Wherever we go we have dolphins playing around us. Sometimes they seem to be looking at us from above the water. Sometimes they seem to be chasing fish disturbed by our propeller. And sometimes, they seem to be just playing.
Between Beaufort, SC and Paris Island we fell in with a fleet of racing sailboats. We ran our engine to stay out of their way and to stay out of their wind. They certainly worked harder at sailing than we do.
The salt marshes in Georgia are in many places completely undeveloped. I find them oddly beautiful. Our problem with them is that they are also shallow with a large tidal range. It can sometimes be a challenge to press our 5-foot draft through the shallow spots.
Cumberland Island in Georgia has woods full of lots and lots of armadillos. We saw perhaps 15 in one afternoon. They seem to be even more stupid and slower than their more familiar (to us) close relative, the possum.
Cumberland Island is a national park. Most of the island was used by the Carnegie family as a winter vacation and social gathering spot. This is Plum Orchard, one of the family homes. We took a guided tour of the inside.
Every Trident nuclear missile submarine needs to be degaussed before setting off to sea. If you have a submarine that needs a little degaussing, come to the Kings Bay Naval Base. We hear they do a bang up job. This degaussing station is where you will need to go.
Sunrise in the Palm Coast Marina found us hard aground, healing to starboard, and stuck in our slip at low tide. We had to wait for the water to return to leave. Why were the larger boats to the left and right of us not aground? What did we do wrong? Curious minds want to know.
Hello from Vero Beach. Bill and I are enjoying the warm Florida weather. For a short time, we were not sure if we would get to the Bahamas this year. Bill and I both had some health problems. Bill had hernia repair surgery in November. I had two surgical procedures to get rid of a kidney stone in December. Bill’s surgeon released him in December. My doctor told me on January 5 to pack my bags and get on thet boat. I did what the doctor ordered. Packing in earnest began as soon as I got home from that appointment.
On January 13, we had all the things we thought we needed, probably some extra things too, packed into my 1978 Chevy Blazer, and we made 8 hour drive to New Bern, NC. Over the next twelve days, Bill worked on his project list. Two big jobs were installing a new alternator on the engine and replacing the fluid in the refrigerator/freezer holding plate, but the whole list had over 30 items. I shopped for the groceries and the other stuff we needed for the trip. We saw our dear friends Bill and Phyllis Pardee twice for dinner, and we drove down to Oriental one evening to have supper with our old friend Susan Banks.
On what should have been our last day in New Bern, Bill began the annual maintenance on the dinghy’s outboard motor. It was the last item on his list. I was down below when Bill appeared with a handful of rusty metal. The outboard has a steering shaft that the engine rotates on when it is steered just like the leaves of a door hinge rotate on the pin. The rusty bits were the remains of the steering shaft. Bill could still steer the outboard, but it was more than stiff, and the whole thing threatened to come completely apart. Once we are in the Bahamas our dinghy is like our car. It is the mode of transportation between land and our boat. We decided we would feel better with either a repaired outboard or a new one. Bill called an outboard motor sales and service place. The fellow there explained how long it would take and how expensive it would be to repair our outboard. The replacement part would cost $150.00, but it would take many hours of labor to install. A trip to town and a bruised Visa card later, we became the proud owners of a new Yahama 9.9 horsepower outboard. By then the wind had picked up, and it was too windy to leave our slip anyway.
At noon the next day, we untied our dock lines and started our trip south. Our first night out was spent in Adams Creek, a short 4-hour motor and sail down the Neuse River. The weather was clear, but it was a little cool. One of my Christmas presents from Bill was a 12-volt bunk heater. It is like an electric blanket but goes under the sheets. We gave it a try on our first night out. I crawled under the covers of what should have been a cold bed, but found it delightfully warm and waiting for me. It gets my vote for one of the best presents ever. A cold front passed over us during the morning of January 26 bringing rain and lots of wind. We took the day off, and stayed where we were.
The trip down the Intracoastal Waterway in North Carolina was almost uneventful. I did run us aground at the New River entrance, but we quickly freed ourselves. The weather was not that cold, but it was windy making it feel colder than what the thermometer said. My bunk was again toasty warm that night when I was ready for bed… nice. The tide and current were with us, and we made it by the other trouble spots in NC without any real problem.
In South Carolina we stopped at the Barefoot Landing Marina in Myrtle Beach. We walked around the adjacent shops all full of things we did not want or need, then we had dinner with my sister, Elaine, and my brother-in-law, JP. It was, as usual, good to see Elaine and JP. The rest of the state passed quickly by.
