Sunday, February 9, 2014

While we were anchored in Mile Hammock Bay, the marines drove around in their amphibious armored personnel carriers.  This one was going slow.  When it sped up two jets of water came out the back and it made a huge wake.

This year we saw white pelicans near McClellanville, SC.  We have never seen them that far north before.  Usually, the first ones we see are in Florida.

I know he looks gray, but this brown pelican landed on our deck.  Bill chased him off before he left a mess.

Greetings from Florida – not from the warm, sunny Florida where Anita Bryant drinks from the Florida sunshine tree, but from the gray, cloudy, windy, rainy, cold Florida that we have been passing through.

Bill and I left Kingsport for New Bern on January 14th in my rusty old 1978 Chevy Blazer.  While ugly, it was big enough to carry us and all our stuff to Irish Eyes.  In New Bern, it took us a week to buy our food, work on the boat’s “to-do” list, and store all our stuff on the boat.  During that week we made a quick overnight trip to Salisbury, NC to attend the funeral of Bill’s cousin Bill.  It was a sad occasion, but we enjoyed seeing a good sampling of the Murdoch family.

We were nearly ready to leave when it snowed in New Bern.  It was really not much more than a good dusting, but it was snow and it was cold.  Sigh.  On Thursday morning, January 27, it was sunny, it was not quite as cold, and we were away by noon.  The sun made me think it would be warmer if we just kept going south.  Boy, I was ever wrong.

The next morning in Adams Creek it was clear but a cold windy 20 degrees.  Should we stay, or should we go?  My plan was to wait a day for warmer weather.  That wasn’t Bill’s plan.  When doing his daily engine checks, he discovered coolant dripping from one of the drain valves on the engine.  He tightened it a little, and the valve handle broke off.  Panic followed.  We had no spare.  First, he thought we would have to go back to the boatyards in Oriental; straight into the cold, north wind.  Not a pleasant thought.  Then I suggested several yards south of us.  Bill phoned two, neither of which had the part.  Dejected, he sat in front of the engine.  The valve wasn’t leaking anymore!  It had closed before the handle broke off.  Away we went.

The trip to Mile Hammock Bay in Camp Lejeune was cold and long.  Though the sun was out, it never got above 30 degrees.  The wind was behind us blowing down my neck.  I was cold.

The next day’s weather forecast was for a 40 knot gale.  The bridges along the ICW were not opening due to the high winds.  There was nothing to do but stay put in Mile Hammock Bay.  The Marines did not get the day off.  They launched several amphibious armored personnel carriers and some river boats.  It was entertaining to watch them.  The amphibious craft were interesting.  They were big heavy green things on tracks with guns on top.  In the water they barely floated.  The wakes they made when they went by us were huge.  I am glad I’m not a Marine.

By Sunday morning the wind had died down, the bridges were again operating, and it was not too cold.  One of the bridge tenders told us our VHF radio was not working properly.  Bill found the wires to the microphone were again broken and fixed them.  Other than that, we had an uneventful day and anchored in Carolina Beach.

The weather forecast was pretty grim for Tuesday and Wednesday.  NOAA was forecasting snow for coastal South Carolina.  I was not amused.  It was not supposed to snow at the beach.  We hurried down the Cape Fear River and along the ICW to Little River and tied up at Coquina Yacht Harbor.  We had supper with my sister, Elaine, and my brother-in-law, JP, and we saw our niece, Catherine.

As forecasted, winter returned on Tuesday.  It rained, it sleeted, and it snowed.  The boat was covered in 2 inches of ice.  Everything was covered in ice, roads, docks, sidewalks, everything.  Our dock lines were frozen to the cleats.  Walking was a real feat.  Nothing was moving on US 17.  I did not leave Irish Eyes.  Bill went exploring twice.  The ice did not melt either Tuesday or Wednesday because the temperature stayed in the 20’s.  Winter, bah, humbug!

Finally, on Thursday, January 30, Captain Bill was so antsy that we broke the dock lines and electric cord out of the ice (goodbye heat) and headed south.  It was still cold, and the ice on the decks did not melt.  Around 4:30pm it started snowing again.  Even Bill had had enough of this fun, so we dropped our anchor in Cow House Creek.  It was a lovely spot, but I did not stay outside to admire my wintery surroundings.

The next morning was a little warmer, but the weather still called for long johns, a heavy coat and a hat.  The ice on the sunny side of the deck melted.  South of McClellanville the water was so shallow that we plowed our keel through the mud for fifteen minutes or more.  It was slow going, but that was okay.  A flock of white pelicans was fishing along the ICW.  They would fly when we got too close but always went ahead of us.  We watched them for over an hour.  If they had just flown the other way, they could have continued fishing in peace.  Stupid birds.  Our anchorage that evening was in Price Creek just north of Charleston.

Saturday, February 1, was a rainy, foggy day.  We saw very little of the Charleston shore because it was obscured by the fog.  Fog was to be in our future for the next week.  We anchored Saturday night in the South Edisto River, and stopped Sunday at the Downtown Marina in Beaufort.  Bill had ordered a replacement for the valve he broke and a new VHF radio.  Both had arrived at the Beaufort dock and were waiting for us.  We had a nice restaurant meal and watched the first half of the Super Bowl at Luther’s.

The ICW winds its way down the river from Beaufort and then crosses the Port Royal Sound.  In the lower part of the river it was foggy.  I mean really really foggy.  Bill was below watching the radar and telling me compass courses to steer.  I could not see the navigation marks or any other boats (if anyone was as stupid as we were to be out in the fog).  I do not like fog.  I conveyed that thought to the Captain.  I think he got the message.

The fog did lift after we entered Port Royal Sound.  We stopped for the night just before the ICW crosses the Savannah River.

Tuesday we crossed the river and continued on through some of the shallow parts of the ICW in Georgia.  We had some minor fog on and off all day.  Once again I made the statement I do not like fog.  We anchored for the night fairly early because the fog was so thick the navigation aids could not be seen.

Wednesday February 5, was Bill’s 63rd birthday.  I gave him his presents at breakfast, and then we were off.  We went a quarter mile before we turned back and re-anchored.  It was so foggy I could not even see the banks on the ICW.  About mid-morning the fog lifted, and we were underway again.  A large brown pelican decided to take a rest on our deck.  (Pelicans are huge birds that can leave huge messes.)  This one stayed with us for about 15 minutes before hopping off and into the water.  The weather cleared and was warm.  We ended the day without a jacket!  It was so pleasant.  We watched the sun set from the cockpit with drinks in hand.

Our next stop was Jekyll Harbor Marina.  Bill had ordered a computer cable and had it sent to the marina.  We enjoyed a hot shower, and the marina manager gave us a ride to the island’s grocery and liquor stores.  The restaurant had a live band that night, and we celebrated Bill’s birthday a day late with food, beer, and music.

Friday we crossed the Georgia/Florida line.  It was still cold.  Not really cold, 50 degrees, but with the wind it felt cold.  We tied up for the night at a city park dock outside of Jacksonville.  Irish Eyes was the only boat there.  It was raining and cool.  I am quite sure on a warm summer evening we would not have been alone.  A sign on docking said similar size boats must raft together and that the 3rd and 5th boats in the raft must be tied to the dock.

It was raining when we left, and it has rained on and off all day.  We stopped briefly in St Augustine for fuel before anchoring for the night in the Matanzas River beside the 18th century Spanish Fort.

We are motoring south toward the warm Bahamas weather.  We are expecting lots of visitors on this trip: both our daughters and their families, friends from Tennessee, and Bill’s brother and his wife.  I am excited!

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