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 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.
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.
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.
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.
I enjoyed my Saturday to the fullest. I got up early to go birding for a few hours at one of my favorite spots – Commons Ford Ranch Metropolitan Park. I watched the sun rise above the prairie.
I headed down the path to the river, as the mist lifted. Everything was very dewy.
It was nice to be out looking for the birdies.
After returning home, I cleaned up and we headed to the lake. Monte and I enjoyed a long sail in mild-ish winds. As soon as we got into the slip the winds really picked up (of course). So, when Kurt and Kevin stopped by a little bit later, we all went back out, in more sporting wind. It was another great sail, though with 4 people in the cockpit, we wore masks.
We were tied back up in the slip in time to watch the sun set on a very nice day.
We baked in the sun while seeking refuge at the lake from the 100 degree temps this weekend. Julie joined us on Saturday afternoon. We stayed the night. We floated, kayaked, SUP-ed, and played on the lake with Marty, Sue, and some of the other sailors with boats nearby. I was tuckered out by the time we got home Sunday night. That’s hard work.
We are making more frequent trips to the lake lately to get a break from the endless 100 degree days we have here in Austin.
Last Sunday when we came home from the lake, we realized we were missing our styrofoam cooler. It’s not just any styrofoam cooler, though. It is a cylindrical bait bucket that’s been in Monte’s family as long as he can remember. And it has been along on all of our camping and boating adventures for the last 20+ years. It makes a great, compact ice bucket. As it has worn thin and broken over the years, Monte mends it with wood and epoxy. One day, I expect it will be all wood. It’s special.
We went back to the lake Tuesday but didn’t find it on the boat. So we sadly assumed it must have blown into the lake from the parking lot while we were loading the car. Monte added it to our Lost-shit Log of things we’ve lost in the lake.
We looked for it on lee shores as we sailed, but didn’t spot it. Returning to the marina Wednesday afternoon after anchoring out for the night, we learned it had been found and turned in to the office. Awesome!
We headed to the lake yesterday for a mid-week overnight anchorage in one of our favorite coves. We had a nice, long, light sail up the river and back for several hours before we anchored in the cove for the night, grilling dinner off the stern under a colorful sunset.
Then, after listening to our neighbor (motor) boat in the cove playing non-stop, loud, expletive-laced music for several hours, just 100 feet away from us, we opted for a lovely moonlit sail back to our slip.
In the morning we decided to drive upriver to where Cupholder is docked for a daysail up to MM 48 and back.
The winds were light, but cooperative. The motor boaters were few. It was lovely. After we got back to our private dock we let it out a bit in anticipation of the lake levels continuing to fall.
Two nice days on the lake. Sa-weet. I’ll leave you with this quote from Wind in the Willows:
“Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing — absolutely nothing — half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats. Simply messing… about in boats — or with boats. In or out of ’em, it doesn’t matter. Nothing seems really to matter, that’s the charm of it. Whether you get away, or whether you don’t; whether you arrive at your destination or whether you reach somewhere else, or whether you never get anywhere at all, you’re always busy, and you never do anything in particular; and when you’ve done it there’s always something else to do, and you can do it if you like, but you’d much better not. ”
Monte and I spent a couple nights at anchor on the lake this week. We chose to avoid the wake-heavy holiday weekend. It was hazy, I guess from the Saharan dust remnants in the air. But it was lovely. Keeto enjoyed it, too. We’ve launched the kayak for the summer, so I have resumed my treasure-hunt-paddling around the coves. I was rewarded yesterday with this long lost 11 lb. Lewmar claw anchor and stainless steel tackle that someone had to cut loose at some point months ago when the lake was much higher.
And we were rewarded again with this treasure at sunset last night.
Monte completed the install of our new head on Nirvana this week! The work was interrupted by this shelter-in-place for a couple of months. But he made several trips this week and declared it done yesterday.
So today we went to the lake and took her out. We anchored and jumped in and floated in the lake for the first time this year. Water temps were still a tad chilly at 79 degrees F, but we sucked it up.