The Route South

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Sixteen Days to the Bay

I returned from Clearwater just in time for the rainstorm.  We had planned to change the oil and leave but the weather had a different idea.  Sunday the rain stopped but the wind didn't lay down until Monday.  Tuesday morning we untied the dock lines.

The marina at Ortega Landing - Jacksonville, FL

Tuesday April 24, 2012
Out of the slip before 0800.  We are itching to get going again.  The current that slowed us so much nine days ago was in our favor today.  The run to Sister's Creek and the ICW took less than 3 hours instead of the 4+ hours it took the previous Sunday.  By 1600 the anchor was down and set at the familiar anchorage at Cumberland Island.
55 miles

Submarine support ships near Cumberland Island - Kings Bay, GA

Wednesday, April 25, 2012
It didn't take long to regain our old familiar routine.  Up by 0630 - make the coffee - check the oil - open the pilothouse - start the engine - put the flag out - raise the anchor - hit the trail.  By 0735 we were back in the ICW and passing Kings Bay Submarine Base.  Cindy fixed lunch after we passed Jekyll Island and we took the detour to Brunswick, GA and Ocean Petroleum.  This has become our favorite fuel stop at the south end of the ICW.  We topped off with diesel fuel for $3.50/gal.  That's over $.75/gal cheaper than in the Keys and at least $.50 cheaper than the marinas we've passed in Florida.  Morning Star has great range and we will be able to travel all the way to the Chesapeake without taking on more fuel.  By 1300 we are back in the ICW again, traversing Altamaha and Doboy Sounds.  By 1645 we are ready to call it a day and pulled into the anchorage at the Duplin River.  The wind and the tidal current are fighting with each other and its too darn rough so we moved over to New Teakettle Creek.  We had the same situation at Duplin in the fall when we were traveling south.  I think we are going to give up on the Duplin.
78 miles

Thursday, April 26, 2012
By 0700 we are back on the ICW.  Today won't be a lot of fun.  Our speed will be all over the place.  Good current as we pass through Sapelo Sound but bad when we leave Sapelo in the S. Newport River.  Same thing in St. Catherines Sound and the N. Newport River.  Ditto for the Bear River, Ogeechee River and Hells Gate.  
The ICW doesn't actually pass through Savannah, but travels through the outskirts on the Skidaway River and we  finally anchor for the night at 1500 in the Herb River.  One side of the river is a pleasant residential area and the other side is salt marsh.  It is beautiful, but we know that over the next several days we will see all the marsh and spartina grass we want.
62 miles

Cruise ship on the ICW.
Friday, April 27, 2012
Once again we are back on the ICW and passing Thunderbolt and Hinckley at 0715.  There's plenty of eye candy, including the lovely 148' sailing vessel  "Timoneer" and many others.  By 0815 we have crossed the Savannah River at Fields Cut and are back in South Carolina.  Calibogue Sound with beautiful Hilton Head Island to starboard, then Port Royal Sound, then the Beaufort River and the US Marine Corps health spa and vacation wonderland AKA Parris Island to port.  Shortly after 1300 we are tied up at the Downtown Marina to Beaufort, one of our favorite stops (remember, Beaufort in SC is pronounced BEW-fort).  We borrowed the marina's courtesy car and made a quick grocery store run for a few things.  That evening we had dinner with Jeff & Karen Siegel of "aCapella" (Defever 52) and Dwayne and Mary from "Quest" (American Tug 41).  If you are a cruiser you probably know Jeff and Karen as the developers of "Active Captain", the online, interactive cruising guide.
48 miles

Saturday, April 28, 2012
True to form, we are up and under way early, away from the dock before 0700.  I hate this stretch of the ICW but I love the names; Ashepoo -Coosaw Cutoff, Edisto Rivers, Elliott Cut and Wapoo Creek; they all lead us to Charleston.  Usually we stop here but this year we are going to save it for the fall so we continue down the Ashley River, across the Cooper River and Charleston Harbor and back into the ICW at Sullivan Island.  Shortly after passing Isle of Palms is Dewes Creek.  A quick left turn followed by a right into Long Creek and we are home for the night .  Anchor down and set at 1735.
81 miles

