Monday, June 13, 2011
During one night while I was asleep two flying fish landed on our deck. I don’t think they meant to. Bill took this picture holding one’s wing out before tossing them both back into the sea.
Off the Florida coast ten or more small porpoises swam over to visit with us. Here are two of them; one coming up and the other going down.
The Charleston pilot boat accompanied us into Charleston. He goes faster than we do.
Near McClellanville, SC we were invaded by swarms of horse flies. There were no horses nearby so they came after us. We killed hundred in the cockpit. Most blew overboard. These landed dead on the boat where I vacuumed them up. I have not counted them yet.
We are back in the USA.
We left Marsh Harbor on Tuesday May 31. That wasn’t the original plan, but the online weather forecasters (guessers) were talking about a tropical low pressure system off Panama that could possibly turn into a tropical storm. We were itching to leave and the local weather while windy was not too bad. Bill dingied over to the Marsh Harbor Marina with our three fuel jugs, bought 15 gal of diesel, and we were off, headed to Bakers Bay on Guana Cay for a change of scenery. When we got there Bill revised his plans and decided to go north through the Whale Cay Passage and stop at Green Turtle Cay. Going out Loggerhead Channel, around Whale Cay on its ocean side, then back in through Whale Cay Cut can be a bit scary if the wind and tide are opposing one another or if there are swells in the ocean. I don’t know what was going on when we went through, but it wasn’t a smooth passage. We took at least two waves over the side of the boat that wet me and washed one of my small conch shells overboard. Oh well, I still have a few of my shells left.
As I said, the revised plan was to stop at Green Turtle Cay. That didn’t happen. The wind and waves were good, so we continued on to Powell Cay (revision two). Captain Bill got me to sail there by telling me there were nice beaches and trails on the island. There may have been, but we never left the boat. After spending a very pleasant night at anchor, Bill said the weather forecast was good for a crossing to Florida. Chris Parker‘s shortwave radio forecast said there was a two day or maybe a two and a half day weather window for crossing the Gulf Stream. It was time to go. So, off we went headed to Fort Pierce, Florida (revision three). We were sailing downwind which made the ride very pleasant as long as the waves weren’t too big. It was going good for the first day and part of that night as we sailed across the Little Bahamas Bank.
When we left the banks behind and entered the Gulf Stream, it became way too rolly and bouncy to suit me. Bill said “Let’s change course and head north as an experiment to see if the ride will get a little more comfortable.” We did, and the boat settled down. The course change meant we were now headed to St. Augustine and would have to spend another day and night underway (revision four). Oh well, it was more comfortable; not a lot better, but better. As we got near the middle of the Gulf Stream our speed increased to 9 knots. We were really flying. The wind, and more importantly the waves, died down during the night as we moved over to the Florida side of the Gulf Stream.
That night as we were sailing along in the dark, I was on deck alone and Bill was asleep below when something began flapping about in the rear of the cockpit. It scared me, and not just a little. I dove below and woke Bill. He came on deck and picked up the flapping thing. It was a storm petrel; a brown dove-like sea bird with black webbed feet. It seemed confused and could not stand up without falling. I guess it had flown into us in the dark. The second time Bill put the bird on the stern of the boat, it seemed better and flew away.
At noon on Friday June 3, we were at the sea buoy off St Augustine, Florida. It was hot. There were wildfires in Florida and Georgia. We could see the smoke plumes from miles offshore. St Augustine was bathed in smoke. We decided that even though we had been at sea for 48 hours we would not stop in St Augustine but keep going (revision five). Bill called Customs and Immigration to clear us into the US using our Florida Frequent Boater cards. The cards show that we have passed a background check. They should exempt us from having to appear in person before a customs or immigrations officer. At first my Frequent Boater Card number didn’t work. The agent said I would have to appear at the federal offices in Jacksonville. Bummer! But, after Bill’s persistent prodding, my records showed up in the system, and we were cleared into the US without ever touching land.
We motored sailed on until late afternoon when the wind picked up and we shut the engine off. Several times during the day we had dolphins swimming along with us. The dolphins we saw at sea were different from the ones we saw in the Intracoastal Waterway. They were shorter, a fatter, and spotted. They seemed really happy to see our boat. They would race over to see us, jump completely out of the water, and swim in formation very fast alongside the boat crossing from one side of the boat to the other by passing under the boat. They put on quite a show in the crystal clear water.
When the wind blew, we sailed. When the wind died down, we motored. Friday night, Saturday, and Saturday night crept by slowly with each of us catching two hours sleep as the other sailed the boat. We passed Jacksonville, Fernandina Beach, Brunswick, Savannah, and Beaufort, SC as we sailed north toward Charleston. With the autopilot steering the boat, there was little to do except watch for ships and other boats. My Kindle kept me entertained and awake as Bill slept. I could read a book, or I could play some of the word games I had downloaded. When we were within cell phone range, I could check my e-mail. With its nice little light I could do it in the dark. I probably would have been terribly bored without the Kindle. During one of Bill’s nighttime watches, two flying fish landed on deck; one just outside the cockpit. Rather than waking me up, he took lots of pictures then threw the two fish back into the sea.
