South Carolina: if you blinked, you missed it!

Cape Romain Refuge, north of Charleston- always see a bald eagle

We (me and all of you!) have arrived at a milestone- my 500th post! Can you imagine? I can’t and I’ve been dreading this one. How to make it worthy of such a lofty accomplishment. Where would we be? What topic would grab your attention? And now as I sit here, with 499 posts under my fingers, I acknowledge that I’ve said it all before. Sure, the photos are different but the trip is much the same. I look back to older posts and wonder who penned such witty prose, so clever and at times mildly informative? Frankly dear Followers, I’m losing steam.

So my friends, to those of you who’ve read every damn post, I raise my glass, offer up a donut and salute you for following along on this nomadic life Russ and I have led for seven years!!  Even if you haven’t read them all (you are the more normal ones) 🙂 I’m still happy and blessed you are here. Without further preamble, let’s get to this!

Faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than… well not much, but hey we crossed into South Carolina the morning of May 8 and greeted North Carolina in the early afternoon of May 11.  AND, we stopped in Charleston for one night.

The weather dictates so much of how and when we travel, as I may have mentioned a time or two; thus Plan A and B are usually readily available. Two nights at St John’s Yacht Harbor was the plan, but when we did the long view, which included being at Carolina Beach for Britts Donuts (only open Friday-Sunday for now), one night in Charleston would have to suffice.

You can get the most out of a day if you arrive early, and with a favorable current push the entire way- a minor miracle- Twins was secured to the dock by 11am. Fantastic dockhands and we were glad to give the marina our business. You may recall that last fall we anchored across the river because due to Matthew the docks required repairs, but the marina offered their amenities free to anchored boats. We’d stayed there twice before and always use the loaner car (always in good shape) for the two hours allotted.

This time we used Uber to get into downtown Charleston.  Later, at 6pm we took the last slot for the car and shopped at Publix, picked up some of Melvin’s famous pulled pork and slaw for dinner. The liquor shops close at 7pm, which we forgot and so no chance for a bottle of Firefly’s Southern Lemonade Vodka. A one night stay meant no time to get to the Firefly Distillery.

 

Bucksport Marina & RV Park. The restaurant wasn’t open but we had Melvin’s leftovers

Wed, May 10 we pushed on, finally beginning to see a few more sailboats; namely the ones who skipped GA and southern South Carolina. The big question of the day was, “could we all get through McClellanville without going aground?” We had almost five feet of tide but the tide would be falling, not rising.

This five-mile stretch spells trouble if you move more than 20ft off the “magenta line” in some spots when the tide is lower than mid-ish.  I made sure Russ knew that through this stretch he was not to veer off the magenta line and certainly he wasn’t to move off it toward the “green” side; since we were headed north, that would be our starboard or right side. Practically the last thing any boat wants on the ICW is to go aground on a falling tide, so be careful here.

We could hear several boats ahead of us- chatter on the VHF was the clue. We caught up to a sailing cat and Russ hailed them that we’d like to pass on their starboard/right/green side. Hey- what did I tell you???? You guys know- see above- do not go toward green side!!  So he moves maybe 20ft over and changes his mind. Yes, I do serve a purpose other than galley-slave :-).

Then we get to a short stretch where the advice is to absolutely be on the magenta line, it’s about one –half mile south of Jeremy Creek… and I see the sail cat move slightly toward the green side-uh oh- honey don’t follow.  Captain announces, “we grounded.” We pass very slowly favoring the red side of the magenta line and call off depths- 7ft, 7.4ft- so yes, more water here. I mean how much does this cat draw? Couldn’t be much more than 4 ft. Yikes. This wouldn’t be so bad except the tide was just past mid falling tide- so not even low yet. They got themselves unstuck after a few minutes and turned into Jeremy Creek.

Our day ended at Bucksport Marina and RV Park- yep we felt right at home :-). Fueled up with diesel at $1.96/gal that had just been delivered that day and at a lower price. Over the last seven years we have watched this place (upper Waccamaw apprx 4 miles south of Osprey Marina) slowly become a viable marina. Recent favorable reviews enticed us as did the .75/ft dockage.  Reviews also spoke of this yummy country sausage they sold; some of you may know we really like sausage and try to keep a variety in our freezer.

Moonrise at Bucksport Marina & RV Park.

In the North Myrtle Beach area are two marinas opposite each other; both with Barefoot in their name. These cool water pedal-board gizmos came from Barefoot Landing Marina which is a long face dock right next to the Barefoot Landing Shops & dining complex. Not sure what they are or how they operate but I’d be willing to find out!

By Barefoot Landing Marina, with Barefoot Marina in the photo.

An hour later we crossed into North Carolina; our nights’ destination South Harbor Village Marina and …..

Georgia- the whole way through

Wild horses at Plum Orchard

I love creating blog post titles for Georgia because so many descriptives, phrases, songs, etc come to mind. However; think I’ve used most of them over the last seven- yes SEVEN years!

Our first Georgia stop was the lovely but tricky Plum Orchard anchorage on the Brickhill River. Tricky because a hard mound shoal guards the entrance “on the green side” over to the center and if you don’t know that (thanks to ActiveCaptain), TowBoatUS or SeaTow might become your best friend that day. It’s a few miles north of the larger, more accessible Cumberland Island anchorage down by Dungeness. (accent on the “ness”).

We’d been here before and this time, finally, we’d hoped to tour the Plum Orchard mansion, aka a summer cottage. Ha. We dinghied to the large floating docks and did the 11am tour with a group from St Mary’s who arrive by ferry and van.

