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


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