St Augustine Nov 19-24th

Strike a pose

Strike a pose!

Since Oct 2010 when we began our full-time nomad lifestyle, St Augustine has been a faithful stop on every trip south and every trip north, except one; and that includes the 12 months in the motorhome. This time would be a longer stay in two parts and would include Thanksgiving. Yes folks, imagine that, we would not spend Thanksgiving in Vero Beach- gasp! Why you ask? Was this truly the year of shaking things up a bit and not doing the same old stops?

A couple of years ago the city of Vero Beach decided to limit the maximum size of boats on the moorings, to 50 ft. Well, that may seem smart until you realize that the mooring field has mandatory rafting and two or even three boats could be rafted together on one mooring.  Not a problem for us, but a problem for “the other TS” who we like to share Thanksgiving with. Last Nov they got a dock spot but the docks aren’t the greatest there, so this year when they said “let’s do the cruisers pot luck Thanksgiving in St Augustine”; we said sure! Ah what we do for our friends. :-) We reserved mooring balls well ahead because even with 90 moorings (no rafting here) they fill up.

Part I of our St Augustine stay was at Rivers Edge Marina, up the San Sebastian River which comes up the backside of downtown St Augustine.  Not a fancy marina, by any means, but within walking distance of a nearby Winn Dixie, a large fresh produce stand, an ABC Liquor store, a restaurant (Hurricane Patty’s) and a Metro Diner which serves up a yummy breakfast. And you can still walk into historic downtown easily. Yes, we did all those.

The Saturday we arrived is Nights of Lights and with flashlight in hand for the return walk, we headed to the green along with thousands of others; more humanity than we’d been bunched up with in a very long time.

23rd Nights of Lights kickoff in St Augustine- the Saturday before Thanksgiving

23rd Nights of Lights kickoff in St Augustine- the Saturday before Thanksgiving

First the tree is lit, then all the lights are turned on- trees, buildings, bushes, you name it. This is big time lights.img_3075-800x600

The perfect selfie spot

The perfect selfie spot

We worked on crossing to-dos; provisioning and finding a place to store non-perishable items. We have several airtight bins that fit under the flybridge helm, along with other stuff. Once in a while that space needs to be cleaned up and rearranged. Russ gets that job and he’s working on that while I’m doing laundry. He says as I step aboard, “bad news.”  My reply, “oh we ran out of room?” Worse than that I must tell you; a rodent!!!!  The evidence: chewed-on foam pads we had stashed up there; we use them as cushioning for the tied snug dinghy. I call it a mouse but Russ thought the sizeable chew marks indicated otherwise. Was kinda funny because just that morning Russ commented about the cat he saw and that perhaps mice were around.

We put foil over various openings after scurrying sounds indicated the critter had gone out for the night. And since then, no further sign of any rodent visitor. Whew. Can’t have mice on a cat now can we?

St Augustine Part II involved a strenuous voyage of 3 miles back down the San Sebastian and over to the municipal mooring field. Our assignment of M3 brought smiles to our faces as not only is it south of the Bridge of Lions it also affords a very short dinghy ride in. And then on Tuesday, the moment we’d been anticipating! Sing along with me, “Traveling Soul is coming to town, Traveling Soul is coming to town, the other TS is finally in town!”

They caught the 12:30 opening, giving Ann and I time to shop in the afternoon.

Here come are buddy boat!!

Here comes our buddy boat!!

Assigned M7. Kudos to the marina who knowingly or not, put us fairly close together. A girl’s shopping trip was in order as was happy hour (or 2) aboard the “Bristol” Jefferson 52 (motor boats can be in Bristol condition can’t they?). Good times, great stories and primo G&Ts and V&Ts made with Ann’s homemade tonic. Not so much a drink as an experience.

Speaking of experiences, the four of us ventured out Wednesday on a 12 min walk up King Street to the St Augustine Distillery housed in a former ice plant. Besides the distillery the restored building contains the Ice Plant restaurant with bar and seating for roughly 50.

Opened in 2014; a very popular year for distilleries to open. This explosion of distilleries is astounding, with virtually none of the six or so we’ve visited over the last few years, existing in 2010 or even 2012 for that matter. Donuts, distilleries, dining. Triple D.🙂 (however we love fresh lobster & Mahi too)

We punch in at the St Aug distillery

We punch in at the St Aug distillery

The distillery uses all Florida ingredients or at least USA

The distillery uses all Florida ingredients or as close to Florida as possible.

Our tour guide was an exuberant local woman who works at the distillery. These guys produce gin, vodka, rum and bourbon.

We learn about cracked ice and why size matters

We learn about cracked ice and why size matters

We saw the usual equipment; fermentation and distillation tanks, bottling and labeling station and since bourbon is made here, lots of white oak charred barrels. To be termed bourbon the proof must be 80 or more. This bourbon is barreled at 110 proof and sold at 94.

In the gift shop another man creates Gin & Tonic and Old Fashioned

In the gift shop another man creates Gin & Tonic and Old Fashioneds to sample. Love this free tour!

Lunch at Ice Plant

Lunch at Ice Plant- all in a bourbon state of mind. Old Fashioneds for all

Lori's lunch at Ice Plant

Lori’s lunch at Ice Plant…. who needs dinner?

Then Thursday the reason for being here; we call it Thankful-for-Friends-Giving. This would the 4th annual St Augustine Cruisers’ Thanksgiving Potluck. Landlubbers roast turkeys and ham and the rest of us bring a side or dessert, chairs, drinks, plates and whatever else you need to have a good time!

The weather was perfect; maybe a teeny bit too much sun for some but considering rainy and windy would have ruined the day, this was ideal. The venue is completely outdoors at the City Marina, next to the mini golf with a view of the Bridge of Lions.

 

Ann brings the turkey hat

Ann brings the turkey hat

 

Mini golf behind the table

Mini golf behind the meat table

We met the daughter of Tom Neale.  He and his wife gave up their home and careers to move aboard their Gulfstar 47 Chez Nous in 1979. Since then, they’ve raised two daughters aboard while cruising. Tom is now editor at large for PassageMaker Magazine and columnist for BoatUS, but we first “met” him and his family while reading “All in the Same Boat”. Written in 1997 the book shares the Neale family stories of living and cruising aboard. If they could do it “back then”, we surely could too with all of today’s modern technology. This book was one of our early inspirations.

