We pulled out of Brunswick, Georgia, on Saturday morning, heading down the ICW for our last 2-day leg to our destination, St. Augustine, Florida. So many birds, so little time.
Cumberland Island is situated right along the ICW, it is an undisturbed island and a lovely spot, with wild horses roaming about.
We motored past Kings Bay Naval Base in Georgia, a place my family almost moved to when I was in high school, but my dad’s assignment ended up being in Madrid, instead. We anchored in a lovely spot right off the ICW after about 35 nm.
The next day was uneventful, other than a rainstorm that we went through right before arriving at the Bridge of Lions in St. Augustine for the 2pm opening.
It was GREAT to pull into the slip and tie up. Michelle greeted us with bubbly to celebrate our arrival.
Our journey of over 920 miles is completed. Now I just need to get home to Austin by Thanksgiving!
After Carolina Beach, Lori and I stopped in Southport, North Carolina at a marina on the Cape Fear River for one night. We used Lori & Mike’s folding bikes to go into downtown. It was t-shirt and shorts weather again!
We grabbed nibblies at the bar, watched a little football to keep up on our fantasy football team scores, and then headed back to the boat.
The next day, Tony joined us, and we left North Carolina, heading south in the Atlantic Ocean bound for Charleston, South Carolina. That is an overnight sail, so we took turns at the helm overnight; in the cockpit for 4 hours, sleeping 2 hours, repeat.
The sail to Charleston was great! We were able to sail with main and jib up all the way, pretty much on the same tack, in a straight line to Charleston ship channel entrance. It was, however, brutally cold. You take what you can get.
We stayed at anchor overnight in the Ashley River, across from the Battery in Charleston. Then, in order to keep moving, we opted to go south on the ICW. We enjoyed a beautiful night at anchor in the Ashepoo River.
The next day, we continued on the ICW, exiting out to the ocean in the afternoon at Port Royal Sound, bound for Brunswick, Georgia. It was not as cold as the other night, but this sail was an uncomfortable one. NNE winds, 15-20knots, gusting in the 30’s, almost directly behind us, with seas around 6′ which got bigger towards the morning. A bonus was a squall that hit about 3 AM, with rain and gusts up to 40knots. It was warmer, but it was 15 hours of pounding up and down waves. We couldn’t use the autopilot, with the stern being thrown with each wave, so we hand steered – or as I like to call it, wrestling the bear. Not to fear, though, we made it safely into port yesterday morning. As we entered St. Simon’s Sound at dawn, we went by the wreck of the MV Golden Ray, a massive car carrying cargo ship that heeled over and was run aground a year ago. Lori, Monte and I saw it last December when there to move Trident to Brunswick.
With a not-improving weather forecast, Trident will be heading down the ICW into Florida today. We hope to be in St. Augustine, Florida, by sunset tomorrow night.
Our original plan, to leave the ICW and head offshore in Beaufort, was intended to avoid the challenges associated with the ICW south of there. These include transiting the dozens of ocean inlets that the ICW crosses south of Beaufort where significant shoaling always occurs, often changing the ICW channel depth, making it dangerously shallow, and passing under a number of bridges that are less than the required 65′ vertical clearance with tides than can vary from the mean water level by up to 4 feet. But, alas, the weather offshore has been unfavorable, so we continued on south.
There is a kind soul on the internet, Bob Sherer, who maintains a blog called Bob423 ICW Tracks and Routes where he provides tracks (collections of GPS points) that he has carefully taken and mapped out for maximum depths. The tracks are available for download as GPX files into chart plotting software, like the openCPN that I use on my laptop and the Garmin chart plotter that Lori has at Trident’s helm. Fortunately, Bob’s latest track is as recent as a week or two ago, so it contains safe tracks around hazards that even the Corps of Engineers haven’t moved the red and green buoys around yet. There have been reports of multiple boats running aground this week in those spots. Not wanting to be one of those boats, we have been following Bob’s track. It can be a little spooky when Bob’s green track goes outside the marked channel. But so far, so good.
The bridges are a challenge of their own, especially with the flooding in North Carolina rivers currently going on, and an especially high tide. We have had to wait for the water level to go down on some bridges before passing underneath, but even so, we have bent the springy VHF antenna at the top of the mast back as we passed under 2 of them. That’s a little too close for comfort.