Early Sunday morning we were off the entrance to Charleston Harbor. We were ready to have a full night’s uninterrupted sleep, so we came in through the jetties, turned north on the ICW, stopped, and waited the longest drooping eyed 45 minutes for the Ben Sawyer bridge to open. By noon we were anchored in Deweese Creek. Captain Bill lifted the ship’s temperance order, and we each had a couple of beers with our lunch. I was instantly asleep. It was good not to be moving. If fact, it was so good that we planned to remain for two nights and savor the sleep. During our trip from Powell Cay we had covered 500 miles in 100 hours. Whew, we deserved a rest.
Another sailboat, Tranquility, was anchored with us in the creek. Around midnight a thunderstorm passed by to the north of us. We got a fireworks show, 30 knot wind gusts, but very little rain. Our anchor held, but unknown to us Tranquility’s anchor dragged. In the morning we discovered she was very much aground; heeled over 45° with her hull and keel high and dry. But by the time Sea Tow arrived, the tide had risen and she was refloated with little effort. We spent the day being lazy. Gary McGraw, who lives on Deweese Island and has sailed with us in the past, came out with a friend for a drink that evening. I am afraid that after being alone for over a week Bill and I nearly talked them to death.
Tuesday morning Gary came by in his boat and waved, and we headed north. The plan was to anchor before we got to Georgetown, SC. There we would have to decide whether to hop outside for a quick trip up the coast or to continue up the ICW stopping in North Myrtle Beach to see some of my family. That day was hot in the ICW, and there wasn’t any wind. We spent the day killing greenhead flies. There were hundreds and hundreds of them. Bill would swat, and I would suck up the carcasses with our Dust Buster. It was a regular fly Auschwitz. In the midst of the mass killing, I baked a loaf of bread. With the current speeding us on, we arrived off Georgetown earlier than we had expected. Since the forecast offshore winds were light and variable and since we find the Waccamaw River so delightful, we abandoned our offshore plans, slowed down, and spent the next two nights on the river and the following night in a marina in Little River.
Our first night anchored on the Waccamaw wasn’t very peaceful. Bill forgot to put a screen in one of the open ports. The bugs found the opening in our defenses, and they found me. Our second night we anchored in a bend of the river behind an island near Bucksport. It was lovely. We could see three osprey nests from the boat and could hear them calling to one another. Several times an osprey would fly by dipping down into the water for a drink. They weren’t fishing, just getting a little water to drink or to cool off. We too took a refreshing fresh water swim. With the sweat washed off and the sun awning and wind scoop up, it was nice and cool. This time Bill got the screens in all the port holes, and it was a really lovely night.
Thursday we motored up the ditch to Little River. We saw my aunt, uncle, and cousins as well as my sister Elaine and her husband JP. It was good to catch up with family.
After refueling at the Myrtle Beach Yacht Club, we were on the way north Friday morning. We motor sailed out of the Little River Inlet headed for Carolina Beach. The outside run from Little River to the Cape Fear River only takes a couple of hours. The plan was to go up the river to Snow’s Cut and then into an anchorage at Carolina Beach. There we would spend the night, move up the ICW to Wrightsville Beach, anchor there for the day, and head out Masonboro Inlet late in the afternoon for an overnight trip to Beaufort, NC. Well, once again Captain Bill changed his mind. We listened to the NOAA offshore forecast. It said Friday night would be the best night of the next three. We never stopped.
We sailed in the ocean until the wind died in the early morning then motored arriving off Beaufort at sunrise Saturday morning. From there we motored through Morehead City’s ship turning basin and up the ICW to Adams Creek where we anchored in Cedar Creek. Our friends Robert and Susan Banks on Impetuous III sailed down from Oriental to spend the evening with us. We dined on the last of the dolphin fish we caught in the Exumas. It was cooked on the grill along with the fresh corn on the cob that the Banks brought. The evening wasn’t as hot as the local radio had led us to believe it would be. We had a good breeze, and in the shade of our sun awning lots of sea stories and boat adventures were told and retold.
Sunday morning Robert ferried us over to Impetuous III for Susan’s great breakfast of ham and bacon and eggs and grits and toast and tomatoes and fruit, and juice. Stuffed, Bill and I raised our anchor and headed up the Neuse River to Northwest Creek Marina. We were safely tied up in our slip by 4pm. The boat’s air conditioner was waiting in the trunk of my car, but the car’s battery was completely dead. Bill got the car running. We installed the air conditioner on the boat and then drove to the Little Italy Restaurant for a celebratory pizza. We were back on board Irish Eyes and sound asleep by 10pm.
Today will be a work day. We have lots of cleaning, fixing, packing, and sorting to accomplish. We should be at home in Kingsport within a week. Our trip was 143 days long. We have no idea how many miles we covered. It was great… and, we are still speaking to one another.