Sunday, April 30, 2017

A Favorite Anchorage Backfires on us!

Let's start at Toler's Cove Marina Wednesday night in Mt. Pleasant, SC just across from Charleston.
We had another lovely sunset over the marsh land, looking across the water to Charleston.

We left Toler's in the morning on Thursday to head to the Price Creek Inlet where we enjoy anchoring behind Bull Island.  We only had a short 14 miles of easy cruising with plenty of high tide.  We passed this house that seems to only be accessible by boat.  What an interesting way to live!

We took the dingy over to Bull Island near to low tide because that is the best time to walk a beach. And yet another deserted and lovely beach to walk.

And this is what I harvested from the beach!!  Over all a great walk! 

We got back to the mother ship just at low tide and noted she was not floating.  She had been pushed toward the side of the creek by the breeze and current. She was not hard aground, just a bit mired in the mud! 

So Al used Victory Lap to pull her off while I reeled in some of the anchor chain to pull the bow closer to the center of the creek. The anchor had not dragged and was holding well.  Per the captain, we let some of the anchor chain out because I had pulled quite a bit in. We settled into a quiet afternoon and night and went to bed at around 10, which was about when the tide was the highest.  No problems, all seemed fine for a quiet night.  Then suddenly we both were awake at 1am and not sure what woke us up.  We dashed up to the salon and realized the boat was hard aground so we quickly dressed.  In that short time, the boat started to tilt toward the port (left) side enough so walking in the boat was a challenge. We hailed the Coast Guard by radio and they in turn called Towboat US for us.  Since the tide was lowering, towing us off was not possible until the morning so we had to settle into our chairs and wait.  The Coast Guard called us every half hour to make sure we were safe and that was a comfort.  As the tide continued to lower from 1am to 4am we simply passed the time pinned into our chairs which are on the port side.  It was stressful but we were not in any real danger.  

This was taken when the boat was at the steepest angle.  Over the helm station you can see the radio mike hanging at an odd angle.  If you turn the picture so the cord is perpendicular to ground where gravity would naturally pull it, you can get a bit of understanding of how steep our floor was.  Also note the angle of the curtains as they were pulled toward the middle of the salon.  

Sitting and watching the mike tilt further was not a fun experience!  And knowing we had 3 hours before the tide would even begin to rise didn't help.  And tides change based on a sinusoidal curve so when 4pm came, it was a very slow rise of water height until about 7am when the boat finally began to right itself.  At that time, Al was able to get into the engine room and noted we had taken on quite a bit of water.  He set up an emergency bilge pump to assist the regular bilge pump and got the generator running to keep our batteries charged. He called Towboat who didn't want to dispatch a boat thinking we floated onto the bank so would float off.  But 30 minutes later, they called back and since Al was tending to the bilge, I answered the phone and told the guy I was stressed and we needed a boat sent out from Charleston to tow us off.   So they did dispatch at boat at about 8am. 

This is a view of our starboard (right) side which was raised up onto the mud bank. 

This is the stern and swim platform from the starboard showing the port side was lower in the water. The tide was rising and the boat had water underneath except for the starboard stern. 

This was taken from the port side, tough to see so much grass when the tide was at past half rise! 

Yeah!  Towboat arrived at 9:20am and we were off  the bank in 10 minutes, had the anchor up in another 5 and we were on our way.  No damage to the steering, bilge was dry and other than being exhausted, we were safe and once again cruising!  We proved that loopers are obstacle removers who deal with each issue and overcome them as they go. And we got out of the anchorage close enough to high tide to get through another shoaling area to get to the charming town of Georgetown, SC.

We enjoyed anchoring around the corner from all of these marinas and used the great dingy dock in the center of town.  Since we like to pay ourselves off with good food after a job well done, we enjoyed both dinner take out from a fabulous Italian restaurant and breakfast on Saturday at a cute coffe shop the next morning. We liked Georgetown and slept like logs for about 11 hours on Friday night!!  Whew! 

So on Saturday we cruised another 20 miles up the lovely Wacamaw River to anchor in Cow House Creek for a quiet night.  We now have anchored successfully 2 nights and are getting over the anchor jitters.  Today, we crossed the river about 1/4 mile to settle into the Wacca Wache Marina for a month.  We have decided to go home for the month of May.  We want to drive to Indianapolis for the Indy 500 with Erik and it makes sense for us to go home earlier so Al can see an orthopedist that I highly respect to treat his increasingly painful hip.  I look forward to doing some volunteer physical therapy with my favorite girls while Al gets the medical care for his hip.  Plus we will have a month to enjoy time with our son and home based friends. Since Al still has a small gas bubble in his eye, we need to drive home so we will make a side trip to meet our sweet grand niece, Ainsley! This will be a fun road trip for family time.  Don't look for blog posts for the next month.  We will be safe on land!! 

