We were in Marathon a week longer than anticipated due to not having a favorable weather window. It was called being in the Marathon Vortex. We had seen other boats leave, but they were all headed up Florida Bay and we couldn't go that way due to our deep draft. So we sat and waited.
On Sunday, May 5, 2013 we got our weather window and left Marathon, FL for Rodriguez Key. We headed out with buddy boat "Horizon". They would be going to Rodriguez Key but then heading to the Bahamas and we would be heading north. We had winds of 17 knots gusting to 20 knots and we had a speed of over 8 knots which was excellent. Our trip was very uneventful, we didn't even see any marine life and we made it to Rodriguez Key at 2:00 pm and anchored. By sunset we were one of 8 boats.
We were up before 7:30 am to leave Rodriguez Key after having our sleep disturbed by the anchor alarm at 11:45. (Mark didn't set it correctly he said, but I didn't sleep well after that.) We were the third boat to leave. We turned the corner of Florida and are now headed north. The wind was not in our favor, so we motored. We did not make good time and then the alternator that we had repaired in Marathon failed, so we decided to stay in No Name Harbor on Key Biscayne, instead of making it farther north, so Mark could put the spare alternator back on. This is a beautiful little harbor and if you get the chance, you should see it. For boaters, you can stay for $20.00 for a week. We stayed 2 nights. We took the bus and then the Metrorail into Miami to take a Grayline Bus tour of Miami. It is a hop on hop off tour so you get off and spend time in an area if you so desire. It was a great tour and it took us to the popular areas of Miami, including a separate bus tour to Miami Beach. We got off and had lunch in Miami Beach and walked the '"strip" and got back on the bus and finished the tour. We made our way back to the train station and thought we had gotten on the correct train, but we did not. We got off, then got back on another train thinking it was the correct one and then we tried to ask someone on the train if we were on the correct one. Guess what? Not a single rider spoke English. Finally one lady spoke up and said at the next stop, which was her stop she would get us to the correct train. So we got on the correct train finally and made it to our bus stop. The fiasco doesn't end there. We got on the correctly marked bus with about 15 other commuters and got to Key Biscayne. The bus was making stops as per the route. The driver then turned a corner, which was not on the route and said this was the way she was supposed to go, it didn't matter what the bus marquee said. So all of the rest of us got off because she was taking us away from where we needed to be and we had to walk the rest of the way back to the state park, which was quite a ways. Needless to say, we have not mastered the public transportation systems in Florida. This was not our first time we had problems with it.
On 5/8/13, we left No Name Harbor before 7:00 AM. We didn't have much wind so we motor-sailed in the Atlantic. It was a gorgeous day. We had company today. We had three birds stop by. An American Redstart, a Cape May Warbler, and a Grasshopper Sparrow. The warbler and the sparrow only stayed a short while. Long enough to catch their breath, rest a bit, and move on. However, the American Redstart must have been sick as he flew all around the boat and landed on both Mark and me but just seemed to get more tired. By the time we anchored he didn't look very well. By morning he was dead. This night we anchored at Palm Beach, FL. A real easy in and out anchorage off the Atlantic with quite a few boats making the jump from here to the Bahamas. They also have a cruise terminal here and we saw the Bahamas Express leave.
Then next morning, 5/9/13, we pulled anchor and headed out to sea. Palm Beach was a really great location as the entrance to the harbor was relatively short, which was nice in that it didn't take us an hour or more to reach the ocean to get underway. We had to motor all day as there was no wind to fill our sails. Mark put out the fishing lines and we actually caught a fish. We thought it was a bonita or a mackerel but we only had a Gulf of Mexico Sport Fish book to refer to and this is the Atlantic. It was about 20 pounds. We will have to look it up at a later time in better book. We arrived at Fort Pierce, FL today and stayed at the city marina which was very nice and convenient to the town. I did laundry and we hoped to get to a marine store and the grocery store but we arrived later than anticipated and only had time for dinner after doing the laundry. We ate at the Second Street Bistro which was wonderful. I had potato encrusted Atlantic salmon and I believe it was the best fish I have had this whole trip. It was delicious! At the marina, we docked in the middle of two other transient sail boats. One headed to Beaufort, NC (a group of men) and the other boat, "Whimsey" (a couple), was headed back home to Boston (Weymouth, MA).
On Friday, 5/10/13, we headed out to sea and were out about 8-10 miles when the National Weather Service called a severe weather alert. We decided we should turn around and go back in to the ICW. We had not seen this weather before we left. We spent Friday, Saturday, and Sunday navigating the ICW. We saw dolphins occasionally and that was the extent of our excitement on the ICW except for passing other boats or them passing us and calling bascule bridges to have them let us pass. We anchored at Dragon Point, near Melbourne, FL Friday night. Saturday night we anchored at Rock Creek and Sunday we made it to the St. Augustine, FL City Marina where we picked up a mooring ball. At Rock Creek we were invaded by no see-ums. They made for a miserable night. We shut the boat up, but they had already made themselves at home inside. We went to bed and covered ourselves with the sheets and blankets but our faces and heads were still exposed. Not much luck sleeping.
