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!

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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

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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.

 

 

Vero Beach- still sticky 11/22- 12/1

DSC02867 (800x589)AND it remains a good place to meet old friends and make new. The trip on Sunday from Melbourne area- easy and few boats thanks to the crappy forecast that never quite came to fruition. Dolphins enjoying the bow wake of a trawler (ours is too puny) and a man-made water-spout added interest and helped keep the binoculars in working condition.DSC02878 (800x506)
The city marina gave us a good laugh and unbeknownst to them, a tip-off on who we’d find on mooring. I’ll give you a clue; she’s a boat near and dear to us.

Recognize this cat?

Recognize this cat?

The marina’s confusion (we tried hard to straighten them out) over which boat goes with which owner lasted even after we departed. 🙂 Respecting their request to be kept out of the lime-light (not even candle-light!) this will be the only mention. Due to his extensive experience with vinyl lettering, Russ applied Ms Ortolan’s new name. Feeling a bit sad that her name is now retired but we still have boat bags bearing her name. And no one was yet looking for us and finding new owners; who, happily are not only still talking to us but invited us out for pizza and catching up.

The week prior we placed orders with seven companies for things we needed for Twins. Tuesday was the mother load; all kinds of goodies from Defender, Quill (K-cups) and Amazon.

Our happy holiday loot from Defender

Our happy holiday loot from Defender

We met David and Barbara on PDQ34 Miss My Money, also heading to Stuart for the rendezvous and Jack and Diane on PDQ34 Airlia who live in the apartments overlooking the mooring field. Interesting to see that even PDQs built the same year have noticeable differences; so far we are very happy with ours. Barbara gave me a wonderful tour (owned the boat about 2 years) while David gave the “guy tour”. Love their shades; and because they are sleek and not puffy like the curtains we have, the interior appears larger. 🙂

A November stop at Vero Beach (aka Velcro Beach, Zero Beach (so mean)) means sharing Thanksgiving with 200 other cruisers, some you may even know. Ann and Mike of m/v Traveling Soul were forced to spend their few days in a slip because the city decreed that boats over 50 ft could no longer attach to a mooring, but three boats could still raft up! Lucky us, we remained alone on our ball way up in the north section.

Sugar Shack Donuts!!

Traveling Soul (the other TS) fed our donut desires with treats from a Cocoa Beach stop the prior day. You guys are THE best!

 

Some cats are cute all the time

Some cats are cute all the time. Ann treats Spot to time on deck (you can’t see her harness )

 

We get legal with the dinghy - boatnumber plate makes this easy

We get legal with the dinghy – boatnumberplate.com makes this easy

Goes without saying that we made several trips on the bus to Publix, did laundry, hit the VB Farmers Market on Saturday. This time we needed to visit the dentist; same one as two years ago. One block from a bus stop (free bus you may recall), less expensive than our CT dentist and Russ is happier with their methods. A win-win.

I love pleasant surprises, don’t you? We get to the bus stop after Publix with plenty of time to spare. The woman waiting (another cruiser) said she was watching the bags of groceries sitting in the corner for another couple who left them to pop into another store. Turns out we knew them- Deja Vu!! and guess who they’d just rafted to? She who shall not be named, that’s who.  I was so tickled when Helen & Joe told us that they recognized the boat but not the people.. where are Lori and Russ and what did you do with them? 🙂  We left the next day, but we know exactly where we will meet up with them ….. when we get there.

