Tide erases plans written in sand

Looking across the Sassafras from our anchorage

Looking across the Sassafras from our anchorage


Need I say more?  As we peered into the weather or not crystal ball, Monday’s event was to give way to a one day break before a coastal low would sneak in Tuesday evening and hang around long enough to mess up our sail repair plans for St Michaels. Annapolis remained in play and Russ found a great place to anchor near a park with dinghy access.

Once the fog cleared enough on Sunday we bid farewell to the Sassafras and hung a left (that’s south for you precise nautical minded folk) down the Bay, our Baybeard in full display above the waterline. Alas, no sailing as the NE winds couldn’t muster more than 8kts but we had a favorable current (have you noticed our good luck in this regard?)

Our destination today was Bodkin Creek on the opposite (western shore) where we’d have protection from SE to N winds, great cell service (so I can catch up on these posts), no fetch whatsoever and pleasant surroundings. Only one other cruising boat was nearby. For the past two days we’ve been underway with one of the front panels rolled up; an extremely rare occurrence outside of the Bahamas. Thanks to this heat wave and barely breezy we enjoyed the fresh air and an improved view.

We greatly enjoyed happy hour on the bow as the heat wave continued

We greatly enjoyed happy hour on the bow as the heat wave continued

The trip of 32 nm (roughly 37 land miles) took five hours and if we didn’t have to dodge crab pots we might have dozed off J.  The creek is lined with attractive homes most with small docks or lifts for their boats, and plenty of trees to keep that natural look. Monday’s event was, for us, mostly hype and little action- thankfully. Plenty of rain and the temp dropped from 73 to 64 in five minutes. Tornado warnings in the vicinity made my stomach churn but we had only a few gusts to 25; they felt like gentle nudges.

Hauling ass for the haul-out

Every two years is race week (or one of), at Block Island. Payne’s Killer Donuts begin to be sold every day that week and just think of the vast quantities that are eagerly devoured every day! We headed out early Wednesday morning arriving Block Island Sound by 2pm. As we approached Point Judith’s Harbor of Refuge, Gunboat Elvis was spotted to starboard and we earned second place in the race around Point Judith!  True, really.

But if you must know, the expanded version is this: current against us as we headed east through Long Island Sound, we chose to exit it not thru the Race, but through Watch Hill Passage where the current wouldn’t be as strong as through the Race. Either way would find us in Block Island Sound and several miles away a race was underway. S/v Elvis is a Gunboat catamaran we’ve seen several times in the Bahamas. They were flying along at 10kts to our 7kts, heading toward Newport from Block as we skimmed the RI coast heading for Jamestown’s west side, Dutch Harbor. As we rounded Point Judith our wind angle improved and we flew along at a comfortable 8kts, the wind on our stern quarter.  Elvis sailed farther over toward the East Passage, using his spinnaker  to best advantage and a swift 12kts. Yes, two of us cats and yes we were second. True story.

A confirmed Elvis sighting off Pt. Judith, RI

A confirmed Elvis sighting off Pt. Judith, RI

Decent wind and no rain made us happy sailors and anchor down before 6pm made for a timely happy hour. We’d wait out the next few days here in Dutch Harbor if the marina couldn’t fit us in until our “due” date. Of course we hoped they’d have dock space for us on Thursday or early Friday as high winds were forecasted for Friday, preceded by T-storms, etc. The main anchoring area is opposite Dutch Island, on the backside of Jamestown, just above the Dutch Harbor Boat Yard’s large mooring field. Dutch Island lay less than 2/10s of a mile from us; Thursday morning I could not see it thanks to dense fog. Every vessel in and around the busy Narragansett Bay area did a Securite call; all day long.  No space for us today at the marina. Sigh. Afternoon found us walking east on Narragansett Ave for a long overdue visit to Jamestown. Restaurants, nautical stores, a bustling harbor where you can take a launch over to Newport, a bead shop and one of our favorite B&Bs, East Bay B&B all packed into a few blocks, with more temptations on the edges.

East Bay B&B in the heart of Jamestown looking prettier than ever.

East Bay B&B in the heart of Jamestown looking prettier than ever.

Rain threatened; the day moved from foggy to overcast with sun teasers. By 7pm the fog filled in again even as the sun tried to break through. Several boats joined us in the anchorage, at a courteously spaced distance and we all hunkered down for the expected rain storms and increased wind overnight. Was I worried?

