Saturday, April 26, 2014

Out of the Marshes and into Civilization Again!

Crazy tourists!  It was only in the low sixties.
We continued north out of Georgia in gray cold weather. We thought it was cold, having long johns, fleece and socks and shoes on and that is inside our cockpit enclosure, but some people must have thought it was warm. Near Hilton Head, SC there were these para-sailors out which we could not believe because it was nasty! They were probably tourist from some place in the north who thought otherwise. It's all in your perspective!

We made it into South Carolina and stopped in Beaufort (that's pronounced with a long u). We decided to take a break from our long days and stayed two days. We anchored in Factory Creek right off of Lady's Island Marina. As we were passing by in our dinghy to motor into town, the dock master hollered over and invited us to a cruiser's gathering that evening for chicken and whatever else people brought. That was mighty friendly of him and told him we would be in. Over in town I got to go in various shops which was nice because we usually are here for some reason on a Sunday and not much is opened. We had a nice lunch out and walked the beautiful waterfront. 
Beaufort, SC waterfront.

The small cruise ship called the Independence was docked there. They travel the inter-coastal to a variety of cities. We often see it down in Fernandina, FL. So if you don't want to take your own boat, you can do part of the ICW with the Independence.

Yummy banana bread.
After lunch we hiked about a mile for some groceries and prepared for the potluck. Luckily, I had baked banana bread that morning. When you have a bunch of bananas that are over ripe and it is a cold morning, turning on the oven to bake is the thing to do!

The people could not have been friendlier at the marina. It was a small marina and so people knew each other. This was a going away party for one couple who had been there all winter and were leaving. We found out it only cost a $1 a foot and laundry was free! We will definitely think about staying there next time we head south.   
Al talking to a cruiser at the potluck.

We left Beaufort on another ugly gray day. We motored the entire time again to a place called Church Creek. We got in just as it started to rain. And rain it did, and blow! Our trusty anchored held. Later we talked to people who had been at the dock in Charleston City Marina for that storm and said we were lucky to be out. The wave and wind action at the docks caused a jerking motion and 3 inches of rain caused some problems as well.

The next day we motored into Charleston Harbor Marina on the Mt. Pleasant side. We were in by noon.

You can see how gray it was in Charleston!

 Had hot continuous running showers (a luxury not found on Blue Heaven, hot but not continuous) and met some past neighbors who now have a house on Isle of Palm. They took us into Charleston and we had lunch at Blossoms which is next door to and owned by the same people who have the infamous, Magnolias. It was very good and we did not have to wait 45 minutes to get in!
Patty and Harold, former neighbors.

Shuttle Bus used to go into Charleston.
On Easter I used the shuttle provided by the marina and hotel there to go into Charleston and go to Mass. The shuttle runs every two hours from 10am to 10pm so it works out great. Even though it was Easter, many stores were open and the Market House was totally open. Al stayed behind and did a lot of the chores that needed to be done before moving on the next day. Later that evening Ron and Mercedes from Samana who we met in Georgetown and dock their boat here, came over for a drink and chat.

We made tracks from Charleston all the way past Georgetown, SC to Butler Island for a night at anchor. I got this unusal photo at dusk. There was no wind blowing so what you are seeing is the reflection of the trees in the water. The sky was dark and so was the water except for the strip of light left from the sunset.
Butler Island after sunset!

The next day was a short day into Osprey Marina traveling on the pretty Wacamaw River. No more marshes but tall trees and hanging Spanish moss. 
The pretty Wacamaw River
Al filling the tanks with fuel.  Ca-ching, ca-ching$$$$$!

Osprey Marina has some of the cheapest fuel and docks are only $1 a foot so we usually make this one of our spots. Al's hand was cramping from holding the nozzle so long filling the two tanks.

 While there, I decided it was time to get some walking in, so I headed out. I was walking around the harbor and someone yelled to me that there was an alligator on the bank. Sure enough, I looked over and there was this 10 -11 ft. alligator sunning itself!
Local gator sunning itself along the bank.
It was one of the first we have seen other than when we toured Cape Canaveral on our first trip. If you look at it's mouth, it almost looks like he is smiling. I don't know for how long he'll be smiling, because the dock master told me they have a nuisance permit which allows them to shoot them if they are out of the water. They are not allowed to shoot them in the water because they will sink and them bloat up and come to the surface and be a hazard in the water.
The real thing!

