Heading North…

After returning to the boat from a huge breakfast, Melanie proceeded to take a nap while I worked. That evening we met our friends Jane & Bryce and went out with them to dinner and then took a walk around the pedestrian part of old town St Augustine. We had a nice evening before heading back to pick up Windsor for a little land time. There were street performers all over; the most interesting one we found was a violin player that had custom built, foot operated synthesizer that played piano chords! We stayed and listened for a half hour or so and chatted with her – fascinating lady. Then we headed back to the boat for an episode of “Death in Paradise” and bed. We slept hard – we didn’t wake until 9:30 the next morning!

Friday we slept in to recover from the previous night’s lack of sleep. After work we walked to the grocery store and along the way met our friends Jane and Bryce. We walked together till they reached their bus stop and then we continued on, headed towards Winn-Dixie. On our way we went past a store that was a bathing store all decorated in pink, called Antoinette’s – it was the cutest thing you had ever seen, so we had to get pictures of it. We also came across a farmers market and ended up buying all kinds of fruit and vegetables there, then made our way towards Winn-Dixie and found a health food store much like Raisin Rack in Columbus. We were thrilled! We ended up buying most of our stuff there, then ate lunch there and caught an Uber back to the Marina. The driver was a former Marine and we had a great discussion with him and got some pointers on places to go in the city.

Next morning we went to shore and took a train tour which took you around and showed you most of the major sites. We toured the old fort, walked through town and just enjoyed ourselves in general, meeting and talking with a few people along the way as well. We met a gentleman who was the manager of a small specialty store and he had two Burmese pythons. Melanie got to hold and pet one. There were people in the fort dressed up in colonial garb and in the evening they marched down through the old town to the governor’s house where they performed a 21 gun salute before marching back to the fort . We returned back to the boat after finding a small pizza place that actually had gluten free pizza. We ate there and had mussels for appetizers and then came back and tried to watch a show but we both fell asleep halfway through it.

Sunday morning we went in for coffee and went to the Catholic Church on the main city square. It was quite beautiful inside. The church was built in 1565 and recently underwent extensive renovations. It was quite a sight to behold. We returned back to the boat and Melanie made us a good salad with some of the veggies that we had scored from the market and then we headed into shore to take Windsor for a walk. We found a cute store that had a lot of dish towels with wine sayings on it. We ended up having a good laugh over some of the phrases. They were quite funny and we ended up buying a bunch of them for friends. We walked the neighborhood just north of Flagler College to see some of the old churches. The Baptist Church was built with bricks made of yellow clay that was quite spectacular, we also saw the memorial Chapel Flagler built for his wife who died in childbirth.

That evening Melanie started to experience severe back pain; it was clear we needed a chiropractor. We found one on Monday morning, scheduled a visit and then went to shore and walked the half mile or so to his office. He worked on her back for a bit and we left with her feeling much better. Next few days we fell into a schedule; me working in the morning and then heading into shore and walking until sunset. Tuesday we were able to pick up a mooring ball again, so we motored through the bridge and tied up before heading in to shore to do some clothes shopping. I had 2 pairs of shorts pretty much fall apart on me in a week due to overuse, so we found a thrift store and I bought myself a few replacements, then we walked to West Marine to purchase a new handheld radio to replace the one that died and stopped for a snack at a Tex-Mex restaurant before heading back to the boat. Melanie made a creole sauce for dinner and we had that over noodles with ocean shrimp – 10 of them made up a pound! Largest shrimp I have ever seen and they were GOOD. The creole sauce was simply smashing! We rounded out the day with a show on Netflix before heading to bed.

Next day we went in and did the usual wandering around, primarily for Windsor to get his exercise and for us to find things to do when our friends visited. We had heard about an Irish place that served good fish and chips from a fellow cruiser, so we searched it out and found it to be just as advertised; food made the old English way, good portions and plenty of malt vinegar to round the meal off. We thoroughly enjoyed it.