We timed our trip through the numerous shallow spots in Georgia passing through each at either high tide or at least on a rising tide. When we got to Cumberland Island, the forecasters were predicting a cold front with thunderstorms and high winds. It had been a few years since we had been to the northern part of the island, so we anchored in the Brickhill River near Plum Orchard, one of the rather grand Carnegie “cottages”. We walked across the island to the beach side and found lots of shells on the beach and lots of armadillos in the woods. The armadillos were slow and stupid creatures. We could walk to within a yard of them, and they would continue their sniffing and rooting in the leaves. If we got closer, they would just trundle away. Later, Bill went for another walk on the island while I baked bread. (He likes walking in the woods a lot more than I do.) Bill met a man and two women who were Park Service volunteers living at Plum Orchard. They told Bill they gave tours of the partially restored house on the hour every day if anyone comes to the door. We stayed an extra day just to have a tour of Plum Orchard. The tour was great. Our docent said that the house had been made safe, but lots remained to be done. They had some furniture in a few of the rooms and were actively looking for more original or period pieces. It was easy to see how grand the house had been in its heyday. I wished the tour had lasted longer than its one hour. There was far more to marvel over than we saw.
The next morning, we left Cumberland Island and headed on down the ICW entering Florida at last. It was a warm day, and we made great time. In the late afternoon, it was time to decide where to anchor for the night. Bill figured that the sun would set while we were passing through the 10 mile long Cabbage Swamp Canal. With houses and docks on one side and the swamp on the other, there would be no place to anchor there, but he thought light from the houses would make it easy to see where we were going. I was not so sure. The sun went down and it got dark. It was not so dark in the straight and easy to navigate canal, but it was completely dark when we left the canal and entered the winding Tolomato River. At our first chance with our spotlight lighting the shore around us, we pulled off to the side and anchored near a Danish sailboat. After a well-deserved drink, the nearly full moon rose, and we finally could see again. We had done well.
Our next anchorage was to be at Fort Matanzas, just south of St. Augustine. It was a beautiful sunny day as we made our way by St Augustine, through the Bridge of Lions, and south to Fort Matanzas. When we reached Fort Matanzas, it was low tide. The wakes from the small motor boats buzzing around us were breaking on the shallow shoal between us and the fort. Captain Bill decided there was not enough water to get to the anchorage. I heartily agreed. He decided we would continue and get a slip at the Palm Coast Marina a couple of miles to the south. Bill called the marina. The offered a slip without water or electricity for $20 a night. Never one to pass up a cheap offer, Bill accepted. We got Irish Eyes tied up in the slip and headed for an unlimited hot water shower. Clean and fresh smelling, we took a short walk to the European Village, a restaurant filled shopping center. Both of us enjoyed our dinner at a lovely Portuguese restaurant. We went to bed feeling safe and well fed.
About 5 in the morning Bill woke up clinging to the side of the bed trying not to roll out. I found myself hanging onto the other side trying not to roll into Bill. The slip we were in did not have 5 feet of water in it at low tide. The tide had gone out leaving Irish Eyes aground and lying on her side. There was nothing to do but wait. By 10 tide had risen enough to re-float the boat. With the help of some guys living on their boats we managed to back out of the thick mud and head south once more. What an experience. The slip was only $20. I guess we got what we paid for.
After Palm Coast, everything was fine; nice temperature, sunny, and not too windy. All was well until we reached New Smyrna Beach where the ICW meets the Ponce de Leon Inlet. Once again it was low, low tide. We were following the red and green channel marks but then, whump, we were aground. It took us several minutes to get off the bottom, and we bumped again before we found enough water to float. While we were trying to find the deep water, we watched a 40 foot Pacific Seacraft sailboat go by the same spot without any problem. Oh well. We passed through New Smyrna and anchored just before entering Mosquito Lagoon. We had a quiet night floating among a collection of rapidly decaying local boats.
Another cold front was headed our way on Valentine’s Day. We made it to Cocoa, put down our anchor off the town, and decided to spend two nights. The front brought lots of wind that night and on the second day. Fortunately for us the wind did not keep us from going ashore for a meal and taking a walking trip across the bridge to Merritt Island and the grocery store.
Back on the boat, Bill decided to work on our deck wash down pump. The pump pumps sea water through a hose on the deck allowing Bill to wash the mud off the anchor and its chain as he pulls it up. The pump had gotten very loud and was tripping its circuit breaker. Bill discovered a ball bearing in the pump motor was shot. After another trip across the bridge, this time to West Marine, he had a new wash down pump. By bedtime it was installed.
The long President’s Day weekend was rapidly approaching. We decided to make our way to Vero Beach and take a mooring ball to avoid the holiday boat traffic, so here we are. It takes a while for us to get into the boat routine. I must learn how to cook on a Barbie-size two-burner stove, to use the small galley space, flush a marine head, and motor along from sunrise to sunset. I am happy with boat life today. It helps when we are in warm and sunny Florida.