Charleston: we gonna make it?

View of Charleston along the Ashley as seen from our off-channel anchoring spot

View of Charleston along the Ashley as seen from our off-channel anchoring spot

Weather, tide, wishes and desires often clash but those little bits and pieces can be reassembled into a crew-acceptable plan that often equals or exceeds expectations. Our next real stop after the New River was Beaufort, SC (you said, “Bew”, right?)   Pleasant, low wind days remained in the forecast, but not for much longer. Rain and thunderstorms were headed our way from the Gulf of Mexico. Since our silly crystal ball had rolled overboard, we couldn’t be sure exactly when; Tues? Wed?

Several decisions needed to be made. Stay in Beaufort until after the “event” or get to Charleston before things got nasty. Can be a one day trip between the two cities but we had a tide problem at the Ashepoo-Coosaw Cutoff (love those names) and that would make our trip take two 6-hour days. We wanted spend up to ta week in Charleston and with no east winds forecasted for a darn long time, the Charleston Maritime Center (where we usually stay) was ideal, but we needed to reserve ahead to ensure we got the spot we wanted.

Rolled the dice and it came up Wednesday. Called, booked and see you then. One night in Beaufort, alas. Walking a mile and ½ to a BI-LO was “fun” but a former boater took pity on us and offered a ride back. The closer Piggly-Wiggly (not much closer though) had closed down 2 mos ago.

Days after I took this shot Russ read that the entire structure was sunk 50 miles offshore as a memorial to two fishermen

Days after I took this shot Russ read that the entire structure (barge and containers) would be sunk 50 miles offshore as part of an extensive memorial reef

Monday we arrived in Charleston. Our original plan to anchor in Church Creek got scratched when we read that the area was covered with crab pots; when we went by it sure looked very full but we met a boat who said they anchored there. Wed was starting to sound really nasty so we contacted Maritime to see if we could come in early. A boat was in that spot but due to leave today so we headed in and found two alternative spots to anchor.

By noon the wind was kickin’ up from the south which isn’t a big deal unless the place you want to drop anchor has a strong current running opposite. Our spot was off the ICW in the Stono River, near St John’s Yacht Harbor. A couple other local boats were anchored in that general area. Anchor went down and we started eating lunch. Uh oh. “Are we dragging?” Yes. We engaged in a rapid-fire discussion of who was to do what because with the strong wind and current, trading jobs would be best. Moved about a boat length further from shore and when Russ pulled back, it sure looked to me like he was just pulling that anchor right along with us. I could see us getting closer to shore and after one more pull I shouted, “We gotta go!!” So we did and moved to the opposite shore further past the marina and the high bridge next to it.

Another check-in with Maritime because now we weren’t sure we wanted to be anchored stern-to the shore when the wind kicked up to lord knows what- 25? Our third and last spot was just off the south channel (ICW) that runs along the peninsula that is historic downtown Charleston. Shallow water in front of us would minimize fetch and we could drag a long ways before hitting land. Plus, maybe just maybe we could get in to the marina Tuesday morning. Wrong.

We finally gave up on the boat who was “waiting for his captain” (even the marina wasn’t buying that story), called the marina best protected from the wind and waves and you might guess which one that was; St John’s Yacht Harbor. They had the perfect slip for us and all we had to do was backtrack 4nm, passing through the Wappoo Creek bascule bridge AGAIN and power our way through Elliot Cut where a 3kt current would be fighting us for a long ¼ mile.

Wappoo Creek Bridge taken from the Charleston Crab House on a May 5- a 92 degree day with a glorious breeze :-)

Wappoo Creek Bridge taken from the Charleston Crab House on a May 5- a 92 degree day with a glorious breeze 🙂

The Captain executed a flawless stern-in docking and we were all smiles as Beau and James caught and tied our lines; finally snug into a slip- one very close to shore. Nice. Quite a few other cruising boats were here too and we chatted with a group up at the Stono Breeze. We reserved an Enterprise rental car for Friday – Monday but until then could use the marina’s loaner van for up to two hours. As much as we like Maritime’s spot-on downtown location, this marina was going to be even better, plus excellent wi-fi and cable TV so we could watch the Derby on Saturday and The Mentalist Sunday night. 🙂

Shopping can be so easy with a car

Shopping can be so easy with a car

We are about to get nailed with the dark red blobs with purple centers

We are about to get nailed by the red blobs with purple centers. Once or twice at least

The nasty wind, rain, thunder and lightning came and went; everyone none the worse for it and happy with the lovely, dry, warm and getting warmer days afterward.

Advertisements

Breakin’ Away

A classic sailboat sunset at Great Sale Cay

A classic sailboat sunset at Great Sale Cay

Once we departed Allan’s-Pensacola Cay, it was the beginning of the end. From this point we’d be working our way west, only this time, with so many favorable crossing days, we planned to not do an overnight. 🙂 This would be a welcome change from years prior when we quickly got our act together and crossed over 200 nm in one fell-swoop.

