Sunday, November 24, 2013

Fast Finish

After sitting out for one day because of winds to 40 knots, Passage left Daytona Beach at 7:00 a.m. on Thursday, November 14th.  We motored and motor sailed past New Smyrna Beach, down the Mosquito Lagoon, through the Haulover Canal and into the Indian River and a dock at Titusville, arriving by 2:00 after a 42 nautical mile day.  Sue immediately headed to the grocery store to supply the boat for the remainder of our voyage.

On Friday the 15th we departed Titusville at 7:20 and motored into the wind down to Dragon Point, where we turned up the Banana River and docked at Telemar Bay Marina at 12:45.   We were very sheltered here in this lovely little river, but did have some traffic noise from the bridge.

On Saturday, November 16th, we cast off at 7:40 a.m. We wanted to get inland before the next bout of strong winds arrived, so we left despite the light rain.  About the time we reached the bridge at Melbourne, Phil Dolsen called.  It seemed that they were attending the SSCA GAM at Melbourne and stayed on a friend's boat two slips from us at the Telemar Bay Marina!  Lorraine had seen Passage when they got back from the GAM at 8:00 p.m.; but they didn't stop by, so we missed them!
Anyway we bypassed Vero Beach, a usual stop for us on a trip up or down the ICW.  There were many lovely homes along this stretch of the waterway.
We arrived at Fort Pierce and docked at Harbortown Marina at 3:15.  Our dock was right next to the restaurant, so we enjoyed live entertainment all afternoon and evening, as well as a wonderful meal on the deck overlooking the marina.

Despite strong winds on the nose, we decided to try to finish the Indian River and get inland.  We cast off at 7:35 and pounded into the waves, throwing salt all over the boat.  The seas smoothed out a little after the first hour, and we turned up the St. Lucie river by ten.  The ride was much better the rest of the route, although a tug and barge forced us into pretty shallow water just after we passed Stuart.  We locked through the 16 foot lift of the St. Lucie Lock and docked on a short dock at the St. Lucie Campground. 

Since we docked at 12:30, we had time to explore a little.  The locks on the Okeechobee Waterway are interesting because the let water in or out by partially opening one of the lock doors.  The lock doors are shaped like a piece of pie to make this type of water control possible.

The ruins of the original lock were also evident.

It was eerily quiet at the St. Lucie Lock Campground, and we slept very well.  The weather forecast for tomorrow was very light wind, so we anticipated perfect weather to cross Lake Okeechobee.
At 7:01 on Monday, November 18th, we were the last of the four boats to leave the dock.  When we got to the railroad bridge a mile before the lake, we were forced to wait as a train went by.  Trains are rare, so this was unusual.

The bridge was agonizingly slow to raise, and then we squeezed under.  Thank goodness our mast is only 46 feet off the water.

Passing through the Port Mayaka Lock was very exciting.  Lake Okeechobee was only a foot higher than the St. Lucie River, so the lockkeeper just opened both doors and said to motor on through.  He also warned us to keep our speed up.  Boy did we need to, since water was really pouring through the lock.  At 2700 rpms we were making only four miles an hour through the lock, so the current was about 3.5 miles per hour; and we were relieved when we made it out into the lake. 
Lake Okeechobee was flat, and we had an uneventful crossing.  We reached Clewiston at 2:15.  We were greeted by Little Man, the dock master, who helped us tie up and presented us with a copy of a newspaper article about him!  Interesting gentleman.  We showered and had a wonderful dinner from the restaurant.  We got it "to go" because it is an open air restaurant and the mosquitos were nasty here.
On Tuesday morning, November 19th, Passage motored away from the dock at 7:35.  Two hours later we passed through the Moore Haven Lock, and entered the Caloosahatchee River.  At 9:57 a.m. we reached the Glades Boatyard.  Our Canadian friends John and Brenda were working on their Gemini "Some Dream", and they came down to the dock to wave and say hello as we passed.
At 2:15 we tied up at the WP Franklin Lock campgrounds dock after a 47.9 nautical mile day which included two locks and four lift bridges.
Wednesday, November 20th was a lay day.  We washed Passage for the first time since Cape May, New Jersey, and then rested the remainder of the day.  The campgrounds are peaceful and beautiful, making it a restful spot to charge one's personal batteries.

