The Route South

Saturday, November 24, 2007

I Enjoy This Life As A Jester

I enjoy this life as a jester
Seems to keep me moving around
Like the wind that blows, tides that flow
I have my ups and downs
“Stranded on a Sandbar”
Jimmy Buffett - 1979

We had a great visit to Clearwater. Among the highlights was the birth of Conner Preston. He was born on November 11 to Courtney and Rick, our niece and her husband. As if we didn’t have enough to be thankful for at our Thanksgiving table, we’ve added a healthy ten-pound baby boy to the family! Having discharged familial obligations, we were in our rental car long before the sun was up on Friday, heading back to Charleston and Morning Star. Gotta’ get movin’! Food Lion was on the way back to the boat so we were able to get that chore out of the way en route. The courtesy van gave me a ride back from the airport after returning the car to Hertz. We’re Outta’ Here!

Saturday November 24, 2007
7:10 AM. Outside air temperature 41°. Wind NE at 20 kts. Jeez, it’s cold! But we are away from the marina in short order, heading back down the Cooper River to meet the Ashley River and the ICW. As we rounded the southern point of The Battery, the stately old colonial homes were just waking up. It is said that the reason there are still so many pre-Civil War homes left in Charleston is that the Civil War essentially bankrupted the residents and they couldn’t afford to tear down and rebuild so they patched up and got on with their lives. Thank goodness, because that beautiful area is a treasure. At 8:10 we turned hard to port and entered Wapoo Creek, leaving Charleston in our wake. By 8:30 we passed through Elliott Cut and into the Stono River. I just love saying these names (but the spell-checker hates them). At 11 AM we were headed down the North Edisto River at 10.2 mph. Fifteen minutes later we turned up the Dawho River and slowed to 5.9 MPH. So it will be for the next week. By noon we were making 8.2 mph in North Creek. Twenty-five minutes later we turned into the South Edisto Creek…you guessed it! Although the day is bright and shiny, it is still cool. The rivers of South Carolina are beautiful. Today our destination is Beaufort (remember, BEW-fort in SC, BOW-fort in NC) and at 2 PM we left the Ashepoo – Coosaw River Cutoff and entered the Coosaw River. At 4:30 we tied up at the Beaufort City Marina. When we were here in the spring of ’06 it was a construction site since they were renovating the park but now it is delightful. Anchored just off the town dock is the KK-42 Might As Well, with Don and Anne-Marie aboard.

Sunday November 25, 2007
9:00AM Start the engine. We are enjoying a late departure today, waiting for the tide to change. The current is swift at the dock so we went out to breakfast at

”Blackstone’s”, a local eatery. It’s in an old restored warehouse and hardware store. Old brick and big beams overhead make it a neat place with good food and friendly folks. At 9:07 the engine is sufficiently warm and the crew is sufficiently antsy to leave. Outside air temp is 56° and the wind is NE at 9 kts, a considerable improvement over yesterday! By lunch time we had crossed Port Royal Sound, watching several of the area shrimp boats working, then traveled down Calibogue Sound and Hilton Head Island, past the candy-striped lighthouse and the famous resort at Harbortown. We entered a different Cooper River at Daufuskie Island, the home of the now-famous “Gullah” people. The Gullah are African Americans who live in the Low Country region of South Carolina and Georgia. Gullah is a style of cooking, a language and a culture dating back to the days of slavery. After 2PM we navigated through Fields Cut and by 2:30 we were across the Savannah River and into the state of Georgia. Bonaventure Cemetery, made famous in the book “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil”, quietly slid by on our starboard side and by 3:45 we were peacefully anchored in the Herb River with nice houses on one side and spartina grass on the other. Our neighbors were a pair of Great Harbour 37’s, Puffin and Lazy Dolphin.