 

Key West Jaunts: The fort and Legal Rum

?????Key West is well known for its nightlife, daylife, fantastic people watching, fishing, museums, crazy events, drinking and the many and varied famous and well-known people who have called it home. Two not-so-huge cruise ships seem to be in port much of the time, spilling their innards onto Duval Street (and the surrounding ones too) with regularity. At least those folk don’t need to fight for a parking spot; a simple walk, shop, eat, drink keeps them happy for hours. 🙂
Our first foray into town, before Christmas, was as much a “get reacquainted” visit as anything else. Arrive by 10:30, find metered street parking (the kind where the meter is in the middle of the block and you pay with cash or credit card for the amount of time you want) and wander around. A close-by bakery was closed on Monday, but the sign indicated Cronuts so we vowed to return another day; early too!
Lunch found us over by the docks lined with seafood restaurants, various charter/tour boats (of a more subdued nature than the Fury fleet over by the cruise ship docks), small marinas and the public dinghy dock which we couldn’t see but knew it was there. Click here to read about our Key West stop Jan 2011.

Four years later, sv Pelican, a MaineCat 41 is still in charter

Four years later, sv Pelican, a MaineCat 41 is still in charter

The Monday after Christmas we ventured in again. The 23-mile drive often takes a solid 35 minutes, but more if you get caught in afternoon, evening and night traffic. Route 1 is one lane in each direction between Cudjoe Key and Key West, with an occasional center turning lane and well-placed right turn lanes. Traffic generally moves along, but it doesn’t take much to slow things down to a turtle crawl.
Russ needed a haircut and we got that done on our way into town. The day’s plan was to spend time at Fort Zachary Taylor, lunch in town then check out the rum distillery; Key West’s first (legal one). In our eagerness we neglected to appreciate that this was a HUGE vacation week and multitudes would be filling the streets and parking spaces around town. But first the fort, which is basically on the beach and where we found ample parking at 10:30. The fort is tucked pretty much out of sight and I don’t think most tourists know or care about it. Kinda down on the list after all those more exciting things I mentioned at the beginning. Since we haven’t been fort-ified since the summer, the time was ripe for a fort visit.DSC00842 (800x593)

Killed some time with a walk around the fort’s water-facing perimeter. Spied these Green Iguanas which are non-native, read more on them here. DSC00849 (800x600)

A guided tour sounded good and we were rewarded with a tour by a competent and knowledgeable Alabama woman who stays nearby in a motorhome with her husband. Before the tour we moseyed around and up to the top but I forgot to take pictures up there and later when we finished, it was pouring rain.????????????
Key West has a long and rich history beginning with Spanish explorers who first surveyed the island in 1513. After the Florida territory was transferred to the U.S., the Navy established a depot here in 1822 to rid the area of pirates! Arrgg! By the 1890s Key West had become Florida’s richest city thanks to fishing, salvaging wrecked ships (big business) and cigar manufacturing.
So the Army looked down the field and saw the puny depot the Navy had constructed and said, “We shall build a fort to protect Southernmost.” 🙂 Construction of Fort Taylor began in 1845. Then, along came talk of secession and the beginning of war in 1861, the fort was not yet complete. The quick thinking and decisiveness of Union Captain John Milton Brannan to defend and keep the fort under federal control when Florida seceded made Fort Taylor only one of three forts in Florida to remain that way. He had no orders, so of course, wrote to ask. When d-day came and no orders, he made the right decision (can you tell I am a northerner), defended the fort and probably breathed a sigh of relief, when, days later a ship arrived with the orders, “Seize the fort!”
Originally, the fort was surrounded by water on all sides, with a walkway linking it to the mainland. The fort was completed in 1866, although the upper level of one side was destroyed in 1889 to make way for more modern weapons, with the older cannons being buried within the new outer wall to save on materials. The fort was heavily used again during the 1898 Spanish-American War.
Unlike Fort Jefferson in the Dry Tortugas (been there too!), Fort Taylor was not a prisoner fort and the two small holding cells we saw were to give the unruly a place to think about their behavior. The fort stayed active through 1947 when the army turned it over to the U.S. Navy, until eventually the inactive fort became a convenient place for storage of old machinery, cannons and a ton of Civil-war era artifacts. All this history got buried in sand, rubble and cement until Howard S. England asked why was Fort Jefferson was an historic site while Fort Zachary Taylor sat neglected and forgotten? Why indeed?????????????????
Talk about putting your money where your mouth is; Mr. England used his own resources to locate what came to be the largest cache of Civil War-era seacoast cannons in the U.S. Not until 1973 did Fort Taylor receive National Historic Landmark designation; a long time in the making. Not a very attractive fort, unlike Fort Jefferson and many others we’ve visited, but the tour is informative and the hour passes quickly. A rain shower ended things a bit prematurely but we still heard the full spiel.?????????????????????????????

