It’s the Bahamas, mon!

img_3892-800x579In a nutshell: settled weather, cold front, mostly settled, calm, cold front: repeat. Projects in paradise, cell phone works or maybe not. Wifi- oh yes, then oh no. Island Life and if you remember to set your clock to island time, it’s all good.

Our first time in the Bahamas (2011-2012) I don’t recall what we did for phone service but it wasn’t much. We had Sirius/XM weather on the chartplotter and at times would hear weather reports along the way. Wi-fi was readily available at many places: marinas, cafes, and laundromats. In George Town we’d lug our laptop in to town and pay for wi-fi where you could sit and plug in for a while.

Then the Bahamas began making cell service and data more readily available, so if you replaced your SIM card with a Bahamian one you could buy phone and data time. Kinda pricey but easier and not as much need to dinghy in with that oversized laptop. Then we took a year off and RV cruised so the Bahamas could make more progress. Last winter (2015-16) we landed in Bimini and purchased a SIM card for my cell phone which I inherited from Cap’n Russ who got an iPhone 6 that fall. That gave us a Bahamas phone number. Local calls run 15cents/minute for outgoing and incoming local calls are free.  You can text locally too for dirt cheap.

How it works is that you put money on your account, which is a two-part deal; one is calling and the other is data (web, email, local texting). That worked well for us. If you are brave you can try to keep that same phone number alive by putting $5 every month or so on your account. When you return next time and exchange the US phone chip for the Bahamas one, you hope it all works…. and it did! We then put more money on so we could have 5gig of data to use. This data used to expire in 30 days but now it’s longer; a nice improvement on the part of BTC.  You can check your balance easily and Russ keeps track of both balances; calling and data. Good thing too.

In the middle of a call to Marsh Harbour Marina, the call drops and my attempts to call back elicit a voice message insisting we have a lack of funds. This being only my second call since arrival, with an account balance of $13.93, no way did we spend more than $2 so far. Sigh. Russ emails BTC and two days later, no reply but our account now has $13.  Who knows what happened, but I’m not asking.

With two weeks until our marina reservation and three until the best thing a New Year could bring (wanna guess??) we had plenty of time to work our way east from Green Turtle Cay before ending up in Marsh Harbour.

WOW! A newly paved road. Never seen this before in Bahamas

WOW! A newly paved road. Never seen this before in Bahamas. Green Turtle is happy!!!

We walked around the settlement (beaches too), checking out the lobster dinner specials, purchasing the always beautiful Bahamas calendar and spending over $7 for a pineapple. Oh and then add 7.5% VAT ( which is really a sales/use tax on just about everything). Not sure how the average Bahamian affords food, household goods, etc.

Church

New Plymouth , Green Turtle Cay. Church looking festive.

 

A real fixer upper

A real fixer upper, ready to fall any moment

After the winds abated we waved good-bye to Green Turtle Cay.  No turtles spotted; however we did see a Swallowtail Kite. (no, not a kite; the bird)

We managed “Don’t Rock” passage without hitting the rock or the sandy bottom :-), walked the beautiful beach at Treasure Cay and ended up anchored in Fishers’ Bay at Great Guana Cay; all in one day, making water along the way. After a tasty lunch at Grabbers and perhaps just a tad too many sips of their signature drink- what else? The Grabber, we walked through the settlement. Alas, no Milo in his little yellow shack (rumors of his demise may or may not be true) and Dive Guana has moved to a huge space at Settlement Harbor from many years at Fisher’s Bay. Troy says in addition to more rental boats he will be selling fish and lobster.

Feral cats- dontyou hiss at me

Feral cats- don’t you hiss at me. Yes, I fed them some grouper scraps.

 

Home built power cat- they can beach it,

Home built power cat- they can beach it, but wow it sure is small.

 

Fishers Bay sunset & sv Aquila

Fishers Bay sunset & sv Aquila

Russ managed to squeeze in some paddle board time in between, let’s call it,”trying to diagnose and fix our watermaker stench”. The ferry route goes in between Sandy Cay and Garden Cay, off Man o’ War and what great timing to be there as the ferry zooms by. Russ went from standing to sitting in an eye blink.dsc04373-800x476

After a one night stop off Man 0′ War we headed into Hope Town for four nights. Pick a mooring, any mooring! Woo Hoo! Not exactly empty but plenty of moorings available from all of the various places. We like to support Truman (Lucky Strike) who has a sparkling reputation for well-maintained moorings; look for the double green floats and plop the loops one to each bow cleat and you are golden.

Thursday was night #2 of a three night run of the St James Players’ “Christmas in Bethlehem Gulch”. Tickets an affordable $10 and a chance to check out the newly completed Community Center; was good to get into the spirit. Lots of singing and no shortage of “the true meaning of Christmas” in the story which takes place “out west”.

The girl below couldn’t bring herself to wave her hand through the flame even though I showed her how. Smart kid to be wary.

Torch lights path to community center as we head in for the play- Christmas in Bethlehem Gulch

Torch lights path to community center as we head in for the play- Christmas in Bethlehem Gulch

The cast of 50+ hardly fit on the stage. An excellent show.