Paul Simon assures us that there’s 50 ways to leave your lover, well let me assure you that nearly as many ways exist to leave the Bahamas! Given our current state of drunkenness, we used the 3-step method of ever-increasing daily distances. Not only would this keep us in the Bahamas just a little while longer; we’d also score pirate points by staying past the 120 days Mr Grumpy allowed on our visa. The boat gets one year, but we don’t; however you can extend your time by visiting a nearby customs/immigration office right before (not sooner!) your time expires.

Step One: sail to Great Sale Cay from Allan’s-Pensacola. 30nm, 85% sailed. Gorgeous, low humidity day. Cleaned and began to pack away my beach treasures. Great Sale is three miles long and its main purpose (maybe only) is to provide anchoring protection. Winds out of the east through south allow you to use the north side; just pull up and drop the hook in the area noted on the chart as “good holding.” By nightfall nine boats were comfortably nestled in for the night. Or so we thought. Anchoring etiquette notwithstanding, common courtesy should come into play, not to mention common sense.

In the middle of the night a boat dropped their anchor and noisy chain about two boat lengths off our starboard (sleeping) side. What was wrong with our plenty-of-room port side? Or farther behind us? I bet others lost some sleep too. In the morning, we noted the boat name, Bad Betty! Darn right she is. Too funny. Close enough to hear them talking, I had no trouble seeing the captain remove the steering wheel; “bad wheel, you made me get too close!”

Step Two: sail to a banks anchorage in the Goodwill Channel approx. one mile above West End, Grand Bahama. 48nm, 81% sailed. Another lovely day with an accurate forecast. Watched several boats (all monohulls here except us) raise anchor, raise main, turn about 60 degrees south and head off. Would have been our MO too, if not for too close s/v Bad Betty.

After raising the anchor- oh let me backtrack a second- sometimes the anchor comes up with gobs of sand that takes a few minutes to rinse off, so Russ lets the anchor dangle then finishes bringing it up and securing it. I make sure to proceed very slowly until the anchor is secure.

Ok, so we raise anchor and Russ comes back to the helm to help me reverse far enough so we have room to get the main up and turn behind BB. We make this happen successfully and get going on course. I hear a clanking noise and go into detective mode, first checking where the sound seemed to emanate from; the bow area. Uh oh. “Honey, the anchor is still down!!!” she cried out urgently. Well, not all the way, just still dangling in the water. Note: when you are old and deaf you shouldn’t go cruising.

Several boats were ahead of us headed toward West End, maybe the marina, maybe to anchor in a bit of land lee on the banks just above West End. One was way behind.

Find the blue A; that's about where we spent the night. Alone with no other boats to worry about

Find the blue A; that’s about where we spent the night. Alone with no other boats to worry about

Our selected spot was going to look and feel very weird; dropping the hook practically in the middle of nowhere in shallow water with the Atlantic Ocean (Straits of Florida) one mile away. This was preferable to anchoring about 10nm further north on the banks at Memory Rock with no land in sight and no shallows to cradle you. The wind would settle in around 8-10kts but then pick up during the night (sure, why not?) so that we’d be seeing 14-16kts into the early morning hours.

Anchored in Goodwill Channel, looking Northeast at nothing but water

Anchored in Goodwill Channel, looking Northeast at nothing but water

Around 5:30 a sailboat came down Goodwill Channel and we watched her go around and enter the marina. Umm, s/v Bad Betty perhaps? Then we hear the dockmaster calling, “sailing vessel attempting to anchor in turning basin, this is Old Bahama Bay.” No reply. Again. No reply. Third time brings in that charm thing and s/v Bad Betty answers. Oh boy, the anchoring baddies. A very annoyed woman returns, “I guess we were mis-informed.” You know that tone of voice; I know it’s one I would be tempted to use, but know better. (at least not over the air waves) Then when she asks the dockage rate, the dockmaster says they don’t discuss rates over the radio. Can you picture the faces, screwed up, pissed off and steamin’ mad? Entertainment for the rest of us who enjoy a diversion from thinking about the upcoming night and the 80plus nm trip on Saturday.

A clear view in 5ft of water near sunset

A clear view in 5ft of water near sunset

Sunset off West End, Grand Bahama Island

Sunset off West End, Grand Bahama Island

Step Three: crossing to Ft Pierce, an 88nm trip that took 14 hours. About 6 hrs able to sail. We allowed 14 hours so that our coming in to the channel would not be right at full raging out ebb tide at over 2kts. This meant the alarm chimed at 4am; nice and dark with some West End land lights helping. Our path in was the same as we’d take back out to the channel that led from the banks into the ocean.

