven, on the advice of Stu and Claudia. What a nice place. I loved the upcycled items that showed real creativity. Have you ever seen such a large hummingbird feeder? And what a great use for old Crocs!

We reserved their loaner car to go into Belhaven's "downtown" after we got barnacles off the dinghy (sounds like a nasty venereal disease, doesn't it?)

Just got back after a 30 minute drive in which we saw only one interesting sight: an old guy on a bike that was too small, peddling slow past the huge newly-plowed fields with his knees out at about a 45 degree angle from the bike. Belhaven has one nice little restaurant, Fish Hooks, where we enjoyed a tasty dinner last October. But it's the definitive sleepy little NC town. No, not town; how about village or hamlet?

Had to get back to the marina anyway for showers and the dock happy hour at 5:30. Jeez, it's hot today.

"Surf City, USA"

Surf City Buddies
Shades of Jan and Dean . . .
When we left Southport, our next destination was Surf City (the North Carolina one, as opposed to the West Coast's). Do NOT plan on using this marina's showers—unless they replace the mildewed shower curtains. Yuck! Thankfully, we had plenty of water for showering onboard.

We chose Surf City and the Beach House Marina so we could again get together with John and Patti Suggs because we always have a great time with them. After docktails on MicMac (Patti is now very experienced at climbing onboard!) and a yummy dinner with them at Daddie Mac’s, they drove us around Surf City and to their home to view all their "yard art." Patti is really into frogs. This town reminded me of the Jersey shore of my childhood, or more recently the Keys. Mostly residential, and no mega highrises. The kind of town where everyone gets to know all their neighbors along the canals in no time.

We chatted with Pelican’s Captain Bob for a short time. He has also been on an October through now cruise down to Key West (and also the Florida west coast). His Sailing Life blog is great, so I’ve added it to my blog links on the right. His Pearson 42 was quite a bit faster than MicMac, so he blew by us the next morning as we headed north to Morehead City. Maybe we'll meet him again the next time we're in Long Island Sound.

Interesting "yard art" along the ICW
I had to take another photo of a "scenic wonder" along the NC ICW. Talk about yard art and a great sense of humor!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Southport beckons again

Fresh shrimp, anyone?
Another long day (47 miles) brought us to one of our favorite towns and marinas in Southport, NC. We were part of a 10-boat parade leaving Barefoot Landing and the three required bridge openings. We just heard that one of them, Sunset pontoon bridge, may be closed nowfor high winds (what else is new here?), so we're glad we got through before that occurred.

Laundry kept me busy this afternoon for a few hours (as Pete changed the impeller and cleaned filters), and now we're heading to Mr. P's Bistro for dinner. We're trying not to repeat the marinas and towns on the way north, but this was one of our favorites. LOTS of shrimp boats along the way today, so I may just have to eat some more of those tasty little critters. Sure glad we're not sailing aling the Louisiana Gulf coast today. Those plumes from the burning oil slick may not be very healthy.

Maw on the Waccamaw

The Waccamaw River is definitely one of Maw's favorites; so I took the wheel yesterday for most of the 25 or so miles up this delightful river. Nothing but Spanish moss draped from the cypress trees, lots of turtles (though not as many as on our trip south since it was now high tide), and few fellow boaters and homes.

We arrived at the Barefoot Landing Marina in Myrtle Beach after about nine hours, our longest day in miles and hours so far in one day. I think we're thinking about our golf clubs gathering dust in the boat and the weeds that will need to be addressed when we get home. Plus the days are so delightful weather-wise and much longer than on our way down south.

I enjoyed shopping in Barefoot Landing (saw this tiger behind glass, seriously) and we both enjoyed dinner at T-Bonz last night. No fresh veggies or food onboard right now, so it's either pizza, rice and beans, or eat out. Duh!! No choice there.

Can you get seasick tied up to a dock?

Or is is "docksick"?

Jim and Susan greet us in Charleston.
I almost found out when we were tied to a dock in Charleston Harbor at Patriots' Point. Last Saturday night, the wind started honkin' (Captain Pete's term for gusts of 30+ knots). We cancelled our tee-time due to the rain, but the wind never let up for three days. Waves were crashing over the dock as the time approached that afternoon for Jim Brinkley to pick us up for a stay with Susan and him in their almost new home on the Wando River. Nothing like putting on foul weather gear just to get off MicMac and make our way off the docks.