Melanie says this is the boring segment of her life right now! Compared to her growing up years, I guess it could be.

Melanie Neale

Melanie Neale in navy polo shirt.

Ann’s turkey hat was very popular and received many accolades and a walking tour!

Hey can I borrow the hat and wearit around?

Hey can I borrow the hat and wear it around?

We made some new friends and re-connected with ones we hadn’t seen in a while. All in all everyone had a great time and the free Bloody Mary table was a huge hit; I just wanted the olives.

Friday we’d say good-bye and spend 2-3 days traveling further south to Vero (Velcro) Beach. There, crossing preparations would continue in earnest while we waited for a calm day to head over to the Abacos. How long would we have to wait? Days? Weeks?

 

Oh wait, we are in Florida!

dsc04337-800x600For some odd reason I am usually oblivious to crossing the FL/GA line. Yes, maybe the correct music would help- say “Cruise”, by…. you guessed it- Florida/Georgia Line!  But we were well into our day, as in anchored and ashore, before I realized we’d crossed the line. That’s the problem with being so mindful of Georgia.

Wed, Nov 16 found us anchored in a new place; Ft George River (no fort) at Talbot Island (fka Ft George Island- so ok must have been a fort) to go ashore and visit the Kingsley Plantation. This is the oldest still-standing plantation house in Florida, with several preserved buildings and the remains of most of the original slave quarters. Our friends Ann & Mike on Traveling Soul (aka “the other TS”) had visited and said the plantation was worth a stop; and it was!

Fort George River by Kingsley Plantation

Fort George River by Kingsley Plantation

It’s a few miles north of the St John’s River and west is Jacksonville, so I think we might have been in the outer limits of Jacksonville. The geotag on the iPhone photos indicated Jacksonville, so let’s go with that.

Talbot Island, Kingsley Plantation on the Ft George river.

Talbot Island, Kingsley Plantation on the Ft George river. Old wharf ruins but hard to see

Low tide Ft George River at Kingsley Plantation

Low tide Ft George River at Kingsley Plantation

The dock was substantial and large, thanks to the tour boats that bring folks in who don’t want to drive. The self-guided tour is free and you get a phone that knows where you are and has a spiel for 8 to 10 stops of the plantation. At 2pm the ranger (nice guy but a bit stuffy) gave a tour of the Plantation House, Anna’s House and the garden.

In 1814, Zephaniah Kingsley moved to Ft George Island and established a successful plantation. He brought his wife and children. Here’s the interesting part: his wife, Anna was from Senegal, Africa and had been purchased by Kingsley as a slave. When they married, she was 13 and he 41. After 5 years she was freed. Anna actively participated in plantation management, which was kinda necessary because Zephaniah was often away at sea or off acquiring additional property in northeast Florida.

At first, Indigo was the primary cash crop but that was replaced by Sea Island Cotton, a silky long-fiber cotton. Indigo was a messy and deadly crop to process. The entire plant was used to create a mash with other liquids and the slaves stood thigh deep in the mash to stir it. Thanks to various toxins that got inhaled or would leech in thru the skin, the slaves who worked the Indigo often died after five years.

Use all the plant to make indogo dye

Use the entire plant to make Indigo dye

Slave quarters

Anna’s house

Mr. Ranger told us how the slaves had to whistle when they carried the food from the kitchen building to the main house. This was to show they weren’t eating any as they walked along.

The whistling way aka breezeway at Kingsley Plantation

The whistling way, aka breeze way, at Kingsley Plantation

The following morning we continued our journey south, crossing the St John’s River as we inched closer to St Augustine.

On ICW heading toward Sisters Creek Bridge

On ICW heading toward Sisters Creek Bridge

 

Does this mean we are triplets?

Does this mean we are triplets when on this creek?

I’ve lost count of the many opening bridges between Mile 0 in Norfolk and Mile 1015 in North Palm Beach that have been replaced by 65ft fixed bridges or by a taller opening version that allows most boats to pass under without needing an opening. Here’s another.

Another bascule bites the dust. Sisters Creek Bridge is nearly all dismantled

Another bascule bites the dust. Sisters Creek Bridge is nearly all dismantled

A few miles south after we crossed the St John’s River- carefully, since you may encounter container ships, crazy locals and a strong current, we came upon a place to be respected; the Atlantic Beach Bridge.  The trouble is not height, but width. The ICW is somewhat narrow here and when the flunky bridge engineer designed the bridge he made the pass through span just too darn narrow. The current has to push lots of water through less space and oh by the way the waterway takes a slight bend here. At times you could have a 6kt current here! Ideally, you’d like a moderate current in your favor or not much of one against you.

Amazing trip planner that I am, we’d be coming through with at most a one and a half knot current with us; perfect. The get-going-early boats were ahead of us and the later and slower ones were well behind. Except for a few local boats we had the ICW to ourselves. :-)  We always engage in a conversation about this spot and how one trip (back in 2010 ?) we encountered a tug and barge at the worst possible spot.

Today, ok nothing on AIS, that’s good for starters. We’re looking ahead to see if anything is coming toward us and just as we get to the spot where we can actually see around the bend- oh crap is that a CG buoy tender headed north? Well, we have the right of way because those traveling with the current do. But Russ slows down cuz they are bigger than us, but good guys they are, they hail us on VHF and say they’ll wait for us. Oh thank you. Whew. And no AIS either.  What is it with so much “meeting up” at the worst possible spot?

Strong current flow thru Atlantic Bridge thanks to narrow pass span

Strong current flow thru Atlantic Bridge thanks to narrow pass span

That night and the next Twins hung out enjoyably anchored at Pine Island oxbow where we worked on ordering boat stuff we needed to have delivered to us at Vero Beach, watching and photographing the birds, and oh-ing and ah-ing about the sunsets.

Pine Island Oxbow

Pine Island Oxbow. Pretty nice uh?

 

Heron doesnt mean to ntrude on courting Roseate Spoonbills

Heron doesn’t mean to intrude on courting Roseate Spoonbills

 

This is getting too personal, I got to hide my head!

This is getting too personal, I gotta hide my head!

See you in St. Augustine!