Monday November 26, 2007
Just a few minutes before 7AM and we are warming the engine. Outside air temp is 58° and the wind is 0. Things are looking up….except for the fog. By 7:30 the anchor is up and stowed and we have rejoined the ICW. It is slow going. By the time we neared “Hell Gate”, an area notorious for its contrary currents and constantly shifting, poorly marked channel, the visibility was down to 0. The nav lights are switched on, the foghorn is blowing and the radar is going. After fruitlessly waiting for the fog to lift over 20 minutes, we decide to “shoot an instrument approach” through Hell Gate so with the throttle at “slow bell” and Cindy on the bow as lookout, in we went! It wasn’t as foolhardy as it sounds. The radar image was laid over the chart plotter so we could see where the channel markers were supposed to be as well as where they were on the radar. The tide was slack and high and the chart plotter was showing the track where we had been, the nautical equivalent of dropping bread crumbs, so if we didn’t like the way things were going we had the option of turning back and following our track back the way we came. By 10:20 we were through Hell Gate and into the Ogeechee River. The fog lifted and the sun popped out but it was just teasing us. As we entered Florida Passage the visibility dropped back to 0. Enough is enough and at 11:40 we felt our way into an anchorage called Cane Patch Creek, past another trawler named Lauren Grace, tossed out the anchor, (well, not tossed, more like lowered) and had lunch. As we ate, we heard Puffin and Lazy Dolphin on the VHF radio, talking about the fog. They passed by us but we never saw them. Suddenly, the fog was gone and by 12:15 we were under way again. As is so often the case, the wind blew the fog away and as we entered St. Catherines Sound the wind was 27 kts. across the deck. We suffered with a foul current up the North Newport River and our boat speed was down to 4.7 mph. Is this day ever going to end?? The wind continued to blow as we ran up Sapelo Sound, where we entered the Sapelo River at Dog Hammock Spit. Where did that name come from? The sun was all but gone when we entered New Teakettle Creek. By 5:20 we were anchored, surrounded by tall spartina grass, sharing the anchorage with our traveling companions du jour, Puffin, Lazy Dolphin and Lauren Grace.

Tuesday November 27, 2007
The problem with traveling at this time of year is that there is so little daylight, less than 12 hours. We have to start before the sun rises and run until twilight to make any kind of time. The anchor is up and we are back in the ICW by 7 AM. The outside air temp is a balmy 63°, the wind is NW at 8. Throughout the morning we cross Altamaha Sound, Buttermilk Sound and St. Simon’s Sound. We are lunching in the pilothouse as we pass the hoity-toity Jekyll Island Club, watching the rich folks eat their lunch while they watch us pass by. As we enter St. Andrews Sound our speed is up to 11.1 mph but when we get to the Cumberland River it is back down to 4.8 mph. By 3 PM it is getting downright hot and we have to put on shorts and tee shirts. That’s more like it! At 3:30 we passed the Kings Bay Submarine Base. It looks empty……maybe. Stealth subs?!? At 4 PM we spotted the wild horses as we entered the anchorage at Cumberland Island and fifteen minutes later the anchor was down and set. We so enjoyed this spot in the spring of ’06 but we really don’t have the luxury of a lay day just yet.

Wednesday November 28, 2008
After being gone from Florida for 18 months, Morning Star is back in her home state. After stowing the anchor all it took was a quick 45-minute run from Cumberland Island across the St. Marys River. As we passed through Fernandina Beach we saw the Manatee, Second Star, tied up to one of the town moorings. We tried to hail them but no one was aboard. Mike bought the boat after it was wrecked in a hurricane. We saw photos of his restoration project at the Krogen Rendezvous in Solomon’s Is. in October. It sure looked good. It just shows you what two years and untold amounts of money will do. We crossed the St. Johns River and at noon, entered Cabbage Swamp Canal at MM 750. We have come 750 miles since leaving Norfolk and Portsmouth the morning of the Mass Exodus. We arrived in St. Augustine at 3:15 with every intention of anchoring for the night but the anchorage north of the Bridge of Lions was FULL and we couldn’t find a place with which we were happy. After passing under the bridge we tried the south anchorage. It too was very crowded. Our first attempt left me unhappy with our position, possibly swinging into the channel with the tide change. Up with the anchor and shoehorn ourselves into the only other empty spot. No sooner was the anchor set than the guy on the next boat calls on the radio and tells me that he has 150’ of anchor chain out and his anchor is underneath us. This means that when the tide changes in the wee hours our boats will be meeting. Setting 150’ of anchor chain is unnecessary and discourteous in a crowded anchorage when the water is only 10’ deep, but instead of telling the guy off we called the City Marina on the radio for a slip. After discussing the time of slack water in the morning (the current is FIERCE) and the dock boys’ assurance that we would be able to get out early, we allowed ourselves to be seduced by the pretty Christmas lights and the promise of dinner ashore. And ice cream.