We really enjoyed our visit with the Brinkleys, and their elegant and quiet guest room too, especially without waves crashing against a hull. This was our view of the marsh the next morning. Pete and Jim shared some stories of high school days in Columbia that neither of their wives had heard before.

Jim loaned us his car for the day so that we could visit Pete's parents in Columbia. Then back to MicMac for docktails. Jim and Susan were real sailors as we rocked and rolled at the docks, with waves again crashing over the dock. Just as we adjusted to land legs, we had to rev up for sea legs again.

After another night of honkin' winds, we left Charleston Harbor behind (goodbye Fort Sumpter) and headed to Minim Creek, a quiet little anchorage at last.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Landfall on Toogoodoo

Docked on Toogoodoo Creek, SC
I began Jimmy Carter’s biography, “An Hour before Daylight: Memories of a Rural Boyhood,” as we left Georgia waters a few days ago, and I’ve been imagining his childhood way of life. I’ve become enamored with the names of several rivers and islands we’ve been on or near: Ogeechee, Coosaw, Sapelo, Ossabaw, and so on. Last night, I watched a PBS special on the Congaree, Santee, and Wateree. Lots of "ee" waterways!

But my all time favorite name is Toogoodoo Creek—an Indian name, but no one seems to know the meaning. It’s a long creek with plenty of water, halfway between Edisto and Charleston—and coincidentally the family home (for 4 generations) of Bill and Susan Stevens. Pete hadn’t seen his Clemson fraternity brother, Bill, for 40 years until we got together over dinner last October on our way south. That’s a cool story in itself if you want to read about it in an October 2009 posting. "I can see your anchor light" was the cover story a few months later in their SAE fraternity newsletter.

Lem's Bluff Plantation
But now we have “Toogoodoo Chapter Two,” after staying with Susan and Bill last night in their Lem’s Bluff Plantation home on Yong’s Island, SC. Pete had even had a fraternity party in this home 40 years ago! One of their sons was off working in the family’s towboat business, but younger son Robert met us in the whaler at the opening of the creek to lead us in. The cruising guide indicated plenty of water, but better safe, than sorry. We soon tied up to their brand new dock, and began the "nickel tour" of the grounds and house.

The last 18 hours recreated what I’ve been reading in Jimmy Carter’s book, especially sitting on their “poach” last night enjoying wine before the no-see-ums drove us inside for dinner.

Bill and Susan--and Captain Pete
The oldest portion of this historic home was built in 1842 and enlarged first by Steve’s parents in the 1960s and later by Susan and Bill. The painted tiles around one fireplace were painted by Bill’s grandmother many years ago, copied from a recently discovered children’s book of nursery rhymes.

We thoroughly enjoyed their “Southern hospitality” along with the unique setting and other “tenants” (2 donkeys, 2 horses, 2 dogs, and 1 cat). Following Susan around on her animal feeding duties was a hoot. She promised us a donkey’s loud braying at dawn, but they must have understood that company was around, or that it was Saturday and their breakfast would be delayed. I had also hoped for a ghost, but no go there either.

Susan and Bill couldn’t believe that Lem’s Bluff Plantation got its own paragraph in Claiborne Young’s Cruising Guide to Coastal SC and Georgia. She only knew that the home was built sometime in the 1840s but not the specific year! They got quite a kick out of learning this from a cruising guide.

Two Democrats discuss politics.

We are now heading to Charleston and a slip at  Charleston Harbor Resort and Marina in Patriot's Point. We'll meet up with Jim and Susan Brinkley tomorrow (after a round of golf if it's not raining), accept another night of Southern hospitality at their lovely home, and drive to Columbia on Monday to see Pete's parents for a quick visit. At this rate, we'll never get back to Williamsburg, but we're sure having a lot of fun.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Moving north through South Carolina

All alone on Bull Creek, SC
We've anchored for two nights--last night in Bull Creek across from Harbortown Lighthouse in Sea Pines, and tonight in another deseted creek.

Both are marsh anchorages and we're becoming more fond of them. At first we compared them to snug little creek hidey hole anchorages in the Chesapeake, and were disappointed they were soooooo open.

But now we're enjoying the constant chatter from the clapper rails that I wrote about on our way south. They are more vocal as the tide drops, and tides around here are about 6 feet. Then too, the dolphins like to swim by the boat, and we have only seen them out on the Chesapeake Bay, not in snug shallow anchorages.