Plum Orchard- a Carnegie summer home, built in 1898. Additions to left and right added 1906.

Carnegie wealth knew no bounds; the latest and greatest was evident throughout; the only disadvantage to living on Cumberland Island was that it is an island and certain amenities, such as electricity had not yet been brought over from the mainland.

With 30 rooms, 12 bathrooms, a squash court with ladies balcony, indoor pool and a full basement, Plum Orchard served well as a winter getaway home.  It contained one of the first Otis elevators, many Tiffany lamps, and many servants.   The property was sold to the US govt in 1972 to be added into the national park system.

Inglenook. Very comfy and cozy

 

Poinsettia lamp- able to be changed out so to have different flower for each season. Not sure if true Tiffany

 

Tortoise shell design Tiffany lamp in the Game Room, valued at $5 million- oh and there’s a second one.

 

 A corner of the huge kitchen- these shelves would have been filled with serving dishes, etc

 

Large stoves and cook tops- note the servant yellow/gold color

Wealthy families with servants had a “servant color” that was used in, well, the servant areas. Also pointed out were the different door knobs on doors that led into the family areas. One side had a smooth globe doorknob and the other a faceted doorknob. Always good to know where you are.

When a Carnegie family member pulled a cord, one of these numbers would light up and a buzzer sound. Note the quantity!

 

In the huge basement. Can you even guess what these produced?

 

This tray held what was produced.  Ice.

 

Nine feet deep, but looks more

After Plum Orchard we needed fuel and a protected dock for a few nights thanks to the nasty approaching cold front pushing rain, severe thunderstorms and tornado warnings ahead of it. For all that, we’d tuck in at Brunswick Landing Marina. But before that stay we had a perfectly lovely day- oh what should we do? Let’s see.  Jekyll Harbor Marina is on the way and with a change of plans it so happened that Traveling Soul was there for a few nights.

The marina offers free loaner bicycles and has two golf carts for those who need to more in less time. Mike & Ann had already scouted out the new shops over on the beach side at the new Wyndham hotel so she knew just where to go. The shops in the historic area came first though and we both scored big time; especially Ann.

The guys took to their bicycles- separately. Russ rode through the southern part of the island which had been closed off due to flooding the last time we were here.

Camp Jekyll- wow

Then he gave Twins a much-needed wash-down. Gotta look classy on ritzy Jekyll Island.

Ann wanted me to show her how to make knotted/macramé bracelets and anklets. Back in February I didn’t know squat and now I have helped others. Could this activity help ward off brain cell decay? I hope so- just keep learning, learning. 🙂

Spot wanted a piece of the action too.

Spot learns to macrame. At first she’s very attentive, after batting the satin cord around a bit

Then the “look”. Ann keeps working- we only just got started.

Uh oh, she sees me with a photo-taking device

Spot is used to Ann holding up the iPad, so when I held up a small iPhone, she wasn’t quite sure what to think. If I’d muted it, she may not vocalized her displeasure.

Spot dislikes having her picture taken and she tells you so

The dry and often breezy conditions are just right for fires to start. Florida had them all over; many significant and at times we could see a slight haze and smell the smell. Georgia isn’t much different.

Tuesday night the four of us chose Zachary’s, located at the marina, for dinner. Easy and under new ownership. Uh oh, only one other couple there. No worries, it’s because of the fire! No, not in the kitchen, but a short ways inland and the road into the marina was closed off. A helicopter would be dumping water. The only restaurant diners would be those who walked up from the docks. Luckily a few others did come up, but we were the main attraction for sure and kept the talented bartender busy with our cocktail choices.

Wednesday May 3-off to Brunswick. Eight miles that took over an hour because we crawled through Jekyll Creek only one hour after low tide. Very, very shallow in a few places and a smaller trawler had been aground since before low, getting free two minutes before we came by. Whew. This is one, if not the biggest, reason that boats skip Georgia (even northern Florida) and sail/ motor-sail/motor offshore if conditions are favorable.

Brunswick Landing Marina is well protected, sells fuel at the best price around and offers goodies such as free laundry in large machines in two separate buildings, wine 3 nights/week, beer on tap every evening and more! With hundreds of slips and many T-heads they seldom run out of room. It’s very popular with those who want or need to leave their boat for a while and it has a large full-time or seasonal group.

The place used to be a naval base and hurricane hole. So it’s not exactly pretty but the grounds are well-kept, the washers and dryers all in working order, the lounge and the main gathering room neat and tidy with plenty of wide-screen TVs and places to sit and relax.

We had a package to mail and that gave us the opportunity to chat with David who was being recognized for 50 years of service! He said, he’s not sure about retiring any time soon; the Honey-Do list was too long!

When we are where we can walk into town, the TripAdvisor app gets reviewed for what’s good to do and where to dine. Indigo Coastal Shanty- isn’t that a cool name?- is rated #1 in Brunswick so we checked it out.

Indigo Coastal Shanty- as great as it looks funky

Lunch at Indigo Coastal Shanty (Pac-Rim Noodle Salad & the Jerk Shrimp special for Russ)

Friday, May 5th is our wedding anniversary and we always make sure we can enjoy a good meal out. That basically means, being at a dock with dining options nearby. Friends Linda & Glenn of m/v Mintaka tipped us off to an unusual place, The Farmer and the Larder, a short walk on Newcastle Street.

Small, maybe seats 24 tops, open kitchen, farm to table-esque with a southern, African-American flair. We loved it. The top-mentioned server was Jess and we were delighted to be at one of her tables- what a fun person!

