Friday, October 10, 2008

Friday, October 10, 2008

Less than a month from departure and despite 7 days of unplanned layovers, we are resting in our slip at Telemar Bay Marina, about 15” from our home in Melbourne Beach, Florida.

I think that we made a couple of decisions along the way that in retrospect saved us a fair amount of time and therefore fuel. On two occasions, we elected to run outside in the ocean and through the night, which enabled us to take advantage of favorable conditions while avoiding areas of the ICW that are time consuming with bridges and no wake zones.

We celebrated my 65th birthday in Brunswick, GA with friends and then met Paul & Sue Graham in Jacksonville, FL for another night out. They are long-term liveaboards who were our inspiration before we purchased The Rose, guided us down the ICW in 2004 and led us to make the trips to the Bahamas in 2005 & 2006. They are good friends who are also a source of unending support. Paul & Sue drove from Green Cove Springs on the St. Johns River where their boat Odyssey is docked to Jacksonville to celebrate both of our birthdays.

While docked at Beach Marine in Jacksonville, we tracked down and had dinner with the daughter of our former business partner. She left Minnesota and is now working for the Omni Hotel Corporation in Jacksonville.

We are looking forward to spending time at our home and a trip to Las Vegas where we’ll celebrate Connie’s birthday. In about a month, we’ll be underway for Marathon, FL where we’ll spend the winter.

But, if you thought we had, “fair winds and following seas” every day you are wrong, very wrong! We were reminded that we are merely passengers on this trip and not the drivers.

Most of the day Thursday, (10/9) we were watching a front that was moving in a northeasterly direction across central Florida from west to east and building in strength. We could tell from the radar that there were strong winds and as always, there was considerable lightening. We considered our options and decided to head for an anchorage on the north side of the NASA causewaythat would provide shelter from the wind.

We could have pulled into an anchorage right off the Haulover Canal that runs from the Mosquito Lagoon to the Indian River Lagoon but the charts show a hard bottom so the holding is suspect there. Titusville City Marina had dock space, but would assign us to a fixed-face dock that would not be much better in terms of protection from high winds. Besides, after watching our onboard Weather Mate and using the internet to check AccuWeather and Weather Underground we felt that the quickly moving storm would pass north of us.

I was watching over my shoulder as storm clouds rolled in but we had the anchor down and set in record time. In an abundance of caution, I put out an extra 40’ of chain and set the anchor snubber longer than I normally do . The snubber is a U shaped stainless plate with a slot cut out to slide over one link of the chain. Attached to the plate is a pair of 5/8” nylon lines to act as shock absorbers. Those lines are secured port and starboard of the bow effectively serving as a 2-point hitch. I was feeling smug when I stepped back into the pilothouse as the heavens opened up, the winds increased and the sky lit up. Well, the front did not travel as we had projected; it sat right over us for the next 3 ½ hours with sustained winds of 25kts and gusts over 30 kts with rain driving horizontally. We quickly shut off all electrical breakers, disconnected the computers and took turns sitting in the pilothouse watching the GPS and the other 2 boats that were anchored nearby. I was confident that we wouldn’t drag anchor but was more concerned about the other boats. The light show would have been fantastic if we weren’t sitting in the middle of it. The wind shifted direction from southeast to northwest as the front passed through but the anchor held securely. I radioed to the other anchored boats and we agreed that conditions were lousy but the holding was good so we “should” be ok. Connie and I took turns eating so that one of us was in the pilothouse at all times while The Rose was swinging and bucking. Finally, at 9:45, (after 3 ½ hours) it began to back off and we felt we were safe to hit the sack. We were up and down during the night to verify our position and to ensure that the other boats weren’t dragging.
Once more, we’re ok and so pleased to see the sun break through as we get underway!

Here are a few pictures from the balance of the trip south.

Paul & Connie
M/V The Rose, GH37
Telemar Bay Marina

How many "points" do you think is in this piece of cheesecake?

Paul and Sue Graham, (Odyssey) added to the celebrations!

Celebrating my 65th onboard The Rose in Brunswick, GA. L-R Robin Evans, Dave and Barbara Bluto.