Hold your breath

Paper mills are so "fragrant"!
Paper mills are not my favorite sight because of the odoriferous winds that can accompany them. I sometimes wish my sense of smell was not so discerning.

But menhaden processing plants win first prize. We thus avoid anchoring in Reedville, VA.

Obsessed with cemeteries??

I wanted to see the Bonaventure Cemetery (visible from the ICW just north of Thunderbolt) that was very involved in the bestseller, "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil," as a voodoo site.  [see earlier post during St. Mary's visit]

Another famous angel
I thought the famous statue in the book was the angel, but it turned out to be "The Bird Girl" which is not even there anymore. So here's the angel and the Bird Girl (now in a museum).

Look familiar?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

On our way to Bull Creek anchorage in South Carolina

"Looping" in this little boat?
I haven't posted in many days. Not much to write about except lots of dolphins along the way--and they are very camera-shy. I haven't been able to get a good photo of any of them either.

But get a look at this very tiny sailboat that is doing the loop. Now this is camping on the water!

The Georgia portion of the ICW reminds us of the Chickahominy back home since it meanders back and forth. That makes sailing rather difficult.

After staying in Golden Isles Marina in St. Simons (and a great dinner at the Coastal Kitchen), we had anchored out in Georgia on two nights, first in the Wahoo River with only one other sailboat, and then alone in Redbird Creek.

Remember Sunday School?
Yesteday we got a slip at the attractive Isle of Hope Marina (just outside Savannah) because we planned to meet Bill Wessinger, one of Captain Pete's Sunday school friends from Columbia, SC. a "few" years ago. We hadn't seen Bill in 25 years or so--not because Pete had dropped out of Sunday school, but because Bill and Karen were living in Isle of Hope, just outside Savannah. We enjoyed catching up with Bill last night over docktails.

We just had a delightful walk around Isle of Hope by the waterfront. Lots of Southern mansions that have been backdrops in many movies because the streets look soooo Authentic South. I have never seen so many humongous live oaks in one place! The Spanish moss drops my blood pressure, so I'm now very mellow as we move north. Hope to stay near Daufuskie Island across from Hilton Head tonight.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Cumberland Island Round Two

Shadows along Cumberland Island trail
We hadn't even heard of this terrific and isolated (can only get here by boat) National Park along the Georgia coast before last fall, and now we're back for the second time. Since we've now qualified for National Park Free Perpetual Senior Passes (62??), it was easy to decide to come back here today. Plus it was a lot warmer than it was last November when we visited this great natural wonderland. Thank you Carnegie family for keeping it like it was in the 1920s. What a great legacy!

We nearly had the whole beach to ourselves again today, and then the wild horses arrived. Lucy Carnegie and her grand-daughter Lucy Ferguson insisted that their horses be given permanent reign (rein??) over this island. We had seen them on the Cumberland River anchorage side when we were here last fall, but today they walked the beach as if they owned it. Guess they do!

Wild horses on Cumberland Island, GA
Fewer boats here tonight at the anchorage too. Only 2 sailboats and 2 trawlers. The snowbird parade north is slowly beginning.

Good humor in a cemetery???

After dinner last night at Lang’s Seafood in St. Marys, I convinced Pete that I really needed to revisit the Oakgrove Cemetery that I had walked around earlier that day. I had been a bit nervous walking around it alone, snapping photos of long-ago residents’ graves. But I'm really into cemeteries, and this one was from 1788.

An Oakgrove Cemetery Angel
During dinner, I looked up at a photo on the restaurant wall of the same "Awaiting the Resurrection" tombstone angel that I had photographed a few hours earlier. Shades of Savannah’s “Garden of Good and Evil” kinda gave me the heebie geebies.

So I just had to show the Captain the grave, but now it was dusk. Is that the ideal time to visit the dead, or what?

I had read that during the yellow fever era in St. Marys, the undertakers supposedly tied strings connected to bells on the hands of the deceased—in case they were in a coma and not dead. That may have been the origin of “saved by the bell” or maybe it’s an old wives tale.

But there we were at dusk, walking through this cemetery, when we heard a very loud bell. Yegads! Chill down our spines.

But it was the local Good Humor truck (and we had skipped dessert) so we enjoyed some ice cream treats in the cemetery as we finished out “graveyard shift” tour.