Place seats about 24. Cozy.

 

Charcuterie board appetizer

The charcuterie board sounded too good to pass up so we used it as appetizer and entree. It contained: thin sliced cured meat, whipped feta cheese (still with teeny chunks- yummy), pickled mushrooms and summer squash and their famous bacon jam!!  OMG it was divine! In a mouth-watering, gee this works really well like a maple brown sugar bacon doughnut does, only better.

That’s Jess opening our bottle of Ventisquero Carmenere, which we’d discovered at another farm-to-table dining spot in Niantic, CT in 2009 (ish).

Behind her is the open kitchen. You can see how compact the place is.

Open cooking area at The Farmer and the Larder- chef/owner at work

 

Double Oink and roasted veggie with apple “sauce”. I think “Oink” is the new clever pork term.

Our other entree choice was a reviewers fave- Double Oink. A 5-star choice we both agreed and enough to share. Room for dessert? Why sure. Chocolate Bun Bun. Heaven in a small bowl, and it was gluten-free. We’ll be back.

The primary reason we decided to spend 3 nights at BLM was the nasty weather arriving Thursday, bringing lots of wind and possible severe thunderstorms. Felt we’d have better wind protection than at Jekyll where at one point we’d planned to be for May 5.

Anniversary sunset- a pretty end to a lovely day

Saturday, May 6 was the Kentucky Derby and for once we thought we had a fool proof way to watch the race. However, when the time came- all the pre-race stuff begins at 2:30- we discovered that certain markets are blocked and darn but we were in one. We raced over to the lounge, managed to get the wide flat screen TV on the correct mode and settled in for a teeny bit of pre-race prancing.. then they were off!  Twenty 3-yr-olds, no standout favorite this time, but one of the betting favorites, Always Dreaming, won easily.  Good thing we’d stayed an additional day 🙂

Our Sunday morning departure would find us racing to Charleston, two long days and a short one.

Simply St Augustine -4/27 & 4/28

Let’s race! Pontoon boats- not for your old granny anymore.

Soon I’ll lose count of the number of visits we’ve made to the oldest city. Lucky 13 with this stop. Twelve by boat and once by car Dec 2014 when we stayed at Anastasia State Park with the motor home. We moved along, arriving in two days.

Little boxes on the hillside, little boxes made of ticky tacky…

Easy walking or do the trolley tours. Fascinating architecture and history, shopping, dining, watering holes, museums, distilleries, mini golf, and as of February, Rype & Readi, a “city farm market” across from the St Augustine Distillery. What’s not to love about this place?  Now that we have access to produce (with a side of olive oil and other local products), the best just got better.

The majority of the moorings are south of the bridge of Lions, but we wanted one north of the bridge for better wave protection in the 10-20mph south winds. The marina’s docks and the bridge abutments did an excellent job.

Looking south through the bridge as m/v Wishing Star heads to a mooring.

The bridge made the morning news; unfortunately.

Oil poured on lion statue makes local news

The local JAX TV station would rotate through live shots of local spots; one being the St Aug city marina and the Bridge of Lions- you could almost see us (to the left) but not quite.

Certain places or activities are “must dos” when we stop; although we always try to manage at least one or two new experiences. St Augustine offers up a smorgasbord of options for any and every one visiting. Even if you don’t have wheels, the possibilities are still nearly endless.

We tried a new bistro- Cellar6 located on the VERY old Aviles St, about a five-minute walk from the docks. Sidewalk table was the better, albeit more breezy, choice.

Cellar6, dinner. Shrimp & Grits for me and Captain’s Trio for Russ. We both took home leftovers.

A young mom with her two boys had perfect timing. I shared all those celery tops with happy kiddos

Ann on Traveling Soul said the Pirate Museum across from the fort was a worthwhile (interesting, and not too time consuming) visit. Pirates you say? Aye mateys, we’d be keel hauled before missing that!

Eye surgery display at Pirate Museum. Looks too realistic!

Black Bart’s Breakfast before battle. Sounds more like dinner, but it’s very balanced

Our friend, Anne Bonny. We watch Black Sails when possible- gotta keep that image

Warning to others. That’d deter me!

Only remaining pirate chest- with a sneaky lock- not in front as might seem obvious, but from the top.

After making a failed attempt to abscond with the pirate chest, Russ got thrown into the stocks. He looks too happy though

We roamed the streets looking for treasures; in other words, window and real shopping took place. Someone bought a pair of shorts and sunglasses, and it wasn’t me!

Lunch at the Floridian- fabulously wonderful as always and that includes the service, the libations, the décor and the food!

Black Bird & Garden Gimlet at Floridian

So, come dinner time our stomachs still weren’t ready so we headed into town to hunt down a cocktail hour beverage. The Tini Martini bar at the Casablanca Inn was jumping- oh wait this is Friday night- duh. Since this is the season for proms, weddings, graduations and various other celebrations, the entire northern part of Florida had gathered in St Augustine, so it seemed. Undaunted, we strolled on heading further away from the water, across St George and then we found it- Dos Gatos. Of course: Two Cats 🙂 . Bar and lounge only with live music at the moment. Not our usual milieu, but only two other couples occupied the bar so we plopped ourselves down for a long study of the substantial drink “book”.