 

 

Georgia on our minds, aka “being mindful in Georgia”

Heading to our creek anchorage

Heading to our creek anchorage

Got that old sweet song, keeps Georgia on my mind. Once you are south of Charleston, the marshes become the typical scenery as you wind your way along the ICW.  High tide can be as much as 9ft more than low and in some places many boats need as much of that as possible. Traveling through Georgia means being mindful of the tides.

Along the way, helper cutoffs were created so that you can travel more in a straight path rather than wind around all over the place. But the downside is that they tend to shoal in, especially at the entrance/exits. Reading the comments in the ActiveCaptain hazard marks can drive you batty and we only focus on multiple reports of very low depths if we will be going through near or at low tide (but we avoid low as you might guess). Yes, these sections could be dredged but that takes money. As long as the commercial guys- tugs, ferries and such can get through there’s no urgent need to dredge.

Then there’s Hell Gate; worse than the Hell Gate of the North (in New York’s East River) this one doesn’t have a current issue, but a depth one. Multiple reports of 3.7ft in spots at MLW, with much of the stretch close to 5ft.  As with many of these knuckle-biter stretches (this one is very short) a tug can come through at low and push the sand/mud one way and now you have more water in one spot and less in another. We usually find more water than expected (we did this time) but I’m sure that the one time we plan on that it won’t happen.

mvVictorius enters HellGAte, Sail is aground

m/v Victorius enters Hell Gate; the sailboat is aground

Before Hell Gate shenanigans though we stopped for a few nights at Isle of Hope Marina on the very southern edge of Savannah. The marina’s courtesy cars (yep they have two) are available for two hours once per day per boat. We- oh you won’t believe this- found a bakery with a huge selection of donuts!! Imagine that.🙂 Stocked up on $1 cans of coconut water at Dollar Tree- sing with me now… Gin and Coconut water🙂, hit Walgreens for some sale items and to use up my points before I forgot and then our first Publix of this trip. (I mailed a postcard here too🙂 )  Uber is the easiest and fastest way to get into Savannah and we had our first woman Uber driver.

The day before we came into Isle of Hope marina- which is really more like you scooch off the ICW’s magenta line and slide up to the long floating dock which wisely sits parallel to the current. Ok, here’s the story:  The CG announced that a car had gone into the water in the Skidaway River near some boat ramp and one person was unaccounted for. Uh oh, that’s near our marina destination. We learned a car of four, all under 25yrs old, had gone into the water and three made it out. How does this happen? Ok, so it’s 1am and maybe drinking and/or drugs involved, but the launching ramp has a large parking lot. Word is they got confused. So sad. Of course, the story made the evening news.img_3733-800x600

The boat ramp where a car went in and 1 of 4 in car died

The boat ramp where a car went in and 1 of 4 in the car died

Savannah is so lovely and we didn’t do it justice but we did stroll around, popped into a few shops and delighted in fabulous homemade ice cream at Leopolds.

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The next Georgia mindful hurdle is Little Mud River, where it’s mostly Ok but a few extra-shallow spots can ruin your day so you plan around those. The tide would be falling after 7am so we chose a creek anchorage immediately before the Little Mud River. Our sonar chart setting on the Raymarine has become our friend as it shows more up-to-date depths in greater detail than the Garmin.

Evening shrimp haul- 100 ft from where we are anchored

Evening shrimp haul- 100 ft from where we are anchored

A new stop for us was Brunswick Landing Marina where the fuel prices are worth a stop. We spent three nights. Laundry is free🙂

Pam Pam Cupcakes

Pam Pam Cupcakes- one of the few shops worth a stop in downtown.

 

Escape Pod- another family member!

Escape Pod- another family member!

Northern tip of Little Cumberland Island- note the large green buoy on the beach.

Our final Georgia anchorage was the Brickhill River which meets up with the ICW in two places, meaning you can use it as an alternate route, with one caveat. Be very mindful of the shoal at the southern end and strongly hug the north shore or you will find a hump with barely three feet of water at low tide.

This spot is called Plum Orchard and is one of two anchorages on Cumberland Island; the southern one, Dungeness, being larger and more popular. Matthew did a number on the new dock and going ashore was not permitted right now. But Plum Orchard was open and we could walk the 2 mile trail across the island.

Higher tide can see moreof the Krogen

Higher tide-  can see more of the anchored Kady Krogen

 

Sunset on Super Moon night at Plum Orchard

Sunset on Super Moon night at Plum Orchard

Wood Storks

Wood Storks hanging out as we begin our walk

We’d always read that others encountered armadillos here but never did we see them. Imagine our surprise to run across one after another; some we saw, others we heard and only caught a glimpse. Must have snapped a dozen shots of this guy before he lifted his head even this much. They spend a lot of time foraging for food!img_3765-800x600

A bit further in a wide open space we came upon this one.

Gotcha! Finally lifts his head up

Gotcha! Finally lifts his head up

 

Wild Horses on Cumberland Island

Wild Horses on Cumberland Island as we near the ocean beach

 

 

Branching off the Donut Trail

Collecting the days catch- a full trap

Collecting the days catch- a full trap. Anchored in Stono River across from SJYH

Lest you think we only search for doughnut shops, I want to assure you breakfast isn’t the only meal we adore; happy hour rules the day on Twins.🙂

Sometimes we have to be creative and go to great lengths to end up at a distillery. Charleston Distillery was easy, but Firefly is on Wadmalaw Island nestled just south of John’s Island. St John’s Yacht Harbor on the Stono River is our usual stop where we take the courtesy car for groceries and a visit to Firefly. Thanks to hurricane Matthew they lost 18 slips but are otherwise up and running. They offered all their guest services to boats anchored out. The typical anchorage near the marina has poor holding (as we discovered a few years ago (click here)), so we anchored across from the marina where the holding is excellent. Go figure.

Firefly is closed Sunday and Monday so we had a day to kill before we could go on Tuesday. “Oh let’s dinghy down the Stono River to the mouth and land the dinghy on the beach at low tide!” Uhhh, sure, let’s dinghy a greater distance than we ever have before and hope we have enough outboard gas. So we did. Eight miles!! Give or take- one way. Would have been a shame to waste a lovely day.

We found it!- Pig Beach of the southern U.S.

Pigs on the Stono River as we head down to the BIG beach

Pigs on the Stono River as we head down to the BIG beach

Low tide made landing the dinghy a small challenge but we got it to shore, set the anchor well and headed for a rather long walk down the beach. The shot below is looking back from the direction we came.