Thursday November 29, 2007
At 6:40 AM the wind is light and Variable, the outside air temp is a pleasant 65° and the current, as promised, is slack. By 6:50 we are away from the dock and headed down the ICW. As we ate breakfast we passed the Matanzas Inlet and the old Fort. The old Florida tourist attraction, Marineland, slid by to port. It is hard to see whether it is still in operation. Today we run the straight and looooong Palm Coast land cut and then the straight and loooong Halifax River. It’s not really a river but rather a calm, narrow, loooong bay. At least we don’t have a bunch of current to contend with. We call it an early day and are anchored in Daytona by 2 PM.

Friday November 30, 2007
Yesterday was intentionally cut short because today will be even shorter. We lolled around until the obscene hour of 9:30 before even thinking about warming up the engine. The anchor wasn’t aboard until 9:45 AM and we were past the bridges of Daytona Beach and Port Orange in fifteen minutes. We navigated past Ponce Inlet at 11:15 and an hour later tied up at New Smyrna Beach City Marina. It is a delightful, small city marina, recently renovated. Cindy wants to do a few loads of laundry and I need to wash the boat so our afternoon is spoken for. We wandered the delightful little downtown and found a place for dinner. Bob and Sharie are driving over for Friday and Saturday nights so we will be staying here for the weekend. Hey, tomorrow night is the Christmas Parade, one by land and one by boat. ‘Tis the season!

Sunday December 2, 2007
We really enjoyed our layover in New Smyrna Beach. It was a great area with a small town atmosphere, but yet we were able to find everything we needed. Cindy stocked up at the grocery yesterday and after a bit of car-exploring we found an ice cream shop after dinner .All hands were up for coffee before 7AM and we walked to the deli in town for breakfast. Sharie and Bob loaded their truck and we were under way by 8:45. 10:30 found us in the fabled Mosquito Lagoon, the home of monster redfish but not for us, at least not today. After transiting Haulover Canal around lunchtime, we entered the Indian River. Again, this is not really a river but rather a long bay. Like Mosquito Lagoon, it is quite wide but very shallow. Just after 1 PM we pass under the NASA Railroad Bridge and then under the Titusville Bridge. We have been able to see the HUGE Vehicle Assembly Building for a long time but now we are close enough that the Shuttle launch pads are visible. It is tempting to stop because there is a Shuttle launch scheduled for Tuesday but these things are so unpredictable that we aren’t going to waste two days waiting and hoping. By 4 PM we are snug in the anchorage at Cocoa Beach.

Monday December 3, 2007
Once again the anchor is up before 7 AM and we are chugging down the ICW. As we pass Eau Gallie, we see that the dragon hasn’t been rebuilt yet. Years ago someone built a cement dragon on the point of land, which, predictably, became know as “Dragon Point”. Over the years it fell into a state of disrepair and the hurricane season of ’04 finally did it in but rumor has it that it will be reconstructed. At 1:30 we arrived at the mooring field at Vero Beach, where we rafted with Tom & Phyllis Davenport and their KK-42 Cocoon. We had them over for sundowners and snacks and had a great gam until the no-see-ums ran us off. Tom and Phyllis have owned Cocoon for eighteen years and they lived aboard full-time in Vancouver while they worked. Tom is a very handy and competent guy and the boat is in beautiful condition. His upgrades and improvements have been the talk of the Krogen Rendezvous for the last two years. They cruised the boat up and down the coast of Canada and to Alaska. When they decided that they needed a change of scenery three years ago, they had the boat shipped from the west coast and now they are cruising the east coast, between the Chesapeake and the Bahamas.