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Islands, Beaches, and Anchorages

I forgot to include this picture of a manatee that I took inside the marina at Fernandina, FL.  Since they are brownish grayish, and stay under the water most of the time, they are hard to photograph clearly.  I took several shots before this one lifted it's tail out of the water.  It had lots of scarring on it's back from skirmishes with boats and perhaps sharks.  
On Thursday, 4/20 we released the mooring ball at Fernandina and headed to Jekyll Island to anchor, leaving Florida in our wake.  Since we moved only 33 miles, we got into our anchorage early, had a quick lunch and took a dingy ride to tie up at the marina.  For $20 they allow dingy docking and that includes using their facilities. So we borrowed their bikes and enjoyed the ride to the beach for another beach walk, our favorite thing!  
Amazing how many empty beaches exist for us to explore!

It is fun to watch the birds take off to clear the beach as we approach.

After a great walk, we biked into the cute little town center to hit up the interesting market, looking for water chestnuts that I failed to remember to buy when I walked to shop in Fernandina.  The market has a bit of everything from fresh veges to gourmet sauces and even birthday cards and Aleve for Al's aching hip.  Traveling in Georgia and the Carolinas will take some planning from this point onward because the tide can change as much as 9ft and there are plenty of shoaling and shallow areas to negotiate.  So we timed our departure from Jekyll with as much depth as possible without setting a wake up alarm!  Unfortunately high tide was hitting in the early hours of the morning.  We had to run a long day to cover 75 miles to position ourselves in Buckhead Creek anchorage for an early start on Saturday morning.  Along the way, we had to stop for about an hour to wait for the tide to rise a foot in order to pass through the Little Mud River.  I had it all plotted out that we would have enough depth at this juncture but I had relied on an ICW guide book that listed the mile marker wrong so we got to the shallow area more than an hour earlier than I had calculated.  But interestingly it saved us a bunch because we had an odd noise coming from the engine room and it turned out to be a bolt on the alternator mount loosening up.  When Al used our stopover to check the cause of the noise, he found the bolt sitting on the floor.  So that time was well spent getting that bolt squarely into place!  
At  least Friday night provided us with a lovely sunset in Buckhead. 
 Saturday we had Hell Gate to traverse which is a particularly shallow couple of miles that requires at least 2 feet of tidal depth.  We also had another shallow area at Field's Cut later in the day and needed tidal water for that as well.  So we bit the bullet and set an alarm so we were moving by 7AM.  Not our favorite thing to do, but it did get us easily through all the shallows and got us into an anchorage on the New River before lunch time.  We paid ourselves for a job well done by running the dingy over to Dafuskie Island for lunch at Marshside Mama's.
This place has a good reputation so we felt safe eating the food despite the run down condition of the restaurnt and their bathroom facilities which were nearly unusable!

We enjoyed the music and ambiance of this odd little place and our lunches were actually terrific!

Al's hip is giving him a hard time, so I walked around the Island a bit by myself.  Most of the roads are packed sand and I saw houses with character and ones ready to fall into the earth.  This island is a mix of wealthy golf communities and locals born and raised on the island as descendants of the Gullah (freed slaves) community. 

We took a run back to the boat because I could not get myself to use the horrible bathroom at Mama's  before taking my walk and Al rather enjoyed waiting for me in his "Victory Lap" dingy! 

We were treated to another lovely sunset over the New River.   Our travel plans changed on Saturday with the prediction of a storm heading into the south on Sunday night.  So I got busy calling marinas and was a bit panicked when told by 5 marinas in the area of Savannah and Beaufort that they were full for the weekend.  But we got lucky when I randomly called Windmill Harbour Marina on Hilton Head Island.  It turned out to be a lovely place on yet another island to explore.  And it was a short 12 mile journey from our anchorage on Sunday morning.  Good thing Cap Al read about the entrance to the marina, because it has a shallow entryway that leads to a small lock before getting into the marina basin.  With high tide still earlier in the morning, we had to quickly up anchor to cross the 12 miles so we had just enough depth to sneak into the lock before the tide was too low.  Another job well done by the InSpeyered team.  
Across the water you can see InSpeyered 2 tied up against a floating dock.  Since this marina basin has a lock for entry, there is no change in tide level and no current.  Don't know why they would bother with a floating dock!