The ICW through part of eastern Florida is on the Indian River. When we were transiting the Indian River to Mosquito Lagoon, we had hundreds of boats coming at us. We had no idea what that was about and it was scary. We think it was a fishing tournament that had just finished. The boaters were nuts. We actually had to blow our horn to make sure they were not going to run into us. They were small boats and we were a big boat, so we know they could see us. It was interesting to say the least and I should have taken a picture but didn't.
We stayed in St. Augustine Monday, 5/13/13 and left on Thursday, 5/16/13. While in St. Augustine we biked around the historic city. We of course found the West Marine and the grocery store. It seems we are always in need of something at West Marine and it goes without saying that we need to visit the grocery store to stock up. We also went on a trolley tour of the city. After the tour we biked around and looked at the historic sites we didn't get to take pictures of while on the tour. It was a hop on hop off tour, but we elected to stay on for the whole tour and then visit on our own since we had bikes at our disposal. Mark's Aunt Dot and Uncle Ron came and took us to dinner on Tuesday. Thanks guys, we really enjoyed that. We biked to the light house on Anastasia Island which was a great ride and a beautiful lighthouse. We also did a bit of work on the boat. I started the bi-annual job of refinishing the teak on the boat and Mark worked on various other things besides installing the new alternator we had to purchase.
We had to leave St. Augustine before 7:00 am to be able to get through the Bridge of Lions and out to the Atlantic. After 7:00 am the bridge opens on the hour or half hour if needed. The fuel dock opened at 6:00 am, so on 5/16/13, we fueled up, watered up and were through the bridge before 7:00 am. The winds were light so again had to motor north. We had four Blackpoll Warblers visit us today at different times. The bird book says they are late migrators. It was fun to watch them flit around eating bugs or whatever it is they could find to eat. We picked up a mooring ball in Fernadina, FL. This is the last stop before Georgia. We didn't go into town but there were two paper mills here and they stunk! They stopped working at about 10 or 11 pm as the smell went away. Thank goodness.
We left the mooring ball a little late today, 5/17/13 because Mark had to redo some wiring on the generator. We had breakfast today before we got underway. Usually we eat breakfast after we leave. We were into Georgia, and the winds were light and the seas calm so we decided instead of going into a port in Georgia, we would just keep going and go to Charleston. Mark had to slow us down as we figured that we would reach Charleston in the dark. We did the shift watch again and had a beautiful night with the half-moon giving us light for part of night. We had the stars with us all night. I read on my shift and Mark watches the stars. He sees quite a few falling stars. On my second shift (2 AM-5AM) though I had a lot of boats that I could see, so I didn't read much. I kept a look out on them. I saw a cruise ship going into Charleston. Mark and I both saw the light pollution from it off on the horizon but couldn't make out what it was until it moved closer. We docked in Charleston at 9:00 am on Saturday, 5/18/13.
After settling in, we took a nap so we could function for the rest of the day. We were docked at Charleston Harbor Marina at Patriots Point in Mt. Pleasant, SC. They have a free trolley, "Ollie", which makes trips to downtown-the historic district every other hour. So we got up and took the noon trolley in. We had lunch, walked the market, and decided to take a carriage tour of Charleston. Our guide was Todd and our horse was Kevin. Todd was a great tour guide with great stories. We toured rainbow row and the water front park at the junction of the Cooper and Ashley rivers. The carriage had 16 tourists aboard.
We had planned on leaving today, Sunday, 5/20/13, but due to bad weather we didn't leave Charleston until Wednesday, 5/22/13. Since we were staying at Patriots Point we decided to do the Patriots Point Maritime Museum. It consists of the aircraft carrier Yorktown, the destroyer Laffey, and the submarine Claymagore, a mock-up of a barracks in Vietnam, and of course a gift shop. We spent the day doing the whole tour except for a couple hour break to visit the grocery store. Stan the marina manager drove us to Harris Teeter, which was nice for us.
Monday we got up to take the 8:00 am trolley to downtown, only to find out the trolley doesn't begin until 10:00 am. We had wanted to go to Dunkin Donuts to get my favorite donuts, toasted coconut. We didn't get there until 11:00 am and they had sold out of them. They should make more than one dozen daily! We shopped the King Street shopping district in between rain storms. Tuesday I did laundry only because we were still here because of storms and the laundry just seems to build up in such a small space. We also studied the charts and the weather and decided we would head up the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) because the weather wasn't supposed to get much better until Friday. We radioed SeaTow to get local knowledge of the ICW and he gave us some good tips on traversing it.