Tuesday December 4, 2007
Tom and Phyllis claim to be early risers, but I’m afraid we got them up. The predicted cold front blew through about 2 AM (22 kts.) so the no-see-ums were not a problem when we cranked up shortly after 6:30 AM. Its 50° and the breeze is light and out of the north as we rejoin the ICW, passing under the SR 60 Bridge by 6:45. That’s the same SR 60 that runs through the middle of Clearwater, just the other side of the state. Port Petroleum, in Ft. Pierce, is a popular fuel stop. This is no luxury marina. It’s where the commercial boats fuel up and we had to wait for a large tug to finish up and clear out before our turn alongside the seawall. We topped off our tank with 150 gallons at $3.099, which came to about $500 by the time you add in the taxes, surcharges, environmental service fees and any other thing they can think of. Jack Dozier, who owns the publication,” Waterway Guide” and a couple of marinas in Virginia was fueling up when we pulled in and was still fueling when we left. Glad I don’t have his bill! Ft. Pierce is also the location of Four Fish Marina, the winter home of a number of our Krogen friends. Cindy’s phone rang as we went by. Pam from Compass Rose spotted us as we passed. Lunchtime found us at St. Lucie Inlet and Stuart, where we crossed our outward track from the spring of ’06. It’s all but impossible to pass Jupiter Inlet without being effected by the tide. If it’s favorable as you approach, its foul as you leave the inlet behind. I remember the fall of 1977 when we came through here in our little 27’ sailboat. Our tiny 8 HP Yanmar one-cylinder engine was wide open and we could barely move faster than the tide! Today was much easier! After a 20-minute wait we were able to go through the PGA Bridge in Palm Beach and a half hour after that, at 4:30 PM we approached the North Lake Worth anchorage. This afternoon we noticed that the engine RPM’s have been irregular, a sure sign of clogging fuel filters. It is unlikely that we got some bad fuel at Port Petroleum. We probably just stirred the tank up good when we filled since Port’s nozzles are high-speed and they had to turn the speed down all the way so we could fuel up. Either way, the fuel filters need changing before toddy time!

Wednesday December 5, 2007
Outside air temp is 56°, cooler than yesterday but the wind has gone west, perfect for today’s plan. The engine is warmed up and Morning Star is back in the ICW by 7:15. Several years ago we took the ICW from here to Ft. Lauderdale and the bridges were terrible. Today we are going to avoid the bridges, which should allow us to make some time. By 8 AM we are going out Lake Worth Inlet and into the Atlantic. The wind is still west and there is a light NE swell left over from the last few days but it’s really pretty comfortable. The grand old hotel, the Breakers, is off our beam at 8:30. They have added two wings of rooms, one on either side, poking east toward the beach. What were they thinking? These two blocks of concrete are absolutely devoid of any architectural styling whatever. It looks like a prison architect designed it! By 10:30 the current is beginning to slow us down. Although the north-flowing Gulf Stream is a way off shore, the strategy is to stay well inshore of the Stream and hope to pick up an eddy or counter current. We moved in closer to the beach, about ¼ mile off and that seems to help. The fishing boats on the VHF radio are reporting catches of sailfish in 150 ft. of water. I’ll bet that it’s rough out there! Boca Raton and Hillsborough Inlets slide by to starboard and by 2 PM we are entering Port Everglades, the inlet at Ft. Lauderdale. We saved at least an hour by avoiding the bridges but it’s too early to stop so we continue on south, through the concrete condo canyons and “No Wake” zones. This is really ugly Florida. The sun is sinking low as we slip into a small basin next to Florida International University and anchor. What a great spot. The college is on one side; a state or county park is on the other and its quiet and peaceful. We can see Baker’s Haulover, the inlet that divides the island that is Miami Beach, at Bal Harbour.