I know that was short- well, shorter than my usual, but we only spent two nights here. So if you need more. Here’s a couple of links to prior pirate-like posts! Why we like St Augustine   and Tale of … 

Mini meet-ups on marina moorings (4/7-4/25)

65′ Nina built by hand, 85′ Pinta- at Vero Beach City Marina docks for 10 days

I am sure that someday one of our stops at Vero Beach City Marina mooring field will be short, but this wasn’t the one. If only our MINI Cooper, Bonny was here to make the post title complete! The day we arrived at 1:15pm, mooring #47 was the only empty ball remaining. Fenders out, lines ready, prepared to raft we were. True to form, the more prepared the more likely “it” won’t happen.

From our ball #47 looking south- oh… who’s that boat?

Ortolan beat us here; her new owners taking the same window we did to get across. The window would shut for the next seven to ten days, so if you were interested and ready, now was the time. We chatted and lamented that very soon they’d be hauling out for the summer.  I really dislike being hauled out because it means work, work, work. Our next haul out appears to be two, yes TWO years away!! Yes, that’s really good.

How many bus trips in to Publix? I lost count; surely more than the trips to the ABC Liquor Store and other miscellaneous stores, oh and the post office and the Farmers’ Market- which we got to twice. Panera got two stops also. It’s located very close to Publix you know.

Yum, arugula shoots. Two weeks earlier I bought radish shoots- they held up very well

Dentist appointments checked off too. Another very important stop was a visit to Battery Plus Bulbs, a nationwide small chain of shops that sell all kinds of batteries and bulbs. Russ had called numerous places and mobile services in an effort to have my iPhone brought back to life with a new battery.  This shop required using two bus routes, but we were up for the challenge. Competent, professional and quick service; all for less than $50.

Packages arrived from our best friends at Amazon, Defender and Quill. After an easy (yes miracles do happen) tax prep and filing morning, we got ourselves settled and engaged in our respective cording/line endeavors.

 

First step- lots of online research, then some trial and error. Next, “borrow” 2ft of my new brass wire and success!

Remember Russ’s lifeline project last summer- the one where we saved a ton of time and money by not putting a new vinyl covering over the “in good shape” stainless lines? Now he was taking it a step further into the realm of “soft but stronger than steel” line, namely Dyneema. We first used it as a way to attach our bridle hook to the anchor rode back in Ortolan days. Russ next used it for the lifting bridles to hoist up the dinghy. After reading that it worked well as a replacement for stainless lifelines, he replaced the stainless lines at the bow. Every time we’d lean over the line to attach the bridle to the anchor chain, a bit of rust would rub off on our shirts if we weren’t really crazy careful. That was successful, so why not do that all around; eliminate some rattling and have no rust or teeny shards of stainless ready to attack you.

Lines, knots, braids, splicing- oh my!

I had the good fortune (I think) to be introduced to knotting/macramé by Erin on m/v Barefeet. She admired a bracelet I’d made using a smooth coral piece with a center space- perfect for using a Larks’ Head knot on either side to make a bracelet. Her version used knotted macramé and she sent me the link for the “how to.”   Gee, what is it about cording that might be more cruiser/boater/water friendly? Maybe the fact that it won’t tarnish? Could be some merit there, as I often have to remove tarnish from the silver and copper jewelry I make. Salt water and even salty air love to leave their mark on metals. Add a how-to book to that Amazon order and aweigh I go.

This Great Horned Owl swooped in one evening.

A first! Great horned owl on boat next to us at 7:45pm- dusk

We’d hoped to see PDQ34 friends Jack & Diane on Airlia, but the day after we arrived they took off for what must have been a mini cruise because as long we stayed they didn’t return. Hey, it’s not US… is it?

However; Soulstice not only arrived after our chores were done (two weeks later) but they got the mooring next door- which is the closest we came to being rafted. They’d spent mucho time in the Abacos, enjoying the seldom visited out (more west) islands and cays; just what they like. I gaped at Lesli’s collection of sea biscuits, sand dollars and baskets that she’d woven herself since George Town. Very handy to have pretty baskets to display collected beach treasures. And boy, that girl can sure stir the pot! As in it prompted a mini Manta moment on Sunday and that’s all I’m gonna say.

Twins & Soulstice- a mini rendezvous

Pizza on Soulstice– doesn’t she cut well?

And then we thought Airlia had returned. I mean a PDQ34 picks up the only open mooring near the condo complex where they live, so why even check with the binoculars? But hey, no. It’s a new PDQ family member! Don and Lesli had returned from a shopping trip, noticed the boat and the next thing we know, it’s cocktails on Soulstice! Nick and Tayrn (rhymes with Karen) of (you’re gonna love this) Taryn Aweigh are new owners, bound for a couple of months in the Bahamas with a few other PDQs. We all shared as much about each other as humanely possible in less than two hours. Was really nice hanging out, even if it was up on the windy flybridge! 🙂

Our very first raft buddies from Nov 2010 arrived.  Vero is much like George Town, Bahamas; many boats stop to enjoy the pleasures of this protected lagoon so sooner or later you will run into people you know and you will meet lots of new peeps.  They played Uber and gave us a ride into town with their rental car so we had a quick catch-up and heard they’d be leaving soon, to do that “try and sail thing” up to St Mary’s inlet.

My marina shower buddy

To shower on board or use the marina shower, ah that is the question. As with many aspects of living aboard the answer isn’t always obvious. Although for Russ, who had the pleasure of a foot fungus a few years ago, he chooses “aboard” 99% of the time. This time I hit the bonus round and found a shower buddy.

