As I write this we are at Jekyl Island, Georgia, so it seems only appropriate that our title photo should be from the island, even if it is one I had already featured in Titles I Didn't Use. If you're feeling cheated (I know I am) feel free to take a look at the Alternative Title Shot which was taken a few days back in St. Marys.
Thursday, June 15, 2006 - Walburg Creek, off St. Catherine Sound, Georgia
Although I overslept and we didn't get started until 10:00 AM, we still managed to make 65 miles today. The route alternates between wide, shallow bays and narrow twisting channels through saw grass prairie, and likewise the influence of the tide is at one time your friend and an hour later your foe as you approach and depart various inlets. We saw many dolphins today, but they weren't playful and rarely paid any attention to us. We negotiated the skinniest stretch of water, Jekyl Creek just north of the marina where we spent the night, near high tide and thus had no problems. I'm still curious how Amaranth did last night at low tide. About fifteen miles ahead of us is another shallow area, Hell Gate, but again we should have a rising tide in our favor.
Ship's Note: After adjusting the engine mount again the knock has just about disappeared at all RPM's, so perhaps that problem is on the mend at last.
Friday, June 16, 2006 - Beaufort, South Carolina
We were underway by 7:30 AM and gradually caught up with the fleet of Scandia, Drifter, and Saltine, who had started to go outside in the Atlantic but changed their minds. We traveled in concert with them most of the day, which was convenient for getting through two bridges that needed to open, but lost them at Hilton Head when they peeled off to go into a marina. The wind whipped up to around 20 knots as we crossed the Savannah River. It seemed that the wind and the tide were against us most of the day. We made one more windy, wet crossing (Port Royal Sound with the wind against the tide), then went by the Marine training center at Parris Island (could this be where Gomer Pyle was stationed?) and finally anchored off the island near Beaufort with two other boats. The holding wasn't great but the Delta set after the second try...sometime after midnight we'll get to see if it stays put when the current reverses with the tide. Overall, a pretty good anchorage.
In three days we've come 175 miles since St. Marys and have 540 more to Norfolk. Tomorrow night we plan to stop in Charleston for a couple of days and visit with Steve and Gloria on Living Well. Our hope is to get to the Norfolk area by the 4th of July so that we can get together with family and friends for Laura's birthday the next day.
Saturday, June 17, 2006 - Charleston, South Carolina
Ship's Note: We filled up the tanks with 21 gallons of diesel (674 hours). Those 21 gallons took us 250 miles, so that's roughly 12 MPG or, since we put about forty hours on the engine, our usual rate of a little more than half a gallon an hour. The nice thing about the Megadock is that you can get fuel from any spot along its tremendous length.
Monday, June 19, 2006 - Charleston, South Carolina
Lots of history here in Charleston, some of it ugly. The Fort Sumter Visitor Education Center next door to the Aquarium where you board the ferry out to Fort the (you can, we confirmed, visit in your dinghy if you prefer) had some excellent free exhibits. Some of today's politicians would be quite at home in pre-Civil War Charleston. The arguments made that slavery was a "positive good" for the world and Orwellian quotes such as "Freedom cannot exist without slavery" remind me more than a little bit of some of the current political rhetoric...except in those days, of course, I would have been a Republican!
We've noticed some rocking and rolling while here, but nothing as bad as we had out at the end of the Megadock, and they are charging us half of what the larger marina was, so we are happy here. There is only room for a few boats due to shoaling and dock damage but the facilities are nice and the staff extremely helpful. We spent a fun day visiting with Steve and Gloria (Gloria's daughters Emily and Lea, who live here in Charleston, also came over), had a nice visit at the Aquarium, and made a run to West Marine. We were planning to leave tomorrow to resume our rush towards Norfolk, but while biting into some excellent sushi from Harris-Teeter, a crown came loose in my mouth so we're going to try to stay one more day so I can visit a dentist tomorrow.
