Monday, December 3, 2007

Oriental, NC to Jacksonville, FL

November 7, 2007 – Oriental to Mile Hammock Bay

We enjoyed two nights at the Whittaker Creek Yacht Harbor. It was time to do a couple loads of laundry and plug the boat into shore power so we could sleep with heat in the boat. When we’re at anchor there is no heat on the boat. While traveling during the day there is a blower to blow the engine heat into the saloon to keep us toasty warm, but not at night!

The marina isn’t the newest, but the folks are extremely friendly and helpful. Yeah, they even lent us two bicycles, so we biked the two miles into and then around Oriental for an afternoon. Put Oriental on your list of places to visit.

This day was truly amazing, as we (actually it was Barb) managed to run aground in 9’ of water. Obviously there wasn’t 9’ in the middle of the channel! If you ain’t been aground, you ain’t been around!

On the way north in July we anchored at Mile Hammock Bay with 4 other boats and we thought the anchorage was busy. This time we turned the corner into the bay to find about 20 boats and we saw plenty of room to anchor several more boats. Our perspectives have changed due to the experience we’ve gained anchoring the boat. We tooled right through the anchorage, picked our spot, and dropped the hook. When we anchor the boat or pull up the hook Barb is at the helm and Barry is on the bow working the anchor. We use a set of headphones for communicating with each other to avoid the yelling issue. It saves the tonsils, our nerves, and probably the marriage too!

November 8, 2007 – Mile Hammock Bay to Carolina Beach, NC

We pulled anchor early not only because we had to time our journey with several bridges that were on restricted opening schedules, but because we woke to REALLY COLD weather. Get that engine going – bring on the heat!

As we pulled into the Carolina Beach anchorage and saw several other boats already anchored, I’m glad we had our new perspective on anchorages. We found several good spots to anchor but would have totally panicked over this situation last summer!

November 9, 2007 – Carolina Beach, NC to Myrtle Beach, SC

Brrrr….we are definitely too far north. Is the sun up? Yes, so quick, get out of bed, start the engine fast, pull that anchor, and then make the coffee – well, that’s our cold morning routine when at anchor.

Today the Sunset Pontoon Bridge was on an hourly schedule. We pushed the little engine hard, but missed the 1 pm opening by 10 minutes. Oh well, chill out and wait for 2 pm. What else is a crew to do? We still managed to pull into the Barefoot Landing Marina by 4:30 pm. And yes, there was shore power so we had heat for the night! This marina was minimal on service, but was in a great location right next to many restaurants and a shopping mall. We’re not so much into the shopping thing, but did enjoy a marvelous dinner at Greg Norman’s restaurant.

November 10, 2007 – Barefoot Landing Marina to Osprey MarinaMyrtle Beach

Ah, how nice to wake to a warm boat, get up slowly and enjoy a relaxing cup of hot brew. Barb hopped off the boat and took a nice long early morning walk through the shopping center while Barry chilled out with his coffee. Today was a slow day because we only had 20 miles to go. We left the dock at 8:30 and pulled into Osprey Marina just before lunch. We planned it this way so we could eat lunch at the Osprey Grill - they have the best burgers! After enjoying lunch there, cleaning up ourselves and the boat, Bill and Tutie (our daughter-in-law’s – Amy’s – grandparents – we’re all just one big happy family!) joined us for the rest of the day, which was topped off with a really yummy Italian dinner at Bill and Tutie’s favorite Italian restaurant. Thanks Bill and Tutie! We’ll be stopping here on the way north next spring because we promised Bill we’ll stay over night so he can fix us breakfast. We’re due at Amy’s and Alex’s house for Thanksgiving, so Bill and Tutie understood our need to move on down the waterway.

November 11, 2007 – Myrtle Beach to Graham Creek

Today we left early and unfortunately went against the tide to Georgetown but then ran with the tide the rest of the day. We found some very shallow water at low tide near McClellanville and had to take a sharp right turn when the left rudder hit bottom. No harm done and we were back on track The anchorage at Graham Creek was 10’ deep at low tide. It’s nice to anchor at low tide so we can check out the shallow areas to avoid. At high tide it’s not always easy to figure out how low the water will become at low tide.

November 12, 2007 – Graham Creek to South Edisto River

After the cold morning quick start routine we made it to the Ben Sawyer Bridge by 10 am. Due to the Veteran’s Day holiday the bridges were opening on restricted schedules. Our boat became the ‘little engine that could’ and we made it to the Wapoo Bridge on the south side of the Charleston harbor for the 11:30 opening. We had to time the bridge opening and the tides in order to travel through some of the very shallow and troublesome areas of the ICW. So, missing a bridge opening by just a few minutes could determine if we traveled a long or short day. Since we wanted to make Jacksonville for Thanksgiving, every bridge opening counted.