Overnight and early morning fog gave way to dense fog and of course the marina gave the Ok to come in. Even the 12-18kts wind was no help in diminishing the fog, but with radar and AIS we’d take it slow. How many idiots would be out in this anyway? Our rusted anchor chain came up for the very last time (without a problem) and we headed north up West Passage speeding along at 7kts on one engine, the wind pushing our stern and a favorable current.  Our biggest challenge was finding the correct span on the Jamestown Bridge which we couldn’t see until we were virtually upon it.  Why can’t our Garmin chart plotter display where the pass span is for each bridge?  Is that asking too much?

Two and one-half hours later Ortolan was expertly docked (ok it was a T-head) stern to stern with s/v Sequoia. The dock girl refused our tip, saying, “No thank you, it’s my job.” Sweet, the beginning of the end of tipping!  Got ourselves plugged in, settled in, checked in and planned our weekend, figuring the haul-out would happen Monday or Tuesday, weather permitting.

The cockpit was quite crowded with all the extra haul-out related supplies and equipment we’d need.


Cockpit Left: fridge and freezer, box fan. Ready to cool the food and us!

Cockpit Left: fridge and freezer, box fan. Ready to cool the food and us!

Cockpit Right: Portable AC unit secured with new anchor rode, bike, tools and more!

Cockpit Right: Portable AC unit secured with new anchor rode, bike, tools and more!

Close Encounters

Broken record time again. Have you wondered how much longer we can say that and others will understand? “Repeat” just doesn’t cut it. So, another cold front is due while we’re in St Augustine; winds over 20kts, clocking around, rain, blah, blah, blah.  As I may have mentioned last fall, the St Augustine is not a “class A” all weather inlet. Even though it was dredged summer 2012, the buoys used to mark the channel are so small you need a damn good spyglass to find them buried in the 3-story high waves that routinely reside there- well ok not that bad- but almost. Many a boat has not only been grounded, but wrecked attempting to use this inlet in less than good conditions. On Friday, a large well-lit sign (if one existed) would have read, “DO NOT USE.”  No worry we’d ever use it again except in mirror glass conditions!

Saturday, and this will lead into a big pet peeve of mine- maybe it bugs others too- we planned a very short day. Our next stop was just across the GA border at the southern end of Cumberland Island by the Dungeness ruins.  Dungeness is pronounced with a slight accent on the “ness”, not the “Dun”.  This trip was a bit too long for one day so we split it in two with the short day first in an attempt to travel longer with favorable currents. That morning the Coast Guard makes one of their mumbled announcements and we catch a few words, “Sister’s Creek, closed to traffic, 3pm.” Uh?  Another befuddled cruiser calls the CG for clarification and we learn that thanks to some “round up” event, the ICW will in fact be closed to boat traffic until 3pm Saturday. Well, thank goodness we’d planned a two-hour day and wouldn’t be going that far.  Then, when we finally hear the announcement in full, the time is given as “from 5pm to 3pm.” Idiots- we know they mean 5am! If English was not our first language those announcements would surely be completely Greek!

The ICW through St Augustine takes you uncomfortably close to the inlet and the spit of beach that sits at the head on the north side. As we approached, this is the site we couldn’t help but stare at. What the? Mr. Curious got the “rest of the story” later.

On the plus side, sand is kinder to a boat than rocks

On the plus side, sand is kinder to a boat than rocks

Seems like the boat with just the captain and his dog aboard, was traveling (not sure north or south, but I’m thinking north) in his 30’ sailboat that only had an outboard engine at the stern. This means that if a wave lifts the stern out, the outboard doesn’t work well. Props like to remain IN the water. He diverted to St Augustine at midnight (Wed/Thurs) due to the approaching front.  A pitch-dark approach may have been a worse choice than continuing to St John’s River 30miles north. The channel, just to make things more exciting, has a dog leg approach close to shore. What are the chances this boat could safely navigate in? He almost made it. As the boat hit bottom and bounced, the beach welcomed it with open arms. Sure hope he got dug out.