Stay!

Stay!

The beach continued even further than we had time to walk. This view is looking out toward the Stono inlet.

Near mouth of Stono River- land dinghy and walk this WIDE beach

Near mouth of Stono River- this beach is very wide at low tide

Firefly is an easy drive and we made a quick stop. No,we don’t need a tasting (have the double shot glasses, nothing new to taste), we’ll just clean the shelves of Southern Lemonade Vodka thank you. Hey, it’s only 60 proof, with a mild tartness. Perfect in iced tea, a lemon drop martini or concoct your own libation.  Oh and you can only purchase it at the distillery due to its shelf life.

So much lemon -keep cool, fridge after opening and watch that shelf date!

So much lemon -keep cool, fridge after opening and watch that shelf date!

We departed our Stono River anchorage Wed Nov 2 bound for Morgan Island, aka Monkey Island. Given that our trip has been a tad on the boring side the Captain has a few off-the beaten-path ideas and today would be one.

We’d head the story from Mike & Ann on m/v Traveling Soul, and no doubt it was preceded by alcohol in some form; but we checked it out and ‘lo and behold, true that. The funny thing was we’d gone right past Morgan on our way to Dataw Island last May. Heading south on the Coosaw River, hang a left into Parrot Creek and continue around until you see the beach. If you keep going, St Helena Sound will greet you.

In the old days of the 1970s, rhesus monkeys were uprooted from their native lands and deposited on Morgan Island to be raised for research (off-island). The colony is 1,500 strong now; we’re not sure if that’s strictly native or if the colony routinely gets new blood. Most of the reviews indicated that no monkeys were seen, but hey you never know. Read more here.

As we prepared to anchor about 200ft off the beach, a man stood at the edge of the tree line in a bitch-wing stance. Uh what’s that you say? Ok, stand up tall and place your hands on your hips. Yep that’s it. And no matter how you feel when you do that, it clearly comes across as intimidating. He disappeared, we didn’t.

Sunset at Morgan, Monkey Island

Sunset at Morgan, Monkey Island

We took turns with the binoculars, hoping dusk would reward us. No such luck, but twice, strange sounds emanated from the trees that didn’t sound like any birds we’d ever heard, so let the record indicate, “monkey noises.”

The beach sign warns you not to harass, disturb or approach the inhabitants.

Observation Beach at Morgan, aka Monkey Island

Observation Beach at Morgan, aka Monkey Island. No landing allowed.

Sunrise- so beautiful the following morning. Definitely happy the clocks hadn’t gone back one hour yet.dsc04162-800x598

We remained on high alert, catching sight of bald eagles and herd of deer frolicking on the beach.

oh Deer! but no monkeys

oh Deer! but no monkeys

After our no monkey business, Beaufort, SC was our stop for two nights at the Downtown Marina. Beaufort is one of South Carolina’s oldest and most beautiful cities, which helps you remember how to pronounce it (beautiful Beaufort). Again, no donuts, but we did enjoy two meals at Low Country Produce and strolling along Bay Street a few times.

LowCountry Produce on Carteret St

LowCountry Produce on Carteret Street. Excellent, the best ever, She Crab Soup!

Waterfront- Lady's Island Bridge

Beaufort waterfront- Lady’s Island Swing Bridge in the distance

Our dock neighbor was a full time single-hander on what looked similar to a 34ft SeaRay. He asked if we were leaving in the morning because he wanted someone to follow. He’d left Barefoot Marina in N Myrtle Beach (summer home) headed for Jacksonville, FL (winter home). I’m thinking he’s worried about debris? Zooming along at 17mph. Doesn’t have a chartplotter? Nah that’d be crazy. But  nooooooooo..get this; he’s worried about pot floats and wants another boat to dodge them first!  Yes, moving along faster means you have really keep your eyes peeled, but we hadn’t seen that many and almost none actually in the channel. At 8kts we’d be too slow for him anyway.

Our maybe three night stay in Beaufort ended at two nights so we could spend quality time on Daufuskie Island, home of the world-famous Marshside Mama’s, and since 2014 The Daufuskie Island Rum Distillery! Mama’s is closed Sunday and Monday, so Saturday was it or bust. More like brrrrrrrrrr.  A mild cold front swept through on Friday; Saturday’s high temp was 65- just about right for bundled up outdoor dining.

Since our last visit the sign below was erected near the pier/launching ramp/docks. The island is flat and easy to walk. Next stop (a warmer one for sure!) we would like to see some of the historical places.

A map of Daufuskie. Rum Distillery near the H in Haig Point Rd

The Rum Distillery is near the H in Haig Point Rd, a skimpy mile walk.

The walk from the dinghy dock to the distillery is at most one mile, on a flat road. Golf carts are common (my kind of place) but the huge FEMA trucks carting hurricane debris (bushes, branches, leaves, etc) to the island dump confirmed what Tony told us at the distillery; Daufuskie suffered extensive damage. What we saw was so cleaned up that you’d never know a storm had blown through four weeks prior.

 

Which way?? Left or Right? Let's do both!

Which way?? Left or Right? Let’s do both!

 

First, let's follow the RUM signs

First, let’s follow the RUM signs

The distillery uses a reservation service and being a Saturday we figured just to be sure we’d use it and take the day’s last tour-4:30. They may have hosted 11,000 visitors since early  2014 but today we had our own short and sweet private tour.

Owner, Tony gives us a personal tour

Owner, Tony gives us a personal tour. The white rum is bottled once a week, the Gold once a year.

 

Of course- what self respecting pirate wouldn't want rum?!

Of course- what self-respecting pirate wouldn’t want rum?!

Our walk back to the dock and Marshside Mama’s produced a dose of southern hospitality in the form of a ride – in the back of a golf cart.  Our new friend was Sallie Ann Robinson: cookbook author, private chef, CNA, caregiver, mother, grandmother, and recently returned to her home, Daufuskie Island, after raising her children.

Such a lively lady. She gave us her card (I mean I’m about to move to this island) and while she searched to find one for us I should have snapped a picture-sorry. You can read about her here. With three fishing rods next to her, she was headed to the pier to catch something fresh for dinner. I’m sure success met her there.