Thursday December 6, 2007
We must be south! The air temperature is 69° at 7:15 when the engine is warming up. Today will be a short one but the anchor is aboard and we are back in the ICW by 7:30. By 8:30 we had passed under the Julia Tuttle Bridge in Miami. That bridge was an “OOPS!” It was supposed to be built to provide a 65’ clearance but is only 56’ instead. Maybe the guy who read the plans was dyslexic. It doesn’t affect us but some tall sailboats have no choice but to go into the Atlantic at Ft. Lauderdale and re-enter at Miami’s Government Cut. The bridge tender at Venetian Causeway was a complete ass and held us up for a half hour but we eventually got through and passed along Miami’s spectacular waterfront. It’s busy and congested and exciting and modern and fun to see. By 10 AM the Cape Florida Lighthouse on the southern end of Key Biscayne is off our port beam and we are looking out over “Stiltsville”, the community of fishing shacks and houses built on stilts in the middle of Biscayne Flats. Through the years the hurricanes have taken their toll and by our count there are only six left. Since they are within the boundary of the Biscayne Bay National Park, they are not allowed to rebuild and when they are gone they will be gone for good. But hey, we can see the bottom, the first time since May of ’05! At 11:30 we ran up the entrance channel to Boca Chita Key and fifteen minutes later we are tied up in paradise. There is a Jimmy Buffett concert on the satellite radio and life just doesn’t get much better that this. We have been warned not to try this on a weekend because of the overcrowded camping area and marina but there is just one other boat today. Boca Chita Key is a part of Biscayne Bay National Park. It is a beautiful little island that was bought by Mark Honeywell (Honeywell Controls, computers, etc) in the 1930’s. He started to develop it by putting in seawalls for the boat basin and building a few small outbuildings, including the lighthouse, the icon for Boca Chita. Built entirely out of native quarried coral rock, it has never been an official working lighthouse, but it’s a neat structure on a neat island. Honeywell used to invite his friends to visit on their yachts in the winter and there are several photos of these old vessels tied up along the very seawall that now welcomes Morning Star. We spent the balance of the afternoon exploring the island and walking the shallow, clear flats, which surround parts of the island. There are some huge iguanas here too, but they are very shy.

Friday December 7, 2007
THE NO-SEE-UMS ARE THICK! as we warm up the engine and escape at 7 AM. We run through the shortcut at East Featherbeds and rejoin the ICW at 8:30, swatting at the nearly invisible pests for a good hour. The nav lights and radar are on in light rain. By the time we passed under Card Sound Bridge the showers had abated and we entered Jewfish Creek at 10:30 only to find that the bridge was timed and we would have to wait 25 minutes. I guess we didn’t do our homework because the cruising guide points that out plain as day. Who cares? We are in paradise! Morning Star is running in familiar territory now. Blackwater Sound, Dusenberry Creek into Tarpon Basin, Grouper Creek into Buttonwood Sound. The water is plenty shallow at Ramshorn Cut and Cross Bank and Morning Star doesn’t like it one bit! We aren’t aground but the pressure wave reflecting off the bottom, caused by the hull moving through the water, makes the boat hard to steer. The autopilot is useless, so we slow down a bit and that helps. At 2:45 we are anchored in 7 ft. of water off Islamorada, one of our favorite spots. We splash the dinghy and putt in to visit Worldwide Sportsman, one of our favorite stores and do a bit of Christmas shopping. Then it’s off to Lorelei for sunset, drinks and dinner outside. The water temperature is 78°.

Saturday December 8, 2007
Today is the final leg to Marathon, our winter home. The breeze is a light SE at 5 kts. The air temperature is 75°. The anchor is up by 7 AM and we rejoin the ICW at Steamboat Channel fifteen minutes later. Just before 8 AM we pass through Bowlegs Cut and decide to try the outside run down Hawk Channel to Marathon. Hawk Channel is a deep channel that runs the length of the Keys, between the Keys and the outer reefs. As we passed beneath the Channel Five Bridge it wasn’t looking very promising and by 9 AM, when we reached Hawk Channel, the wind was blowing 20 kts. It has been said that the most difficult maneuver for some captains to make is a 180° turn, but it was obvious that we had made a mistake. OK, OK, I made the mistake and Cindy got to say “I told you so” as we turned around and headed back under the Channel Five Bridge and back to the ICW, where we belonged. By 1:30 Morning Star was safely docked at Slip #95 at Marathon Cay Marina, her home for the winter.