After work the next day we did laundry and started to prepare the boat for a weekend visit by Jeff and his girlfriend Marie. We ended up walking around the old town and landed at the pizza place we had been to a few days prior. We just ordered drinks and mussels – they were very good. We headed back and watched a show before hitting the hay.

We finished laundry on Friday morning and then prepped. When its just the two of us we tend to sprawl our things out, so we had to tidy up so our guests wouldn’t feel like they were living out of our clothes closet! After a little house cleaning and putting away the laundry, we were ready.

Jeff and Marie arrived around 6 p.m. on Friday evening, we went out to dinner at OC White’s across the road from the marina and walked around exploring the old Town before heading back to the boat and doing a little bit of drinking and socializing. We stayed up pretty late, it was after 1 a.m. before we all went to bed. Next morning after a hearty breakfast of omelettes with fried tomatoes, we took the one and a half mile walk to the St. Augustine lighthouse. We explored the grounds and took turns climbing the 219 steps to the top. The views were spectacular! Florida is so flat that you can really see for miles and miles from that height.

By the time we were all done exploring we were beat and we ended up getting an Uber back to the marina. We motored back to the boat and then enjoyed a nice happy hour aboard before heading ashore for dinner. We ate at Pizza Alley, and enjoyed some gluten free pizza and a few drinks. We then wandered around looking for a good ice cream store, before settling on some gelato from Kilwins .

We stopped and listened to the violinist we had met previously. The piano she played with her feet was comprised of three large calculator sized pads and when she touched the center of each button it would play a chord;  touching the outside of the button would play individual notes that were part of the chord. It was quite an amazing contraption, something she actually designed and built.

Next day Jeff and Marie headed back to Tampa, we said our goodbyes and then came back to the boat and did laundry and cleaned up in preparation for departure. We went to shore and ate dinner after going to the pirate Museum. We found another Irish pub, the second one we have been to and I had shepherd’s pie and Melanie had bangers and mash. We rounded it off with Irish cream, homemade by the restaurant.

We awoke early the next morning and motored into the marina to refuel and fill our water tanks. Then for the last time we headed through the Bridge of Lions and motored out of the St. Augustine Inlet and up the ICW towards Jacksonville. It was very windy, and we ended up using the staysail in order to make way. We had issues with the engine overheating, but with our large box fan blowing on the motor we were able to cool down the motor enough to enable us to reach Jacksonville safely. The ICW wound through the swamps north of st. Augustine and then through an area of large mansions, all with built-in docks on the outskirts of Jacksonville.

We entered the St Johns River around 3, anchored and watched the boat traffic until sunset before watching a movie and then going to bed. We woke quite early the next morning, hauled up at the anchor and then started to motor out of the St Johns River. We picked the worst time to leave. The tide was coming in and there was a two and a half to three knot current against us all the way out. Even with the staysail up we were only able to make 2 to 2.5 knots. It took almost 3 hours to go 5 miles out of the channel and into the ocean.

We raised the rest of the sails and pointed the boat towards Charleston. Of course the forecast was wrong, winds were predicted to be East at 10 to 15, they were Northeast at 5 to 10. This put us quite a ways off course, and to make matters worse the wind slowly died during the day. We started the motor reluctantly and after running it for about a half hour we realized that we had some sort of a leak in the engine. There was water coming out of the heat exchanger, it was cooling water for the engine, so we had to turn off the motor, and I headed down below to see if I could fix the problem. There was a leak, one of the two mountings had worn through and made a small hole in the heat exchanger. Luckily we had bought something called fiberfix , it is a resin infused tape that you soak in water and then wrap around the broken pipe, in this case the heat exchanger. It hardened in 10 minutes to a waterproof finish that was stronger than metal. We effected repairs and it worked. Note to self, order two or three more of these as they work extremely well! While I was working on the engine, the wind came up so we did not need the engine beyond testing it to see that the leak was fixed. We sailed the rest of the day and slowly, ever so slowly the wind started to move around from the Northeast to the east.  I took the first watch and Melanie went below at 7 to try and get some rest. The seas were calm so we were hoping that each one of us would be able to get a good night’s sleep. The winds were not strong so the 160 mile trip was going to take a good 2 days! Hard to believe when we were able to do 150 miles in 20 hours not too long ago.