Thursday, November 21st, the crew of Passage enjoyed a leisurely morning preparation to cast off, finally leaving the dock at 8:30 and passing through the Franklin Lock shortly thereafter.  90 minutes later the crew could see the bridges of downtown Ft. Myers and the condo towers next to their destination.
30 minutes later Passage docked at C 28 at Legacy Harbour Marina.  We will spend two months here, recovering from our long voyage from Lake Erie. The trip included 55 travel days, including 18 of the last twenty days.  2,231.4 miles passed under Passage's keels, and both she and her crew are looking forward to some rest and relaxation.  We will get both while enjoying the company of many friends here at the marina and in the city of Fort Myers.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Florida Finally!

One never knows what one will see on the ICW.  These wild goats on a barrier island were a bit of a surprise to us.

On Sunday, November 3rd, we motored out of Osprey Marina early and headed down the Waccamaw River towards Georgetown.  We love the forest on the Waccamaw.

We arrived at Georgetown, South Carolina by noon, so we had the afternoon to enjoy the town.  The boardwalk along the harbor is still nice, but a recent fire destroyed a whole block of the shops and restaurants along the waterfront.

Just before dark our Canadian friends Brian and Jane Wilson from S/V Mar-a-Lago stopped by in their dingy.  We were happy to visit with them, but also told them that we were beginning a mad dash to get far enough south to find warm weather at night.  Since we are now on a delivery trip and they are cruising and enjoying the towns, we knew that we would not see them again soon.

On Monday the 4th we left Georgetown at 6:30 and motored 46.9 miles to the Isle of Palms.  The weather was windy and cold, so we did no sightseeing.

On November 5th we bypassed Charleston and sailed to Toms Point Creek, where we enjoyed an excellent night at anchor.  Indeed, the holding here is very good and we had to work to get the anchor up.

Wednesday the 6th we travelled to Beaufort, South Carolina.  We arrived a little after noon, and were able to get the free courtesy car for one hour.  This led to a frenzied visit to the grocery store so that we could stock up on supplies.  Jack scored a new battery for his tired timex watch, and then we hid from the voracious no-seeums by staying in the boat.

Thursday, November 7th we left the dock at first light to avoid the building current.  Ray and Sandy Meyer from S/V Horizon executed the same plan, and emailed us a picture of passage in the early morning light.

We enjoyed a nice current ride to and passed Hilton Head Island, where we saw two lighthouses.

We passed through the potentially difficult Field's Cut near high tide, so had no problems.  We arrived at Thunderbolt Marina in Georgia early that afternoon. 

Thunderbolt Marina works on both power and sail mega yachts.

Our favorite part of the stay at Thunderbolt Marina was the 6 warm Krispy Kreme donuts delivered to the boat at 6:30 a.m.

Friday, November 8, found Passage pinned against the dock by a strong wind and powerful current.  We successfully left the crowded dock with the aid of a skilled dock attendant.  We soon passed the Skidaway Narrows Bridge, which has been replaced by a high span, leaving only one lift bridge in all of Georgia.

One can see the remains of the draw bridge, which is being demolished.  It was fun passing through Hell's Gate in the strong winds, but fortunately we arrived at high tide.  We motored through with no problems, and arrived at Kilkenny Creek Marina.  This marina is pretty primitive.  Instead of cleats, one ties his boat to 2x6 posts sticking up a foot above the dock.  Interestingly, out here in the middle of no where is Marker 107 Restaurant , right next door to the marina.  We enjoyed an excellent dinner at this well staffed and popular eatery on the waterfront.  Sue even had a stimulating political conversation with two local men.

We left Kilkenny Creek Marina early and at low tide.  The tide in Georgia is 9 to 10 feet, but luckily the early part of the ICW was wide and deep.  We arrived at the Little Mud River near high tide, which was great because even our catamaran could not pass here at low tide.  The marshes look very different at low tide, when one can see the banks of the waterway, and high tide, when the marsh grass is partially under water.

Luckily, we enjoyed incredible current rides, which encouraged us to extend our day's travel.  We reached St. Simon's Sound and its lighthouse earlier than expected.

We reached Jekyll Harbor Marina on Jekyll island at 3:40, and squeezed into the last place on their long face dock, thanks to Randy Prentice, and old friend who works here during the winter and helped move boats to make room for us.

We enjoyed happy hour on the dock, and Diana Prentice entertained us with a rendition of Okracoke on her guitar.