Having a path to follow when you can’t really see is immensely helpful. Within 10 minutes of raising the anchor (and securing it too!) we’d left the banks and were in open water, crossing through small breakers we knew were there, but we hardly felt them. By this time the wind was blowing around 16kts and the angle would give us an excellent sail. I always dread raising the main in the dark when I can’t see outside and can barely read the dimmed dials. But when you do this out on the open water, no other boats, land or objects close-by, the fact that you have to do this by instruments and the Captain’s direction only, is no big deal; it only feels that way.

We zoomed along between 8 and 10kts, hitting 10.4 for a few tense (only for me) seconds once. The swells were coming at our stern quarter, maybe 4ft high but a comfortable 10 seconds apart. No matter; I wasn’t too keen on looking. By sunrise, the wind dropped down and for much of the remainder of the day, was generally no more than 10kts- oh and it shifted, which made sailing very difficult.

Sunrise... and the seas are down, so too the wind and with it our speed

Sunrise… and the seas are down, so too the wind and with it our speed

The northward pull of the gulf stream means us slow boats need to set a course at least 20 degrees less than the 305 degree heading called for to get from West End to Ft Pierce. Sails up and down, in and out. Heading changes; yep at least 50.  An active day passes the time. A couple of hours out found us motoring in flat, calm seas as the ridge of whatever weather moved out, down, or away.

Did the flag exchange and when cell service was good enough, Russ called to clear us in. Easy. Switched the chip in my phone to remove the Bahamas one and put my U.S.one back in. We anchored for the night behind Causeway Island, the same place we left from on Dec 1.

Sunday would find us on a T-head at Ft Pierce City Marina. Hanging out to have our Frigoboat freezer repaired (please,please), re-provision, deal with misc chores and maybe some historic downtown sightseeing.

Mother Nature Has the Last Laugh

S/v Liberty Clipper and m/v SEALINK out of Nassau have wave protection at the government docks

S/v Liberty Clipper and m/v SEALINK out of Nassau have wave protection at the government docks

The different weather services can and do use different models to create their forecasts. Often two may agree but a third is somewhere out in left field. We always hope that when all the ones we use are in agreement, that they’ve nailed it.. because can they all be wrong???  Isn’t that a leading question? The answer is yes they can!!! And they were and we suffered… but not alone. Thursday was predicted by our two sources to be somewhere around 13-16kts, winds out of the SW, going to west and dropping way down as they clocked around to NW and then north.  Governor’s Harbor is exposed from WNW to NNW so we knew we’d be in for a certain amount of discomfort until the wind and waves moved north and then NE.

The trip began well enough at 8:15 as we began sailing right away in 10-12kts of SW winds. We wanted to sail the entire way before the wind dropped down too much. Oh what a joke. Within the first hour of the 3 ½ hour trip it became clear the forecast was oh so wrong. When the wind hit 20kts we reefed the jib and I began to envision a very unpleasant few minutes when the time came to drop the main. Have I mentioned that this process is not as simple as head into the wind and whoosh the main drops right down into the stack pack? Our speed often exceeded 8kts; great if we’d been racing, but funny, not single other boat departed Rock Sound.

A reasonably good-sized island, Levi Island sits a stone’s throw above the harbor and we briefly considered anchoring there for protection but with SW wind, it wasn’t any better than the harbor. We chose the lesser of the weevils, so we thought, and figured we could tuck in fairly close to shore in the southern corner. Wrong again. Some floating house raft thing with AIS named KhanTiki or something close to that, was anchored exactly where we wanted to be.

Never saw anyone aboard, but they had the best spot in the harbor. This was taken in calm conditions

Never saw anyone aboard, but they had the best spot in the harbor. This was taken in calm conditions

Anchoring with the shore at one’s stern is not desirable and we could have moved to Levi, but the forecast had promised the winds would lessen and so too would the large swells entering the medium-sized harbor. To make things more interesting, the charts indicated “poor holding” unless you could find a sandy spot or get closer to the beach where sand was abundant. Our first attempt was perfect; the anchor grabbed right away, but we found our stern in 4ft and that was not going to work since the swells caused a great deal of pitching which made the rudders touch bottom. We eyeballed a spot that looked sandy further away and dropped the hook. I’m at the bow as usual and if I hadn’t been so focused on doing my job I might have noticed how large the swells had become and how much we were bobbing up and down in them. This was a new one for the log book.

The anchor didn’t grab right away but then it seemed to hold fast and after I attached the bridle and we pulled back again, she didn’t budge. Needless to say, we cursed the weather, watched the chartplotter to be sure we weren’t dragging, set two drag alarms, and waited in vain for the wind to shift to a non-west direction. I was extra bummed because we could see seafood being sold from two fishing cleaning stations over on the shore road that runs along the beach.