For several days we’d been in touch with Indigo. They were in crossing and zooming mode starting Easter Sunday. Shared itineraries, but my words were, “..think we are fated to only meet up once per season.” Saturday’s anchorage was Pine Island with a wide and not too deep creek just off the ICW. By dark four boats called it home. Sunday, we overslept a bit and when I did my usual iPhone checking of emails and weather, the cell signal was too weak so I gave up. Cereal in bowls, milk about to be poured. Russ points out a catamaran heading north. “They must have left early”, I comment, figuring most boats leave from St Augustine. Then, picking up that trusty spyglass, Russ says, “looks like a Chris White… oh wait, it’s Indigo!” Sure enough, those speed demons did 100 miles Saturday, arriving at St Augustine in time to go into town. Glenn had emailed earlier, asking if we were at Pine Island, but I hadn’t gotten it yet, so instead we had a pleasant surprise and kicked fate in the butt. By 10:30 they’d arrived at their destination marina near Jacksonville; flying home that afternoon. Sure, leave us to enjoy the skinny water south of Fernandina.

Indigo drops by to say hello. Until next season then.

Indigo drops by to say hello. Until next season then.

Unlike m/v BIG Wave, we managed to not go aground in the stretch between St John’s River and Fernandina. Unlike m/v BIG Wave, we use ActiveCaptain. We shouldn’t be so smug though. For our trip on Sunday, Russ figured out the tides and currents, which isn’t easy due to the three sizable inlets that would affect us. Since we’re not usually in a rush, we run on one engine to save fuel. Using number two  adds 1 knot of speed at most, so when possible we like to have a favorable current helping us along, but not too much. A stretch south of where the ICW crosses the St John’s River is notorious for very strong current at “maximum”. Kinda like NYC’s Hell Gate, except under a bridge with a very narrow span with a river bend that keeps you from seeing if another boat is approaching. Amounts to choosing the lesser of two weevils (yes, I used that word intentionally); the crappy stretch from Fernandina to St Augustine via the ICW or the offshore run where the St Mary’s inlet at Fernandina is great and St Augustine can suck. We are 3 times inside and 3 times outside.

The trip provided photo-worthy scenery like this osprey with fish

The trip provided photo-worthy scenery like this osprey with fish

So back to the tides and currents: A+ on the currents and D- on having us transit a much shoaled-in stretch at low tide. Mucho thanks to ActiveCaptain and the hazard markers that warned us and told us how to proceed; to the vessels ahead of us; and to our minimal 3ft draft. With a tidal range of 6-7ft from roughly the St John’s River through much of South Carolina, the absence of deep draft boats is as noticeable as is the presence of comments such as, “gee how’d you like that Amelia River stretch?”  In all fairness to the captain, we really didn’t have much choice in where we were and when that day and s/v Cat Ching (get it?) zoomed along fine using his path from last fall. Cheater 🙂

4:30 found us anchored in GA off Cumberland Island, ready for a perfect weather day Monday where we’d finally explore the Dungeness ruins and trails.

Charleston Bound

.. but first a Beaufort, SC stop.  In good weather we anchor south of the downtown marina and if the fridge is well stocked we don’t need a marina courtesy car or a taxi.  The mostly south-ish winds have been light, ideal for those who need or want to coastal hop- ideally to Charleston, to skip the fun of going aground. We tossed that idea (not the grounding) around then discarded it. If we couldn’t sail and save fuel, why bother. Did manage a couple day hops out.  Enjoyed the change of scenery and the opportunity to try out new inlets in settled weather. Thanks to Indigo we discovered St Catherines; easy passage with the incoming tide and a light south wind.

Large patches of marsh reeds greet us entering St Catherines

In Beaufort (do you recall from our lesson that it’s “bew-fort?) we stopped at a favorite waterfront dining spot, Panini’s, where Mondays are half-price pizza. Quelle chance! Two drinks, two small yummy flatbread style pizzas and a side order of meaty Italian sausage all for $32, including tip. Leftovers will be dinner the next night- how good is that?

We have it on good authority; complete with evidence too, that southern South Carolina will succeed and join with Georgia. Many creeks and the man-made land cuts that connect the winding rivers, allowing the ICW to move north/south, look and feel like those in Georgia. Shoaling is occurring at an alarming rate, so much so that many sections will only be navigable at or near high tide.  The cut that connects the Savannah River to the Wright River has a horribly shoaled-in spot right at the southern entrance and there sat power boat, “Dare to Dream” aground, waiting for SeaTow. Guess he didn’t read the warnings to “hug the red.”