Strategically placed latrines were meant to be aided by tidal flow, but it didn't work out that way

Strategically placed latrine were meant to be aided by tidal flow, but it didn’t work out that way

Throughout the year the Rangers lead a variety of programs. Annual events include reenactments, sculpture displays, concerts, a pirate festival, fort haunting, boat race and more. A few steps from the fort is Key West Beach with a shady picnic area, beach equipment rental hut, small café and a perfect view of the ocean.

Ominous rain clouds off the beach

Ominous rain clouds off the beach

Cruise ship makes her way in to the dock

Cruise ship makes her way in to the dock

We left the fort in the rain, making a mad dash for the car. Oh did I mention we got half drenched on a day with no rain forecasted?

Then we began the search for parking in town. Gee how about $20 for two hours, $30 for all day? Gee how about we need 3 hours and oh, you don’t have room anyway? OK. We found the rum distillery and only one driving oops that ended at the water with no good way out. Bonny is very handy in tight places, not like big Bertha Annie. Our goal was to park so we could walk to lunch and then to the distillery, and when we turned and found ourselves behind the neighborhood garbage collection truck I feared the worst. Two blocks later, he turned left and we went straight! Traffic stops a few blocks down off Duval and I spot a parking lot. I jump out and ask the totally disinterested attendant what the cost is to park. What?? $40!! Holy Margaritaville Mr. Hemmingway! As we’re about to head off, a woman who’d heard the rip-off price stopped and gave us the day’s best news- park at the Westin garage-only $4/hour and that’s not much more than metered street parking. A spot on the roof-top level was fine indeed and off we hustled to get lunch. See photo at the top 🙂

?????????????????????The distillery is located at the top of Simonton Street at the former site of a Coca Cola bottler. In between times was a bar- naturally. Back in the day small in-town Coca Cola bottlers could be found everywhere. I remember we had one near us in Hamden. It was on School Street, so named because that’s the route I took to walk to grammar school. 🙂

Tours were given at 3 and 3:30 and we showed up in time for a tasting before the tour. $5/pp to taste 5 rums; free tour.

Taste first, tour next!

Taste first, tour next!

I don’t know that much about the process but these rums are distilled five times which means a much reduced chance of a hangover headache; so we were told.

It all happens in this one room

It all happens in this one room

Russ came away with the Key Lime Rum which tasted remarkably like the real thing with a touch of pucker and no sweetness. He also ran off with the day’s bottling, but got hunted down and returned to me sans loot.

Rum Runner Russ, aka Captain Rusty Nail

Rum Runner Russ, aka Captain Rusty Nail

Dreamin’, Sippin’, Starin’

Libations Day! Doesn’t that sound delicious? Tasted singly, or together even better. This is another one of those places on our want to stop at list and we’ve been placing check marks left and right this year.
First, we needed a vehicle and thank you Enterprise for the upgrade to a comfy Honda 4-door Civic with a very modern dashboard. Brent was our chauffeur and gave us the low-down (we are in the low country after all) on good places to eat in West Ashley (as in west of the Ashley River). We’d already made our dinner choice for Friday; California Dreamin’ on the water overlooking the Ashley River. Three years ago we couldn’t get enough of their warm, dripping with honey croissants and we needed a fix one last time. Funny how the first time with most any place is always the best; why is that Captain Ron? Same this time, but we did enjoy seeing the prom goers in their gowns and tuxes. This is not 1976 for sure! The girls’ gowns are expensive and well suited for Oscar night and the boys with their coordinated vests, make quite the statement. Not that I didn’t love my prom dress, but “his” light blue tux- oh gag me awful!