Very quiet and peaceful in this lovely place! 

We have finally gotten the hang of using Uber so on Monday we used 4 Uber rides to get to the beach for a walk, to get to a restaurant for a nice lunch, to access the Publix and then to return to the boat.  Hilton head has many beaches and this is one that is more residential and not busy!  Another great beach walk and fun day!

I kept seeing these little odd "ditches" in the sand and if you l ook closely you can see some type of ocean critter in a shell that has scooted along the sand as the tide went out.  Why?  Don't know!

Walking inside of the marina grounds afforded typical lowcountry views of marshland. Another place where we could be happy in a condo to live out old age!! 

This is the little lock that brings boats in and out of the marina.  Only room for one boat at a time and not much need for lines and fenders since there is no room for the boat to move as the water level changes.  

This is us in the lock on our way out on Tuesday. 

Heading back out onto the ICW to cruise on past Beaufort to an anchorage in Bull River to position ourselves for more shallow runs on Wednesday in the Ashepoo-Coosaw Cutoff, Watts Cut and finally to the Elliot Cut which has strong current as the tide changes.  We made it through all that today, Wednesday, ending in Toler's Cove Marina.  We had intended to continue on to a great anchorage until we read  reports of shoaling and we would have had to traverse water as shallow as 6ft at dead low tide and we need 4'9" for our draft.  Having a bit over a foot of water under the keel was just too risky!  Better to be safe and pay for a marina!  Plus that gets me another beach to walk on Sullivan's Island!

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Making Our Way Out of Florida While Making New Friends

It has been an interesting week of travel and we now have left Florida in our wake and are finally in Georgia where the shallow areas begin and the tides get higher making cruising trickier.  Our first day of travel, Thursday 4/13 took us to Cocoa where we anchored uneventfully near the town dock but since we had been here a year ago, we chose to simply up anchor on Friday and move on.  Weather for travel this week has been wonderful with just enough breeze to keep us cool and just enough sun to keep us happy!  Friday we tried a new anchorage that was well rated in Rockhouse Creek.  It is on the "we like this place" list now.

It is a popular place to anchor because it is so close to beach islands around the Ponce de Leon inlet near Smyrna Beach.

Walking the beach at low tide meant the packed sand area was quite large and mostly empty.  The Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse is in the distance which is a historical landmark now. 

On the walk, Al spied these tiny crab critters.  You can poke on the picture to enlarge it to see the pretty little shell homes they carry on their backs. 

My shadow looms over them as they scurry for shelter in the sea grass!  We took advantage of this great beach walking venue again Saturday morning before we up anchored and went a short 12 miles to a "pull off" anchorage just off the ICW.   There are no good anchorages around Daytona or north of there so we simply used the spot for a night. This lessened our mileage for Sunday travels to St. Augustine where we planned to pick up a mooring ball so we could go ashore and eat pizza for Easter.  
Along the way Sunday, we picked up this hitch hiker, a strong kyaker who used our wake for wave action but by the time I got ready for a picture, Al had to slow the boat for a bridge and the bigger wake had died down.  Sunday proved to be an eventful day after a quiet start.  It seems the word is out that we got badly waked because we have had only polite boaters since then who give us nice slow passes with minimal wake.  While I was busy in the galley making a special Easter breakfast, Al gave me a warning that a large sport fishing boat was heading toward us at a fast pace but suddenly he slowed and veered a bit to the side.  Nice guy, but unfortunately just after the pass, he ran hard aground because he stayed to the side of the channel too long.  So since he was so nice to us, we turned around and went to his rescue.  That meant I had to catch a very long and very heavy wet line from his boat, cleat the line to our boat, all the while keeping the line out of the water, away from our spinning props!  No easy feat for this old lady.  It took several tries but Al is very good at these maneuvers and we freed the boat from the mud.  So once my hands quit trembling, we enjoyed our fancy scrambled egg/English muffin breakfast and continued on our way.  
Than another surprise occurred when we did a slow pass for the sailboat, Fleetwing.  We use Active Captain, an app superimposed on Garmin charts to plot our path and to learn about hazards.  Last year, we noted that many boaters make comments on the hazard markers and are far from precise so often give out poor advice.  But we saw a pattern that a guy who goes by the name "Bob423" was very precise and always spot on with clear directions on how to navigate shoals and tricky areas.  Many loopers also have seen that pattern and we often talk about how nice it is to have Bob423 "watch our back".  Over time we learned that his boat is a sailing vessel named Fleetwing and his blog is under the boat name.  His blog is chock full of great information.  So when we passed his boat, I hailed them on the radio and spoke to Ann his wife, thanking profusely for all their great help via Active Captain.  They too were heading to St. Augustine so rather than pick up a mooring ball, we opted for a slip to get to know Ann and Bob better.  