The South Edisto River contained the brownest, yuckiest looking water. Very tall markers attest to the huge tidal range in these southern waters.

Showing lots of leg at low tide

Daring motor sailer at low tide

The Ashepoo River- don’t you love these inspired names??- which we traveled through at low to near low provides a good example of the dramatic shoreline cut away at low tide.

Ashepoo River bank at low tide

Just as I grabbed the camera to take this shot, around the corner in the next cut, sits a monohull aground.  I think we could count on one hand the number of monohulls we’ve seen underway in any given day.  Brave or foolish, I felt this scene warranted a few poetic words:

Wandering Star wandered too far

The red side he cut too close.

Low tide was near, he hadn’t a fear

Now, “gone aground” he can boast.

Aground at low tide... waiting, waiting

Man o’ War

Our memories of a brief stop at Man o’ War Cay five years ago are a bit fuzzy, but I know that the settlement is more vibrant and lively than we recall. Even Guana Cay seemed busier than before.  All good news; cruisers, vacationers and locals all benefit from prosperity.

The trouble with Man o’ War is the mooring fields, the balls are not well marked as to ownership and many are very close together. Great way to meet someone when your stern is two feet away from their bow. The wind beat the forecast by 5 kts so we enjoyed a 2 hour brisk sail but had to tack to do it. No Antsy Lori on this trip as we were moving right along close hauled at 6kts.

The marina directed us to a mooring in front of another boat and we immediately became the “show”. Or usual mooring attachment set up was going to leave our stern hitting the mono behind us. He wasn’t overly concerned and said getting the pennant up on deck would keep us away. Was a fun maneuver with the strong wind while the poor soul at the helm tried to keep from hitting the other boat until the lines could be rigged right and at the same time moving the boat forward toward the mooring ball. We got it done and headed in so we could do what we came for- see the museum which would close in an hour. After all that messing about it better be open.

Our very close neighbor

Today's docent is a 78 yr old resident with many memories

It was and a lovely museum to boot. Man o’ War was settled by Loyalists who remain conservative, keeping the island “dry.”  We wonder if that tradition has any bearing on Man o’ War’s long history of productivity, most notably as renowned boat builders and sail makers.

One of the displays showed an open ledger book from the hardware store of items that Langosta purchased in 1951. I thought that was a very clever tie-in to local history. You may recall that Langosta was the vessel Randolph Johnston acquired a few months after arriving in Man o’ War with his family. They later made their home in Little Harbor.

Supplies sold to the Johnstons of Langosta

Several 45s are displayed over a door frame with a sign suggesting you take them down to show your kids; who if under a certain age, may never have seen one, let alone heard of them! Was it really 40 years ago I received a surprise gift on the family phonograph; the Archies, “Sugar, Sugar.”

Man o’ War is several miles long and not very wide, so a walk across to the Atlantic Ocean side takes 10 mins. Land for a cemetery was set aside many years ago, only problem is that it is a stone’s throw from the beach. Storms have flooded the graves which are in process of being re-built in concrete to protect the contents.

Cemetery receiving a "body lift"

The few gift shops are excellent shopping and here’s how it went down: (sung to the Barefoot Man’s Nippers song)

When you get cut off in Abaco, man you’ve spent too much

When the Captain tears you from the shops while you yell and cuss

You get run over by a golf cart while your packages you clutch

When you get cut off in Abaco, man you’ve spent too much!

The sail shop no longer produces sails, instead they make totes and bags of ALL shapes and sizes. I bought a large bag to hold my loot- which did include groceries. No, just joking about the bag. Gleaned ideas for one we want to make. Island Treats sells Edy’s ice cream; the temptation was too much- we caved but only bought kiddie size.  My mouth cried out in wonder “ice cream!!! Thought you’d never get around to that again!!” Russ just ate his.

Albury's Sail Shop as seen from the harbor

Royal Island, Eleuthera to Abaco

A photo from the prior day since I was too occupied to take any today. Today did not look this pretty.

Saturday, March 3 – can you believe it’s March already? We’ve begun to feel like residents, after 68 days. Friday’s 48 nm sail might be the last good weather day for a while now. We anchored in Royal Island Harbor (nothing to write home about and the site of another suspended marina/resort project) near a Great Harbor 37 (red hull with white topsides) cleverly named Jack of Hearts. Could the owner’s name be Jack perhaps?