One couple climbed down from this monster truck limo. Gee how did you get to your prom?

One couple climbed down from this monster truck limo. Gee how did you get to your prom?

Saturday morning we headed out, driving from John’s Island south to Wadmalaw Island; our first stop, The Charleston Tea Plantation.tea plantation What’s that you say? Tea grown in America? Yes Ma’am even though tea is not supposed to grow here the plantation has been growing tea for over 50 years. The only tea growing/producing plantation in North America, plus you can tour the grounds, the unexpectedly small production room, taste hot and cold teas and purchase most any tea accessory.
The tea bushes grow close together and are approx. 4’x3’ wide.

Row upon row of tightly planted bushes. These look almost ready to lose their new shoots

Row upon row of tightly planted bushes. These look almost ready to lose their new shoots

Starting very soon, the new top shoots will be harvested by a very unique machine and the tea making will begin. The shoots get harvested 6- 8 times before the end of the season in early October. My favorite tea here is the Governor Gray; easy on the bergamot and smooth sippin’.

The unique tea leaf harvester sits near the bushes- just a little off the top please

The unique tea leaf harvester sits near the bushes- just a little off the top please

The tea plantation is the prefect morning stop before moving on to the “good stuff”; the wine offerings of Irvin-House and their new skyrocketing venture, Firefly Distillery, the primary reason for our visit.

Entrance to Irvin-House and FIrefly. That's our rental car

Entrance to Irvin-House and FIrefly. That’s our rental car

Does the name Firefly ring a bell in that I’ve mentioned it more than once? Remember the picture taken in Hope Town, Abaco at Firefly Resort? Yes, the same owners. Must be a successful business in South Carolina, not to mention that Jim and Ann retired early and started the vineyard in 2001.
The tasting rooms are situated across from each other with a patio in between for relaxing and/or listening to the live music on Sippin’Saturdays. Saving the best for last we began by joining the next wine tasting which appears to be held in their small production room.

I turned around and snapped this shot after we finished the tasting

I turned around and snapped this shot after we finished the tasting

Irvin-House is Charleston’s only domestic winery with working vineyards, not a fluff place but real honest-to-goodness grape growing and wine producing.
The Irvins grow muscadine grapes, a fruit native to the Southeast, and produce authentic muscadine wine (with a modern twist), creating five labels from four varieties of grapes. We knew going in that we’d find the wines too sweet for our taste and sure enough three were on the sweeter side but two were less so. Their Tara Gold is a semi-dry, similar to Pinot Grigio and the Mullet Hall Red is a dry table wine that won the 2005 Silver Medal at the Hilton Head Wine Festival. In between the five wine tastings, we munched on popcorn, watched a short “history-of” video and listened attentively to our tasting guide. Walked out with our souvenir glasses and a bottle of Mullet Hall. All wines are $12 and except for a handful of shops in South Carolina (Charleston mostly) you can only buy at the vineyard. Producing 2,500 cases a year is pretty small-scale but enough to be in business.

On Saturdays you can enjoy lunch. Today was the delicious BBQ wagon with pulled pork, ribs, slaw, etc

On Saturdays you can enjoy lunch. Today was the delicious BBQ wagon with pulled pork, ribs, slaw, etc

Finally, the piece de resistance, the culmination of our tasting day; Firefly Distillery and its 16 offerings! Ok, so we could only select 6 to try but that was fine. We checked off many of the same, but differed on a few. Several choices can only be purchased at the distillery ( Southern Lemonade Vodka, Mint Tea Vodka ) and they are in fact produced on site. Several others (two rums and three liqueurs) are only sold in South Carolina and are produced on Wadmalaw Island as well. The more well-known delight, Sweet Tea Vodka and the five Moonshines are widely available and are bottled in Kentucky. Doesn’t take the brightest fly in the tasting room to figure out if you love certain bottles, better get ’em here and now!

