Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

I’m on the Cumberland Island Beach with palm trees, white sand, and sun.  Finally, we are far enough south here in the southern corner of Georgia to be warm.

Bill stopped on his way back to the boat on this Cumberland Island trail amid the palms and Spanish moss covered live oak trees.

Anchored in Florida at last, but the weather in Fernandina Beach did not match the latitude.  In the evening the town’s waterfront disappeared in the fog.  The next day brought both tornado and thunderstorm warnings.

The bridge across the ICW in St Augustine is called the Bridge of Lions.  This is one of the lions.

Outside Stewart’s Market in St Augustine a truck of oranges waits to be unloaded.  Stewart’s is a grocery store like they were before they became supermarkets.

I am typing this as we motor down the Indian River between Melbourne and Vero Beach Florida.

First, let me tell you part of the water pump pulley story.

Bill was worried about the superglued together pulley on the raw water pump on the engine.  He called three Yanmar dealers along the way looking for a replacement.  In Myrtle Beach, Hague Marina didn’t have one in stock.  In Georgetown, Hazard Marine did not return two phone calls and did not answer the radio as we cruised by their dock.  In Charleston, Charleston Boatyard did not have one in stock either.  Bill gave up looking and ordered a pulley from an internet dealer to be delivered to Beaufort, SC.  For good measure he also ordered a complete pump assembly from a boatyard in Massachusetts to be delivered to us in Vero Beach, Florida.

Now with that out of the way, I’ll go back to our 2013 cruise where I left the story in the Coquina Yacht Club in Little River, SC.

A spot off the ICW behind Butler Island in the Waccamaw River north of Georgetown was both scenic and an easy day’s travel from Little River.  It was our first stop on this next leg.  Our second stop after Little River did not go as well.  We pushed on until sundown to reach Seven Reaches Creek north of Charleston.  That did not work out at all.  With the tide nearly low but still falling and the sun going down, we hit the bottom twice trying to enter the creek where the chart plainly showed 7 feet.  Abort.  We backtracked and anchored in the familiar-to-us spot in Dewees Creek not far from the Dewees Island ferry dock.  The sunset was spectacular, but the air temperature dropped like a stone as the sun went down.

Sunday morning, February 3 was clear but very windy.  NOAA had small craft advisories for Charleston Harbor.  We, being the aforementioned small craft, stayed safely anchored for the day.  I knitted and read.  Bill, who could not cruise south, cruised the internet instead.  As forecasted, it was cold and windy.  It was a day much better spent at anchor than motoring south.

Our third night was anchored in another familiar spot, just off the ICW along the banks of the South Edisto River near Fenwick Island.  Everything was fine until Bill logged onto the internet only to discover that the pulley from the internet dealer had not been shipped because the credit card had failed.  Oooh, was he mad.  There was nothing he could do till morning.  After two phone calls to the dealer, the credit card number that had not worked before worked.  The pulley would be a day late getting to Beaufort.  We would have to spend the night there rather than just stop, pick up the pulley, fuel the boat, and go on.  It all worked out better than he thought it would.  February 5 was his 62nd birthday.  I gave him his present (a fancy hand held GPS), he got a nice meal at a waterfront restaurant in town, and he got to go shopping for the list of things that he had left Kingsport without.  The phone rang with friends and family wishing him a happy birthday.  Not a bad outcome.  For my part I bought postcards and mailed then to the grandchildren.  Then, I visited the local knitting store buying yarn for another project that I had been thinking about.  (One can never have too much yarn.)

With full fuel and water tanks and with the new pulley firmly bolted in place, we were off to Georgia.  It was warm enough not to wear a coat.  We passed Hilton Head Island and anchored in a beautiful spot on the New River just north of the Georgia state line.  All we could see for miles was marsh grass with the industrial works along Savannah River rising above the grass in the distance.  Just as the sun was setting, we watched two tugs and their barges, one northbound and the other southbound, maneuvering through a skinny spot in the ICW behind us.  It was impressive to watch the skillful captains as we listened to them talking on the VHF radio.