Marshside Mamas- we chose far left table

Marshside Mamas- we chose far left table

When we stopped in May 2013 the place was jumping but now on a chilly November Saturday night, the action was happening inside but more at the bar than the dining tables. Next to no breeze was a huge plus. Speaking of huge- our portions- more than either could consume- made for an easy and tasty dinner the next night.

Voodoo Pasta- 7pm

Voodoo Pasta- time- 7pm

Read the cool back story on Marshside Mama’s here.  Be sure the read the lengthy process the bartender endures to bring the beer/wine/hard liquor to the restaurant.  I think Pete’s Pub has it easy in comparison!

Next stop- Savannah and then maybe another new island stop.

The end of North, Much of South.. Carolina: Oct 25 – Nov 1

Town dock with a "view" :-)

New Holden Beach floating town dock on right, with a “view”🙂

With less trepidation thanks to postings and photos by those brave souls ahead of us, we bravely entered the realm of Myrtle Beach ICW flooding. First though, before that came the sections of Lockwoods Folly and Shallotte where the ICW passes through these small boat inlets that are determined to keep as much sand as possible in the channel. They were dredged a few years ago, after our sand smushing with Ms Ortolan (click here) but with time and storms have once again become ornery, Shallotte worse than her sister to the north, Lockwoods Folly.

In order to properly deal with this passage we felt a fabulous Italian meal at Joseph’s Bistro in Southport was in order and long overdue. A long trip (haha) of 14nm gave us plenty of marina time for laundry, blog work, a boat washing and chatting with our dock neighbors.

If you wondering why we are soooooooo cautious when we only draw 3ft- a number many would love to claim, here’s why. 1) Twin Sisters is our home and we are extra protective of her, 2) Ortolan had dagger boards which we used as feelers in situations like this and if we touched bottom we’d raise them and back off.  Twins has no such equipment and her lovely, expensive and newly refurbished props are protected by thin skegs that are lower by only 3 inches. And 3) we’d be mortally embarrassed if we went aground with a 3ft draft boat!

A few miles south of Lockwoods Folly inlet is Holden Beach (one beach north of the scene of tense moments when silly crabbers strung a float line across the ICW- it was new and didn’t sink; we came by in Ortolan and one rudder snagged the line (click here for that story). See, I told you cruising has been pleasantly boring lately. Wouldn’t it be nice to have GOOD feelings about Holden Beach? Yes, there’s hope for that. We read about, new in 2016, town docks along the ICW in Holden Beach. Space for 2-3 boats, water power, access to laundry and wi-fi. Described as courtesy docks by whoever added the info in ActiveCaptain, the town website calls them town docks and the cost is $1.25/ft, plus power. Still, they are a welcome spot in a desert of anchorages. If we (read: RUSS) hadn’t wanted to get moving after 4 nights in Carolina Beach, Twins might have stopped.

What really makes crossing these inlets the worst is doing so on a weekend. Well not this trip for this crew thank you. Dodging little fishing boats with their lines in the channel, assuming you can even see that invisible filament, boats that at any moment go from stopped to moving and who knows which way. No thanks.

Actually North Myrtle Beach

No club membership required ! Excellent protection, super diesel price and plenty of southern charm

The 20-plus mile stretch between Barefoot Marina in N Myrtle Beach and Bucksport Marina in Myrtle Beach was a no wake zone due to the extreme flooding. While most boats,including us, didn’t quite crawl at No Wake, we only used one engine to stay at 6kts and much slower by the homes with water lapping up their yards.

Still waters south of Barefoot but this odd wave appeared at times

Still waters south of Barefoot Marina, but this odd wave appeared at times

With every few more miles we saw more damage, more water and adjusted our speed accordingly.

Dock and boat damage

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How can you not feel awful for these folks?  And this is but a tiny drop in the bucket of properties with damage.  Four days earlier boats said it was difficult to determine visually just where the ICW really was, the water so high.

The water has receded- believe it or not

The water has receded- believe it or not

For many days the current in the Waccamaw River spent way more time ebbing out than flooding in, so much water was rushing down from streams and rivers further north.

Strong current shows no wake buoy making a wake

Do you report a No Wake buoy making a wake?

You might think all that extra water might have added a bit to the shallow stretch at McClellanville, SC which lies between Georgetown, SC and Charleston opposite the Cape Romain Wildlife Refuge. You would be wrong.

Given the Socastee bridge closure for many days, the flooding which made it impossible for masts of a certain height to fit under most fixed bridges, the bad shoaling through McClellanville, many boats both sail and power chose to jump offshore because the weather has been mostly perfect since Matthew departed.

ICW stretch thorugh Cape Romain Refuge

ICW stretch through Cape Romain Refuge

I’d given up hope on seeing a bald eagle, because we always do here….

Bald eagle points the way

Bald eagle points the way

 

Look- a dock that floated!

Look- a dock that floated!

 

Smile, we are stronger than any hurricane

Smile, we are stronger than any hurricane

 

1,100 ft container ship appears to dwarf the buildings in the distance

1,100 ft container ship appears to dwarf the buildings in the distance

Charleston was a must stop this trip even before we heard …  named #1 Best Small City!  Maritime Center closed due to damage and we don’t care for the City Marina aka Mega Dock, so we tried the Ashley River Marina. Here we found a couple more PDQ family members Chloe Grace (for sale) and Soul Sauce whose owners we met.

The fog rolls in at Ashley River Marina. PDQ Chloe Grace is for sale

The fog rolls in at Ashley River Marina. PDQ Chloe Grace is for sale

One has to cross the peninsula to get to historic downtown from the Ashley Marina or the City Marina, but we were up to the walk. A marina shuttle is available too and we used it for the grocery trip.

We were soooo tempted

We were soooo tempted. And I’m not talking about stealing a pumpkin.

 

REAL gas lights

REAL gas lights

 

Cath- this one's for you!

Cath- this one’s for you!

Lunch with a street view and questions answered.

Answers to all your southern food questions

Answers to all your southern food questions

Farm market luck was with us Saturday.

Artist in costume at Charleston Farm Market

Artist in costume at Charleston Farm Market

 

What great names!

What great names!

Umm, get a job and maybe afford to live in Charleston!

Shall I apply?

Shall I apply?