View from our stern of the beach and harbor-side buildings at low tide

View from our stern of the beach and harbor-side buildings at low tide

By 5pm the wind had dropped down to 10kts out of the NW but the swells, which take longer to change direction, were hitting us broadside so preparing dinner was fun. Two monohulls had anchored behind Levi and from a distance they appeared to have made the better choice.

I almost believed Russ when he assured me that, “tomorrow will be a better day and we can spend time ashore.” No doubt he still wasn’t giving up on the lunatic forecasters.  Mother Nature had continued to outfox us all; Friday was quite the weather day; it began with pouring rain at 5am, increased wind and distant lightning. Rain on and off all day, moderate NW to NE back to NW winds with a peak at 24kts one time.

This is not my idea of a better day- compare the sea state to that calm one at Rock Sound

This is not my idea of a better day- compare the sea state to that calm one at Rock Sound

During the day a small sailboat about 26ft anchored close to us and one of the two from Levi anchored on our other side a better distance away. Conditions were slightly improved once the wind shifted more north but those boats, especially the smaller one rolled from side to side and pitched in the swells that I was becoming seasick just watching. By 3pm things were looking calmer and a “better day tomorrow” for Saturday was beginning to sound believable. At least all anchors were holding; can’t rely on what the charts say either- for which we were immensely thankful. Note: we talked with the two Levi Island boats on Sat and they said that even Chris Parker was fooled by Mother Nature this time.

South Palmetto -Ten Bay – Rock Sound

Rain approaches as we make our way toward South Palmetto Pt

Rain flattens the waves as we make our way toward South Palmetto Pt

Plan A: sail to Rock Sound, approx. 42nm trip and after spending a few days, work our way up Eleuthera to Spanish Wells

Plan B: sail to South Palmetto Point a 52nm trip and anchor at Pau Pau Bay then backtrack to Rock Sound for provisions, laundry, etc and have protection from the SW winds expected Wed, then head north.

Reality: sailed to Kemps Point and as we turned north toward SPP, the wind died and shifted from SE to South, dropped the main and motored. Poured rain when 4nm out from SPP and the temp dropped from 84 to 71 in 15 mins. Passed at least 6-8 lines of white floats which we guessed might be crab pots.

We made great time, but we got going at 7:15 to be sure and arrived at South Palmetto Pt at 3:30. Russ declared that Pau Pau Bay (small but good holding in sand close to shore) was no good with any kind of south winds. Very close by was Sheep Cay but the bottom was hard and rocky and after 3 tries we gave up. Also tried where the chart book said was the best (and they use that word loosely in Eleuthera) anchoring, off the old town dock, and that too was almost as bad. Next option was to head south about 2nm to Ten Bay which offered protection from NE to South. The chart indicated sand and grass, but we needed to get ourselves anchored before the sun got so low that we couldn’t see the bottom. We found more sand than grass and the Rocna dug in acceptably well.

Noticed another cat, s/v Salty Paws anchored in the northern part of the small bay and they confirmed “crabs” when we saw the one they’d speared the next morning. It looked like a grunge large land crab. Although ESE at 14kts gusting 16 is not a big deal when sailing, or when anchored with protection, it is when the waves and swells head for exposed shoreline.

We wanted to walk around SPP – I mean we did alter Plan A just to check out a new place since Rock Sound would be mostly closed down on a Sunday. The wooden section of the dock was still usable but the concrete part that connected to shore was ruined, so we had to land on the beach.

Using a bow and stern anchor has proven invaluable to anchoring safely and easily".

Using a bow and stern anchor has proven invaluable to anchoring safely and easily”.

Oh that was fun in the swells but our method of turning Bunting into the waves after tossing in the small Fortress works well. I hold the anchor line at the bow, slowly letting more out until the captain says “stop”, then tie the line at the bow tab. Russ gets out at the stern holding the second (folding grapnel) anchor line walks toward shore and pulls the dinghy in so I can climb out into hopefully less than one ft of water. We gather our stuff, let the dinghy out a bit so she’s floating then put the grapnel in sand on the beach. This takes practice and patience and we have now had plenty of both.

Once an enclosed public restroom, now with a water view

Once an enclosed public restroom, now with a water view

We walked the road that lead to the Queen’s Highway and came upon Nate and Jenny’s restaurant- oh bummer they don’t open until 5pm on Sundays- no surprise there. Street signs indicate population and prosperity but plenty of places, including a good-sized market, were no longer in business. The 22nm trip down to Rock Sound was a motor, make water one that we expected to do in low South-ish winds, but ended up being 11-15kts… right on our nose(s).

Crabbers collecting the day's catch from their pots

Crabbers collecting the day’s catch from their pots

Rock Sound Harbor offers most everything a cruiser could want, including 3-sided protection; you only have southern exposure but even that is moderately mitigated by distant shore. The first order of business included a grocery stop and since we’d be near a liquor store and ATM, those were easy too.