The following day we had a record breaking day going 68 miles in ten hours with a combination motoring and motor sailing. We hit all the favorable currents and in the Cape Fear River we did 10.4 knots for a time. You have to keep your eyes open because while I was steering I saw something that looked like a moving island or sand bank. It ended up being a huge tree, not only lengthwise but circumference of the trunk was huge too. It was floating down the Cape Fear River. We would not wanted to hit it! Earlier that morning, we passed by Myrtle Beach which had some interesting sites. One which was the gondolas high above the ICW taking golfers across to the course.
Golfer gondolas.

The other was the long boats with everyone paddling in unison and the person standing yelling the orders. It wasn't sculling because they each had a paddle rather than an oar. Does anyone know what sport this is?

Early morning practice on the ICW near Myrtle Beach
 That afternoon we anchored in Carolina Beach for the first time. We did not go ashore because it is mostly private cottages and condos which did not provide much interesting scenery but the two cute girls on paddle boards did for Al!
Carolina Beach Paddle Boarding Beauties.

We had a short stretch to Wrightsville Beach where we put the dinghy in and went ashore to go for some more needed groceries. Since it was lunch time, we ate at a small deli nearby and then did our shopping. We got our 3 miles of walking in which felt good after the long days on the boat.

We are headed to the Oriental, NC area for the weekend. Should be back in the Chesapeake area by the end of next week.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Finished with Florida

One of our favorite spots is Vero Beach so it is hard to get away from it. We spent six days there. We had been on a mooring with Sloop John Dee and they rented a car for a day to do their chores. 

Denise and John from Sloop John Dee
We benefited because they took us to a Mexican Restaurant called Costa Azul in Fort Pierce which was recommended by the agent who rented the car. It was his sister's place and it was fantastic for a little place in a tiny strip mall. The guacamole was the best I ever had and tried like crazy to get the recipe but they would not budge. All of our meals were delicious and doggy bags were needed.
Luscious shrimp fajitas.

Al helped John go up the mast to try and fix their problem with VHF radio. They discovered it was the antenna because when John put our one year old AIS antenna on the mast, their radio worked fine.

Denise and Al winching John up the mast.

John up the mast replacing the antenna.

 Al offered our antenna to them, and they paid for a new one for us. That way, they did not have to go up the mast again, or wait for an antenna to be ordered, and they could be on their way. They were more in a rush to get home than we were. So Al ordered the antenna and had it shipped to St. Augustine marina where we planned to stop.

We also got in a visit with Harriet and Skip Hardy who gave up sailing last year and bought a house in Vero. We updated each other of what we did this winter and what our plans for the summer are. It was good to see them again.

Fleece in Florida doesn't seem right!
We have been on the move since. We stopped and anchored north of Titusville. The next day was the same in Daytona. It has gotten a lot cooler to the point that Al put on long pants and his fleece jacket in Florida!  Luckily the cold did not last too long.  
Trying not to hit the manatees in the canal.

Through the Haulover Canal we had to be careful because we spotted several manatees.  I was only able to catch the tail of one before going below the surface.

We did stay one day in St. Augustine but otherwise it has been motor, motor, motor. 

Al enjoying his goulash soup. I am enjoying the sangria!

We got to our favorite little bistro called King's Bistro,  in St. Augustines  for lunch which also ended up being dinner as well. 

El Galeon at St. Augustine until July 2014.

The ship whose picture you see was at St. Augustine's Municipal Marina. El Galeon is a replica of the vessels that traveled the coasts of Florida between the 16th and 18th centuries, transporting men, goods, culture and ideas, creating ties between America and Europe. We should have toured it but did not due to time restrictions.

Another pretty sunrise.
Leaving St. Augustine with a pretty sunrise it was once again a long day to Cumberland Island which is just north of Fernandina Beach, the northern most Floridian city on the coast. 

Don't see this too often.          

Passing by Fernandina we saw this interesting work platform. Now that's a way to anchor a boat! 

Shrimp boat at Fernandina.

We also started seeing shrimp boats at the dock which I love to see because that means my favorite food is plentiful!
We did not go ashore even at Cumberland Island because we had done so on the trip down. Because weather was predicted to be ugly for the next 4 to 5 days we could not go out in the ocean to by pass Georgia, so we are joining the no-see-ums and passing through with long days seeing nothing but marsh grasses and mud flats and a few bridges here and there.  We always get greeted by the pelicans at the bridges.  
Pelicans galore in Florida and Georgia.

Everywhere you look, marsh, marsh and more marsh with a few trees here and there.
  It can be pretty on sunny blue skies day, but in raining gray, ugh! (Can you tell this is not my favorite spot!)  We hope to be in Charleston for Easter weekend.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Al Qualifies for Medicare

Enjoying a "goodby" party on Samana with Mercedes and Ron
We finally left Marsh Harbor after having a “goodbye party” on Samana with Ron, Mercedes, Denise and John from Sloop John Dee and us. Sloop John Dee was headed our way, but Samana was heading out the cut and straight to Charleston where they live.