 We had a great time, but eventually the no-seeums drove us off the dock.
The weather forecast warned of a strong cold front coming with very strong winds, so we decided we could not stay at Jekyll Island even though we really wanted to.  We knew we had three days to find a really secure harbor.
So, on Sunday, November 10th, we pushed Passage's bow out, waited for the current to grab it, and departed the dock at Jekyll Harbor Marina.  We passed the King's Bay Submarine base, even spotting a sub that was not hidden in a pen.
Soon, we crossed into Florida!  After buying fuel in Fernandina Beach, we travelled on to the Fort George River, near Jacksonville, Florida.  We enjoyed a very peaceful night, sharing the anchorage with two other boats.
Monday the 11th we pulled up a clean anchor and chain to depart by 7:30.  We crossed the St. John's River and fought an impressive current.  We also saw interesting sand banks and colorful birds.

 We arrived in St. Augustine at 2:35 and tied up to mooring ball 37.  After dingying to shore to sign in and take showers, we enjoyed a quiet evening on the boat.

Tuesday, November 12th, we were up early and cast off from the mooring ball at first light.  46.4 nautical miles later we arrived at Halifax Marina in Daytona Beach.  We settled in to dock H 29, showered and enjoyed an excellent pork tenderloin dinner.  We expected extremely windy conditions to begin over night, and we were not disappointed.  November 13th has been spent as a lay day, tethered to the dock by winds as high as 39 miles an hour according to our wind machine.  We will continue our trek to Ft. Myers as soon as the winds abate.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Sound Sailing

Because of extremely high winds on Friday, October 25th, we elected to spend a third day in Manteo.  We enjoyed  visiting with Jim and Bonnie Cleary on S/V Dana, whom we first met in Chesapeake City.

The following day the winds were down and Passage departed about 20 minutes after Dana.   By the end of the 12 mile channel out of Roanoke Island we were closing on her, and as we sailed and then motor sailed down Pamlico Sound, we caught and passed Dana, whose crew were being purists and continued to sail in the dying winds.

While Dana continued down the sound to Okracoke, we turned west and entered Far Creek and the little fishing village of Engelhard, North Carolina.  We could see many shrimp boats up the tiny creek, and we docked at Big Trout Marina.  Not much of a marina really, and it gives fish camps a bad name.

On Sunday, October 27th, we could hardly wait to cast off our lines.  We sailed down Pamlico Sound, but the winds died late that morning, forcing us to motor.  We completed our 55 nautical mile voyage to Oriental by 4:30 and docked right down town at the Oriental Marina and Inn.

We spent two nights in Oriental, eating in the excellent restaurant right in front of our dock.  The second day Dana came in, and we enjoyed happy hour and dinner with them.  The food and camaraderie were great.  Life in Oriental wasn't all food and drinks though.  We did explore the village shops, walk up to the supermarket for groceries, and change the oil in the Westerbeke engine.  We even enjoyed a lovely sunset.

Still, all good things must come to an end, and on Tuesday the 29th we motored to Morehead City and then down Bogue Sound.  By 2:15 we arrived at Dudley's Marina in Swansboro, which we enjoy because of the seventy five cents a foot dockage fee.  Since the nights are so cold, we are enjoying our reverse cycle heat at night.  Good sunset here too.

Wednesday the 30th we started late because the navy was firing across the ICW at the Camp LeJune firing range.  We arrived just as they opened the waterway, and continued to the Harbour Village Marina.  Not much there, and a loooong hike to the restrooms.  Actually, we lowered the dingy & rode over to shower!  It's important to start & run the Mercury every once & awhile.

Thursday, October 31st, we motored down the Cape Fear River and passed
Southport, North Carolina, to St. James Plantation Marina. We planned on spending two nights here at a very reasonable dockage fee to wait out bad weather.  The first night we shared the marina with a good size alligator.

We enjoyed a fine meal at the marina's restaurant and browsed through their shops and art gallery.

Saturday, November 2nd, we cast off at 7:30 a.m.  Spending two days at St. James allowed Passage to pass through Lockwood's Folly Inlet and Shallotte Inlet at or near high tide.  These areas have terrible shoaling near the inlet, and many vessels, even catamarans, run aground here.  High tide made the passage easy.  We motored against the current most of the way, but 51 nautical miles later we reached Osprey Marina.  We picked up mail for the first time since early in our stay at Annapolis. Because of the continuing cold weather at night, we plan to travel every day possible in our push to find warm weather.