The happy tasters who encouraged their guide to get down to the resort asap

The happy tasters who encouraged their guide to get down to the resort asap

Here’s an interesting tidbit (although perhaps only to us). We’d recently bought a 1.5 liter bottle of Firefly Sweet Tea Vodka and with it was a refund card expiring the next day. Phew. So now you know that Firefly’s home is on Wadmalaw Island. I’d readied the form to mail in (hey it was $7) figuring we’d find a mailbox in our Charleston travels. We did better.

Mailing our rebate from the Wadmalaw Post Office to Arizona

Mailing our rebate from the Wadmalaw Post Office to Arizona

Now you know

Now you know

Our final stop for the day, and one we nearly forgot, was to gape at the spectacular Angel Oak, a live oak figured to be over 300 years old. Words and photographs cannot adequately describe this sprawling, gigantic tree; a forest unto itself. We’ve never seen anything like it; truly amazing. Imagine the Swiss Family Robinson finding this tree 🙂

A small cabin on the property houses a gift shop and on the screened-in porch we found a woman who along with her sister and mom produce an extensive collection of sweetgrass baskets; now I have one.

Maybe a panoramic picture would have done the tree more justice

Maybe a panoramic picture would have done the tree more justice

Close-up of where the large branches extend from the trunk

Close-up of where the large branches extend from the trunk

Looks like two or tree trees worth of trunk

Looks like two or three trees worth of trunk

Interior view- dances with branches. Several dive underground then resurface

Interior view- dances with branches. Several dive underground then resurface, others need supports

 

 

 

Biking Jekyll Island, GA

Sandwiched between Cumberland Island to the south and St Simon’s Island to the north, sits Jekyll Island. Former winter cottage site of the wealthy who may have also owned a summer cottage in Newport, Jekyll is a lovely place to explore with over 20miles of fantastic bike paths where the steepest hill might be a 10” climb over a ¼ mile. Flat and perfect for this non-biker chick.

Jekyll has been on our list for years and this year with extra time available we made it happen. From arrival day, Monday 4/21 to the end of Tuesday we biked as much of the 3-mile-long island as we could. The southern section was closed off due to the recent monsoons; flat terrain equals flooding and the south part sits lower than the rest.

The paths take you through marshes, golf courses, along beaches, through and near the Jekyll Island Club, into the historic district, past cemeteries and the only island fast food joint, DQ Grill and Ice Cream.

Jekyll Harbor Marina has a long face dock laying parallel to the ICW; easy docking with competent dockhands even with current and wind. The marina provides free bikes- imagine that! Their wi-fi was excellent; this is becoming a trend at marinas lately as they upgrade their systems.

So let’s tour the island. We’ll begin at the marina, head along the west (ICW/Jekyll Creek) side, around the northern tip, along the east (ocean) side and then we’ll finish up with a few interior stops.

First we get out our trusty map which shows the bike paths, roads, places of interest and dining options.

The marina is to the right of the 3-circle cluster, at the white road where the bridge crosses the creek; we’ll be heading to the left to begin. Bike paths are blue.

A sailboat heads up Jekyll Creek-probably at mid tide or better

A sailboat heads up Jekyll Creek-probably at mid tide or better. Brunswick bridge in background.

 

Jekyll Island Club- no longer members-only exclusive. Inn, resort and fabulous dining. Pool too

Jekyll Island Club- no longer members-only exclusive. Inn, resort and fabulous dining. Pool too

Croquet on the lawn of the Jekyll Island Club

Croquet on the lawn of the Jekyll Island Club

 

Latitude 31 and their outdoor Rah Bar situated next to the creek

Latitude 31 and their outdoor Rah Bar situated next to the creek

The weather was so lovely, warm but not too, and the ambience so perfect that we ate lunch here both days. Monday’s special was one pound of Georgia peel-‘n-eat shrimp with your drink choice. The shrimp was melt-in-your-mouth heavenly; so fresh and cooked to “just done” perfection. Our usual island libation choice is the rum punch and the Rah Bar’s Rum Smash was excellent.