Sunday April 29, 2012
We are going to have a short day today so we "sleep in" until 7 AM.  By 0815 the anchor is up,, It came up clean and didn't even need to be rinsed!  After a short three hour run up the ICW we are at McClellanville, our stop for the night.  By 1145 we are tied up to the floating dock at Leland Oil.  Mike and Sharon took our dock lines and helped us tie up.  We walked to lunch at T.W. Graham & Co.  I had WONDERFUL fried oysters...the best ever.  McClellanville is is a delightful small town of fewer than 600 people.  There is a large and apparently thriving fishing industry here but McClellanville's claim to fame was that, in 1989, it was Ground Zero for Hurricane Hugo.  Much of the town was washed away or under water when the north eye wall of the Cat 4 storm passed directly over the village.      Shrimp boats were left in front yards and century-old oak trees were blown down.  But the big story was that many of the residents took shelter in the local high school.  The storm surge threatened to drown them until they managed to crawl into the space above the ceiling.  None were lost.  We enjoyed walking to lunch and visiting with Rev. Jennie Olbrych, the vicar of the beautiful, old St. James-Santee Episcopal Chapel of Ease.  The church was established in 1706 and the chapel, built sometime in the 1800's was an old wood shingle structure with stained-glass windows.  She invited us to look inside while she explained some of the history of the parish.  What a great day!
26 miles

Beautiful chapel-McClellanville, SC
Chapel Interior
The old chapel took me back to my black-and-white roots.
Buckhead Oak is estimated to be 1000 years old!  McClellanville, SC
Lunch stop in McClellanville, SC - Great fried oysters!

Monday April 30, 2012  - Happy Birthday Sam!
As usual, we are back in the ICW by 0700.  Turns out the endless salt marshes aren't endless.  We should be through them all before lunch!  By 1100 Georgetown, SC is "in the rear-view mirror".  Usually we stop here, but its way too early and there are other places to try so we continue up the beautiful Waccamaw River, past the anchorage at Butler Island.  By 1455 we are tied up at a new stop for us, Bucksport Plantation Marina.  We have heard rave reviews about Bucksport and decided to try it.  The price is right, but the restaurant is closed on Mondays and there is nobody around except the part-time dock hand and a few folks cane-pole fishing in the river.  We have heard such raves about the sausage that is sold there but the dock hand says they don't have any.  Wow. we won't be stopping there least on a Monday.
53 miles

Tuesday, May 1, 2012
Another pre-0700 start put us back in the ICW early.  But when we got to the Socastee bridge at 0745 we had to wait and wait and usual.  Its not that we mind waiting except that this bridge is supposed to open on demand.  There were three boats waiting and I think the bridge tender just makes us wait - well - because he can.  He has become so notorious about this that several of the cruising guide books have published the phone number of his supervisor.  It doesn't seem to matter.  Next up, the land cut called "the Rockpile" at Myrtle Beach.  Its one of the last dredging projects done to complete the ICW, purportedly because of the difficulty in dredging through the rock.  You don't wander out of the channel here!  By 1030 we are through the Little River swing bridge and 30 minutes later we pass through "Calabash Junction", where the Little River, the ICW and the ocean inlet meet.  Shortly after that we are in North Carolina!  Shallotte Inlet and Lockwood's Folly are frequent trouble spots because of shoaling (shallow water) but we breeze right through.  I heard that they had been recently dredged.  Our original plan was to revisit Southport, a delightful and friendly town.  But the wind and tide were fair, custom made for a passage up the Cape Fear river.  We turned the corner into the river and headed north and were soon reading 10.2 mph on the GPS.  Wow, was this a good idea!  We passed by Carolina Beach State Park marina and shot through Snow's Cut and decided to call it a day.  We have anchored at Carolina Beach before and it has been delightful, but I read that the Town has installed 10 moorings.  It didn't take long to find them.  Only half were occupied so we grabbed one of the remaining ones.  There was a sign with a phone number and a website address.  We attempted to contact both but they were dead ends.  One of the neighbors came by in their dinghy and told us that the Town hasn't figured out how to collect the money yet so tonight we stay for free!
83 miles

Wednesday May 2, 2012
As has become custom, we dropped the mooring before 0700 and were back in the ICW.  Sunrise is so much earlier and it easy to get up and get under way.  It is a short day today and we pass by Wrightsville Beach shortly after breakfast.  Lunch finds us at the Surf City swing bridge.  We try to time our arrival to bridges by planning ahead and adjusting our speed accordingly, but this one is tough to do.  It only opens on the hour and even though we slowed down to 3 mph, we were a half-hour early.  By 1415, the anchor was set in Mile Hamock Bay at Camp Lejune (USMC).  All afternoon we were treated to the sights and sounds of the Marine Corps training with their V-22 Ospreys and the CH-53E Super Stallion helicopters.  These choppers are the most powerful in US military inventory and they were fun to watch.  There were six other boats anchored with us before the day was through.
51 miles
CH-53E Super Stallion - Marine Corps heavy iron

V-22 Osprey in the background Super Stallion in the foreground.