Thursday, February 7 dawned gray and cloudy.  NOAA predicted rain off and on all day.  Bummer.  I like the warm sunshine better.  We pulled up the anchor early in the morning to catch high tide in a shallow spot in Field’s Cut just before the Savannah River.  Across miles of marsh grass we watched one ship pass down the river in front of us, and on the VHF radio we listened to another headed our way up the river.  We got across the river and back into the ICW without a hitch.  I would like there to be traffic lights at river intersections.  Irish Eyes is so small; the ships are so big.

The forecasted rain began as we passed the cemetery at Causton Bluff.  The cemetery was beautiful from the water.  The live oak trees were huge and the Spanish moss was everywhere.  One of our guide books said John Muir thought it the most beautiful spot in Georgia.  Beautiful or not, it was still raining.  We passed Moon River, and it was still raining.  I did not sing the song.  It was pretty miserable; wet and cold.  We decided to turn off the ICW and into the Vernon River.  We anchored even though it was just lunchtime.  Bill did some boat chores.  I knitted, read, and cooked chicken with apples and sweet potatoes for supper.

The next morning was gray.  The top of the nearby cell tower was invisible in the low hanging clouds.  It was just gray, gray, gray.  We motored through the shallow spots at Hell Gate, The Florida Passage, and Creighton Narrows making it to the South River near Darien, Ga. at sunset.  That put us just north of the shallow and aptly named Little Mud River.

Saturday, February 9 was clear but cool.  The tide was high and we transited the Little Mud River without a problem.  We stopped at the south end of St Simon Island outside of Brunswick early in the afternoon to wait until the next day’s high tide to go down the shallow Jekyll Creek.  Bill did some more boat wiring chores.  I often wonder if he will ever run out of boat chores.  What will he then do for entertainment on these trips?

We motored through Jekyll Creek never coming close to striking the bottom.  As we went out into St. Andrew’s Sound, we unfurled the genoa and motorsailed behind Cumberland Island and into the Brickhill River.  We anchored just off the Park Service dock at Plum Orchard Plantation, one of the remaining Carnegie mansions on the island.  The weather was sunny and much warmer.  We took the dinghy ashore and walked the two miles across the island to the ocean side beach.  I even took off my shoes!  We found several whelk shells, actually lots and lots of whelk shells, but I left some behind.  We had the place almost to ourselves.  It was a nice day.

For a change of scenery we moved to a spot off the Greyfield Inn at the southern end of the island.  The guidebook recommended the position to anchor and spoke eloquently of the inn – the most exclusive inn in the country, the spot where John F. Kennedy, Jr. was secretly married.  The inn may have been great (we never went), but the anchorage was lousy.  It was narrow and deep, and the water flushed through like a river.  Being ourselves less patrician and more egalitarian, we moved to a much better spot off the Boy Scout Sea Base Dock.  We again went ashore walking over to the beach on one trail and back by the ruins of Dungeness on another.  It was a very nice walk.  The south end of the island had more visitors than the north end.  We saw several tour groups.

This was our sixth trip south through this part of the ICW in Irish Eyes, and if you add our trip on Canary, our 22 foot sailboat, it’s seven times we have passed Fernandina Beach without stopping.  We decided to stop this year.  We walked through the restored town centre looking in the shops and at all the stuff we did not need.  Two of the things we did need were lunch and something to drink.  An Irish Pub promised both, so in we went.  A little farther along (and not matching the early 1900s theme of the restored downtown) we came to the discount store Fred’s and bought a few groceries.  It started raining, so back to Irish Eyes we went.  The rain did not last long, so we made a late afternoon trip back to town just for exercise.  It was seriously foggy by the time we got back to Irish Eyes.  We had a movie night aboard the boat -- Lawrence of Arabia.

On the 13th, the weather forecast had a tornado watch in the morning and high winds and thunderstorms in the afternoon.   We were chickens; we stayed where we were anchored.

Valentine’s Day dawned rainy but not as windy as the day before.  Bill gave me a small box of chocolates.  I was impressed he had managed to buy it without me knowing and keep it hidden on this small boat.  Way to go Bill.  We motored in the intermittent drizzle to Vilano Beach just north of St Augustine.  Just after we anchored the rain began in earnest.  We were chilled from the rain and wind, so I made potato soup for supper.  It really hit the spot.