Finally, the big day arrived. No, not departure day, although it was. This was the reason we’d spent 18 nights here; have our screens replaced. The Phantom Screens operate like an old-fashioned roller shade, either closing vertically, or horizontally as in the case of our door. The front window now has a finer mesh screen to keep out smaller insects and the little plastic gizmo on the roller set to a simple up and down and not “roller shade” mode. The door screen is now black instead of the old dark gray and is even less noticeable. It fits fully into the frame now. The old one didn’t fit because it had been trimmed a few times. The magnetic catch is new and the crappy screws got replaced with stainless ones. All for way less $$ and a much shorter lead time than if we’d had the Phantom franchise operation in CT do the work.  These screens are used primarily in Florida homes, boats are a minuscule (another “mini”) piece of their biz. Here anyway.

The job complete, Joe taken ashore. Only took 4 dinghy trips. Ate lunch, cast off the one remaining mooring line and bye, bye Vero.  Next stop, St Augustine. See you there!

Crossing Back: Doing what it takes

Generally, for high mileage trips like a crossing, the prudent mariner creates Plan A, Plan B and perhaps even Plan C. We had all that and more if you really want to get into the nitty-gritty of it. The forecast (from all our sources) couldn’t quite settle in which meant we’d better have a few plans, just in case. I guess one plan was even staying put- we must be up to D by now.

A while back I’d said, “I do not want to cross back to the Fort Pierce inlet.” After hearing that the current would be coming in with us and the wind at our backs, I relented and agreed it could be one of the Plans.

Entering back in at Lake Worth/Palm Beach would be fewer miles and a better inlet. We’d have the option to anchor up in the north part of the lake, get a marina slip or continue on up the ICW. After calling 5 possible marinas between North Palm and Ft Pierce, only one, Ft Pierce City Marina had space. We didn’t reserve, just kept that in mind if we made it that far.

One departure day eve, we decided to zoom across, enter in at Lake Worth and continue north up the ICW to as far as we could. The forecasters promised an uptick in wind speed around noon, so if we left early, moved along at 3000rpm (approx. 13kts/ 15mph), got a push from the northward flowing Gulf Stream, we’d “get inside” before lunch. Amazingly the plan went, well, as planned. Wind and waves out of the SE made for a comfortable push, the Gulf Stream helped most of the way, even giving us a top speed of 19kts down a wave at one point, and we entered the inlet five hours later at noon.

Farewell Bimini as we depart out the narrow channel from Bimini Sands Resort

A handful came out from the marinas at North Bimini, some heading south and the rest of us heading back across. We passed a few sailboats who’d departed much earlier.

Bye Bye Bahamas at 7 :06am

Yes, the wind came up; yes we continued on; no we didn’t anchor at Jensen Beach as planned (to my relief although I didn’t let on); instead we took a spot on “L” dock at Ft Pierce City Marina, the wind opposing the current and two guys to catch lines, easy peasy. Then we cleared back in, lowered our yellow quarantine flag and knew with certainty that “shades of blue Bahamas” had been left behind.

I give the marina two thumbs up for their responsiveness and attention to communications. About an hour out, they called to let us know a traffic accident had knocked out power citywide including the marina, “in case you wanted to make other arrangements.” Funny thing was, we hadn’t expected to have power there. Not because it was crappy or unavailable, but because on the new floating docks it was some new fancy set-up that the electrical system of many vessels wouldn’t accept. We’d talked to another PDQ34 who had that problem, so we had advance warning and the marina said we could run our generator if shore power wouldn’t work for Twins.

“Other arrangements?” No way honey; we are done for the day. 11 hours and 123nm/148land miles done. Got the generator going so our lasagna dinner could be warmed up (thank you Ann!) but within 10 mins power was restored so we plugged in, flipped the switches and lo and behold, we had shore power! Oh, did I mention “no charge for power tonight due to the outage”?  Ten years or so (don’t hold me to it) ago, marinas began charging transients a nightly/weekly/monthly rate for power based on the amount you need; e.g. 30, 50 amps. A typical charge is $5 for 30amp power.

Even the laundry was impressive. Two sets of front loaders flanked a table and several long shelves of exchange books. One dryer had a “not working” sign but mid-morning when I was using the other set, the repair guy was doing his thing. Even asked if all was ok with the ones I was using and ran a test on both washer and dryer when he was done. Nice young man too.

This green heron had the perfect spot for hanging out in anticipation of a meal.

A real life graphic, the green heron was so photogenic

Because we had power, we stayed two nights. Twins received a thorough wash down. We ate dinner at The Original Tiki Restaurant on site using a 20% coupon compliments of FPCM.

What rain? Russ works on

Our main fuel tank gauge read E when we arrived; the perfect time, no not to fuel up but to measure the tank! Measured, calculated, estimated and determined a formula for more accurately estimating fuel remaining or required. We tested it out the day we left (Friday 4/7) when we fueled up and came within 2 gals. Good deal.

Measuring tank size and amt of fuel in inches

Being in Florida (do you notice that “lori” is in Florida?) means scads of manatee signs and you really need to read them because they aren’t all the same. Depending on time of year, in or out of the ICW channel, you may need to go very slowly, or just not exceed a certain (usually very generous speed). The below is copied from an article in Cruising Odyssey which lands in our email In box every Friday. Very timely; as if welcoming us back.

From a link from article in Cruising Odyssey – Living the dream under power

There’s good news for the manatees, Florida’s official marine mammal. They are no longer an “endangered” species; instead, they’ve been downgraded to just “threatened.” The U.S. Interior Department, which is in charge of such things, announced the change just after Manatee Appreciation Day. (Who knew? It’s March 29, in case you want to celebrate next year.)