Thursday May 3, 2012
An 0630 start wasn't enough to get us through the Onslow Beach swing bridge at 0715.  We still had to wait until 0730.  We didn't complain too long when the bridge tender announced over the VHF radio that the bridge was going to close at 0800 for emergency repairs and wouldn't open again until after 1100!  Yikes, we just made it!  Shortly after noon, we were docked at the Morehead City Yacht Basin.  It was an early day by design.  The boat was covered with salt, Cindy needed to do some wash, the water tanks could stand topping off and we borrowed the marina car ($10 for 2 hours) to run to Harris-Teeter.  If you are from the south (not Florida) you know that this a great grocery store.  If you're not, you've probably never heard of it. Master Pool friends Keith and Carol Bishton came by at 6 PM for a drink with their friends Carl and Ann in tow.  We walked to Sammy's for dinner.  Excellent!
42 miles
Was this guy the heir to the Pepto-Bismol fortune?

Friday May 4, 2012
All the chores got done yesterday so we were poised for another early departure.  Its going to be a long day.  We were out of the marina and back in the ICW well before 0700.  Our speed was 9+ mph as we passed through Core Creek and before 0900 we had made the Neuse River.  Today it was smooth.  Last time we were here...not so much.  The autopilot and GPS were playing nice together, running our preset route around Maw Point Shoal to Goose Creek.  After lunch we were heading up the Pamlico then Pungo Rivers, passing Belhaven at 1500.  as we approached our intended anchorage near the south entrance to the Alligator-Pungo Canal we discussed anchoring for the night.  It was only 1600 and seemed awfully early to stop.  But its another 25 miles or so to the next anchorage.  But there is a weather system predicted for two days from now and we want to make sure we are across Albemarle Sound well in advance of that.  The Sound has a nasty reputation and we really would just as soon skip the drama.  When Cindy pointed out that if we were making an overnight passage, we wouldn't even be having this conversation.  Besides, we can be at Deep Point, the anchorage on the Alligator River before dark.  Well there...its settled.  Sure enough, shortly after 1900, we are through the canal and the anchor is down and set at Deep Point.  Long day!
101 miles

Saturday May 5, 2012
It rained last night so we were awake early.  We pulled the anchor up at 0555 and got under way. By 0820 the Alligator River was behind us and we were crossing an absolutely smooth Albemarle Sound.  It is always a surprise when we do this leg that even after we are across the Albemarle and turn up the Pasquotank River, its still a couple more hours to Elizabeth City.  Especially when you are stopped and boarded by the US Coast Guard.  Yep, we were picked out of their line up and selected for a "Recreational Safety Check".  That's what you get for boating on the weekend!  In 40+ years of boating that's the first time we have ever been boarded.  It was really simple and straightforward and the young men who conducted the inspection were polite, courteous and friendly.  We passed with flying colors and they were on their way.  We were told later that they told another boater they had been tasked with doing 12 safety inspections that day.  If these guys are typical of the men and women serving in our military, I think we are going to be alright!  By 1245 we tied up alongside the seawall at the city park in Elizabeth City, one of our favorite stops.
51 miles

Sunday May 6, 2012
We don't' have to start early today.  We are going to run through the Dismal Swamp Canal and we need to time our trip to make the 11 AM lock opening.  By getting way around 0800 and throughout the bridge by 0815, we can make the leisurely run up the beautiful Pasquotank River to South Mills lock with time to spare.  The upper part of the Pasquotank is, in my opinion, the most beautiful river on the east coast and it deserves to be taken in slowly.  Sip, don't' gulp!  Sure enough, we made the opening and are through by 1140 and on our way to the other end.  We run slowly, again to time our arrival at the Deep Creek lock and at 1600, we are through.  On to Norfolk.  The only bridge we have to open is Gilmerton Rd and it only opens on the half hour.  We made it with just a few minutes to spare.  We have used up most of our Georgia fuel so we stopped at Oceans Marina in Portsmouth and took on 150 gallons of diesel.  The price was not as good as at Ocean Petroleum in Brunswick, but not too bad.  Just beyond Oceans is our favorite stopping spot - the High Street Basin, where you can tie up for free and enjoy the town.  But it was full!  So was the next one!  So at 1800 we set the anchor at Hospital Point, across from Mile Marker "0", the official end of the ICW.  Before securing all the instruments on the bridge, I changed the chart plotter, GPS and speed and distance logs over from statute miles to nautical miles.  In the ICW, distances are measured in statute miles but everywhere else they are nautical miles.  Don't know why that is but from here on, we will be back to nautical miles and knots for our speed.
51 miles