Wednesday, June 21, 2006 - Georgetown, South Carolina
Yesterday the Amazing Steve took me to the dentist, where I had a crown cemented back in place. This morning I borrowed the car to drive back to the dentist to get my cell phone, which I had left in the waiting room. Duh! On the brighter side, this gave me one more chance to shop at Harris-Teeter, my new favorite if somewhat expensive store. And of course we had a little more time to visit with Steve and Gloria...they are a great couple who always make for an interesting and fun day.
We left the Maritime Center around 10:30 AM and made around 65 miles on the waterway today despite our late start. Luck and the tides were with us today, since we had a cooperative current that sped us along at up to eight knots over the ground.
Friday, June 23, 2006 - Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina
And yet as it slowly grew from the wide open remains of old rice plantations (not so profitable since the demise of slavery) into a meandering path through a cypress swamp, the Waccamaw River held some of the most beautiful scenery one could imagine. I saw lots of bird and one alligator. An hour later we found ourselves in bizarro opposite world of a narrow ditch lined with continuous homes, condos, and docks, jet skis and little boats buzzing all around. With an hour of daylight left we reached Barefoot Landing at Mile 354, having covered only fifty miles in eleven hours. This dock was famous for a time because it provided a free place to tie up for the night, but these days the dock has been rebuilt and there is a fee ($1.25/ft is what I had read) for staying overnight. Unfortunately, when we arrived at 7:00 PM there was no one in the little office, nor any instructions for late arrivals. We wandered across the street into a huge collection of stores cleverly arranged around a lake, a sort of Disney Outlet Mall. In one corner was a small carnival area, where we rode on a carousel and then spent twenty minutes inside the "ultimate mirror maze." The experience was five dollars each, but we enjoyed it.
Today we left the dock at Barefoot Landing (still unable to find anyone to pay, with no one answering my calls on the radio even after we stuck around to 8:30 AM) and motored north for the first time in months without any knocking or drive train noise. I had adjusted the engine mounts again, but also put hose clamps around one of the rear mounts to limit its movement. That seemed to do the trick, so it's definite that we need new mounts. We got through the Sunset Beach Pontoon Bridge at 11:00 AM, which was the last opening for several hours due to low tide. This bridge is unusual because the opening is a floating barge pivots to one side on cables. You must wait for the operator to drop the cable before you steam through.
Lots of inlets today, so our speeds over the ground varied from four knots to well over eight depending on the moods of the tide. Most of the day was spent in fairly narrow canals, often with houses and boat docks on at least one side, but we did get to experience the wide open waters of the Cape Fear River for five miles or so as the tide literally swept us along. After 72 miles, we pulled off into a narrow channel leading to Wrightsville Beach and anchored with Scandia and several other sailboats in a large dredged area behind the beach businesses.
We had been trying to figure out where to put the boat while we went to Lori and Ron's place (Gallastar Equine Center) for Laura's birthday on July 5th, but today received a more-than-helpful e-mail from our old colleague Godwin from Sale Creek, who said we can come to his neighbor's dock off the Chesapeake. That's fantastic news!
Saturday, June 24, 2006 - Spooner Creek (ICW mile 210), North Carolina
We went through the first three bridges (including one where we were almost an hour early for the scheduled opening) with Scandia and Drifter, who eventually and probably wisely stopped to anchor at Mile Hammock just before Camp Lejeune, thirty miles back. A mile before that point, however, was Browns Inlet at the New River (approximately mile 238) where Skipper Bob warned of shoaling. We'd had the good fortune so far to pass all the other trouble spots on the ICW at high tide, but today we hit Browns shortly after the water bottomed out and the tide was just rushing in. I had the sail up and with the current we were moving right along, following the red buoys marking the preferred path, when with no warning from the sounder we went into the mud and careened to a stop. As the boat pivoted sideways into the current, with the wind heeling us over, we began bumping along the muddy bottom until I spun us around and got out of there. As luck would have it, a Seatow boat was in the area (this inlet is probably a good spot for them to hang out) and he graciously volunteered to seek a route through the maze of mud and shoals. We three boats--the once fearless Seaductress now timidly in the rear--made a big dogleg well off the marked route and successfully got through. I was very impressed with the friendly (and free) service that Seatow provided.