Manatees, which can live 60 years or so, have been around for the past 45 million years. They move slowly, spending most of their time eating seagrass or sleeping, although they can swim four or five miles an hour if they really push it. They’re usually 10 to 12 feet long, and weigh 1,200 to 1,800 pounds. One problem is that they reproduce at a low rate. A mother manatee can give birth to a calf every three years, but then the calf is dependent on the mother for the next two. The other problem is that they and boats tend to end up in the same place a lot of the time.

In the ‘70s, Florida’s manatee population was down to just a few hundred, but now, after all the slow-down-for-manatees zones and other protections, the state has a healthy population of 6,620 manatees. Still, the Fish and Wildlife Service, which did the manatee review for the Interior Department, says we need to keep all the legal protections in place so the manatees don’t lapse back the “endangered” category. It seems like we’ll have to live with all those manatee zones for a long time to come. Yes, I know slowing down all the time is a pain, but personally, I think anybody who’s been around for 45 million years deserves a break.

Next stop Vero Beach City Marina, where we landed the last open mooring ball that day. How long would the Velcro hold us? Place your bets now.

Highbourne to Bimini via the Berrys: 3/29 – 4/4

Traveling Soul heading north, the tour boat heading south

As Lorraine Rolle would say, “A pleasant good morning to you.” Yes, it sure was. Calm and pleasant and better yet you get to learn about BBB.

One of those Bs stands for Buddy. Gasp! Oh no, we do not do the buddy boat thing; in fact it’s a topic we like to laugh about, especially after the overheard conversation a few years ago that boat #2 would be ready once they brushed their teeth. Really. However, we do understand that at times boats do travel together. I mean what do you say to a boat friend, “you can’t take the same route as I because we don’t do the buddy boat thing”? Of course not.

Traveling Soul hadn’t ventured to the Berrys and as luck would have it we were both headed there after Highbourne. On AIS all the other AIS vessels look alike- black triangles, but if you code a boat as “buddy” (I know, it’s a fine line we walk), some blue color is added so you can pick them out from the crowd. We’ve traveled before with “the other TS” and set them as an AIS buddy. So there you have it, BBB is Blue Boat Buddies… to the Berrys.

Blue boat buddies to Berries

Our path would take us past New Providence (Nassau) and Paradise Island.

Paradise Island- what most people think of when we say “Bahamas”

The Berrys cover, at most, 35miles top (the Stirrup Cays) to bottom (Chub Cay) and lie roughly 30miles NW of New Providence; not far at all. The first half of the day would find us crossing the Banks, but the important fact is it’s too shallow to fish. Once north of New Providence you are in the Northwest Providence Channel (a very, very wide channel to be sure), the water deepens to thousands of feet and that’s where you get that line in. Maybe take a fish out, maybe not.

New Providence (island) Nassau(capital) to Berry Islands chart

Compared to the Abacos or even the Exumas, the Berrys are, well, barren. Chub Cay offers a large well protected marina with fuel and a restaurant but goes in and out of bankruptcy and ownership changes faster than you can say, “Fish on.” Add hurricane troubles and you’d better check before to get the scoop. The next cay up is Frazers Hog Cay and that’s got the Berry Island Club- or not-or yes, or no- you get the picture. But we heard that it will be open again any day now with moorings, etc.

Next cays up are Whale Cay and her tiny neighbor Little Whale Cay. Both are private so you can’t land your dinghy. Whale Cay has a fascinating history which I will link you to HERE. Little Whale, with an airstrip as long as the cay itself, is, according to the Explorer Guidebook, able to be chartered/rented.

Next up is Bonds Cay, behind which we’d be anchored for a couple of nights. It offers good protection due to length and shape and you know we don’t like to be bounced around. You can go ashore at Bonds, but it’s so rocky with minimal beach access that you almost don’t even care to.

The lure on right used to look like one on left- attached to the Cuban yoyo on way to Bonds Cay. That and an unwanted barracuda, was our catch for the day.

Thursday 3/29, while more windy than Wed, would be less than forecasted for Friday. Explore now, or else. Someone who anchored between the Whales, wrote a review about sea biscuits and how you could see them moving slowly and dining on various small mollusks. We took the looky-bucket thing for viewing assist, but not a biscuit was found- in any depth.

We did get to watch the below fuel barge come in and anchor. They’d be bringing in a long large diameter hose to the docks at Little Whale. This was the first time I’d take a photo with the iPad; felt so silly holding up that large flat screen. We brought it so we could see where we were, since the distance from the boat was over a mile. It felt like more because the middle section was very wavy opposite the cut even though we 1/2 mile in.

Fuel barge at anchor to send a hose in to Little Whale Cay

Friday we’d hoped to lunch at Flo’s but a phone call told us they’d not be open today. The forecast indicated that we’d have a short stay in the Berrys unless Great Harbor Cay Marina came through with a slip for an upcoming windy spell. For our boat, the Berry’s are best explored in very calm conditions.

Sand bar very visible at high tide at Comfort Cay

Flo’s is located on Little Harbor Cay and Comfort Cay sits close by just on the west side. We got decent protection from S – SW wind on the extreme northeast tip of Comfort Cay. After I took the above photo, I turned around and surprise!!…….

Look who snuck in!

I mean, there’s maybe 10 boats in the Berrys now, not including those at marinas and look who we see. Not unexpected, knowing how they like to be far from the crowds. Yes, their freezer is full and yes, they offered us Mahi. It’s tradition mon.