Maine Cat has a new MC38. Read that it won best sailboat at the Newport Boat Show this year. We got a look when Captain Ron (Engle, not Rico) brought one in that will be in charter

Capn Ron brings in the new MC38, sv TinTin

Cap’n Ron brings in the new MC38, sv TinTin

The lighthouse was getting a glass facelift; soon she’s going to need repainting. The Saturday we were there (Dec 17) was not only a tiny farm market but the Lighthouse gift shop celebrated one year anniversary with 20% off. We did laundry over at the Lighthouse Marina, zooming over to the market and lighthouse to kill time in between. A very successful morning.

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Working on the glass panes

Working on the glass panes

A few years ago we rented a golf cart with Keith and Masha (his crew) to tour the beaches, bars (no ballads thank you) and scenery around Hope Town, further than one can easily walk. While the guys enjoyed a coldie at the Abaco Inn, Masha and I hunted for sea glass. I wanted a do-over of sorts, but the golf cart turned into two bicycles (it’s all flat he said) and we even forgot to bring water. But we did bike a few miles down to the beach near the Abaco Inn and collected a few handfuls of sea glass.

 

Biking. Too bad we didn't really stop at Firefly.

Biking- I survived. Too bad we didn’t really stop at Firefly.

Windy conditions persisted all weekend but Come Monday the wind backed way down; perfect to head down two miles to Tahiti Beach, and so we did, anchoring just above Bakers Rock and making water. We spent two nights, starting off each morning with a low tide beach walk that if you know me, was more of a slow stroll with a lot of stopping to pick up treasures. I was thrilled to find well tumbled sea glass pieces scattered about as if an Easter egg hunt for two-year-olds was taking place. Pretty shells and coral helped fill up the snack baggie I’d brought.

Did you know that beach walking is an acceptable way to work on your tan without appearing to do so? 🙂

Tahiti Beach

Tahiti Beach

Can you see the face!!?? Over Lubbers Quarters. A bit Grinch-y

Can you see the face!!?? Over Lubbers Quarters. A bit Grinch-y

Matt Lowes Cay

Matt Lowes Cay- near Marsh. We spent a day to make water and relax.

Matt Lowes Cay- the ferries race each other

Matt Lowes Cay- the ferries race each other. Wait for me, wait for me, wait for me, Hope Town Ferry!

Thursday Dec 22 found us anchored in Marsh Harbour and Russ with a loudly complaining lower back. The walk up to Maxwell’s ruined him terribly, but we managed a short trip in again to A&K Liquor Store.

Friday morning we fueled up at Marsh Harbour Marina (& Jib Room) and our C-6 slip was perfect for us. I even got to practice lassoing the pilings. Ok, so we won’t give up on anchoring. 🙂 The electric worked wonderfully and was metered. Solar helped keep the dial from turning too fast. Water is take it or not at $5/day. Pricey, uh? We stayed 10 days. Used lots of water but since it’s well water with bleach we couldn’t put any in our tank. It’s easy to bypass though, just attach our water hose to the dohickey at the stern, turn off the internal water pump and voila! you are using water that’s not from your tank…. and you don’t have to listen to the pump noise!!

I’d tell more about our pleasant stay but then I’d have to relate another biking story where I agreed to go to one place but since it was closed, why not ride just 1.5 miles more to Maxwells, the big grocery, and sure we know the way and who cares if  the roads are narrow, the drivers crazy and my bike has a floppy pedal? So yea, you don’t need to hear all that. :-), so how about this:

Wishing everyone a Happy, Healthy, Blessed New Year. And remember, “Don’t be mean in 2017”.

Dec 7 & 8: About as good as it gets

Sunrise over Great Sale Cay 7am

Sneak peek sunrise over Great Sale Cay Thurs Dec 8th

As crossings go, I don’t think anyone needed weather guru Chris Parker to say “favorable for all interests.” Tuesday was spent in last minute preparations, like calling AT&T to get this year’s scoop on temporary rate suspension. This is never an easy call; usually the help person has no clue what this is, but this time she did and Russ navigated his way through with the help of last year’s notes. We even received a $60 refund of erroneous charges from last winter.  We don’t make the suspension official until we are past the inlet and on our way. Then Russ calls and can wrap things up very quickly thanks to documentation in our AT&T file from the prior call.

I’d balked at leaving from Ft Pierce because, “I had a bad experience.” (you must say those words slowly, a la Italian Job)  However the winds were right, the current was ebbing out but not at max and well, we really didn’t have much choice! A couple of other boats were around but not going east, so it was just ‘lil ole Twin Sisters by herself in that big ocean.

Seas were pleasant at 1-2ft but more in the Gulf Stream, as expected, but not awful by any stretch. The worst was the wake from a huge container ship heading north to Norfolk. Miles of ocean and we have to cross paths. We’d slowed down for a few minutes, crossing well astern and at least one mile away, but that wake was monstrous and Russ said we came within inches of burying the bows.(not a good thing) I was bracing myself down below; my clue that something was up was that we’d slowed from 12ts to 3kts in a heartbeat. Yikes.