This is the light at St. Simons Island, GA

Friday, October 03, 2008

October 3, 2008
We are continuing south and making progress with our trip to Marathon, FL. Since leaving Portsmouth, VA, we have had good weather and travelling conditions. Over the past couple of years, we made the choice to travel the Dismal Swamp route as opposed to the Virginia Cut. It is a scenic and laid-back area. The down side is that it adds a day to the trip and this season, openings of the lock and bridge are restricted to twice per day due to low water.
Therefore, we decided to take the quicker and more direct route, which is the Virginia Cut. As we pass through Coinjock, Connie & I noticed that the extensive side-to docks that line both sides of the waterway are nearly deserted. There were two boats at one marina and none at all on the other. We are a little early in the season, but I would have expected the cruisers to be all lined up, bow to stern. I suspect that fuel prices have taken a toll on some boaters and the recent financial fluctuations have not helped much either.
Over time, we have established a cruising schedule that works for us. Some boaters like to get underway later in the morning and then travel until sunset. We prefer to start moving early and therefore reach that day’s destination mid-afternoon. It does not make sense to cruise with a calendar in hand, but we hope to be in the Melbourne area by the second week of October. Since we held up in Portsmouth for five nights, we have decided to give up the occasional day off and will run nonstop for the rest of the way to Florida. Tentatively that will put us in Melbourne on October 11.

While underway one morning we heard a Coast Guard vessel call another powerboat and inquire as to when they were last boarded. I have nothing to hide and appreciate that they have a job to do, I just resent being subject to random searches and an interrogation about destination, departure and any other subject they feel is germane. Because we present a different or unique profile, I assume we will be boarded and inspected. Fortunately, they boarded the boat in question and then stopped a small fishing boat that appeared to be overloaded with more passengers than allowed. By the time we arrived on scene they had finished the 2nd boat, it was close to lunch and I think they headed back to their base. Whew! Dodged another one!

The Sunset Beach Pontoon Bridge, (above) is a working relic. It is a one-lane floating bridge that only opens on the hour, except during low tide when it remains closed regardless of boat traffic. It is a local-nostalgic favorite for some and a nuisance to others. We were hoping to make a 1:00p.m. opening but the current was working against us and the chart plotter was showing our arrival at 1:12. I called the bridge using the cell phone and pleaded our case. There were two other boats already waiting and he delayed the bridge opening a little and then held it open for our arrival. “Keep her smoking Captain” he said…….and we did. By catching that opening, we avoided having to wait another hour.

One of our favorite stops has been The Marina at Grande Dunes in Myrtle Beach, SC. It is pricey, ($2.00 per foot) but very secure and quiet. The marina is actually part of a huge development with a hotel, private homes, condominiums and several restaurants. For transient boaters they have a courtesy van AND driver to take you shopping at nearby locations. In addition, when you register and pay for your slip you receive a bottle of wine. In the end, it is a reasonable stop. Again this year my high school buddy Jere Russo and his wife Meredith drive two hours from their home in rural South Carolina to have dinner and drinks with us. We had such a good time that we departed a little later than usual the next morning.
We anchored for the next few nights and continue to be amazed at the beauty and solitude presented by the Intracoastal Waterway. Dolphin swimming off our bow, birds busy in flight and other unidentifiable creature sounds that seem to just rise from the marsh. There is not a sign anywhere that we aren’t the only inhabitants other than wildlife. The temperatures have been cool and breezy enough so that we sleep comfortably with the skylight and portholes open in the master cabin. We have quit taking pictures of the sunrise because the photos cannot compare to the real thing. Sometimes it seems as though the marsh is floating equally between the morning sky and glassy creeks and rivers. As we re-enter the ICW another vessel appears faintly out of the morning haze. Connie and I are so grateful for this opportunity!
As we make way, our plans change and instead of continuing down the ICW through SC into GA, we head out the inlet at Charleston, SC to run offshore through the night to the inlet at Brunswick, GA. It should take us about 22 hours from the inlet and a total of 29 hours since we left the anchorage in the morning, (Friday, 10/03). The weather window for the next 36 hours is absolutely perfect, gentle winds and wave heights predicted to be 1-2’. There is no disagreement with this choice and we decide to take advantage of the conditions. By running through the night, we make up two days and it also allows us to be in protected Florida waters ahead of deteriorating travel conditions.

We are looking forward to reconnecting with Bill & Robin Evans in Brunswick, GA. They are friends we originally met in the Bahamas, who cruise on Blue Magic a Fleming motor yacht.

Here are a few pictures from our travels thus far.

This is sunset at anchor, Antipoison Creek, MD. Legend has it that the mud from the creek was used as a poultice for a snake bite victim.

Connie handling the stern line at the Great Bridge Lock in Great Bridge, VA

Commercial traffic on the Chesapeake Bay is heavy.

This is an example of the navigation aids that you will see on the AICW. Travelling South, the red triangles are usually on your starboard side. Note the orange triangle at the top of the aid? That tells you that you're on the ICW and haven't gotten sidetracked. If there's no orange sticker you'd better check your chart again!

Dowry Creek Marina in Belhaven, NC. This is a favorite stop for many boaters on the ICW. Belhaven was a busy fishing village that is now trying to survive. Mary K. is the owner-surviving spouse and has done an excellent job even though she's doing it single handed. We're here twice a year like clockwork.

Ft. Sumpter, Charleston, SC
Paul & Connie
M/V The Rose, GH37