Here we are nestled into our slip, two slips away from Fleetwing.  We had docktails on their boat Sunday evening and thoroughly enjoyed getting to know our new friends and learning more about cruising around Maine since they too, have cruised the area.

And yes, Al got to his pizza place but we waited until Monday night for that and stayed an extra day to walk the town  and have a second opportunity to chat with our Fleetwing friends.  

This place sells the pizza by the slice so we bought too many just to taste different combinations and had plenty left for lunch the next day while cruising.  Yumm!!  A shout out to our buddies on Sandrobber who wrote about Pizza Time on their blog!! 

So on Monday night, we enjoyed our second docktail gathering on our boat with Ann and Bob Sherer 

Tuesday we cruised on to Fernandina Beach on Amelia Island and picked up a mooring ball at the marina.  This marina was critically damaged by Matthew so remains closed but allows boaters to use the mooring field for a $20 fee.  We stayed 2 nights so we had one full day to explore the cute town and for me to walk the 2 miles each way to the grocery for fruit and veges.  Then we had a lovely Mexican dinner with Ann and Bob who also chose this location for an anchorage. 

We enjoyed this sunset the first night at Fernandina while relaxing on the flybridge.

That little sailboat was happily sailing around the harbor for a sunset cruise.   

This was our sunset on Wednesday night, still at Fernandina.  Since we have different plans for travel, we have parted ways with Fleetwing but will keep watching for the hazard updates by Bob423 along the way!  Thanks for all the valuable help!!  Now on to our favorite, Jekyll Island! 

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Great News and Fun Times

The best news for us is that Al's eye is healing properly and he only has a very small gas bubble left in his eye.  That means that it should be gone in a few weeks so he can get back to reclining in his chair for naps and sleeping (more peacefully) on his back.  It also means he will be able to fly to Miami for the next recheck so we can finally get out of the state of Florida!  No offense to Floridians, but we are anxious to be moving north toward Long Island and the Northeast coast.  So today is our first day to be traveling in earnest and we were pleased to have our dolphin friends join us along the way from Vero to Cocoa.

We had a beautiful day of cruising today.  But the fun times were during this past week.  After our Miami visit and hotel stay on Thurday 4/6-7 we had a tastey dinner with my college roommate Mo and her husband Harry.  Our last visit with them for a while.  And Saturday we had a great meal with Tom and Colletta from Greek's Folly while we were still staying at the Loggerhead Marina in Palm Beach Gardens.  Then on Sunday we returned our rental car and since Enterprise had no one to drive us back to the marina, a very nice man offered to help.  Turns out he was a container ship captain and was originally from Long Island.  So now we've made another new friend who loves boats and boating!  We treated ourselves to a lovely brunch, getting to the beach and restaurant via bicycles from the marina.
This marina is a pretty fancy place but boring because it was full of boats just sitting with few people around!  We cruised out of there on Monday and headed back to Vero to take advantage of the last few nights on our monthly contract.  On the way we passed the condo belonging to Greek's Folly folks and this time Colletta was on the dock waving us by!
And then after tying lines and getting settled back in Vero a great surprise happened and we were ever so happy we decided to return to Vero.  There I was, walking down the dock to the office to check in and I pass a sailboat that had not been there the weeks before and on the stern I read Canton, Ohio.   That is where my first job was and as I blurted that out, a head popped up from the sailboat.  The guy asked where I worked and I told him Goodwill Rehab causing him to respond that I must have known Cathy Newman and David Richardson which were very close friends of mine and also fellow PTs.  Then suddenly I realize I am talking with John Miller who owns a medical equipment rental and sales facility and John and I worked closely together for 15 years to provide the best wheelchairs and other supportive devices to the children and adults with developmental disabilities that were under my care.
Since John and I are just a bit older than we were back in the late 70's and 80's, it took us both a minute to recognize each other despite the fact that we had worked so closely together for so many years.  And of course, who would have thunk it that we would meet in Florida on a boat dock!!  I call that more of the great looper magic!
We greatly enjoyed our time this week reacquainting ourselves and sharing boating stories.  John's wife, Colleen was part of the fun as well.   It is amazing how our travels have made the world around us seem even smaller!   Al spent the time picking John and Collen's brains about travel north since they have been to Maine by boat, so we have new information to digest and use as preparation for this summer's adventures!  North bound we go!