The Charleston Distillery is new – 2014 and same as others we’ve visited- very contained. This one may have the most space so far. Vodka, gins.img_3006-800x600

 

The very basic low tech bottling table- 4 peeps gets the job done

The very basic low tech bottling table- 4 peeps gets the job done

 

This thick mash goes to goat farm- Very frisky spoiled goats!

This thick mash goes to a goat farm- Very frisky spoiled goats!

 

Made using Reaper peppers- hotter than extremely hot, hot!

Made using Reaper peppers- hotter than extremely hot, hot! A pinpoint droplet taste was more than enough for me!

Some may recall that another distillery is a must visit when we are “in the area”. Stay tuned for “Charleston Part II” to see how we managed it this time.

 

 

Happy Nomads have Boring Blog

Warship on our tail.. might be due to our zooming to get past him

Warship on our tail.. might be due to our zooming to get past him

In the end, Matthew was a non-event for us and probably for most cruisers north of Beaufort, NC. Boring I know. And I’ll spoil things for you and say that nothing exciting has happened since then either. However; we’ve experienced the longest stretch of settled weather ever during a fall or spring trip. Summer not included. Beautiful to travel or to stay put and explore. Often we need to choose one, but ever since Matthew departed and cleared out all the bad stuff, we have been happy cruisers. Sure, a mild cold front or two has come by; short-lived and we just stayed put someplace protected and turned the air conditioner to Heat mode.

Our primary form of entertainment is reading about, listening to and hearing about all the problems that the thousands of snowbird cruisers could, might or have encountered. Maybe entertained isn’t the proper word, but it has kept us interested and given us each lots to check into. Now that we have a semi-decent over the air antenna, when we get somewhere (anchored, mooring or dock) we turn on the TV and it will scan for available stations. We kept up with national, local and hurricane news during our nine days in Hampton, VA.

Matthew dumped record-breaking inches of water inland in South Carolina and parts of North Carolina. The devastation of the after-effect flooding is heart-breaking. Low areas, primarily west of the ICW at Myrtle Beach, namely Socastee, have seen the highest level of flooding ever recorded there. Flood stage is 11ft- the water rose to 19ft!! (Oct 17) (last yr when we went thru it was 16ft) The bad part was the delayed flooding. The first flooding happened during and right after Matthew; low opening bridges remained closed, people moved their cars to higher ground, some evacuated.

The waters receded but not for long when millions of gallons arrived as all the inland rivers brought their accumulated waters closer to shore. Historic flooding took many by surprise. Footage on the local news stations showed homes with water lapping at kitchen counter tops! Many were rescued in small boats. One story told of a couple who each kayak to their workplace.  Snowbirds were pretty much, but not entirely, stuck in the area of North Myrtle and Myrtle Beach ICW thanks to the Socastee Swing Bridge refusing to swing.

Between information coming from cruisers and locals on the ActiveCaptain FB Group and Dockwa.com setting up a page for a listing of the status of marinas, bridges and waterways, it’s very easy to keep up to date on conditions. We contributed info as we headed out ahead of the Snowbird Rendezvous boats as well as the thundering herd still barreling down the Chesapeake.  Fears of debris laden waters really didn’t materialize, at least not for us. If you are a power boat making your first trip you might not have realized the water was a bit higher than usual. (as I write this we are in Carolina Beach so I am talking about north of us). Masted vessels had to worry about reduced clearance at the fixed bridges but most got through fine with 63ft since up thata way there’s little to no tide range.

We’ve been taking things kinda slow. Last year we left Tracey’s Landing, MD Oct 26!  This year our blood must have thinned out; Russ says we need to get going to keep warm and stay ahead of that herd. The other day the Socastee opened and now we will push on.

Starting in Norfolk/Portsmouth- let’s take you along.

Tug with two barges- one on each side

Tug with two barges- one on each side, a unusual sight

We thought other PDQs might be around based on what we’d heard in Hampton, and then we saw two at a marina in Portsmouth. Still, we were surprised to see this as we approached Buck Island, that being basically marsh grass allowed us to see across it to where these two sat comfortably tucked in. Yes we went up and said Hello but didn’t become a 3 boat raft-up!

PDQ anchorage south of Coinjock south side Buck Island

PDQ anchorage south of Coinjock, NC south side Buck Island

Our next multi-day stop was Belhaven, NC. Calm conditions allowed us and others to anchor in the harbor and let others shell out $ for a slip.

More motors anchored at Belhaven than sailboats

More motors anchored at Belhaven than sailboats

This active plant was within eyesight but not especially noisy nor did it spew ugly, smelly exhaust but we were curious as to just what they were up to.

Perdue Grain & Oilseed Plant

Perdue Grain & Oilseed Plant

A very short stones throw past the Perdue plant is the town’s free dock; not to be confused with the Wynne’s Gut Town Dock which you pay to use. We watched a few boats approach to check this out, but they must surely have gagged like we did. One boat claimed bravery. That night a tug and barge arrived at the plant, using a giant spotlight to get close; surprise!

Free dock at Belhaven is COVERED with bird poop. In good condition but who'd use it? Not close to town

Free dock at Belhaven is COVERED with bird poop. In good condition but who’d use it? Not close to town

Belhaven gets high marks for being boater friendly. Walking around town (about 2 blocks worth) we ran into Diana, grand poohba with Chamber of Commerce and she presented us with a welcome bag full of local info and things to know about the town.  She didn’t recognize us so that meant we must be cruisers!  In a town of 1,600, you know people. We walked to a Walgreens and on the way back met a couple of men; we chatted about current events and then one presented me with a rose. Told how it came from bushes at the home of a man who recently passed away and he thought it a shame not to share the roses.

Spoon River had only re-opened today after being closed six days thanks to Matthew. No water flooded in, but some did drip in from the roof so they painted. Theresa (owner) took care of us (and all the other patrons I’m sure) that night by not only ensuring awesome cocktails but a free glass of wine with dinner.

Creative craft libations at Spoon River

Creative craft libations at Spoon River

Diana welcomed us!!

Diana welcomed us!!

Across the street sits The Tavern at Jack’s Neck. Along with Belle Porte and Matcha Pungo, Jack’s Neck was once the name of Belhaven.  This visit we had time to dine at Jack’s and while they lacked a cocktail menu🙂, the food and service was very good and next time we may order one of the yummy pizzas. The woodwork dazzled!