Hopefully, we only have one more bridge and one more shallow spot, at Snow’s Cut, today. Then we will be at a marina in Southport tonight, and pick up Tony tomorrow and head offshore for a leg south tomorrow afternoon. We think there is a 24-hour window that will allow us to get to Charleston without weather drama. But we’ll see how that plays out.
Even with those challenges, it’s been a nice few days since Beaufort. It’s been sunny, with wind to put up a sail. We anchored one night, and were on a mooring ball last night. Very nice.
On the last leg of our planned ICW-portion of the trip, we enjoyed a day of sailing with jib and main up in stiff breezes, arriving in Beaufort, North Carolina, by 2:30 Monday (Day 6).
We intended to stay here 2 nights and then pick up our third crew member, and head offshore to for the second half of our trek to St. Augustine. However, there is a mess of bad weather arriving Thursday, so that has impacted our plans. Thankfully, we were able to extend our stay at this marina another night.
It’s been nice to take long showers, walk around, bike into town, and do laundry after a week on the boat. It’s shorts and t-shirts weather here right now, which is a treat. Yesterday we did boat chores. Today, re-provisioning. Thursday, hunker. Friday, we’ll likely leave Beaufort and head south. Unfortunately the bad weather offshore persists, so we will need to spend a couple more days on the ICW. Perhaps to Southport, the next major inlet from the ocean. We’ll have to see what the weather looks like early next week.
We picked up anchor at 6:15am Friday in a thick fog.
We left before sunrise because we had a long goal of making 68 nautical miles (nm), and a backup plan to go about 45 nm instead. The challenge is being able to gain more speed than the 5 to 5.5 knots (nm per hour) of the engine. Fog can hurt. Current can hurt or help. Wind can help.
We can’t just anchor anywhere along the way because there are long stretches of the ICW that are land cuts; very narrow, and the channel takes up the whole width of the cut. And you can’t anchor in the channel.
The fog eventually cleared and we had a little boost from the wind, so we made the farther anchorage after 11 hours.
As we exited the 20-mile Alligator River – Pungo River Cut the sun was setting. We went a few miles farther, anchoring right in front of the land on the far horizon in the picture above.
Last night’s anchorage was in the Elizabeth River at Portsmouth. This is a view of the Norfolk waterfront across the river.
Today’s schedule was challenging. Ten hours of daylight to cover 60 statute miles, or around 52 nautical miles, while trying to navigate through 15 bridges and locks, 5 of which only open on the hour or half-hour, and maintaining an average speed around 5 knots.
We woke up before sunrise to be greeted by fog. We hoped it would lift quickly. We picked up anchor 15 minutes behind schedule, but only when we were able to see about a half mile.
Once underway we made up time and ended up a half hour ahead of schedule after the last bridge. The ICW was very crowded today, lots of boats passing one another only to have to wait together for the next bridge opening.
We were able to put up the jib to add a knot to our speed as we crossed Currituck Sound in the narrow channel. We needed all the time that we gained because when we made it to our anchorage it was 30 minutes after sunset.
Long day, but I loved it! Lori cooked a delicious dinner and we turned in early. More tomorrow…
Last week, Monte and I flew to Charleston to meet up with Lori, to crew for her as she moved S/V Trident south to Brunswick, Georgia for the rest of the winter.
Trident in her slip in Charleston is in the foreground, to the right, of the picture below, with 2 tankers getting ready to pass nearby in the narrow Cooper River ship channel just outside the marina, and the Ravenel Bridge in the background. The two-masted schooner at the dock to the left is the 140′ Spirit of South Carolina. We finagled our way on board her to watch the Charleston Christmas Boat Parade up close the night before we departed.
After we landed in Charleston, I had the Uber driver make a side trip to my old house. I moved many times when I was a kid. When I lived in Charleston, I was around 7 to 9 years old, and I think it is the first place I lived where I have lots of my own, real memories – as opposed to memories from snapshots, stories, or individual moments in time. The old chez:
After provisioning and finishing the short pre-departure list of boat chores, we had a chance to walk around Charleston a bit, and sample its great seafood, which was nice. I would like to come back with more time to see the sights. The Pineapple Fountain in Waterfront Park:
Colorful housefronts along Rainbow Row:
We took the Intercoastal Waterway from Charleston to Savannah, anchoring one night in a creek just off the ICW, and staying at marinas in Beaufort and Savannah. We strolled around Beaufort’s oak-lined and moss-draped historic streets, making a stop by the house where The Big Chill was filmed. We had a lovely visit with our niece and her family in Savannah. Amy Lee gave us the best car-tour of its historic downtown, as a slow rain fell. Then we took the outside ocean route overnight from Savannah to Brunswick.