Up and at ‘em on Saturday for the 63nm trip to Abaco; see how the trips are getting longer? No problem with enough wind to sail today (18-21kts with a mid-day lull to 13) – no sir, but even Ms. Sails Well Close-Hauled has trouble at 170 degrees. A following sea is Ok though and boy did those large swells follow us all day. We tacked slightly off course, back and forth all day as we couldn’t sail fast enough off course to make up the extra distance. We had to be in and anchored before dark; and we did make it with time to spare- 5pm anchor went down and we were pooped after 10 hours.

About an hour into the trip, Jack of Hearts hailed us and we chatted the usual topics; where headed, nice boat, yours too, stable ride, weight, oh, from Maine?, our boat is a Maine Cat, see you in Abaco. Was good to know someone else was heading the same way, since our course basically takes us into the Atlantic Ocean.

Our ever-present third crew member, Herr Otto Pilot gets very cranky with large swells- he says “not so swell for me” and thus leaves the two remaining crew to the task of hand steering. The cut was a non-event at Little Harbor and we nearly overtook the monohull who’d left Royal Island 30mins ahead of us.

Laughing Gulls

A blonde, brunette and redhead were walking along the beach, when a seagull flies over and craps all over the blonde. The brunette says in a disgusted voice “hang on, the restrooms are just up the hill, I’ll go get some toilet paper.”

After she leaves the blonde begins to laugh. The redhead asks “what’s so funny ?”

The blonde says “well, blondes are supposed to be so dumb and look at her, by the time she gets back with the toilet paper that seagull will be miles away!”

gulls on dock

Who will get the last laugh??

Could be the joke’s on us, but the dock we had for two days was about 60 feet away from Sea Gull dock, so named by me for the flock that called it home.  I had ample time to observe what were mostly Laughing Gulls, go about their daily routine.  We did take time out to walk the 1.2 miles to Food Lion, which took us through Old Towne, another historic area. Isn’t it great how the historic sections are so close to the waterfront?  Laundry, baking and other boat chores managed to get done, but we did a fair amount of lounging about.
The gulls had a set routine. When they weren’t laughing- and boy it was loud and raucous, they paraded around, males trying to impress females. Around mid-day they all, as if by prior agreement, left the dock and began a group water bob. Not sure the purpose for floating about in the water, but at least they were quiet. Later in the afternoon was a quiet time on the dock, but throughout the day not only did they laugh heartily, they mated. ‘Tis the season when a gull’s fancy turns to courtship. Brief, very brief.  A few head to head nods and bobs, some beak rubs and forget the ring. What caught my attention was the change in tune; a distinctly different sound met my ears and well, I was looking out that way anyway.
In addition to the Laughing Gulls, we had a seemingly endless song of sirens; fire, rescue and police. This was not the quiet marina I remembered from our stop in October. Oh, and the navy choppers flew over at least 4 times a day- low.
When we weren’t spying on sea-gull behavior and lounging about, we (mostly Russ) checked the weather several times daily and planned our BIG trip. Thirty-six hours would take us from Norfolk (would move to an anchorage 13 miles closer) to Sandy Hook, NJ. The wind and waves needed to be right at both ends and Sunday looked like the day. Any special plans for Easter you might ask? Yep, hopping up the coast, the wind and waves at our stern and our sails filled as much as possible.
Thursday afternoon we moved to Point Comfort, 13 miles closer to the Chesapeake and Cape Henry which we would pass to Port and swing north up along the Virginia, Maryland, Delaware and New Jersey coasts, before turning in at Sandy Hook Monday BEFORE sunset.
I worked on the dinghy chaps that now look like something, but still need hemming and a few adjustments.  We ordered a roll of light gray Textilene fabric to make sun shades for the sides and stern while at the dock this summer. The fabric is light weight and offers sun protection and some privacy. We’re talking rectangles here; my part for once will be easy.
Saturday afternoon was prep for departure time; we cleaned, stowed and yes, checked the weather too.  Our course was plotted in the chartplotter and our ETA for Sandy Hook was 5:30pm Monday. That gave us plenty of wiggle room (also known as sail slow vs motor) to arrive and drop the hook by 7:30pm