Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The cruise ship Disney Magic passed us headed back to Port Canaveral during the day. Two others passed us during the night. They are much bigger and faster than we are. It is scary enough during the day and much more so at night.

This submarine was leaving Port Canaveral as we were coming in. She was surrounded by flying helicopeters and armed boats.

The USS Farragut was leaving the navy dock in Port Canaveral as we motored by. We were escorted at this point by a boat with a man standing beside his machine gun.

Eli can not yet walk on his own, so he crawled along the beach collecting sand samples on his face.

Isabella and Kaelyn enjoyed their time together on the beach at Cocoa Beach.

This pitiful little fort with a garrison of five or six protected St. Augustine for attack by the British for a hundred years. Pitiful.

Sunset on the Waccamaw River in South Carolina. It is one of my favorite places along the Intracoastal Waterway.

Hey. We are safely back in the US and tied up in our slip in New Bern 129 days after we were last here.

We sailed overnight from West End, Grand Bahama to Port Canaveral on May 17 leaving Sunday morning. The overnight trip was fairly uneventful. The wind was coming from behind us and the seas were about 2 to 3 feet. We passed several cruise ships during the night, or I guess really, they passed us. The ships were ablaze with so many lights, we could not make out their red and green port and starboard navigation lights. It made it hard to figure out which way they are going. Bill got to use his radar to track these big ships. It gave him something to do in the dark.

We arrived in Florida around 11am, entered Port Canaveral as a Trident submarine and an Aegis guided missile destroyer were leaving, docked at Cape Marina, then walked a little over a mile in the rain to the US Customs and Immigration office. The man who checked us into the country issued us a Local Boaters Option registration card. With this card we won’t have to appear in person next time we come back into the US on Irish Eyes so long as we come back into Florida. Although the card is federal it isn’t valid anywhere but Florida. At least we won’t have a repeat of this year’s long wet walk or last year’s $100 taxi ride.

As we were walking back to the marina it started pouring rain so we stopped for lunch in hopes that the rain would stop. It did not. This was the beginning of the Florida monsoon. It rained most of the week we were in Port Canaveral. The children and grandchildren were coming to meet us May 23, so for the next few days we just rested, read, knitted, and did a few little chores on the boat while over twenty inches of rain fell. One day we caught the local bus and went shopping. Bill found a used boat parts place a block away from the marina. He, of course, found some irresistible things to buy and add to the clutter on the boat.

On Saturday the family arrived… in the rain. We all sat in the salon while four year old Kaelyn toured Irish Eyes. She liked our boat. She found it just about right for a child’s playhouse; little stove, little refrigerator, little bed, and a working toilet; perfect. The weather cleared up enough in the afternoon to take a short trip to the Cocoa Beach beach. Kaelyn and Eli, from Middle Tennessee, had never seen the ocean. Both of them enjoyed playing in the waves and getting completely covered in sand. Isabella, the Florida native, was already an old beach pro, but she liked the beach better this time because she could now walk on her own with adults chasing after her.

Sunday was not a beautiful day, but for a change it wasn’t raining. We untied Irish Eyes and with all nine of us on board motored out through the ship channel into the Atlantic. Julia and Michael were not big fans of the waves. Julia looked very ill in the swells, and Michael worried about sharks, sea monsters, and giant fish. Kaelyn sat on the bow just loving the ride as we plunged into the waves driving the water spray above her head. We cut the trip short, returned to the marina, and all went back to the beach. We had a ringside seat to watch several cruise ships leave the harbor. ‘Freedom of the Sea’ was the largest with 4000 passengers and 1300 crew! We also saw two Disney ships, ‘Disney Magic’ and ‘Disney Wonder’, come and go. The recession hasn’t hurt their trade.

On Memorial Day the Selfs and Zangris left to go back to Winter Haven, and Bill and I left to go west through the Cape Canaveral Barge Canal to the Intracoastal Waterway. We made it through the Port Canaveral bascule bridges without having to wait. We navigated into the lock, tied up, and shut the engine down. I was sitting on deck watching the fish swim around the no fishing signs ready with my boat hook to fend us off the wall. Bill said, “That was a real non-event.” I was very puzzled by his comment because we hadn’t moved up or down (or so I thought). I looked around and the exit gate was opening. If we went up or down at all I never saw or felt it. The next bridge was stuck in the closed position, so we had to circle around for a half hour or so while the bridge tender struggled. Whatever was wrong was eventually righted, and we finally got through. We motored north on the ICW past Titusville to Mosquito Lagoon and anchored there for the night.

Tuesday was a fairly long day of motoring. The weather had been clear, but around 5pm a humdinger of a thunderstorm came up. We were headed into the Matanzas River to anchor near Ft. Matanzas. It was raining fairly hard, but after just one bump (?) on the bottom we made it into the anchorage. The storm thankfully didn’t last too long. Wednesday morning we put the dinghy in the water and went to the National Park Service Dock to take their pontoon boat to the fort for the free tour. It was an interesting place. The Spanish managed to keep the English away from St. Augustine’s southern entrance for a long time by simply keeping a lookout and several old guns at Ft. Matanzas – a complete bluff when you take a close look at it.

After our history tour, we moved on to St. Augustine and anchored in the harbor. The weather forecast for the next few days was fairly benign, so we decided to go out into the Atlantic to Beaufort, SC. By sailing outside, we could avoid all the shallow spots in Georgia. Bill went to Sailor’s Exchange (a used boat stuff store), West Marine, and Winn-Dixie. I did our laundry at the municipal marina then walked around the downtown for a bit.