At first glance we thought "swan?", but no, just white pelicans acting like swans

At first glance we thought “swan?”, but no, just white pelicans acting like swans

While all the bike route is clean, wide and well-kept, the sections through the historic district are especially neat and tidy. This photo below is a great example of what we found along the route. Covered trash cans, water fountain, bench and an informational sign. Signs explaining the marshes, birds, small animals, historic sites and such were well placed (and well spaced so you could rest frequently if you wanted).

The perfect spot to rest, read and quench your thirst.

The perfect spot to rest, read and quench your thirst.

 

Red Bug electric carts are available to rent at the Jekyll Island Airport

Red Bug electric carts are available to rent at the Jekyll Island Airport

 

Horton House. Constructed of tabby and the only one of its era remaining

Horton House. Constructed of tabby and the only one of its era remaining

By one of its two fireplaces- can see the exposed tabby

By one of its two fireplaces- can see the exposed tabby

Major William Horton, an officer under General James Oglethorpe, was the first Englishman to purchase land on Jekyll Island. He eventually purchased nearly 500 acres and built the Horton House to serve as a British Empire outpost and his personal residence. Photos showed it with porches and an upper deck.

If I recall correctly, from our museum tour (no photos allowed) this was the second home. His first was burnt by the Spanish (?) about a year after he built it. Think we’re in the 1700’s here.

Driftwood Beach- an extreme and haunting example of serious land erosion

Driftwood Beach- an extreme and haunting example of serious land erosion

Each week the human crew of m/v Acapella, otherwise known as ActiveCaptain, sends out an email that deals with a technical topic, new feature of, or future plans for the best interactive cruising guide we’ve found, ActiveCaptain. The second part of their email is the Defender First deal of the week and the last but not least section is where they mention where they have been and a link to their blog, Talking Paws.

They also, of course, enter reviews in AC about places they’ve stopped at and a recent one was right here at Jekyll Island. A place Karen said not to miss was Driftwood Beach. Not really driftwood, but uprooted trees strewn along the north tip of the island. Another planet for the look and feel of those snarled tree trunks and massive root systems. Some rocky sections and little pools contained shell pieces and a few pieces of sea glass.

driftwood beach

Signpost near Jekyll Island Market and the only photo by the ocean beach

Signpost near Jekyll Island Market and the only photo by the ocean beach

The GA sea turtle center located a short distance from the Pier Rd shops

The GA sea turtle center located a short distance from the Pier Rd shops

The doc was in!  We got to see shell repairs in action up close and personal behind plexiglass. The center was beautiful; well designed and fun to explore.

Two gopher turtles require shell repair after being hit by cars

Two gopher turtles require shell repair after being hit by cars

Baby turtle, Glory has a decent chance of survival

Baby turtle, Glory has a decent chance of survival

The Glory Boardwalk mentioned in the “Meet Glory!” write-up was built specifically to film several Civil War battle scenes in the movie, Glory, filmed on Jekyll Island in 1989. And yes, we’ve added it to our movie list. Because it’s in the southern part of the island we missed it.

Capn' Crunch as seen from the tilted observation mirror above the tank

Capn’ Crunch as seen from the tilted observation mirror above the tank

Did you ever wonder why?.....

Did you ever wonder why?…..

Could not resist a photo of these, but I did resist the urge to buy one

Could not resist a photo of these, but I did resist the urge to buy one

Crossing the island was more rustic- watch for gators here

Crossing the island was more rustic- watch for gators here

Our tour ends back at the marina where this tug and barge come through in daylight. Because the ICW in Jekyll Creek is so narrow, they usually do this at night. Not only is the creek narrow, but in a couple of places,  if you don’t know the “secret path” you could easily run aground.