White Cay- the beginning of my Sea Glass hunting

During our only other Berry’s visit, Benj was with us and thanks to settled weather we hit many of the highlights. One surprise was sea glass. Benj had climbed over a short rise between the rocks (just next to that lone palm) and found what has become the sea glass that started it all. Sooooo, not my fault, but thankful and happy that even now both Benj and Russ are willing participants in the hunt.

Click here to read about our first time in the Berrys.

The morning of the shallow route trip up to Great Harbor Cay, we took the dinghy (haven’t really named this one) to White Cay, climbed over the crumbly rocks and collected a solid handful of SG. Happy that this trip wasn’t a wild goose chase like those biscuits and I even climbed up to the top in an effort to scope out other collection spots, to no avail.

Shortly after 10:30 we headed off on the shallow route up to GHC. Best done on a rising tide, we discussed at length just when that important high tide might be. Tide times in the Bahamas are based on Nassau tide; so many mins before or after. Berrys appeared to be 30-40 after, but the tricky part was the statement way in the bottom of the chart about “tides in this area being 2 hours after Nassau- generally”.

Shoal draft inside route

For those familiar with charts you know that all that yellow color means shallow with a sandy bottom. The dashed lines show the route you should take through all that shallow stuff; ideally near high tide and with a draft less than 4.5’. Ours is 3’.

We started at a spot you can’t quite see, over to the right of the BER 4 on the chart. 19 nm and 3 hours of traveling in shades of light blue; just exquisite. Far shorter distance than going out up all the around and over the top of GHC. No fishing as you can imagine, but a couple of dolphins wandered over for a look-see.

Locals from an island house head north too

 

Lunch- yum. Hard to imagine a prettier setting; all that’s missing a lone palm on a white sand beach

 

Chart view of where we are. The below photo shows how it looked live.

It’s difficult to tell from the chart view above, but we were heading into a “deeper” section, which is the white part. On either side of the deeper section the water is very shallow. In real life you could easily know where you needed to be. The deeper water is darker and the shallow waters are on each side; avoid those.  Now, you might ask why the chart shows deeper water in white rather than shades of blue which would mimic real life. Sorry I have no answer, but feel free to offer suggestions.

One half hour before the end of the route. Deep water between shallow sections left and right

The GHC Marina is popular this time of year but also because the anchoring nearby just sucks big time, as in way too much grass. However, we had Berry good luck 🙂 and  day and night were to be such low winds that not a ripple would be found on the water. This means no pull on your anchor chain nor your anchor, except what you do to set it. We picked a spot near the channel that leads into the marina where the grass was less concentrated and yet the anchor looked more lopsided than ever. Like I said….

Checked out the settlement and visited Traveling Soul in their slip. Did we see available slips? Of course. But we already had a plan, or two, and would head to Bimini the next day to wait a few days to cross back to FL. At one point we considered Lucaya or West End, (on Grand Bahama Island) but for several reasons we chose Bimini. I was disappointed to miss the two HUGE crescent beaches on GHCs eastern/ocean side, but the Captain promises “next fall on our way down.”

Right under the boat proved interesting enough. As the wind died down to nothing during the late afternoon you could see the bottom very clearly in the 6ft of depth we sat in at low tide. And what to my wondering eyes should appear, but a …oh wait, no, ok not that, but real live sea biscuits with discarded shells on them. How odd, but true. Call me a kid in the candy shop of sea biscuits, but this was what I’d read about before. I took many photos; not easy without an underwater camera.

As the water stilled to nothingness and the setting sun cast her glow just right, I realized we could scoop up a biscuit with our fishing net for a close-up look.

Great Harbor- living biscuit with mollusk shells on top- so so weird. Pic taken from the stern at 7:30pm

95% of all the living biscuits we saw had these yucky white-ish shells resting on top, so hey I figured what I read in that review (mentioned above) must be right. Nah. I just Goggled sea biscuits and there’s not much and what there is, is very technical. They are related to Sand Dollars- who get all the attention- and sea urchins and star fish. But what they eat seems to be detritus material found on grains of sand. In the photo below you can see the mouth in the middle. But why the shells? Maybe they stick to the spines, but fall off easily when the biscuit comes up out of the water.

Living sea biscuit- the shells on top are maybe decoration? and they stay around until disturbed

The below photo shows two sea urchins and a sea biscuit I found on White Cay on the “inside” beach that faces west. The biscuit still needs a great deal more sun time to become white, but at least it’s no longer fuzzy. I’ve never seen a deceased biscuit with its spines still on; not sure why. Maybe they fall off quickly, unlike the urchin that often washes up with anywhere from a full brown set to dried up green bristles that look like rosemary.

White Cay finds

 

Reflecting

Sunset showed Nature at her best and we were (ok, me especially) thrilled to witness such a lovely show before leaving the Berry Islands.

The Natural Look- untouched by any editing.

Cruise ship, Bahamian fishing vessel,  a second cruise ship hiding to the far right

Sunday- anchor up before 7am, breakfast underway as we bid the Berrys good-bye. If you are keeping track you will realize it was a quickie indeed: arrive Wed, depart Sunday. This trip would have us heading WNW across the banks, but if we went a few miles out of our way, we could fish for a couple of hours. Right. Another unwanted barracuda. Sorry, Barry. Twin Sisters only wants Mahi.

Resorts World Bimini

Our route took us by North Rock and down the west side of North Bimini where we got a good look at the expansive World Resorts-Bimini and the fast ferry that runs between Miami and Bimini. Not our cup of tea and not really very attractive.