We were up at 4:40 this morning, 5/22/13, to make it to the Ben Sawyer Bridge at high tide. With our 6' draft (boat loaded) we could only get through at high tide per SeaTow. High tide was at 5:45 AM. Also the bridge opens on the hour after 7:00 AM and on demand before that so we needed to make it through early and we made it. We don't like traveling in the dark, but with the Charleston light pollution we could see to get to the ICW and then the sun started to rise.
SeaTow saw us on AIS and hailed us on the radio to verify we made it through. We thought that was very nice of them. Our friends on Skybird III heard SeaTow hail us and called to see if we were okay. They were just coming into Charleston from an all-night travel from Brunswick, GA.
The east coast ICW is a lot different than the Gulf Coast ICW. More pleasure vessels and not hardly any working vessels, except for maybe a dredge. We were in what South Carolinians call the low lands. It was sea grass. Went through one area and got attacked by giant horseflies. They were brutal. We got out the bug repellant and fly swatters and got after them. Going up the channel they lessened and were gone after a few hours. The scenery also changed to trees. We started seeing lots of ospreys on their nests. These were big nests for big birds. We saw the nests either on top of dead trees or on the
channel markers. We did a 12 hour plus day today and stopped at Bucksport Marina and RV Park at 6:00 PM. It looked to be a lively place on the weekends, but tonight was rather dead. We were the only transient they had. With the report of storms today, we had none. We were lucky.
We pulled out of Bucksport this morning, 5/23/13, at 6:30 am with water like glass and a light fog. It was absolutely breathtaking. Today there is a 60% chance of rain. Today was really challenging. We had swing bridges and very narrow channels to contend with. I sat below in the salon guiding Mark with Active Captain on the computer while he used the RayMarine Chartplotter. The charts are different, but with both of them we were able to navigate the ICW with little to no problems.
The most challenging spot was Lockwood Folley Inlet, NC. We were notified by a southbound vessel that the shoaling was bad and the water was extremely shallow. When we arrived at the inlet, there was a trawler, "Wild Cherry", coming through and we could see him dancing back and forth through the markers looking for the deep water. We saw him hit bottom and back off. While we were waiting, the Grady White fishing boat next to us hailed us and asked what we were waiting on. We told him our turn to pass. He told us he was a local and to keep to the green markers and we would have plenty of water. We did as told and we made it through.
About 10 miles up the channel we turned around to look behind us and saw the storm. We called a marina just ahead and they were able to take us, so we stopped really quick and side tied to their face dock with about five other transients. The storm never hit us. It was three in the afternoon and we had hoped to make it a little farther, but oh well. Was a great marina, South Harbour in Oak Island, NC. They had two restaurants so we decided to eat out. We ate at the Italian establishment per suggestion from the dock master. It was great.
We left the dock this morning, Friday, 5/24/13 at 6:00 AM. We were making great time, until we made Wrightsville Beach, NC. We arrived at 9:10 AM and came to a bascule bridge that only opens on the hour. We had a 50 minute wait. What a bummer. I missed this on the chart. After getting through this bridge, we had an hour to get to the next one that was 4.5 miles north. We made it with 15 minutes to spare. Now on to the next one that is 13.5 miles north. We arrived at this bridge first before 4-5 other boats. We were able to pass first. We anchored at Camp Lejeune tonight. The anchorage is called Mile Hemmock Bay. The winds were blowing at 20 knots with gusts at 28 knots. There were no marinas close so this was the only option. The bay is very protected so we felt safe anchoring here along with about 5 other boats. One boat was a couple from Maryland that we had met last night at the marina we stayed at.
We were up at 5:30 on Saturday, 5/25/13, to get a good start. We hope to get to the house by sundown and we had to pass through only one low bridge today and that was a bridge manned by the US Marines. Thank goodness it was a weekend, because we passed a section of Camp Lejeune where they practice firing drills. Had it been a weekday, we may have had to wait for the drills to end. We made it up the Neuse River and home by 4:30. Not many boats on the river today as it was very windy (but there were a lot of boats on the ICW due to it being Memorial Weekend). We had our dockage area dredged, but the wind was blowing the water out of the channel and we had a tough time getting in. Mark winched the boat in so we could disembark and unload the boat. We found out later that the water levels depend on the wind and not the tides. This is a river and not the Atlantic.
I wrote most of this entry while we were still on the water as I knew I would be busy once I got home. I had 2 weeks in New Bern before I headed back to Texas for some medical appointments. I am back now and we will be working on the house doing some much needed updating and repairs. We will also be working on the boat getting her ready for our departure later this year for the Bahamas. When we cast our lines off for the Bahamas, I will start the blog up again. Until then, we hope all of you have safe travels.