At Camp Lejeune, the ICW goes right through a firing range, but there were no exercises taking place today. Instead, Marines were out in force for the weekend, boating, fishing, and attending festivities at the beach. After hearing so many horrible stories in the press lately about misconduct and murder in Iraq (not to mention the sickening "Hadji Girl" song that may have been filmed right here at Camp LeJeune) it did me some good to see these guys out with their pretty wives and children, taking a well-deserved break. It seems a little strange that I am lazing around on a sailboat all the time while these Marines are off fighting a guerilla war at the other end of the world--but then I didn't vote for the crazed man who sent them there, so maybe that's fair.
It was Saturday on the Waterway, and I'll bet we waved to 500 boats, some of them more than a few times. We're now just 210 miles from Norfolk, and looking forward to a special treat tomorrow in Beaufort when we visit our friends David and Shirley Pleace, who we haven't seen since we left Nashville eighteen years ago. Best of all, they have a dock and a guest room where we can spend the night like normal people.
Monday, June 26, 2006 - South River near Oriental, North Carolina
Back on the waterway, we motored twenty miles north to the town of Oriental on the Neuse River. There is a small anchorage sandwiched between the marina docks and a breakwater, but the only open spot turned out to be over a shoal. We were surprised to see an S2 35C similar to our own anchored there, but there was no one on board and no name on the transom. Not wanting try to squeeze into the anchorage, we motored a bit further along the ICW and then a couple of miles up the South River to get out of the strong southeast chop.
Tuesday, June 27, 2006 - Oriental, North Carolina
The situation at the Oriental anchorage was the same as last night, but being more desperate we shoe-horned ourselves in between the mystery S2 35 and a blue sloop named Ohama, putting down two anchors as they had. It's a tighter fit than I would prefer, but no closer than the other boats. I found the two missing bolts and put them back into the coupling. Three bolts will have to do for now; I can't see any easy way to get extract the broken piece of the fourth. Meanwhile, we've also concluded that the seals on raw water (seawater) pump on the engine are shot. I had noticed water leaking from the "weep hole" (which means the seals are leaking) some time ago and planned to fix this after Laura's birthday. I'd asked Steve from Living Well about the situation in Charleston and he said that so long as water wasn't dripping through the weep holes with the engine off, the pump would likely last a while longer. Although I'm pretty sure the engine couldn't have over heard this conversation since we were miles away at the time, it nonetheless decided to start weeping water even after the engine was shut down.
Although it was tempting to try to keep going north, I've ordered both new rear engine mounts and a rebuild kit for the pump to be sent overnight here to Oriental. Jimmy at the local marine store Inland Waterway Treasure Company was kind enough to agree to receive the packages for me. In the meantime, maybe I can figure out a way to lift the engine to get the new mounts installed. The weather today is terrible, with steady downpours and gusty winds, so we haven't even gone ashore yet. Oriental looks like a good place to spend a couple of days (if the rain ever stops), with good wireless access and even a very cool website for visitors (www.towndock.net). If we can get underway again on Friday we will make a real push to get up to Virginia for Laura's birthday party. Laura is very excited about the party and we'll do whatever it takes to be there.
Update: we had some exciting winds here in the packed harbor this afternoon. Isabella, a Contest 35, dragged first, but the boat she hit was steel and shrugged it off. After an interlude that allowed untangling and reanchoring, the gales returned with winds swinging to the southwest (which was not good for all us boats riding on two windward anchors) and increasing to over 30 knots. Ohama slowly dragged backwards, anchors evidently plowing, almost into a trawler that was taking the wind on its beam and already in peril from rolling and knocking against the dock. I'm not sure that Seaductress dragged, but the wind shift got us just the same. The S2 35C tends to sail around at anchor worst than most, and as luck would have it we were right next to another S2 35C, Doug Bond's unattended Acony Bell, whose second anchor, like ours, had been rendered ineffective with the change in wind direction. It was like two Ford Pintos backing into each other--something exciting was certain to happen. Sure enough, the two boats got out of synch in their dance and the bow of Acony Bell kissed the stern of Seaductress. No damage to the former, just a scratch on the latter. Once the blow was over, we reanchored and are hoping for better weather tonight.