MM180.

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!

Since we left in the afternoon, today was a short mileage day. 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!

Tomorrow’s a new day on the ICW.

MM229.

Day 5 – 5 bridges. 56 miles. The new thing today was having to time our arrival at bridges that only open on the hour, or on the hour and half hour.

We had to dodge some hellacious thunder and lightning storms by doing circles for a bit. The currents seemed to be fickle today. There are so many inlets to/from the Atlantic that one minute we’ll have the tide with us and then we cross an Inlet and then the current turns against us. Where inlets and rivers cross the ICW, sand builds into shallow shoals. We passed this one where the locals had erected a flag, a palm tree and a parking meter with a cleat on the side for boats to tie up. 🙂

The ICW in these parts flows right past the Marine Corps’ Camp LeJeune. The ICW is sometimes closed here for hours due to live ammunition fire exercises.

Target practice…

There were no live fire exercises today. But we had originally planned to anchor right off the ICW here. We had to abandon that plan due to the anchorage being closed for military exercises. We saw a space age amphibious vehicle enter right in front of us.

I wonder what they would have done if we pulled in there to anchor.

So we continued 15 miles farther north than we’d planned to be today, and are at a lovely anchorage at the town of Swansboro. We grilled kebabs, watched a wedding reception on the waterfront, watched the boat swing until the currents changed 3 hours after high tide, and took in another lovely sunset.

MM285.

Day 4 – 2 bridges. 30 miles. We got off the dock easily this morning and headed on our way by 9AM. Every stretch of the ICW has been a little different each day. Today took us through the Cape Fear River. We had the tide against us for a couple hours and it was slow going through mostly sea-like conditions in the wide and deep shipping lanes.

We then turned back up into the ICW. Lori found a website where the Corps of Engineers posts images of current depth soundings all along the ICW, which provide the latest status on shoals and problem areas. We referred to that along the way. So we knew we were in for a couple of very low stretches today. We actually bumped bottom once today!

We pulled into Wrightsville just in time to get hit by our first thunderstorm/deluge as we were anchoring. Not bad. I’ll take it.

We grilled on the boat and rocked out until sunset. It was another lovely night.

MM315.

Day 3 – 17 bridges (yes, 17). 58 miles. Today brought us across the South Carolina border into North Carolina.

Captain Lori picked the departure time perfectly, which isn’t easy with tides and currents being different all up the ICW, and worrying about clearance under bridges and up the channel given changing depths.

Again, we lucked out and were not hit by the storms around us. Today’s challenges were long stretches where the current was against us, which slows us down, and navigating the areas of the ICW that cross river inlets to the Atlantic Ocean. The coast guard temporarily moves the channel markers to safely navigate changing shoals in these areas. Oh, and there was that one jackhole in a fishing boat who nearly ran into us from behind at high speed as he wasn’t paying attention. Luckily he looked up at the last minute and we only got water from his boat spray in the cockpit.

We started the day running up the ICW behind Myrtle Beach. Lots of homes and boat traffic.

Civilization, bridges and traffic from air and from sea. ICW kitsch… Swing bridges that opened when asked nicely… More kitsch…First channel marker in North Carolina…

It turned beachy at Shallote’s Inlet. If you look closely you can see the surf breaking on the Atlantic side… And we got to see the back side of many beach homes…Home for the night…

MM373.

Day 2 – Two bridges. 47 miles. We had storms all around us but were only hit by a few sprinkles. Still, we move along at about 6 mph, looking at tide tables, currents and the waterway guide to time arrivals along the way. We just keep following the magenta line on the charts.

We hit some of our shallowest water today, only about 6 feet deep, which is a little close for our 5 foot deep keel.

The ICW scenery changed for us today from a narrow ditch surrounded by low, grassy marshes, to a very wide and winding river surrounded by tall moss-covered cypresses and pines.

Morning scenery…

Afternoon scenery…

We are staying the night at Osprey Marina, which is fitting, because we saw about a hundred ospreys today!

Family time.

I enjoyed my extended weekend in Seattle. The wedding was the reason for the visit, but we used it as an excuse for multiple family gatherings. Noreen and David hosted rehearsal dinner on Friday, a post-wedding-reception evening party on Saturday, and a backyard BBQ with yard games on Sunday. They allowed for good visits with all my siblings, nieces and nephews, and a grand-nephew in one place – a first in a very long time.