I watched the sun set as a flock of terns circled the boat and fished for dinner. It seemed as though they were following us! There was also some tuna feeding on a school of small fish. I saw them jump out of the water a few times in their effort the to grab the tiny minnows. The Sun slowly set below the horizon, it was uneventful as the sky was completely devoid of clouds. It was a full moon over the weekend, so it helped us to be able to see a little better but it drowned out all but the brightest of stars. Of course with the sunset, the wind pooped. We were finally moving along at about 4 Knots with an apparent knot or so of current against us, but the wind dropped from a solid 13 to 15 down to 8 to 10. This slowed us down and really made us want to motor. But we had decided that we would not run the motor at night so that the off watch person could sleep a little better. The wind finally switched to the Southeast, so we were able to aim directly for Charleston and sail on a close reach towards our destination. With the wind more on the beam we were able to make better speed and our speed went from the upper twos to the mid to upper threes, even though the apparent wind dropped to 7 knots.

When Jupiter rose in the East, it actually reflected off the water much like the moon does when it is up. It helped to light the sky until the moon slowly crawled up above the horizon over the Gulf stream clouds. It started off as a dim orange ball, slowly becoming brighter and changing to white as lifted higher above the horizon. The ocean almost looked red where the moon rose, and it stayed that way until the moon rose higher in the sky and then the pathway to our boat changed to a silvery white.

We were now able to sail straight towards our destination, but the wind had dropped down to 7 and we made slow progress between 3 and 4 knots; waves would shake the wind out of the sails and even though they were not big waves, bad timing caused them to really slow us down quite a bit. Melanie came up for her shift at midnight. She said she could not sleep, I was exhausted so I went down below and tried to to sleep in the V berth. The sails would slam back and forth whenever a large wave came by and our progress was painfully slow. I felt like I got no sleep all but Melanie said she heard me snoring so I guess I did.

I awoke at quarter till 6 and we were still 104 mi from our destination! We had only done 56 mi in 20 hours! Melanie went down below to try and get some rest and I reluctantly turned on the motor. The sea was calm; there was no wind on the water and every once in a while a small swell would shake what little wind we had out of the sails and our speed would drop below 2 knots. With the motor running we were able to increase that to between 4 and 5. We were definitely fighting some sort of counter current. Then to make matters worse, instead of southeast winds the wind changed until it was coming directly from our intended destination, Northeast. With the motor running, we started to chew up some miles and by 8 a.m. We were under 100 mi to our destination which gave us a little encouragement. Forecasted winds for the day were 10 to 15 out of the southeast, and they gradually filled in and by 9 am there were cats paws on the water, but we only got about a 1/2 knot of help.

As I looked out over the calm sea with a few clouds to the east helping to frame the Sun and surrounded by a gently undulating ocean, it was hard to see myself anywhere else. It will be difficult to leave this and return to a shore based life. There is such beauty and simplicity in God’s creation, as complex as it is, the sights are truly wondrous and the way it sustains itself in spite of us humans is nothing less than a miracle. The might, the beauty, the grace of nature is truly astounding.

As the Wind filled in our speed slowly increased until we were flirting with five knots! The miles started to click off a little faster and we felt encouraged that we were finally making some decent progress. I think that our first day out was probably the worst day mileage-wise that we have had this entire trip. We only did 60 in one day! The motor seemed to be functioning well, the Flex fix did the job and we were back in business, I checked the motor every half hour or so to see if it was leaking and it appeared as though things were back and 100% again. We felt good about motoring without worrying about whether the engine would overheat.