Everyone was concerned about going through the cut called “The Whale” but it went well and we headed just north of Green Turtle to a place we had not been before, between Crab Cay and Nunjack Cay to anchor for the night. It was a pretty spot and there were at least 15 boats anchored there. 

Beach at Nunjack Cay
There was a beautiful little beach in front of us which looked private but we were told by other cruisers that the owners had been cruisers themselves and welcome people to use the beach and trails. 

Neat hand-painted signs to guide us.
Hiking trail to the ocean.

So we headed in to hike the trail to the ocean side. They had done a wonderful job cutting a nice wide trail and it took us 20 minutes walking at a good pace to reach the ocean. They had wonderful hand-painted signs directing the way.

The beach on the sound side where get-togethers are held.
 We were also told that around “Happy Hour” boaters who are musically talented come to the beach to play, but unfortunately not the night we were there. Also, due to the fact it was low tide, we were not able to take the dinghy into the mangroves where turtles can often be spotted.

Sunset at Nunjack Cay.

 We did have a beautiful, peaceful sunset 

Beautiful sunrise at Nunjack.
and sunrise the next morning was exquisite. We decided this is a spot we will have to return to check it out more thoroughly.

We continued on to Great Sale Cay to prepare to cross over to Florida. It was April 1st and we had a nice gentle sail. Since we were not heeled and it was a smooth sail I decided it was time for a pedicure. So I got out my dark pink nail polish which was in my hand with a loose lid and when I reached for a cloth to put down on the seat, it slipped out of my hand and hit the seat and splattered all over the seat cushion, throw-able cushions and on the side of the cockpit. Well, I was successful in getting it off the boat and most of the seat cushions, but I know people will ask why is there blood on the throw-able cushions for a long time! I guess I won't be using nail polish in the cockpit anymore. I just will have to find salons along the way!

Lots of boats heading to Great Sale for a crossing.
Then later that day we were motor sailing because the wind lightened and the boat was on autopilot.  It was like an armada heading out.  

I was busy reading and Al had gone down below to do something. All of a sudden we heard a wham under the boat and the engine sounded funny so I quickly shut it down. Being Chesapeake Bay sailors for 38 years, we are familiar with crab pots getting hung up on boats and that is what it sounded like. However, there are no crab pots in the Bahamas. Well, Al checked the engine and all seemed okay and he started the engine and it worked. He tried putting it in reverse to see if it would release what was on there but it did not. We continued to sail to get to a shallower spot and then anchored. 
Al going in to check the problem.

 Al donned his wet suit and went down to see what we had on the propeller. 

Al under the boat working on the problem

It was a massive jumble of black polypropylene floating line. Luckily our prop isn't too far below on the boat so he was able to cut it off, but we had to turn the wheel to one side because it was wedged between the prop and the rudder.
Al looking a little tired after cutting the line off the prop.
 Luckily it seems it did no damage to the boat. This massive body of water we are in and we were the lucky ones to run over a 2 foot mass of line. It was no April Fool joke!

We made it to Great Sale and prepared the boat for crossing and rested. We were leaving about 2PM the next day to cross with Sun Cat the Bahama Banks and then across the Gulf Stream to come into Fort Pierce inlet. In the morning Al changed the zincs so he would not have to do it in Chesapeake waters where visibility is almost nil. I kayaked to shore and found some sea glass and then we left about noon because winds were lighter than we expected. 

Crossing the banks was just a massive turquoise blue body of water with a few more sailboats doing the same crossing as us. It was blowing 12-13 knots behind us most of the way. We had a nice sunset with a green flash which we don't see too often because land seems to always be in the way.
Heading west into the sunset to Florida.
It was a bit roly-poly in the gulf stream but not bad and only saw 3 ships in the crossing which made for an uneventful (thank heavens) crossing on Al's big 65th birthday. We entered Fort Pierce inlet about 10:30AM and got onto a mooring at Vero Beach by 12:30PM and tied up with Sloop John Dee who had done the crossing a day ahead of us.

We have been getting accustom to our land legs again. Doing various chores of oil changes on the outboard and boat engine, restocking the frig and closets with items we don't get in the Bahamas and cleaning up the boat. I also finished up my final basket and when I gathered them all together I was surprised at how many I had done this year.
My collection of baskets that I made in the Bahamas.
Denise and John came for Al's belated birthday dinner and left to head north today. We plan to be here a few more days and then start the trek back north slowly ourselves.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Successful Road Trip to See Endangered Wild Bahamian Parrots.