The weather gods didn’t smile on the outdoor wedding, as it rained all afternoon. But, it was a truly lovely service and reception. God bless Neil and Miranda’s marriage. ❤️

When Memorial Day finally came along, we drove up to Paradise on Mount Rainier. It has been over 40 years since I last visited the park. We hiked a bit up the mountain, in the snow, and took in the views. It wasn’t a crystal clear, blue sky day, but it was majestic, nonetheless.

Mount Rainier National Park lodge at Longmire…

Just a pretty little waterfall…

And a prettier, bigger waterfall…

The view from the hike above Paradise, at about 6000’…

Now, I’m on my way back home. My flight flew past the north face of Mount Saint Helens. You can see the blast damage to the cone on this side of the volcano from its 1980 eruption. 

Mountain peek.

I flew to Seattle for my nephew’s wedding this weekend. I was looking forward to the stunning fly-by of Mount Rainier, but the clouds were high and thick and did not afford the usual view. I snapped a picture as we flew over the 14410′ high peak at about 17000′. Can you spot the top of the peak?

First bluebonnet.

Monte is the Bluebonnet Whisperer. We have several patches in the yard, and they’ve started to bloom. It’s going to be a big year. This is the first one to be brought in to the house.

(photo manipulated with Brushstroke iPhone app)

Next chapter.

I’m headed home today. This closes the “Help Lori get to the Islands” chapter for Monte and me. One year ago today we were in Bradenton, Florida readying the new-to-her boat to cross the Gulf of Mexico to bring Trident née Ariadne to Kemah for fixes and updates in preparation for cruising by the end of 2018.

It’s been a lot of work – a labor of love; but also a real treat to have been aboard for shakedown cruises and the trip through the Florida Keys and across to the Bahamas. I’m thankful to Lori and Mike for sharing their adventure. Bon voyage Trident!

I’m looking forward to the next adventure/project/travels/chapter – whatever 2019 brings.

Here are a few highlights from the last few days in the Abacos…

Dolphins swam along in the bow wave on our sail from Great Sale Cay to Allans-Pensacola Cay!

The Bahamian sunsets never get old…

I landed this Spanish Mackerel!

New Plymouth waterfront, on Green Turtle Cay…

The Atlantic Ocean…

I even found a few bits of sea glass on the beach!

We go to come back…

Super Bowl Sunday.

We’ll, the Seahawks didn’t make it this year. Instead of cheering them on in the big game, I continued to crew for Lori as she takes Trident across the Gulf Stream to the Bahamas.

After spending over two weeks in Biscayne Bay waiting to go, Sunday was the first ideal weather opportunity, and it was a short window.

We moved anchorage Saturday night to just inside the ocean between Fisher Key and Virginia Key. It provided a great view of the Miami skyline.

We left Miami Sunday morning at 3AM, on a course Lori set for West End on Grand Bahama Island, where we clear customs and spend one night before making our way farther east to the Ábacos.

I never crossed the Gulf Stream before, and I’ve learned how it should be navigated as a part of this whole adventure. Our destination, West End, lay about 82nm NE of Miami (a bearing of 53 degrees on the compass). But we can’t simply head directly for West End on a course of 53 degrees, because the Gulf Stream will push us north 2 to 2.5 nm every hour we stay in it, which is 10-12 hours. Not good. So, instead, we aim south of our desired destination by about 25 nm (a course heading of 71 degrees instead of 53) and if our math is right, we should pop out at West End at about 3PM.

It was a very calm day so we motored the whole way. Sunrise…

We arrived on time, at the right place, and pulled into our slip at the Old Bahama Bay Marina. We hoisted the yellow quarantine flag until Capt. Lori went ashore to clear in the crew. We skipped the big game but enjoyed our fill of conch and island drinks, which was my real superbowl. Sunset at the marina…

Counting birds.

I participated in my 3rd Christmas Bird Count today.  Our small group of four birders hiked for over 6 hours and logged 45 species.  Our counts will be rolled up with the other teams’ results.

A foggy morning over the Pedernales River….

turned into a beautiful day above the Pedernales River.

What a lovely day!

Save the little flowers.

We brought our vulnerable outdoor plants in when the weather turned cold last week. Most of them are in the shop. I brought a few small ones into the house. I’m enjoying this one, a pretty pink impatiens.

Impatiens walleriana

Brrr-ski.

Last night a cold front settled down in central Texas. The high yesterday was 92 degrees. The temps today have dropped nearly 50 degrees. A rude awakening.

All but one of my hummingbirds have moved on. This one has spent the day under the eaves out of the rain, sheltered from the north wind, and with its personal supply of nectar. I named her Ellie. I hope she makes it.