On to St. Marys

No pirates onboard?
Yesterday we sailed up the St. Marys River to St. Marys (what else?), Georgia, after leaving the Fernandina mooring field.

We passed by this area in mid-November, one week too early to attend the St. Marys Thanksgiving Dinner for cruisers.  So we wanted to see the great town that gives such a warm reception to boaters every year.

This cool ship was anchored in the harbor. Sure makes you wonder—pirate wannabe or anarchist?? We tied up to the dock at Lang’s Marina after checking in with dockmaster Nat, then enjoyed a light lunch at the Madhatter’s Tearoom.

Orange Hall in St. Marys, GA
While Captain Pete visited the Submarine Museum, I walked around this Georgia makes you think of “gone with the wind” town, and checked out the Orange Hall antebellum home, where I had a private tour.

This cute town is worth a visit although I held my breath as I walked past the demolition of the old elementary school. A nearby antiques shop owner told me it was a “sick building,” but that they were taking it down while the new school (next door) was in session. It was recess time too! Guess lead and asbestos aren't scary to these folks.

I got some coloful photos of fishing boat markers at the docks here tonight too, plus a great marsh shot with a sunken derelict boat.

Colorful floats

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Last days in Florida waters

We just picked up a mooring in Fernandina Beach. The wind has been howling an almost steady 15-20 knots from the Northeast all day. Grabbing a mooring ball is so much easier than docking in this wind. No need to embarass ourselves if we can avoid it!

The last time we were here in Fernandina was November 16, as we were heading south. A lot of water under the bow since then! But 5 months??? We did fly home twice for about 10 weeks off MicMac, but this has been a journey.

It's time to swap out the cruising guides and charts too. Thank you, George and Denise, for loaning us so many of yours. Non-boating friends might be amazed at how expensive these necessary charts are. $70-$100 is the going rate. But cruisers can't simply rely on GPS and electronic chartplotters.

I just had a "happy sad" moment, realizing we'd be leaving Florida tomorrow morning. But golf, lawn, garden, and friends are waiting back in Virginia. We estimate another 4 weeks before we see them.

Last night, we stayed in Jacksonville Beach at Palm Cove Marina. We arrived at dead low tide and had about an inch under us in their channel as we very slowly approached. After an invigorating walk to Publix to restock the frig, we enjoyed one of our best dinners of the entire trip at Marker 32 Restaurant next to the marina. We are growing gills and fearful of looking like grouper, but had to order more swimming creatures. Pete enjoyed his Florida pompano, while I devoured my Florida shrimp and grits. Food and Service were terrific. Ask for Tiffany or Steve.

The night before that, we stayed at Camachee Cove Marina, in St. Augustine where we shouted "Ahoy" at one of our heroes, Tom Neale, when we spotted him on "Chez Nous" at the end of the dock. We've been Tom Neale wannabes since we first heard him at a cruising the Chesapeake seminar at some boat show back in the '70s. We even have some of his old cruising newsletters onboard. He and his wife Mel inspired us to cruise the Chesapeake and "do the ICW."

Sunday, April 11, 2010

More Masters at New Smyna Marina and Palm Coast Marina

We requested one of our final bridge openings for quite some time yesterday morning as we left Florida's "Space Coast." Most of the bridges ahead of us are either fixed bridges or open on demand. It's still quite fun to watch all that traffic stop for about 5 minutes as we pass through. There were googads of them around Fort Lauderdale, so Captain Pete is glad to see them behind us.

After another "o dark thirty" departure, we got to New Smryna Marina yesterday just in time for the Captain to watch the Masters (otherwise we would have anchored out) and the First Mate to walk downtown (all of two blocks away).

New Smyrna car rally
An antique car rally was taking place and it sounded like a Nascar race (or what I imagine one sounds like) as many of the engines revved up as the cars sat parked along Canal Street. It was sorta like a "BIG ENGINE" contest for guys with lots of tats. Many of the women were heavily tattooed also. I had hoped for a quiet little stroll downtown, but kinda enjoyed the people-watching.

Pete got to enjoy it too a few hours later, after the Masters, as we walked to the Dolphin Watch restaurant for more good seafood.

Landshark goes with everything.
We've been supporting Jimmy Buffet lately since we discovered Landshark Beer. It goes well with fish sandwiches. Shrimp sndwiches too!

Today we're again hooked up to cable, this time at the Palm Coast Marina and watching Phil, Tiger, Lee, and the gang.