As sunset approached we raised our yellow quarantine flag, snapped a few photos and ate our chicken salad dinner. The moon would light our way until we anchored in a few hours.

Two and 1/2 hrs from Great Sale. Dinner time!

Two and 1/2 hrs from Great Sale Cay. Dinner time!

Exactly 12 hours after tossing off the mooring lines we dropped anchor on the west shore of Great Sale Cay, an uninhabited cay that is highly used as a stopping place. Yes, it was dark, or nearly. The ½ moon provided enough light to see and we got settled without any shouting, one sailboat neighbor near us; the other 5-6 anchored up inside Northwest Harbor. Yep cuz it’s going be windy tonight- not.

We’d gone 130 nm today. Felt fortunate and very blessed. A little relieved too, because Thursday would be only 54nm and then we’d be in a safe harbor for the nasty winds.

Sunrise was a delight, the virtually non-existent breeze allowed the water to lie flat and reflective. Was perhaps the best sunrise and travel day ever.

Where sky meets water at the peaceful time of day in paradise

Where sky meets water at the peaceful time of day in paradise

 

Peek a boo, I see you Mr Sun

Peek a boo, I see you Mr Sun

I don’t recall very many days like this one, where the morning sky and water are one. Being on the open water helps. 🙂

boats several miles behind us- water was truly that flat

Boats several miles behind us- water was truly that flat

Light and variable; ideal conditions for anchoring anywhere, for motoring effortlessly and as a precursor to a cold front, aka Norther. But the crappy weather was a day away, today we are loving it. Calmer than calm. Gail of m/v Orient Express would say, “a toe nail painting day.”

Our destination: Green Turtle Cay and a mooring in Black Sound, then clear in!

P.S.- be sure to say Cay as if spelled “key”. 🙂

Vero Beach – again??

Some things are too good to give up and a secure mooring in a protected “harbor” with easy access to free public transportation is frequently high on most cruisers’ want lists. Add in a large floating dinghy dock, lots of washers and dryers, dog park, other parks and a great Saturday Farm Market reachable via bus or walking and is it any wonder Vero has earned the nickname Velcro Beach?

Travel day two after St Augustine would take us through Mosquito Lagoon which, you may recall, is loaded with dolphin and manatees. A few years ago we encountered Vicki and Del in their outrigger canoe- if you missed that post- click here. We’d anchored in Rockhouse Creek Friday night, with an enchanting (can you tell I need new adjectives?) view of the Ponce inlet and lighthouse. S/v Ti Matou arrived and popped over for a boat look-see and I do believe our cleats and chocks were admired for the very first time 🙂   Ok- so Mosquito Lagoon begins about five miles south of Rockhouse Creek and very soon after we upped anchor we see a small-ish center console with what looked to be a- oh wait- it’s an outrigger canoe and it’s Vicki and Del!! Too bad they were headed in the other direction.

The effects of hurricane Matthew appeared everywhere we traveled. Boats washed up on shore, docks destroyed and that’s just what we could see.

Probably not quite the hidey hole he wanted

Probably not quite the hidey hole he wanted

Another pretty sunset- this one along the Indian River from our causeway anchorage

We wanted to stop at Melbourne Beach and walk in to our favorite beach market so we braved the windy forecast and formulated a plan to stop and still get to Vero before things got too nasty. The plan was perfect, only when twins approached the pier we could see that there would be no going ashore to the market for this crew.

We landed at VBCM at 12:30 and got the last/only open mooring ball. All balls full and many rafted. Still not as full as you’d find right before and at Thanksgiving.

Almost all orders are in!

Almost all orders are in!

Note the long, narrow box- what might that hold? Fishing rod???

New flag on a polished pole

New flag on a polished pole

How many trips to Publix? Let me count. Four? Between that and everything else, our waterline was low, very low.  Friday Dec 2 was the local boat parade, one of at least 32 throughout Florida. The parade in 2010 was twice the number of boats as this year and larger too, but it was fun to see and we had an ideal perch to watch the boats.  And, for the first time since our first rafting in 2010, we had a raft buddy who we didn’t know. Nice folks on Cruisin’Cat– new owners of only two weeks! Boy do they have a lot to do,as we can attest to.

The largest boat brings up the rear

The largest boat brings up the rear

Our friends on Traveling Soul surprised us and came in to another Vero Beach marina, so we made lunch plans and to check out Holiday activities at the nearby Vero Beach Museum of Art.

Stars on the bow tips

Stars on the bow tips- so sweet. Can you see them?

Adding some class to our lives. Note the painting is of a wreck; not my idea of a fun time

Many boats took a favorable crossing window on Thursday Dec 1; we hoped for one as good. But first we had Dentist appts on Monday Dec 5 before we could leave. Wed, Dec 7 began to look appealing so we finished up our preparations and devised two plans; one would be an overnight if the weather window shortened on us.

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.