Dark clouds and breaking waves in the harbor due to the front.
Back in Marsh Harbor we were on the boat for two days with gray skies and high winds while one of the fronts came in from the north bringing much cooler air. We have just been hanging out here because it has not been good to head out through “the Whale” which is a narrow cut you have to go out and into the Atlantic and cut back in to head on the sound side to Green Turtle and eventually to Sale Cay where we leave to cross over to Fort Pierce. So we have gotten together with friends and met for drinks or played Mexican Train Dominoes several times.  

One day however, Tom and Meg on Sun Cat and us decided to rent a car and head south from Marsh Harbor. There were two things we really wanted to see and do. One was to see the rare Bahamian Parrots which are only found on Great Abaco and Great Inagua and to find a sea glass beach where it suppose to be quite plentiful. We also were just curious what else was down that way. When we went to rent the car we asked about the National Park where supposedly the parrots nest. However, the gentleman at the car rental said the Tourist Bureau needs to rewrite and inform tourists that isn't really the case. First of all he said you are not allowed in the National Park which seems strange. Secondly, he said we would have a 90% chance of seeing them when we drove down the roads into Bahama Palm Shores which is a small housing community near the shore. So we head for there.  We took binoculars
Photo courtesy of the internet.
with us and when we parked near the beach I saw a gentleman with binoculars pointing to something and talking to two ladies. So I headed over that way and he showed me where two Painted Buntings were in a bush.
 I looked through the binoculars and saw the most gorgeous blue and red and some green little birds. As you see here. This photo is taken off the internet because they were too far away for my little camera. Then I asked if they had seen a parrot and he said they are nearby, and just then three flew into a tree right where we were! How exciting to see them in the wild. 
White heads make them easier to spot.

Their white heads made them easier to spot in the tree with leaves. As we were standing there admiring and taking photos, five more came and they all flew to a tree with lots of berries but not much foliage so we saw them even better.
Bahamian parrot enjoying the berries.

One of the highlights of the day, seeing this endangered species.
Eight of them in one tree! These parrots used to be found on seven different Bahamian Islands but now they are on the endangered species list and are only on these islands previously mentioned so we were glad we got to see them.
Next we head to a settlement called Crossing Rocks and went to the very long beach. We walked onto the beach but did not see much sea glass, but kept heading north and there it was. Loads of glass all over the beach. A lot of it was green in color, but found a variety of brown, white and some greenish blue and one very small piece of the prized royal blue. The amount you see in the picture was collected in about an hour on the beach. 
Sea glass abounds on Crossing Rocks Beach.
 I wished I could have stayed longer, but the others, Al, Tom and Meg, were not into sea glass like I was, and we were getting hungry.

Beautiful Little Harbor where Pete[s Pub and Gallery are.
 Next we headed to Little Harbor where Pete's Pub is and the only restaurant in the south part of the island. We had been in there previously by boat but now by car. We had a great grouper sandwich, coleslaw and beans and rice, a typical Bahamian meal. 

We got into the gallery which houses the bronze castings of Pete and his father. Their castings are various places throughout the world, one being at the Vatican. They are beautiful but very pricey!
The gallery filled with bronze castings by Pete and son.
 After lunch we headed to a small settlement called Cherokee Sound. They don't even let you drive your car through because the streets are so narrow. You are to park your car and walk which is what we did. It is known for having the longest wooden dock in the Bahamas. It was constructed so that supply boats could come in, and they would be unloaded one wheelbarrow at a time! 
Longest wooden dock in the Bahamas.
Post office and library at Cherokee Sound.
The community had its library and post office in one building as well as it's own primary school. I have no idea where the older children would go to school because we never saw a secondary school. 

We had never seen them when they are yellow.
The coconut palm trees here were really loaded with more coconuts than we had ever seen on one tree.
That's a lot of coconuts!
There was really not much between the places we stopped except pine forests and scrub bushes. There were two more settlements further south, one being Hole in the Wall. We decided it wasn't worth traveling another hour or more to see those tiny places so we turned around and headed to Treasure Cay which was north of Marsh Harbor. Here there is a huge resort with marina, condos, and homes. We did not stay long because it was close to 6PM and it had been a long day but an enjoyable one.
Treasure Cay marina.
We hope to possibly get through the Whale on Monday and cross over on Thursday, April 3, 2014 if the weather that is predicted holds true.