Bimini is a two-part deal- creatively named North and South. North has several marinas, town stuff, the Big Game Club and was where we crossed to January 2016. South has the airport and one good-sized well protected marina called Bimini Sands Resort. New management is taking over- surprise!- so things were in flux. A few boats occupied a slip here and there, but we were the only cruisers until s/v Two Fish showed up the next day. You’d better be on your “A” docking game as the guys sitting around in the office don’t respond to your VHF hail. Took us a couple of tries but mostly because we needed to find a slip with cleats !

Looking in to Bimini Sands. The opening couldn’t be seen until you were straight on to it. Gulp.

My hopes of getting laundry done, were dashed. The wi-fi was near useless- even under the antenna.

A sorry state indeed

The to-do list for crossing back to the States is almost as long as when come over to the Bahamas and we worked away at all that. Found time to join Two Fish for pizza at the VERY LOUD local establishment nearby. Wednesday was shaping up to be THE day, which we hoped would hold up as another opportunity didn’t look likely for at least another week. Will we, won’t we? Wait and see.

 

 

March 22-28: HBs, TSs, and BBBBB

Lower mooring field Hawksbill- without me in it

Hawksbill, Highbourne, Twin Sisters, Traveling Soul, Blue Bloods and Blue Boat Buddies. All this fun initial stuff was too humorous to pass up. And I know it’s the sort of thing that’s funny/cute to those involved and not so much to y’all out there. But it’s worth it for the great photos, right?

With a forecast that included wind speeds greater than 20 with higher gusts, rain and chance of thunderstorms… ah you get the picture. We hunker down. Twins is such a lightweight and even though she doesn’t show much of a waterline that’s not enough weight to make her as stable as larger, heavier sail cats or motor yachts. Remember too, we met our March 20 goal, so no rush now.

The trip Hawksbill would be 21 nm. We raised anchor, reluctantly, after Russ finished his death-defying paddle and made the trip in 2 ½ hours.  We chose Hawksbill because it offered options. Mooring balls in two places and close-in anchoring if you so choose. The reason Park provides moorings (at $20 and up) is to protect the sea floor from damage to small coral and other living things. Except for the North field at Warderick Wells, anchoring is allowed but keep away from the location’s mooring field.

Meeting up with boat friends when cruising aimlessly about the Bahamas, is best done by chance, luck and tweaking your plans just a tad to make it happen. So when we heard that Traveling Soul would not be tracking down Christopher Columbus’s stops, but heading north up the chain, perhaps a meet-up would happen.

Not only did they show up, but we had a little surprise…. visitor that is.

What’s in the bag??

 

Why it’s Spot! Out for a rare dinghy ride, she checks us out at Hawksbill moorings

Later, while still calm on Thursday, Russ does his thing.

The triangle paddle method. Before Spot and family came by to bump him 🙂 nah.

 

Hawksbill selfie with Traveling Soul, Twin Sisters and Russ all in

We went in to the beach to pay our fee. There’s a sign and a secure box where you deposit an envelope with your $$ and write your info on the envelope.

In middle of night- pouring rain and a window leak

Russ got creative to catch the dripping water. Mostly this doesn’t happen, but today it did.

Russ the Cobbler-a man of many hats- and few shoes.

On windy, rainy days we tackle projects and things like the blog and such. Happy hour on Traveling Soul the first night and a delicious Shrimp Creole dinner the second; what’s not to love? Toss in five seasons of Blue Bloods and we are happy on all fronts. Good times with good friends and sniffy kisses from Spot; life is good. We are blessed. What bad weather? We got the dinghy down and back up without incident- whew- good to know we haven’t become too wimpy.

Oceanside – Hawksbill looking north

Saturday, 3/25, we moved around the corner to the more northern anchorage at Hawksbill, which was even calmer than the place we left. Easy shore access and we climbed up the path in a futile attempt to gain cell service. The Staniel tower doesn’t this far north and the Highbourne tower isn’t very strong, sooo, we were without for days. Survived this too. 🙂  Met the folks on the sail cat anchored nearby; they are headed south. March can be busy with boats moving in both directions.

Our next stop (that I’m writing about) is Highbourne Cay- another HB. In the right conditions we like to avoid the marina and instead anchor off and go in for lunch and raid the expensive small grocery store. Oh and fuel too. Fill ‘er up – should last until Florida.  Our BBB likes to be here too. Something about being anchored right under the cell tower.

Now that’s one tough, young couple in that compact sailboat. Traveling Soul is 52′- if you flip that to 25′ that’s about the size of this sailboat in between us.

TS & TS once again enjoy a resort lunch- at Xuma on Highbourne Cay

 

Lobster salad lunch at Xuma. Delicious and I’m not a fan of cold lobster. My Gintini was good too

The light bulb went on and Russ said, “why not jump out to fish since we are moving up a few miles anyway?” So we did and caught nada. Out Highbourne Cut (a new one for us) and back in over the top of Highbourne which is so wide (watch the rocks) that you can’t call it a cut. We did cut below SW Allen’s Cay which sits above Allen’s and Leaf Cay on our way to anchor in the lee of Allen’s Cay to get a jump on the next day’s 70-plus mile trip to the Berry Islands.

SW Allen’s Cay- if you tuck in here you can escape the current

The current runs strong through here and you can see the gurgling water as evidence of that. Boats swing with the current and today was a good day to be here to see the iguanas because the current ruled with no fight from the wind. Click to see when we stopped here years ago.

Wednesday bright and early we’d head off and you will learn about BBB as we head past Nassau to B in B. Yep, I’m getting tired… trying to use up Bahamas cell data before we cross back.