The gas jug for the outboard was dangerously low.

Pay the attendant, who pumps vehicles but not gas jugs. Just like years ago.

Pay the attendant, who pumps vehicles but not gas jugs. Just like years ago, he’s got a huge wad of cash.

The Esso station is the same short walk and we declined two ride offers on the way back in order to work those muscles. We each hold the handle and carry the jug between us.

Lunch and a tall cool beverage at Pascal’s was welcome after several trips back and forth. We each ordered a Parrot Punch which was a lovely green thanks to curacao mixed with pineapple and orange juices, not to mention three rums. We caught the end of the entertainment lunch for the cruise ship folk who come by Eleuthera Adventures bus from the Princess cruise ship anchorage down at the tail end of the island.

Cruise ship folk get lunch and a taste of Junkanoo at Pascal's

Cruise ship folk get lunch and a taste of Junkanoo at Pascal’s

By Tuesday we were one of a dozen boats clustered in the “good holding” section near Pascal’s.

Flat, calm anchorage near Pascal's at Rock Sound

Flat, calm anchorage near Pascal’s at Rock Sound- the freight boat is at the govt dock

S/v Time Enough II organized a cruiser happy hour at Pascal’s who offered reduced prices on drinks and appetizers.

We’d gone in for laundry at 3Ts that morning, another clean and reasonably priced Laundromat owned and operated by the friendly and obviously educated Villimae. S/v Side by Side (Manta catamaran) told us of the get together and we were impressed that they knew Ortolan was a Maine Cat.  The ashore happy hour was a great success and we met many new boats, exchanged boat cards, stories and travel plans. Surprisingly, about 40% of the boats were heading south, but then not everyone crossed very early like we did.

Tuesday afternoon we’d planned lunch at Rosie’s Nort’Side but a large dark cloud with water spout kept us aboard instead.  Forget the Chinese calendar, this is the year of waterspouts.

Wednesday morning we walked a ways down the main road to check out the ocean hole and caves. A well-marked entrance was appreciated as was the sign display with birds, etc described.

Entrance to the ocean (boiling hole) . Russ reads up on what we might see

Entrance to the ocean (boiling hole) . Russ reads up on what we might see

A calm ocean hole- no big waves in the harbor means no turbulence in the hole

A calm ocean hole- no big waves in the harbor means no turbulence in the hole

Wednesday afternoon, most of us moved across the harbor to gain protection from the westerly winds and waves that would steadily intensify overnight.

The other side of Rock Sound Harbor. We head in for a low tide beach exploration

The other side of Rock Sound Harbor. We head in for a low tide beach exploration

We copy another cat and set up our folding chairs in the space normally occupied by Bunting

We copy another cat and set up our folding chairs in the space normally occupied by Bunting

Thursday looked good to move up to Governor’s Harbor, the capital of The Bahamas prior to Nassau.

Scaredy cat hole in chicken harbor

Elizabeth Harbor and her many well-named and well-known anchorages is called “chicken harbor” by those who are not drawn into the fun and games winter community. Many of these floating cottages that look amazingly like boats, never (or just no longer) venture farther south than Sand Dollar Beach.

Elizabeth Harbor with Stocking island anchorages near the top and Red Shanks near bottom right

Elizabeth Harbor with Stocking island anchorages near the top and Red Shanks near bottom right

Even if the extensive list of activities does not interest you: beach yoga, beach volley ball, beach church, softball, table games, beach get-togethers (bonfires, happy hours), the more reclusive can engage in numerous solitary activities too: beach walking, swimming, kayaking, lounging about and burying your nose in a book or whatever happens to be your current hobby or interest.

One very common activity is called the “George Town Shuffle” where boats move among the four primary anchoring spots (Monument, Volley Ball, Sand Dollar, Kidd’s Cove) for either a change of scenery, to get closer to town and Lake Victoria, to get closer to the night’s beach event or to snag a better (more protected) spot. Some boats don’t shuffle, their anchor in all the way to China with several remoras likely attached to their hull too!

A fifth area called Red Shanks Cays, comprised of Crab Cay and several tiny cays is out-of-the-way and feels like you’ve been banished from George Town. But it has something the other anchorages don’t have; excellent 360 degree protection and great holding throughout. So if the main harbor is “chicken harbor” then surely Red Shanks is scared-y cat hole.  Cats and other shallow-draft boats can find plenty of ideal anchoring space- the kind where you are not on top of your neighbor able to read their books too. Boats with deeper draft have less room, but still enough for 8-10 just inside by Moss Cay.

We’d gone to Kidd’s Cove Monday evening for quicker and easier dinghy trips in and got reasonably decent SE wind protection. Cathy was leaving late afternoon Tuesday and this would give her another area to explore via kayak. By Wed with all our trips to town complete and 7/8 full with water, we headed over to Monument for a construction site check and to touch base with a few cruiser friends.

