Finally out of the deep freeze.

Wow. What a week. We had nearly 6″ of beautiful, powdery snow Sunday night into Monday morning. Then Texas broke. Or at least the electricity generators did, leading to a majority of homes in Austin and other cities throughout the state to have their electricity turned off. It wasn’t a rolling blackout for many. It was several days without electricity, with temperatures between 0 and 20 degrees Fahrenheit for most of those days.

We didn’t lose power at our house, for which I can only attribute to sharing a circuit with hospitals, a firehouse, and a couple of assisted living facilities. But crazy, scary times for many people.

Five days later, the temperatures are now in the high 50s, and will be even higher over the next week.

We drove to the lake today to check on the boat, and everything looks fine. The water temperature keeps the hull warmer than freezing, which insulates the plumbing that is below the waterline.

There was a little snow left on the decks almost a week after it fell, a first for us to see.

I am thankful for our good fortune, and hope that life soon returns to whatever normal it was before the cold weather arrived.

Big day.

Today was the day to re-raise the mast on Julie & Ryan’s boat. New windex, new lights, new halyards, new topping lift, new flag halyard, new sheaves, new wiring, new switches, refurbished outboard motor, replaced bulkhead mid-ships in the salon, chain plates reinforced, and some much-mended sails and boat canvas. I can’t wait to get out on the lake with these sailors. Next up: installing the boom, mainsail, and jib. Then we’ll take her for a sail!

Clearing the decks.

I have been keeping my year-old Sailrite sewing machine busy with boat canvas and sail projects, to make way for the next ones on my list.

Finished projects:

  • mainsail repairs for Julie & Ryan’s yet-to-be-named Catalina 25
  • new LifeSling 2 cover for Nirvana to match all the other sunbrella on-board
  • instrument panel cover v3.0 for Trident (this one can be tied to the boat so it won’t blow away in 50+ knot winds)
  • sailcover repairs for Cupholder
  • new mainsail luff-tape cover for Nirvana‘s furling boom
  • tool roll-ups for Monte, one for his metric wrenches, and one for his SAE wrenches

Next projects:

  • custom mattress covers & sheet sets for Nirvana‘s fore and aft cabins
  • sailcover repairs for Catalina 25
  • tiller cover for Catalina 25
  • design and make custom bags from an old Hunter mainsail that marina-friends Thomas and Monique gifted me
  • new stern-rail seat cushions for Nirvana
  • repairs to Nirvana‘s salon cushions
  • shade cloth rollups for Nirvana‘s bimini

Bring it on!

Back at the ranch.

After sailing Cupholder down to the marina on Sunday, Monte spent the next few days taking the rigging, booms, and mast down. Today we met Marty at the marina and we put Cupholder on the trailer and brought her home. Many, many thanks to Marty for his help and guidance as we worked to get the boat on the trailer properly. And thanks to Sue for the use of the 4Runner to do the hard work. We couldn’t have done it without you.

She’s back home. Hopefully not for long; and to return to the lake in 2021.

The next patient in the loft.

Julie and Ryan recently acquired a new-to-them sailboat. It’s an older Catalina 25. It needs some work, so we are helping them get things fixed up. Clever Monte got the outboard motor working. Now he is helping Ryan repair the electrics on-board. Julie brought over the sails, which need some mending. Their mainsail will be my next sail project. It’s in pretty good shape, except where sun damage caused some tears and deterioration where the previous owner left parts of the sail exposed.

Blustery day.

As Lake Travis’ level continues to drop, the water in the cove where Cupholder spent the last year is getting too low and the dock it is tied to will soon be aground. So yesterday, Monte and I took a drive upriver and sailed Cupholder back down to our marina, soon to be hauled out and parked at home.

It was a very windy day. A front had just passed through, so the winds were out of the north, which is what we hoped for to make for an easier sail 25 miles down river. Northerly is good, however, it was blowing 15-30 knots, with some gusts in the 40-knot range. So, it was a nice, but exciting, sail. The scenery that far up the river is always pretty, and the autumn color is finally showing up.

After a 6-hour sail, we arrived safely at the marina right before sunset. Kurt met us and helped us tie up in the strong winds. Another mission accomplished on the lake.

Final state.

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.

American White Pelicans

Cumberland Island is situated right along the ICW, it is an undisturbed island and a lovely spot, with wild horses roaming about.

Cumberland, Island, Georgia.

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.

A sub docked at the naval base.

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.

Bridge of Lions, St. Augustine, Florida.

It was GREAT to pull into the slip and tie up. Michelle greeted us with bubbly to celebrate our arrival.

Cheers! Oops, that prosecco disappeared fast!

Our journey of over 920 miles is completed. Now I just need to get home to Austin by Thanksgiving!

Finally offshore!

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.

Cheers!

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.

Navigational goodies to steer by when you can’t see anything on a moonless night.

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.

A view of Charleston waterfront along the Ashley River

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.

Work continues on the MV Golden Ray, laying on its side under the yellow saw that will cut it up in place.

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.

We’re almost there. Stay tuned!

Following Bob.

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.

Bob’s track in green, through the ICW at Snow’s Cut

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.

Sunset last night at Carolina Beach

Beaufort.

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.

S/V Trident, tied up at our Beaufort marina.

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.

Calm before the storms.

Looong Day 5.

We picked up anchor at 6:15am Friday in a thick fog.

Foggy sunrise

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.

The sunset was beautiful.

Day 4.

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…

Change of pace.

Last week I flew to Maryland to join Lori and help take her boat to Florida. Theoretically it is post-hurricane season, but you can’t tell these days. On one nice day, we drove to Mount Vernon to tour George Washington’s estate and mansion.

Mount Vernon, from the front. It looks like it’s made of stone, but it is really a wooden facade carved to look like stones.
Mount Vernon, from the side. The big porch on the back of main house overlooks the Potomoc River.

Mike left over the weekend, driving the car to Florida so it is there when we arrive. We spent a few days in the slip at the marina at Solomon’s Island waiting for some bad weather remnants of Hurricane Zeta to pass. On a rainy, freezing, blustery day, we cooked some meals to freeze for easy prep underway. I even grabbed a quick geocache, my first in Maryland. Tuesday the 3rd looked good for our departure from Solomon’s Island, Maryland, and so we did.

Day 1, we froze, with temps around 40 F and a very chilling wind around 15 knots. Nonetheless, we made our way south down the Chesapeake, anchoring in a lovely spot. It turned out to be the only day we were able to sail on the bay.

Point No Point Lighthouse on the west side of the Chesapeake Bay.

Day 2 was windless, but WARMER! So we motored 9 hours and anchored in a beautiful spot inside Mobjack Bay by ourselves. I even put out a crab pot overnight.

Sunset of Day 2

We saw dolphins, the water must be getting saltier, and lifer birds.

Day 3 started with a beautiful sunset, and when I pulled up the crab trap, we had a wee one! We let him go, but it was fun to catch something. Today is windless, again, but warm enough to take off jackets. The bay is as smooth as glass. The only thing we have to battle are the tidal and river currents going against us. This afternoon we will exit the Chesapeake Bay and anchor at Norfolk, Virginia.

Tomorrow, Day 4, we will start down the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway for a few days.