The Tavern at Jack's Neck

The Tavern at Jack’s Neck. Do you know the purpose of the wood covered openings in the brick?

Next stop- Oriental, NC. More lovely, good to anchor anywhere weather. Happy nomads we!

img_2914-800x550

Looking toward the Oriental Inn & Marina from the Provision Company

Since our last stop the shorter walk Town & Country Market had closed, thanks to a Wal-Mart Express that ruined business. But then the WM Express closed! Leaving the town without a local grocery store. Piggly Wiggly to the rescue!  Although we had a longer walk (no problem, we need the exercise), the store was worth it. Very well and creatively stocked.

Come evening, decisions, decisions. We chose O’Town for dinner and planned lunch the next day (Monday) at Toucan at the marina. We’ve toured the Woodchuck Cidery with Benj & Lily in Middlebury, so Russ said “why not?”. Yay, he likes it!

Hard Cider time at O'Town Cafe

Hard Cider time at O’Town Cafe

Unfortunately, Toucan is not open on Monday, a fact we overlooked when we popped in to check it out on Sunday. Next time.

We are as guilty as the next boat of stopping at the same places you know and like; one less worry. But, what about adventure and finding new favorites? This trip, mostly thanks to Matthew, we had or would make a few new stops, Homer Smith Docks being one of them. Tucked in a basin on the north side of Beaufort, NC (like bow tie, bow) this marina hasn’t quite been discovered yet but it will. Once the home of large and smaller shrimpers, it now has just the smaller ones with new docks for seasonal and guest boats. Floating docks a huge plus and what we prefer.

Tony lets you take his pickup for errands, so off we went for a quick trip to Morehead City and the Harris Teeter.

Seafood and Dockage- clean docks, office, laundry & shower

Seafood and Dockage- clean docks, office, laundry & shower

I was apprehensive when we first stepped into the building as it definitely was a seafood place with wet cement floors and that telltale aroma. But the office, laundry, bathroom, shower were all to the right behind doors and very, very clean. Free laundry BTW. New front loaders, table to fold on, chair to relax in. Works for me.

Fresh shrimp coming in!

Fresh shrimp coming in!

 

Shrimp! at Homer Smiths

Shrimp! at Homer Smith’s. If I told you the super shrimp deal they might stop doing it!

 

Could this be ice? bbrrrr

Could this be ice? bbrrrr

Just come in and shovel up what you need!

Just come in and shovel up what you need!

No worries, we tossed the ice. We had originally planned to stay a while and Traveling Soul would catch up, but a good offshore day was coming up so we only stayed one night.

Beaufort bascule- soon to be gone

Beaufort bascule- soon to be gone. Cruisers may be more inclined to come here then.

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Dredging on Beaufort channel edge on our way to Wrightsville Beach

Dredging on Beaufort channel edge on our way to Wrightsville Beach

 

Dyad stands out in the crowd

Dyad stands out in the crowd. They took our spot too- but we found a better one.

Carolina Beach is 11nm south of Wrightsville and we love it for many reasons; good moorings, protected, long beach, dining, and all that a popular seaside town has to offer… like doughnuts!! Yes, Britts is closed for the season but Wake N Bake suffices very well. Did that walk Sunday then picked up a few things at Food Lion next door where I was handed two pink carnations.🙂

More pro every time

More pro every time. Easy in light winds, not so in 10+

 

Wave coming atcha birdie

Wave coming atcha birdie

The waves brought in more foam than we ever typically see.  Oh, did you know that if the foam is brownish you might not want it on you?  Yikes, that’d be due to waste material in the water. Another hurricane not so fun fact.

Russ gathers foamy footware

Russ gathers foamy footware… maybe not a good idea we later learned

 

While on the other side TW floats peacefully on Mooring #1

While on the other side Twins floats peacefully on Mooring #1

Matthew somehow, we couldn’t figure out how exactly, did a number on the railings of the ramp. Other than that, the docks the ramp all perfectly safe. The town spent money and materials to fence off the ramp entrance and the yellow tape thing too, but hey we need some excitement!

We walked a short ways to the Surf House for a tasty meal, crafted cocktails using amazing ingredients (read: we had no clue as to what they were) and on Wed and Thurs 1/2 price oysters and $8 burgers. Yes, there are those (we’ve met them, heard them on VHF) who are hell-bent on getting south quickly and if not for an insurance limit (i.e, Brunswick Nov 1) would be crossing to the Bahamas by now!  We still have roses to smell and places to visit.

Being bad

Calm Days Before the “Storm”: 9/24 – 10/7

Confident paddler- and yes the board needs more air

Confident paddler- and yes the board needs more air

Oh give me a home where the paddle boards roam and the waters are calm all day; Where seldom is heard, “Oh crap I fell in”, and the SeaDoos don’t come out and play.

Yes, we know a place like that; Harness Creek off the South River next to Quiet Waters Park. We’d anchored there for nearly a week 5 years ago for weather and to get Ms. Ortolan’s screecher repaired after Russ lost the race with s/v Pride of Baltimore off New Jersey.🙂

And first off a few good boat pics as we headed down the Bay.

Time to clean

Time to clean. Too messy and LOUD to do at the dock.

We keep out of the channel, which is for the big ships, but at one point just before I took this shot, it sure looked like we’d be meeting up head on. The day was overcast and not very pleasant so we were surprised to find lots of local boats anchored in Harness Creek.

Perspective- 600ft vs 27ft

Perspective- 600ft vs 27ft. Prometheus Leader – probably a car carrier, left a negligible wake. Good boy

Sunday was sorta warm and quiet pleasant so why not practice? In the top part of the photo you can see the yellow rental kayaks, (SUPs too) at the floating dock. It’s where you can leave your dinghy to walk through the park.

Looking good!!

Looking good!!

The resident blue heron kept me busy but I missed a good in-flight shot.dsc04099-800x584

Monday brought breezy and a chance of showers but we bravely walked through the park headed for lunch at Main Ingredient, another great dining spot only one mile away.