Five o’clock found us heading into Red Shanks Anchorage and very surprised to find at least 15 others already there. We snagged a good spot and I proceeded to figure out who were our neighbors. The most enticing advantage weather-wise to being this far south in the Bahamas (vs Abacos or even northern Exumas) is that the cold fronts often stall before reaching here or they fizzle and are not as severe when they do get here. The worst wind pattern is when the wind clocks around, say starting out from the NE, moving to SE the next day and over a shorter time period going to south then west with a healthy dose of wind greater than 20kts. One minute you are sitting calmly in the lee of land and during the night (almost always at night) you’ve rocked around the clock with your stern facing the shore and your bow greeting the increasing waves that even in the harbor become uncomfortable. Heavier boats sit more comfortably in these conditions than Ms. Ortolan who is a light-weight in her class. Assuming that your anchor hasn’t dragged because it couldn’t reset as it got pulled around, or one of your neighbors hasn’t gotten extra friendly and dragged into you, well now you feel pretty darn lucky.

Perhaps now you’d like to head to the beach or to some other spot with wind protection; that would require dinghy transport. This is the part that gets dicey for us. When Ms Bunting is launched, raised, boarded or exited, her bow goes under the bridge deck in the space between the scoops. If the waves are more than moderate the bow gets bashed up into the underside of the deck and we stand a good chance of ripping off the bow light mounting fixture which sits under the chaps, or worse, ripping the blue abrasion fabric as it gets pulled against the raised Achilles emblem just below. Having this happen once was enough to make us extra cautious to the point of saying, “nope, don’t need to get off and stretch my legs, I’ll just run up and down the steps and do cartwheels on the tramps.”  Right 🙂

A few of the catamarans anchored in Red Shanks- this was one of our nicer days

A few of the catamarans anchored in Red Shanks- this was one of our nicer days

In Red Shanks the wind can howl at 20kts and we can safely launch the dinghy and the kayak. Our Rocna loves it here too; she just buries herself like a clam, refusing to dislodge even when it’s time to go. Dolphins came by regularly and on Friday afternoon (the only few hours of partial sun in five days) one swam slowly around the boat six times. Yvonne and Brian on Options III were visiting and we all ran out to watch the show. Hey, it’s the little things.

As I write this on Jan 22, we are hanging out in Red Shanks again thanks to another cold front that thankfully wasn’t the very windy, rainy, no sun event that the first one was. Let me jump back to how the first one progressed to give you some idea of what we experience. Those of you who have “been there” can proceed to the comment section and share your favorite or most exciting event of this nature. 🙂

Wed afternoon: winds out of the SSE 11-16kts, partly cloudy, high temp 79

Thurs morning 3:14 am: I know the exact time because I looked at the iPhone when I got up. Wind moderate until then. The rain began and that’s when we got up. Was enough moonlight to see fairly well and I watched the boat swing from south to NNW, nearly 180 degrees, in less than a minute. Looking off the stern to the south you could see the dark rain clouds as they began to cover the sky and soon we had pouring rain and very dark skies. The wind picked up to 26kts steady and other boats reported gusting to 32kts which I totally believe. We’d turned off our electronics after a short time so only had brief wind speed info. Boats here appeared to have done the swing dance just fine, but we did see red and green lights over by the line of mostly monos anchored along the edge of the entrance channel. The wind shift put their sterns toward the tiny cay. On a worry-scale of 1-10, I’d give this a 3.

Thursday: wind NW 10-26kts, overcast all day but no further rain or squalls as had been forecast. High temp 73, brrrr

Friday – Sunday: a steady, daily drop in the high temps from 74 to 70. Wind NNW – N, mostly over 15kts. We learned that a boat did drag anchor when the wind shifted and picked up; the lights were on the dinghies helping get the boat re-anchored. They were lucky. A sand bar kept the boat from hitting the rocky cay behind them. Nothing, at least cruising-wise, worries us more than dragging into another boat- and taking them along for the joy ride.  When the sun popped out on Friday, Russ checked our anchor and she’d turned beautifully in place like, well, clock work. 

We re-connected with s/v Little Sister, our conch cleaning trainers who we met last Feb. We learned that Steve (and dog Charlie) deserves the thanks for keeping all the trails clear, but he says it gets interesting when walkers run into him and his machete along the paths. So Steve here’s a public thank-you for all your labors so that others can enjoy walking around Stocking Island. I am sure that most cruisers don’t know who does that for us.

Finally on Monday we came out of our hide-y hole which made the engines and batteries happy, and anchored at Monument so we could attend the first beach happy hour of the season. Everyone is invited, whether you are a member of ARG or BRG (Alcohol Research Group or Beverage RG); just bring what you like to drink and an appetizer to share, some boat cards and talk with people you haven’t met. Check, check and check!  An entire armada of boats sailed in that day and the harbor was noticeably bulging with boats at all anchorages, including the spaces in between.