The water had changed color too; no more midnight electric blues or turquoise, it was now a deep dark blue green. Melanie woke after a short nap and we ate breakfast and then set up the fishing equipment. It was a glorious sunny day with not much wind so we decided to troll behind the boat and see if we could catch anything. We were in international waters so no license required. We set two squid lures and let the line out 50 to 60 feet from the back of the boat in accordance with a fishing technique I had read up on. Of course the first 10 minutes or so nothing happened and then a pod of dolphins came in. We quickly reeled in and waited for them to leave before we set it again. They were just passing through, they checked us out and then moved on.

We tried for an hour or so and caught nothing but a balloon which we fished out of the ocean with a boat book. Eventually we packed up so that Melanie could rest up for her watch. We decided that I would be first and take the later watch and she would do the first watch before midnight.

Melanie made us a quick dinner and then at sunset I went to below to sleep. Jupiter and Venus were both up in the sky and cast enough light that it reflected off the water and made golden paths towards our boat. After an hour or so the wind came up enough that we could turn off the motor and for a short while we were able sail in peace and quiet. That did not last; within an hour it was back on again because the wind had died completely. It did finally switch to the southeast late in the evening and when I came up on watch we turned off the motor so we could slow down and enter the port during the day. We were on a deep broad reach and under sail alone made about 3 knots with six knots of wind.

That did not last long, because after an hour or so later the wind died completely and we ended up having to motor the rest of the way into Charleston. We arrived around 8 in the morning and after anchoring went to bed and took a long nap. After we woke up we took the dinghy over to Waterfront Park and took a walk around town. We walked up past the Old Market and ate at Bubba Gump’s shrimp, then walked back and stopped to do some wine tasting before coming back to the boat and watching a movie.

Next morning we headed into the marina, and it was quite a place. A resort, 3 swimming pools, hot tub, restaurants, Tiki Bar, we didn’t know where to start. Once we were tied up we took a walk around the grounds and went to the tiki bar for an early lunch. We met a very cute older couple from Charleston and arranged to get together later. We went over in the afternoon and explored the naval museum, a submarine, destroyer and an aircraft carrier. Then we returned and invited Dick and Peggy to the boat for evening drinks. We went back ashore after sunset, ate a light dinner and listened to a Grateful Dead cover band before turning in for the night.

Saturday Melanie did grocery shopping and then we met Dick and Peggy for lunch at one of the restaurants in the resort. We had a nice time with them and then came back and picked up Windsor and went out for a few drinks. In the late afternoon we went to Fort Sumter on the ferry and toured the museum there before coming back and having dinner with Dick and Peggy. Afterwards we decided that we needed to soak away the days aches and pains in the hot tub. We met a nice couple from Virginia named Charlie and his wife Gwen and chatted to them for quite a while before turning it.

Sunday we listened to a sermon, then prepared the dinghy for travel. We took the motor off, cleaned it, then washed the dinghy, washed the boat and by then we were sunburned and exhausted. We went to the bar and met our boat neighbor Alistair and his wife and a few other cruisers for a few drinks before coming back and putting on our bathing suits and heading back to the hot tub for a relaxing evening where we ended up chatting with Gwen and Charlie until midnight.

Monday we lazed around and then went to Red’s Ice House for dinner. We had a really good dinner, reasonably priced, then returned back to the resort and went to the hot tub where we met a family and chatted for a while before coming home and watching some Netflix.

We left early Tuesday morning and motored the ICW because the wind was unfavorable, straight in our face and on top of that it was supposed to die during the day. We thought motoring would get us there quickly and it did. The wind did not die, it stayed up all day but we made good progress through the swamps which gradually turned into forests and around Sunset we arrive in Winyah Bay where we anchored behind an island just off the waterway. We watched a few Netflix shows and then went to bed. The current in the bay was quite strong and held our boat very still during the night and we slept well. After breakfast the next morning we pulled anchor and headed toward Georgetown. It was only 6 miles away but it took us almost 3 hours to get there! The current was so strong that even with the stay sail up, we could only manage two and a half to three knots at best. Once checked in we explored town, ate dinner and then returned back to the boat for the evening.