Friday we made the short trip to St Augustine’s municipal marina mooring field where we tied to a mooring ball.  We made our shopping lists and set off in the dinghy for town.  The first stop, of course, was Sailor’s Exchange - a building filled with unwanted, used, and broken boat stuff.  I looked at the water wrinkled and sun bleached used books while Bill wandered amongst the junk.  Amazingly, the store did not have anything Bill wanted!  He bought nothing.  We walked to the Winn-Dixie and West Marine stores for groceries and more boat stuff.  On the way back, we stopped at a roadside produce stand and bought strawberries and tomatoes.  I do not think I’ve ever been to a market where you picked out each strawberry or each cherry tomato you wanted.  I bought some of both, and they were really good.  It was about 3pm by this time, and we had not had lunch.  Both lunch and supper were accomplished in a single meal of a huge pizza and two large beers.

NOAA said it was to be very cold in Northeast Florida the next day. The wind was to blow almost gale force (30 knots), and the temperature was to fall into the 20s.  Well, they were right.  We left Irish Eyes in the warm breezy morning and walked across the Bridge of Lions to Anastasia Island.  We found a seafood restaurant some friends had recommended, but it was too early for lunch.  The local grocery store was the old fashioned kind with bushels of clams and oysters in boxes, unwrapped produce, a meat counter manned by a butcher, and unlevel floors.  The pickup truck full of oranges parked in front of the store ready to be unloaded was the crowning touch.  As the wind picked up and the temperature fell, we went walking around the touristy parts of St Augustine and its art district.  To get out of the weather we dropped in for a late lunch at a bar across the street from the marina.  We washed down two hot sandwiches with Brooklyn Brewery dark beer.  I believe the young Tom Price works for Brooklyn Brewery.  Even if he doesn’t, the beer was good, and we toasted the Price family.  It was time to head back for a long wet dinghy ride to Irish Eyes.  We managed to arrive at our floating home mostly dry but still wind whipped and chilly.

Sunday morning it was cold.  It was back to long underwear, heavy coats, and wool socks.  We motored to Daytona Beach where we saw the blimps circling the speedway.  It was cold, so we didn’t spend any time in the cockpit once the anchor was down.  It was time to shut ourselves inside.

Our next leg took us through the Mosquito Lagoon.  There were houses along one side of the waterway and little mangrove covered islands along the other.  Birds seemed to like the islands.  We saw American Oystercatchers, Great Blue Herons, Egrets, White Pelicans, and our first Rosette Spoonbills.  The temperature warmed up steadily into the upper 60s.  Things were looking up.  Just past Titusville, at 4pm, we had to stop at the NASA Causeway Bridge.  The bridge doesn’t open for water traffic between 3:30 and 5:00pm.  Rather than waiting until 5 then pressing on, we anchored on the north side of the busy bridge.  Like a vagrant, I slept to the sound of bridge traffic rumbling by outside.

Yesterday, Tuesday, February 19, was much warmer.  It was warm enough for no socks, shorter pants, and only one shirt.  We stopped for lunch in Cocoa, anchored off the city park and visited the S.F. Travis Hardware Store.  The hardware store was huge, old, dirty, and to my eye disorganized.  It didn’t seem to bother the workers.  They knew where to find anything you wanted.  Bill got a couple of things on his list.  I just browsed.  After lunch we continued on to Eau Gallie where Bill once again anchored us near a bridge where we could be lulled to sleep by the traffic.

Today we got to Vero Beach.  We stopped at the city marina, filled the fuel and water tanks, emptied the holding tank, and picked up all the presents UPS and FedEx had left for us.  We got the water pump Bill ordered from Massachusetts, a new battery charger for the camera batteries, and two replacement C-map memory cards for the chart plotter.  I got a DVD of Downton Abbey’s third season.  Yes, I know what happens in the end, but I missed some episodes when we could not get a PBS TV station on Sunday nights.  We will spend a couple of days in Vero Beach doing laundry, restocking the pantry, and doing the never ending boat chores.  The plan is to then head across Florida via the Okeechobee Canal to the west coast then south to the Florida Keys.  This will be a new territory and a new adventure for us.

Stay happy and warm.

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