Early Tuesday we headed to Kidd’s Cove for another round of jugging water (5 trips x2 5gal jugs=50 gals), stops at the library, Exuma Market (twice; the second time the avocados had arrived!!), ATM, liquor store and to dump our large black bag of garbage for $2. Low NNE winds made for a lovely day and the sun graced us with an occasional appearance.

Now, back at Red Shanks we sit hardly noticing the beautiful blue wavelets; if not for the wind howling you’d wonder what the fuss was all about.

The second front was much brighter than the previous and less wind- no dragging reports either

The second front was much brighter than the previous and less wind- no dragging reports either

St Michaels and Oxford, MD

Amazingly, Mr Rocna offered little resistance to becoming dislodged after being so nice and cozy in mud for a week. We returned to the marina just up the South River. Our repaired sails got dropped off, we filled our water tanks then headed across the Bay to beautiful and sophisticated St. Michaels.  Our cruising guide offers this description, “…is a comfortable mix of city-sophisticated and country-friendly. Upscale shops, world-class restaurants and retired national movers and shakers rub shoulders with gun shops, local watering holes and boat carpenters.” Personally, I was going for the shops, the grocery and the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum. Plus, if my sis-in-law Kerry says it’s worth a visit, then it’s got to be good.

Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum- among our first sights as we dinghy in

Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum- Hooper Straits Lighthouse – among our first sights as we dinghy in

Names worth noting who were connected to St Michaels (named for the Episcopal parish established there in 1677) are Frederick Douglass and James Michener. After escaping on a Baltimore-bound ship in the 1830s, Frederick Douglass became an abolitionist activist and lecturer, later the U.S. representative in Haiti.  Generations later, writer James Michener called St Michaels home while researching and writing his historic novel, Chesapeake.  The area also boasts trendsetters in boat design and is well-known for log canoes that were first built in the late 1800s as shallow-draft oyster boats. They gradually evolved into slim-lined wooden sailboats you can see racing around the nearby Miles River.

We arrived for a very late lunch at the Crab Claw then walked to Talbot St; oh which way to turn? Shops to the left and right! We chose left to see what we could see. Gorgeous fall and Halloween decorations everywhere, seats for the weary at every shop, friendly and helpful clerks and not too crowded thanks to the time of year; what’s not to love?

All decked out on Talbot Street

All decked out on Talbot Street

Grabbed a few fresh provisions at the- love the name- Acme grocery and a Red Box movie. Arrived back at the anchorage to find many more boats anchored; no surprise as the winds were to be calm, calm.

Not the tour boat Patriot; can you identify this old gal?

Not the tour boat Patriot; can you identify this old gal?

The next morning we dinghied in to the well-kept, good-sized dinghy dock that lies in between the Crab Claw and the tour boat Patriot. We met the folks on s/v Sanderling, Rhode Island cruisers slowly south-bound; they had noticed our CT registration number. I had to laugh when they told us they’d tried to meet Harmony II near Annapolis; you mean the Harmony II we know from Deep River Marina?  Yes, one and the same. They left at least a week before us and we’d been wondering where they were. Got that answer unexpectedly.

First stop was the multi-building-exhibit Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, an 18-acre waterfront complex with a boat builder’s shed, restored Chesapeake workboats and pleasure craft and the rescued Hooper Straits Lighthouse.

Oystering on the Chesapeake- a real skipjack to climb aboard

Oystering on the Chesapeake- a real skipjack to climb aboard

We were blown away by the dramatic change in size

We were blown away by the dramatic change in size

Canned oysters- a huge variety of labels to grab your attention

Canned oysters- a huge variety of labels to grab your attention

Real life oystering in action as we depart St Michaels

Real life oystering in action as we depart St Michaels

Thursday we headed down, around and up the Tred Avon River to Oxford, one of the oldest towns in Maryland. Officially founded in 1683; in that year it was named as a seaport and laid out as a town. Oxford and a new town called Anne Arundel (now Annapolis) were the only ports of entry in all of Maryland at that time. Until the American Revolution, Oxford was an international shipping center surrounded by wealthy tobacco plantations.

After the war Oxford businesses went bankrupt as wheat replaced tobacco as a cash crop.  After the Civil War, Oxford was revitalized with the completion of the railroad in 1871 and improved canning and packing methods opened national markets for oysters from the Bay’s bountiful beds.

As you know, good times don’t last and by the early 1900s the oyster beds were stripped, the packing houses closed and railway and steamships slowly disappeared. Sleepy town Oxford, inhabited mainly by watermen who still worked the waters of the Tred Avon sat waiting for the next cycle of its life.  Any surprise that today the dial has turned to “tourism and leisure activities”?  We loved Oxford’s quiet charm with lovely homes lining the main street (Morris Street- N & S) instead of a plethora of shops.