Thursday we were up early to make the 8:30am opening of the Bridge of Lions. Construction work on the bridge was still ongoing. The old bridge was beautiful and the locals tell us the new one will use parts of the old. But, for the last couple of years it has been an ugly mess with lots of rusty old barges, tugs, pile drivers, and cranes all around in the water and a temporary steel lift bridge in the middle. Once we were out of the St. Augustine inlet, the wind was perfect for sailing, and we headed north staying about 20 miles offshore. All was well until about 8pm. A huge thunderstorm blew up and stayed with us for 4 or 5 hours. All I will say is the lightning was spectacular, all around us, and constant. Our 45 ft aluminum mast was the highest thing in miles. In spite of my earnest pleadings I was not levitated off the boat.

After midnight the weather improved, and we sailed on till morning. We passed Jacksonville, Fernandina Beach, Brunswick and then Savannah. The sun was finally up and shining when we crossed the Savannah ship channel. We watched the Coast Guard board a foreign ship for inspection. At least it wasn’t us this time! As usual Bill and I did not do formal watches. We both stayed in the cockpit until one of us couldn’t stay awake any longer, and then that person slept for an hour or two. I listened to my pocket-sized radio when I was awake, and Bill watched the ships coming and going on radar which for him was sort of like TV without the ads. We made it into Beaufort, South Carolina in the afternoon, anchored the boat, and took a well deserved nap.

During the next two days we motored north on the ICW in South Carolina. We anchored in Church Creek south of Charleston one night and then in Whiteside Creek north of Charleston the next. We saw alligators, wood storks, and ibises between Charleston and Georgetown. I wouldn’t have been able to identify the birds without my super deluxe gyroscopic binoculars. They really are a “good thing”. Once we passed Georgetown the wind returned, and we again hoisted a sail. I really liked the Waccamaw River section of the waterway. The scenery changed as we went along, the water was fresh, and the creek anchorages are numerous and isolated. We went into Thoroughfare Creek, dropped our anchor for the night off a sandy beach, and stayed until the afternoon of the next day. We twice watched dragon flies catch and eat horse flies; simple entertainment while enjoying a gin and tonic.

Since the water was fresh, I took a bath in the river. The current was extremely strong, and Bill put out a 100 ft floating line behind the boat so I would have something to hold onto. That was a good idea. I hopped in, was immediately swept away, but managed to grab the line because I couldn’t swim against the current. Seriously, I couldn’t make any progress at all against the current. It was hand over hand up the rope and back to the boat; not a good feeling.

In the late afternoon we sailed and motored the 10 miles to Bucksport. The Old River which branches off the Waccamaw at the Bucksport Marina was lovely, and we went as far into it as we felt was safe. That night we had a perfectly idyllic anchorage all to ourselves among the cypress trees and water lilies.

We motored to Coquina Yacht Club in Little River to spend the next two nights visiting with my sister, Elaine, and her husband, JP. Friday was my aunt Mary Ellen’s 80th birthday. Elaine made a cake and had Mary Ellen and Ken as well as Elaine’s neighbor, Agnes, whose birthday was also on Friday, and her husband Tom over for desert. We had a good time.

I need to make a confession about a minor incident that occurred on the way to Little River. As we were circling waiting for the Little River Swing Bridge to open, I ran Irish Eyes aground. I mean seriously aground; four feet of water on one side of the boat and ten feet on the other. We could not go forwards or backwards. We were pinned against an underwater rock ledge by the current. Bill and I inflated the dinghy and were ready to launch it so we could put out an anchor upstream of the boat and pull ourselves off. A very jovial group in a small motor boat asked if they could help. Bill passed them a line, and with one quick tug they pulled us up-current and away from the rock. Now, we just have to see how much damage the rock did to the keel and rudder.

Saturday we motored all day through the notoriously shallow spots in both Shallotte Inlet and Lockwood’s Folly Inlet, up the Cape Fear River, and through Snows Cut to Carolina Beach. That night we anchored in Carolina Beach where it was very pleasant and cool. We had intended to do another off shore run from Wrightsville Beach to Morehead City, but the wind was from the northeast and we would have to have motored rather than sailed outside, so we just motored on the waterway.

Our plan was to anchor in Mile Hammock Bay, an anchorage within the Marine Corps’ Camp Lejeune. Along the way, another sailboat told us that the anchorage was closed. Bill called the Coast Guard on the cell phone and they said they didn’t know anything about Mile Hammock Bay being closed. We looked in all our guide books and charts and couldn’t find a phone number for the Marines to ask them. On we went. It was about 7pm when we turned into Mile Hammock Bay. There were several landing craft moored to the wall and some tanker trucks on shore but nothing major. We have anchored here when the Marines had a full sized tent city on the shore. Just as Bill was ready to drop the anchor, a pair of grey inflatable boats each complete with three machine guns and four camouflage clad young men came out to greet us. The guy in charge told us the anchorage was closed to civilians until June 30 or maybe longer. Ok, no problem, we just continued on to Factory Channel, a two hour motor trip away, and anchored there in the dark. The Hatteras Yacht factory was closed, so there was no one there to bother us. It was a late supper but a nice calm night disturbed only by the no-see-ums.

Our last night at anchor was spent in Adams Creek. It was a beautiful evening with a nice breeze during the night. Today we motored to Northwest Creek Marina and into our slip. We were just ahead of another thunderstorm, and the temperature was creeping up close to 90°. Waiting in the trunk of my car was our air conditioner. It wasn’t long before we had it installed and running.

So after 2500 miles of travel we are once again in New Bern. We don’t feel like we have been gone over 4 months, but the trees are green rather than bare and the mercury is at the top rather than the bottom of the thermometer. We have had a wonderful adventure, I’ve got my shells, and we still are a happy couple. Like the tee shirts say, “Life Is Good”.

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