It was very COLD overnight on the ocean, but we made it! Another adventure in the books.
Day 14 – 8 bridges. 1 lock. 12 miles. On the road, again! We left the dock right before the 7AM opening of the Battlefield Bridge.
Immediately after the bridge is Great Bridge Lock connecting the freshwater Albemarle & Chesapeake Canal to the south, and the saltwater Elizabeth River to the north, lowering us one foot as we traveled north.
After this, there was only one more bridge for which we had to time our arrival, as it doesn’t open during morning rush hour.
All the other bridges are either fixed or are usually in the open position; even the bridge that delayed our arrival. Below, you can see Norfolk beyond the formerly broken bridge.
We got an up-close view of Norfolk Naval Shipyard (Est. 1767!) as we motored past.
It felt really good to pull into Trident’s new home slip. Mission accomplished!
Day 13 – We are still tied up at a boatyard waiting for the Belt Line Railway Bridge at MM2.5 to open. Below, we are second from the left, boats waiting…
We haven’t been idle, though. This morning Lori went for a run, I found a geocache, and walked through a nearby wooded park.
We are in an area called Great Bridge. The nearby historical markers tell a story of the first-ever Revolutionary land battle in Virginia Colony which was fought right here. And we won! The British forces were repelled with great losses, and that was the first victory for the American colonies in the war.
This afternoon we cleaned the boat top-sides and inside. Laundry, showers ashore, and then a lovely dinner of tapas and wine at a restaurant less than a mile away.
We learned tonight that the bridge is now OPEN!! We will leave in the morning to travel these last 12 miles. One last sunset on the canal!
I’ve enjoyed chatting with our temporary dock neighbors. Everyone has a story to tell.
Day 10 – 3 bridges. 53 miles. There is 20-ish mile man-made land cut between the Pungo River and the Alligator River on the ICW. It’s very straight, and surrounded by tall pine trees.
This was the last section of the ICW to be completed in the 1920s to allow inland passage between Norfolk to Miami. We took that cut today and were able to put the jib up for an extra knot or so. Along the way, we slid past bald eagles, Canada geese, white-tailed deer, and many small birds.
After exiting the land cut we sailed up the Alligator River, which is huge. We had wind-driven waves but luckily they were on our stern, so it made for comfortable sailing.
As we turned off the ICW to anchor, a hellacious squall arrived. Lori saw 32+ knots as I was on the bow dropping anchor in the rain. Trident’s anchor held like a champ, as usual. We were treated to a double rainbow for our efforts.
We are anchored tonight right where the Alligator River joins Albemarle Sound, which we will transit tomorrow. It’s the last big body of open water that we cross on this trip.
Day 8 – 3 bridges. 22 miles. We finished up last-minute chores this morning, and left the slip at slack tide, around 2pm. Goodbye Beaufort! The string of signal flags on the flagpole at Beaufort Docks Marina spell out B-E-A-U-F-O-R-T. 🙂
Since we left in the afternoon, today was a short mileage day. Along the way, we passed lots of small boats and shrimpers.
But we took a looong time to get there. We pulled out the jib and gained two or more knots. Tonight we are at anchor off the Neuse River, in the mouth of the South River. We anchored exactly at sunset here. A few minutes later, the full moon rose over the trees. Just beautiful!
Day 6 – 2 bridges. 27 miles. When we left this morning, there was a parade of shrimp boats and tugs; more than we’d seen so far.
Today was supposed to be a short day but we were fighting mysterious tidal currents so we ended up only going between three and four knots for most of the day. Coming into Beaufort Inlet we passed this beautiful catboat. This one is for Monte…
Tonight we are at a marina in Beaufort, NC. We are 3 slips down from this bad boy, the S/V Miniskirt.
When Lori checked us in we got two wooden nickels for free beers at the marina bar. Let me tell you, my Yuengling went down fast. It was HOT!
I enjoyed visiting with friends of Lori’s from way back. They gave us a quick driving tour of the area. We walked out to the Atlantic.