Cutie along N. Morris Street in Oxford

Cutie along N. Morris Street in Oxford

We spent a solid 30 minutes trying to find our way to the main drag and/or a place open for lunch. Off season many eateries are either only open for dinner or only open weekends. The street in the photo below, we ended up there twice. Got out to Schooners only to find them not open, but we did learn that the place Russ really wanted to find- was indeed open.

Russ calls the Robert Morris Inn to be sure they are serving lunch

Russ calls the Robert Morris Inn to be sure they are serving lunch

Robert Morris Inn and Salter's Tavern; a stone's throw from the ferry

Robert Morris Inn and Salter’s Tavern; a stone’s throw from the ferry

We enjoyed a delicious, leisurely lunch on the street-facing narrow porch of the Inn. The Inn was built prior to 1710 by ships’ carpenters with wooden pegged paneling, ship nails and hand hewn beams. An English trading company bought the house in 1730 for Robert Morris who represented the firm’s shipping business in Oxford.

The inn has been enlarged several times since its first use as a private home. The original flooring is Georgia white pine, the tavern’s slate floor came from Vermont and four of the guest rooms have fireplaces built of brick made in England and used as ballast in the early sailing days. (now we use bottles of wine!)

As we sat on a bench I noticed all signs pointed down Market St

As we sat on a bench I noticed all signs pointed down Market St

Looking down Market St to the dinghy dock and Ortolan anchored (farther away than she looks)

Looking down Market St to the dinghy dock and Ortolan anchored (farther away than she looks)

 

Old Fashioned Anchor Raising

Think I may have mentioned that we’d decided to replace our 250’ feet of poor quality anchor chain with 250’ of combo: 90’ of 5/16” G4 ACCO (good quality, made in the USA), chain spliced to 160’ of 5/8”, 8-strand plaited nylon rode (line is “rode” when attached to an anchor). Now what does one do with 250’ (at several hundred pounds) of chain, most of it rusted (did I mention that already?) beyond recognition? And how do you do it? We considered adding it to Davy Jones’ (LIS) Locker, however; we’d need to use it one last time before arriving at Cove Haven Marina in Barrington.  Our Deep River Brewer marina said they’d take it off our hands once we got it off the boat, so we figured Cove Haven would do the same.

On the appointed day the yard manager plopped a pallet under the anchor chute and told us the pile would be taken away to the big scrap yard in the sky. We’d lower the anchor first and detach it, then run out the chain onto the pallet. The chain would make one final run through the windlass, or would it? As the halfway point approached, the chain’s condition deteriorated with every passing few feet until it was so kinked up that special handling was needed to un-kink it. Near the end, it was a fused together mass of rusted chain.

Would you trust your boat to this scrap metal?

Would you trust your boat to this scrap metal?

We have higher hopes for the new chain, plus, with less of it, we can easily give it a fresh water rinse-off when it’s not going to be used for a few days or more.

Next step was to clean up the anchor locker which was bearing a strong resemblance to, say, Mr. Jones’ Locker? This was a 3-step process and at the end, the locker looked pretty darn good.

Anchor chain locker- "Before"

Anchor chain locker- “Before”

After cleaning #1

After cleaning #1

The last step was the fun one. The chain was in a pail with the attached rode in a box. The night before we left Deep River we went to the fuel dock so the bike and chain could be loaded on more easily from the dock. Now that I think about it, no wonder that Gunboat beat us, we were unfairly overloaded by at least four hundred pounds, 100 of it chain and rode.

We needed to get the chain and rode on to the ground near the anchor chute. Before making that happen we measured and used a red, white and blue sequence to mark 105′, 118′, 130′ etc on the rode using colored tape and substituting yellow for white.  Since the pail was near the stern Russ decided to use the boom and stinger set-up that lifts the dinghy, to lower the pail.  Once he made a few adjustments, I grabbed the camera and climbed down. You may notice we have no ladder this year as the marina is enforcing the “bring-your-own” policy, but we didn’t have one to pull out of our hat!

Pail o' chain gets a lift up

Pail o’ chain gets a lift up

..then over, before going down

..then over, before going down

I did ground duty while Russ was at the windlass making sure the rode, splice and chain fed through without problem. yep, no problem mon. Before the chain went through we added colored inserts (sorry, forgot to photograph); five reds at 40′,  five yellows at 50′, spaced apart reds at 65′ and spaced apart yellows at 80′. 90′ would be known by the splice and 15′ later at 105′ we’d see the first red piece of tape (tucked through the strands).  We’ll have to wait and see how well this works out; it should be fine.

Anchor with new chain attached, sits next to the rust pile

Anchor with new chain and shackle attached, sits next to the rust pile

Like new- with chain and rode neatly piled. ahh

Like new- with chain and rode neatly piled. ahh