Deer show no fear as we walk through Quiet Waters Park

Deer show no fear as we walk through Quiet Waters Park

Because Main Ingredient also caters, the dessert offerings are extensive and from our booth I could hear them calling out to us. The Andes (Mint) chocolate multi-layer cake served us for two dinner desserts.  We share.🙂

Lunch at Main Ingredient. Tempting desserts taunted us from our booth

Lunch at Main Ingredient. Tempting desserts taunted us from our booth

Next stop Solomons, where we’d re-connect with our friends Mike & Ann of Traveling Soul, now also owners of a beautiful condo unit. Spot was more active than we usually have seen her, as she’s got more leg room (even though Traveling Soul is a large Defever motoryacht) and an attentive audience.

Spot is mezmerized by the garbage disposal

Spot is fascinated by the garbage disposal, but you should have seen her with the Soda Stream!

Do you know you can grow more romaine lettuce from the ends?  Ann told me you just do like in the photo below and soon you will have more for your money. Nice uh?

The lettuce whisperer

The lettuce whisperer: growing more from the bottom hearts

We were invited not only for dinner and Vodka & Tonics made with Ann’s magical formula homemade tonic, but to do a load of laundry. I know some of you can’t imagine how great that was, but it was pretty special.

My best new laundry helper

My best new laundry helper

We got to spend three nights at Calvert Marina (same place as this past June), but they were booked for the weekend due to the upcoming Krogen Rendezvous and a Defever Rendezvous after that. Rain was the word, especially Wednesday which of course was errand day. Ann took me to shop and we both got some things off our lists.

After leaving the dock we moved less than 1/8 mile up Back Creek to anchor. The wind was still honkin’ in the Bay although we felt little all tucked in, and rain came and went through Saturday evening. During our Solomons stay the wind display function on our wireless weather station crapped out. I don’t think you will be surprised to learn that the one year warranty recently passed.

The last hurrah of a line of scattered heavy rain. Was so narrow you could see brightness beyond.

 

Behind the trees and tall flag pole is Mike & Ann's Solomons Landing condo

Behind the trees and tall flag pole is Mike & Ann’s Solomons Landing condo complex.

Early on during our Solomons stay we began reading about Tropical Storm / Hurricane Matthew. The models disagreed, the spaghetti strands fanned out like octopus tentacles and we devised several plans, each based on severity and guestimate location of the storm as it headed up this way.

Top Rack was a planned stop for diesel and dining but they’d kick us out if a hurricane warning was in effect, so we had to cancel. I mean did we want to just assume we could find room at a protected marina close by? Not many choices for those.

One option was to head way up the Potomac as far in as possible; either find an acceptable anchorage or protected marina with floating docks.

One suggested marina could only offer us the outside of a T head, so even though it was a floating dock we declined and kept calling.

Then I came across Sunset Boating Center in Hampton, VA. Up the Hampton River and down a dead end canal, it met all our criteria.

We arrived on Monday Oct 3, well ahead of the very slow moving hurricane. The NE Bay winds were forecast to pick up mid week so why endure a rough trip when we can avoid it?

Never visited Hampton before, so a few days of settled weather allowed us to explore by dinghy and by land.

Sunset Boating Center- no frills lots of protection. Before removing cushions and closing bimini top

Sunset Boating Center- no frills lots of protection. Before removing cushions and closing bimini top

Over by the side street entrance sits the Barking Dog where we ate dinner. Casual atmosphere as you can see. Hot dogs, several types of sausage grinders are menu’s focus but they also make a fantastic crab cake-super thick and virtually all crab. Hush puppies were great too.

Fantastic friendly service at The Barking Dog

Fantastic friendly service at The Barking Dog. Our waitress was an 11 on a scale of 1 to 10!

Tuesday morning we walked approximately 1/2 mile to a nearby Food Lion. At the checkout the woman ahead of us pegged us for boaters (lugging a cooler bag) and offered us a ride back. She told us of a great dining spot downtown, “next to Goodys” with pizza, tapas and more. She even gave us her name and phone number should we need anything.

After stashing the groceries we head for downtown and well what do you know? we stumble (ya right) upon a doughnut place. If you dinghy up the Hampton River to Hampton Public Piers there’s a place to tie up and walk one block to downtown Hampton. The area is small but has many restaurants, a few gift shops, the Air & Space Museum Hampton History Museum, water access, tour boats and a restored carousel.

We easily scout out the dounut shop, but alas closed Tuesdays

We easily scout out the donut shop, but alas closed Tuesdays

Intersection of Queen & King

Intersection of Queen & King

We find Goodys and next door is Venture. (hidden behind the trees)  The posted cocktail menu was all we needed to lure us in. Priced to entice with Classic and Crafted Cocktails averaging $7, you can see below these were not eensy teensy drinks.

One size crafted pizzas made with their own dough, sandwiches, salads and seafood; tapas items served starting at 4pm. But what are Tots? Our waitress- phenomenal- plopped down this free sample. Cook potatoes and skins, add just the right amount of seasoning, spread in a jelly roll pan, chill, cut into small squares and fry em up fresh!!  Served with a side of spicy mayo, they were out of this world delicious. Some entrees are served with a side of Tots but you can also order them as an appetizer.

Venture's signature Tots- to die for

Venture’s signature Tots- to die for

Another great spot with a view! Excellent menu and cocktails too!!

Another great spot with a view!

 

This gorgeous restored carousel has a Connecticut connection

This gorgeous restored carousel has a Connecticut connection

 

Reminds me of the carousels at Quassy, Watch Hill and Greenport (especially)

Reminds me of the carousels at Quassy (CT), Watch Hill (RI) and Greenport (NY) (especially)

Each day small boats arrived to be hauled out and placed into rack storage. We had a front row view. The only other transient boat here was the blue sailboat you can see a bit of in the below photo.

Lifting up and into storage building

Lifting up and into storage building

Matthew was due to be at its closest to us sometime Saturday night-ish, and Friday’s weather was pleasant so why not one more trip into town? This time we walked and before ending up at Venture for an early dinner, we popped into the Hampton History Museum for a side of culture.

At this point any of our considered options would have been fine, even Top Rack but we were happy with Sunset as many days in a slip can add up those $$$$ and this place was “B2G1F” and only $1/night for 30amp power (only had 30amp). It’s a smaller boat place lacking nice scenery; even across the water is a huge barge. But the power was great; many places cause our ground fault warning to sound, the wi-fi worked well and we could easily get to downtown,groceries, pharmacies and yes, ok doughnuts!

Thank you to all who checked on us. :-)   Next up; fun times during and after Matthew.