While walking back to the boat we met and started talking to a couple on a powerboat. As it turned out they were docked just two slips down from us at Charleston! It’s funny how we are starting to run into people in different places that we have already met before.

Next day we spent the afternoon with friends from our home church. Jim and Maureen Sharp retired recently and moved down to a small town about a half hour away from Georgetown. They met us for lunch, and afterwards we came back to the boat and spent some time in fellowship. We saw our first alligator on the way back from the restaurant. It hung out underneath the boardwalk because people in the restaurants feed it. It was a small one, relatively harmless but an alligator nevertheless. I did not realize that they went this far north into South Carolina.

It was a wonderful afternoon and it was so good to see them both. They looked healthy and are obviously enjoying their well-deserved retirement. We took Windsor for a long walk after they left and then had a few light appetizers for dinner before returning and starting on the second season of Broadchurch. It was recommended to us by people we met in Charleston and it is a spellbinding show. Highly recommended.

We woke up early on Friday and went into town for a good cup of coffee before dropping the lines and heading out of Georgetown. It was a wonderful stay and we will definitely be back. We motored down the river, leaving around 9:30 to take full advantage of the outgoing tide. Even with no wind, we were easily able to make between 6 1/2 and 7 knots. It was a quick trip out to the ocean, but it appeared from the lack of wind that it was going to be a long long sail to Morehead City. We raised our sails but ended up motor sailing all day. The wind eventually picked up and we were able to do between 5.5 and 6.5 knots with the motor running. We tried turning off the motor and our speed dropped down to three, so reluctantly we fired her up again and continued on.

We set a line once we got out about 15 miles to see if we could catch anything. It was the second time we had tried to fish and this time we got lucky! We reeled in a 7 lb Barracuda, and after he had died I filleted him, and we had delicious fresh Barracuda steaks for dinner. We are thoroughly spoiled and it will be hard now to go and eat fish in a restaurant when you know that it is days old instead of hours old.

After sunset, Melanie went to bed and I took first watch. Jupiter showed in the east and Venus in the West – they shone so brightly that their light reflected off the ocean and made pathways to our boat. It took a good hour for it to get completely dark but once it was, the Stars put on a fabulous display.

We headed towards Cape Fear, and after rounding the it turned slightly to the north and headed to Morehead City. Around 1:30 Melanie came on watch and I went down below to try and sleep. We were rolling a little, just enough to make it uncomfortable to try and sleep, and the noise from the engine didn’t help either. The wind eventually died and switched around to the west and progress was painfully slow. The waves were shaking the wind out of the sails and that hurt our speed. By 8 in the morning we were down to 45 miles; the wind was light to non existent and there was a clear sky. We continue to push on hoping that the wind would come up and help a little. It didn’t, but we were able to average 5 knots motor sailing towards our destination.

The wind gradually switched and filled in a little until we were able to make 6 knots with the engine. We passed a huge turtle, the first one we’ve actually seen close up, and he never even tried to go down and escape from us; he just laid there in the water and watched us. We arrived in Morehead City around 6, right in the middle of rush hour. There was an incoming tide so we were doing about 7 while heading in, boats were zooming by on all sides turning the water into a washing machine – it was crazy! Non stop for about an hour – we FINALLY made it into the inner harbor and anchored just South of Sugarloaf Island where we met up with our German friends we spent Christmas with in West Palm. We had dinner with them and caught up on each other’s adventures before turning in for the night.

After breakfast we hauled anchor and headed in to the docks to refuel and spend a night – Mother’s day and our anniversary beckoned, so we will stay ashore and go out for a special dinner this evening before heading out tomorrow up the ICW towards Norfolk. Happy Mother’s Day everyone!

 

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