Monday May 7, 2012
Short, easy day today so we loafed bit.  The anchor didn't come aboard until 1015.  The trip through Norfolk is always fascinating. There is plenty of commercial shipping and tugs busily coming or going to some important appointment with a huge ship or barge.  But it is the US Navy that wows me. The naval presence is immense in Norfolk, both on the water, in the air as well as on the ground.  There is immense acreage taken up by the Navy shipyards where they are busy refitting vessels.  There is a naval air station and there are always planes and helicopters overhead.  But it is the sight of the huge warships that are so impressive.  The destroyers and guided missile cruisers look sleek and fast, the support ships look like lumbering giants.  But the aircraft carriers are immense grey floating cities.  And we get to pass through it all today!  But its over before we know it and by 1215 Morning Star has arrived in Hampton.  It took two tries to get a good set on the anchor in the soft mud.  While we were having lunch ashore the Jay Benford-designed Florida Bay Coaster "Sails" anchored nearby.  We stopped for a brief chat on our way back to our boat.  "Sails" used to be owned by Dr. Bill and Sherry Welsch, who were friends of our old friends Lon & Sondra.  We had met Bill and Sherry and been aboard their boat on many different occasions.  It was nice to see the boat out cruising again. Jay and Susan are active MTOA members (Marine Trawler Owners association) and spend their summers in Rhode Island and the winters in Florida.
12.7 nautical miles
Hampton, VA waterfront

Sails at anchor in Hampton, VA

Tuesday May 8, 2012
We left Hampton at 0630, just behind "Sails".  There was a bit of breeze and the Chesapeake was a little lumpy until we got past Thimble Shoals and out of the confused effects of the current by Old Point Comfort.  But once we got out further in the Bay, things settled down nicely and by 0915 we had passed Wolf Trap lighthouse.  We ate lunch as we went by Deltaville, our usual stopping point on this run.  But the weather was good and we were concerned about the forecast so we continued on to Indian Creek, off Fleets Bay, near the town of Kilmarnock, VA.  The anchor was down by 1330.  Cindy comments that this is one of her favorite anchorages on the Bay.
46.4 nautical miles

Wednesday May 9, 2012
Early start today. We want to get off the Bay before it gets too late in the day and the wind starts to cause problems.  The anchor is up by 0630 and we are out of Fleets Bay and back in the Chesapeake by 0700.  Our concern for this passage is going past the Potomac River.  The mouth of the river is several miles wide and there is almost always significant current and when the wind blows against it, its like a washing machine there.  We have rearranged the furniture on more than one occasion while crossing the mouth of the Potomac!  Today promises to be a bit sporty and as we pass east of Point Smith lighthouse, sure enough, the waves start to build and the surface of the water gets choppy and confused.  But it was short-lived and in less than two hours, even before we get to Point No Point on the north side of the river, the water has actually calmed quite a bit.  It was an easy run to Cedar Point although we had some conversations with a Navy patrol boat as we passed by a target area.  They were getting ready to launch a plane from Patuxent NAS and really wanted us to be gone.  In the end, no drama.  We saw the plane making a couple of passes at the target area and don't understand what the big deal was.  By 1430 we were past Drum Point and in the harbor at Solomon's.  At 1500, after taking a victory lap through the harbor, Morning Star was tied up to the floating dock at Calvert Marina.  Home again!
51 nautical miles  

Drum Point Lighthouse-now located at Calvert Maritime Museum - Solomons, MD

Sunday May 13, 2012 - Mother's Day
We decided to go to a baseball game for Mothers' Day.  Our Tampa Bay Rays were playing the Baltimore Orioles in Baltimore, at Camden Yards.  Now understand that nothing on a boat is ever as simple as it first sounds.  First, we had to rent a car.  Parking is Baltimore is expensive ($22-$38), so we drove the rental car 1-1/2 hours to BWI airport and parked for free, took the light rail ($6 ea.) to Camden Yards and then reversed the process after the game.  Since we really aren't public transportation people, it was great adventure.  There was plenty of offensive fireworks by both teams - 23 hits!  The final score - the Rays won 9 to 8!  Cindy even got a free Mothers' Day Orioles sun hat  (she gave it away).

Welcome to Birdland!

Great seats for the Mothers' Day baseball game.  Our Rays put a beat-down on the Orioles!