As we came to the entrance of the Dawho River at low tide there was a sailboat aground. Another boat had stopped to assist so we putted on by very slowly and saw depths of 5’. We were glad to make it through that area and in the waters of the most beautiful South Edisto River.

November 13 – South Edisto River to Bull Creek

We woke to light fog in a gorgeous setting. What a glorious morning and we were so glad to be living this new lifestyle. After going just 5 miles the fog became very dense. Should we turn around? Well, let’s try using radar and a mascot, and then make the decision. So Barb went to the bow of the boat with her headset on, in order to communicate with Barry, to watch for boats and other obstacles. Barry navigated by radar and GPS. This worked well and we proceeded this way for another 30 minutes, by then the sun had burned off the majority of the fog and we were back to normal navigation means. While sitting on the bow Barb watched a dolphin ride the bow wave! This was the first time we’d seen this on our boat and what an awesome experience it was!

Right after the fog cleared we went through the Ashpoo-Coosaw Cut at high tide with no problems. This is one of the MAJOR problem areas on the ICW. We were glad to watch this area disappear behind us.

We stopped in Beaufort, SC for fuel and walked to shore for a brief visit. We do want to stop here and spend more time on our next trip north. At Bull Creek we joined a few other boats and found plenty of room to anchor.

November 14 - 15, 2007 – Bull Creek, SC to Coffee Bluff Marina, GA

Where the heck is Coffee Bluff? Can’t find it in any cruising guides? Hmm…well, Barb’s cousin lives near Coffee Bluff, GA and found this marina just 1.5 miles from the house. Do you remember that we spent 10 days here (Savannah) last spring? Anyway, we called the marina and they actually took us in for a couple nights. Having a transient call up and request dockage was rather foreign to their daily activities, but we managed to agree on a fee after the initial charge of $12 per foot per night, which Barb refused!

We left the ICW just north of Hell Gate and navigated to the marina. Joel met us on the dock, we secured the boat and all headed to Sherry and Joel’s for two nights. It was great to spend time with family, see how the little cousins had grown, and just simply relax. Sherry was resting after foot surgery, so Payton (Sherry and Joel’s grandson) and Barb got dinner together. I think Payton may be a world famous chef one day. I want to spend more time in the kitchen with this wonderfully creative young chef!

November 16, 2007 – Coffee Bluff Marina to Duplin River

It was easy to plan our getaway to arrive at Hell Gate at mid to rising tide since we were only 5 miles north. Needless to say, we passed through without a problem, as did the other boats in the long parade heading south. The day proved to be uneventful, the waters calm and the ride most enjoyable. We anchored in Duplin River to wait for the tides to be just right for us to navigate the Little Mud River the next day.

November 17, 2007 – Duplin River to Delaroche River

We got off to a purposeful late start because high tides were arriving later and later in the day as we navigated south and we had to arrive at the Little Mud River on a mid to rising tide. The passage was slow because we were going against the tide, but we made it through without bumping bottom. We anchored in Delaroche River just north of Cumberland Island, GA.

November 18 - 19, 2007 – Delaroche River, GA to Fernandina Beach, FL

Another beautiful sunrise and we’re off to sunny Florida! While navigated past the King’s Bay submarine base, we passed just 50 yards from an inbound submarine. What an exciting experience. The coast guard came right along side our boat and told us where they wanted us to stay while the sub passed and they stayed right beside us. Other military boats, tugs and tenders were everywhere with lots of machine guns and masked personnel – just like in the movies!

We arrived at the Fernandina Beach City Marina in just 3 hours and took a mooring ball for two nights. While there we moseyed around downtown, met with our realtor and good friend, Carey, and enjoyed dinner with Mrs. Joan Bean and Barbara Book at the Crab Trap. Joan has been a dear friend and support to Barb for over 20 years and Barbara was the magistrate and our wedding. She was glad to see that we’re still happily married!

November 20, 2007 – Fernandina Beach to Jacksonville

As we slipped the mooring just as the sun was rising it felt good to be back in Florida and heading ‘home’ to the Ortega Yacht Club Marina in Jacksonville. We headed south and arrived at the marina where friends were waiting to greet us and tie the lines. What a great homecoming! Thank you! We plan to stay here until the first good weather window in 2008 when we’ll head for the Keys and the Bahamas.

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