Tug and barge consume much of the creek as they go past

Tug and barge consume much of the creek as they go past

 

 

Ft Pierce to St Augustine, 4/6-4/16

Snug on the J dock T-head at Ft Pierce City Marina

Snug on the J dock T-head at Ft Pierce City Marina

A Mom-ism I often heard growing up was, “If you don’t have anything nice to say don’t say anything at all.” Could this possibly apply to blogging? Nah. Bloggers get to blog about anything; good, bad, indifferent or nasty. But since you want to interest your readers and hold their attention for a few minutes, then, I subscribe to the thought that if you don’t have anything interesting (and that can have a broad definition) to write about, wait until you do… or if so much time has passed that you might be thought dead, then, write.

Nothing terribly exciting or interesting has occurred in the 10 days we’ve been in Florida, and since you’ve all been buried in last-minute tax return preparation, now is a good time to come up for air (maybe spring has arrived in time for Easter!) and a new blog post from Ortolan and her crew.

The 3 nights at Ft Pierce City Marina were the first ever we’d spent in Ft Pierce which is to Vero Beach what Deep River was/is to Essex, CT.  🙂 Some will get this and if you don’t, no worries. We had a great stay enjoying the historic district with its plethora (I do like that word) of intriguing shops, the well-known Sunrise Theatre, the tasty Importico Café and Bakery and The Original Tiki Bar and Restaurant set along the Indian River at the marina.

Excellent libations and fast service!

Excellent libations and fast service!

Lily Tomlin was to appear soon- what a blast that would be

Lily Tomlin was to appear soon- what a blast that would be

The nearest Publix is apprx 2 miles away; forgive us our taxi sins for we could not walk that far and back loaded with six bags of food and wine. And still we’d be buying more in Vero Beach. Four months away uses up a lot of staples and paper/plastic goods. The store had a scale; the first we’ve seen in a long time.

Been a long time- but I did turn and smile

Been a long time- but I did turn and smile

Russ almost began drooling at the very excellent wi-fi; three nights of House of Cards (a Netflix original series) and characters you love to hate.

The cockpit, decks, strataglass panels and back screen panel all got a much needed cleaning and we felt ready to take on the dirty air of the U.S.

The freezer repair was a success (as I write this it is resting comfy at 16F) and the faux Engel was placed into fridge service which is more to its liking.

Marc spent 3hrs and the price was very fair

Marc spent 3hrs and the price was very fair

Did we stop at Vero Beach? Of course we did; however it wasn’t as sticky as usual and we only stayed two nights. That was enough time to provision, get a propane tan re-filled, a haircut for me and ice cream for Russ.

The freezer seemed to handle new items reasonably well so we gave it a pop quiz and dumped in a whole bunch of meats and sausage we always buy at Melbourne Beach Market. The new temp held at 22 for a couple of days but since we were moving every day, generating power, it gradually got down to 16.

A little bummed on two counts. One, our bows already have a brownish mustache and below the waterline that Russ scrubbed less than 2 weeks ago has gotten scummy already. Not the clean and clear Bahamas. Two, we heard on the news (Ok Russ read it on his iPhone news app) that former CT governor, John Rowland is under arrest for campaign fraud. Gee, didn’t one prison stint cure you buddy? Good thing we aren’t from CT anymore. 🙂

After Melbourne Beach we’d planned to stop at Cocoa; funky shops, great bakery/café all an easy walk from the accessible town dinghy dock by the park. A weather check showed that if we wanted to arrive in St Augustine in good weather with at least one decent weather day, Cocoa needed to be cut; and so it was. Ended up being the right move. Saturday’s stop was Titusville, another new place for us.

Usually a weekend finds many local boats out and about but not so much Saturday and only a very few cruising boats, many heading south. We seem to be between packs.

Titusville installed a huge mooring field a couple of years ago, but only half (if that) of the balls are in because more aren’t needed. We stopped for fuel and water; so why not do an $18 mooring too? The wind was blowing us on the dock for a bit of a crash landing, but that’s why we have a rub rail.  The older gentleman who mans the fuel dock was exemplary and asked all the right questions as well as understood the best order; start the water first because that always takes longer than the diesel. Oh and did we need to also fill our water jugs? Not this time but no one has ever asked that. We also filled the outboard tank with gas ($4.99/gal- pricier than roadside). The original plan was to arrive here early Sunday morning to allow time to explore around, but the 36nm trip plus fueling time got us in too late Saturday to bother launching the dinghy.

Sunday, (weather: ESE 8-16kts, high temp 78, sunny) all the local boats were out in force, especially around the Ponce inlet where several low tide sand bars provide the perfect hangout.

Rockhouse Crk- looking through it toward Ponce de Leon inlet

Rockhouse Crk- looking through it toward Ponce de Leon inlet

The 43nm trip took us through Mosquito Lagoon where we always hope to see manatees and this time we sure did!

Almost looked like gators, but when they moved, you knew they were manatees

Almost looked like gators, but when they moved, you knew they were manatees

The water is so dark that they are hard to spot unless you are quite close but we saw at least eight and some were mom and pup pairs. Osprey and dolphins too, not to be left out.

They raced past us, then Ship did Happen; they stopped cold

They raced past us, then Ship did Happen; they stopped cold

Our anchorage was with four others, just off the ICW channel north of a bridge in Daytona Beach.

Monday was a 45nm trip to St. Augustine and with the wind behind us (SSE 8-15kts) and a mostly favorable current the entire way (surprising) we ran on one engine for most of the day. Another first, a MAYDAY call; loud and clear. Scared me just hearing a man’s loud and urgent voice calling, MAYDAY, MAYDAY. He’d just seen a center console with several persons on board capsize near the Matanzas inlet. He reported that the people were conscious as they could be seen moving and standing on a sand bar (perhaps the one they ran into by accident). He assisted and the last we heard, the Coast Guard was getting his info.

A bald eagle and manatee sighting rounded out the trip which ended easily thanks to a slack tide mooring ball pickup. Our mooring neighbors who arrived over the next couple of days had all kinds of fun getting that mooring line. This gave Russ a chance (after we’d already raised the dinghy) to provide mooring assistance to a single-hander who was fighting wind and current, and after 4 tries, we took pity. He was grateful.

S/v Gambrinus made valiant attempts but the wind proved too great a foe

S/v Gambrinus made valiant attempts but the wind proved too great a foe

The rain and wind ahead of the approaching front began Tuesday around noon. Looked like the entire east coast had rain and/or snow- you poor things, but we got cold too- 49F 8am Wed morning. Brrrrr… and I almost laughed to see Russ wearing jeans- what an odd sight. No rain Wed so we spent the morning changing engine oil and filters, fuel filters, genset filter and the impeller which still looked good but wasn’t functioning properly.

Me in blue fuzzy socks and Russ in jeans and a jacket. Warmed up a bit later on

Me in blue fuzzy socks and Russ in jeans and a jacket. Warmed up a bit later on

With the “blue” chores complete, we moved on and in for the “pink” chore; laundry. But that also meant we’d take showers, which are very nice and just across from the laundry room/lounge.

Spanish galleon replica, El Galeon is hanging out for a six-month stint at St Augustine. She is berthed along the new “outer” floating docks with her sister (smaller) ship whose name I don’t know. We learned she is not made of wood, but sure looks realistic. We passed up paying $15/pp to step aboard.

El Galeon with the bow of her sister ship to left. Bridge of Lions behind

El Galeon with the bow of her sister ship to left. Bridge of Lions behind

Took this as we left the mooring field to catch the 10am bridge opening

Took this as we left the mooring field to catch the 10am bridge opening

This church tower caught my eye. We'd seen repairs underway when we walked by

This church tower caught my eye. We’d seen repairs underway when we walked by the day before

Farewell St Augustine; two hours would find us in marsh-lined creek. Looking and feeling more and more like Georgia every day.