August 7, 2011 Isle of Hope Marina, GA (day 2)
We finally slept in, if 7:30 is sleeping late. Bob made our usual Sunday breakfast and watched his morning TV shows. I worked on my blog and really gave the boat a thorough cleaning inside. The outside will have to wait until it gets cooler. We feel confident that Tropical Storm Emily is gone for good, so we made a decision to move on tomorrow. We made our "family phone calls" this morning and made plans to borrow the courtesy car to go to the movies this afternoon. I read that Isle of Hope was first settled in the mid 1700s. Three noblemen built fortifications to protect the colony from a Spanish invasion by water. The ruins of one of these plantations is Wormsloe, about a mile from the marina.
In the 1800s, Isle of Hope became the summer playground for Savannah's elite and "cottages" were built along Bluff Dr. I took Auggie for a walk along Bluff Dr. that runs along the river. There are some beautiful homes along this stretch of road.
About 1:00 we hopped in the car to go to the movies. I wasn't too sure about going to see Cowboys and Aliens, but I was happy to be doing something different.....and eating popcorn. Bob wore the new shirt that he bought in Savannah at the "Bob's Your Uncle" store. Here he is modeling it for you.
We enjoyed the movie with a lot of action and the cowboys prevailed. Was there any doubt? We returned from the movies around 4:00 and had cocktails before dinner. The cockpit thermometer read 102 degrees in the shade. Yikes! Outside in the sun you can feel the sun cooking your skin. Too hot to be outside. We cooked dinner inside the boat tonight and relaxed with some TV. We are ready to head out of here tomorrow. We think it will take us 2 more days to get through GA and then we'll be in FL. It's hard to believe!
August 8, 2011 Isle of Hope to Hidden Harbor YC near Brunswick, GA
We set the alarm for 6 AM and actually slept until it went off. We pulled away from the dock at 7:00 as the sun rose higher in the sky.
It was breezy today and that was good. The haze and clouds kept the sun's heat at bay for awhile, at least. We hoped the breeze and bug spray, that we covered ourselves in, would keep the biting flies away too. We had some very narrow and possibly shallow areas to pass through today. Unfortunately, our timing was such that we would encounter some of them on a falling tide. Since the tide in this area is 8-9 ft. that makes a BIG difference. We got through the first passage called Hell's Gate with enough water under the boat. It was 8:30 and already it was 84 degrees. Thank goodness for the clouds and wind today. Auggie sat outside with us for awhile this morning, until the flyswatters got active for the few flies that tried to bother us, and he wanted to go downstairs to nap.
We crossed 5 sounds (wide openings to the ocean) today where it became wavy and bouncy with the wind, but the distances to cross them were usually 5 miles or less, so it wasn't bad. We were going to anchor tonight in the Duplin River. We had anchored there on our way north and thought we would spend the night there again. We had made good time and arrived at 12:15, too early to stop for the night. We decided to push on to our destination option #2 which we had planned for tomorrow.... Hidden Harbor Yacht Club near Brunswick, GA. We traveled on the Little Mud River, notorious as one of the shallowest areas on the ICW. As luck would have it, we went through on a rising tide. No problem! We pushed ourselves a little today with the heat, but it wasn't too bad. The breeze helped a lot. there wasn't much in the way of scenery today....mostly just salt marshes.
We reached our destination for the night at Hidden Harbor at 2:30. We were all tied up and sitting in the comfort of our AC, having a cool beverage by 3:00.
We went up to register at the office in the boater's lounge which was really nice. We felt like we were in someone's home. Tomorrow morning they have coffee and muffins for all the boaters.
Hidden Harbor is really a condo development that never got finished. Of the 11 condo units, only 3 are occupied. They had plans for a pool and other units, but nothing is in the works yet. The dockmaster/resident, Joe, was very welcoming and helpful. They offered us a ride to town for anything we needed. Hidden Harbor is kind of out of the way (1.5 miles off the ICW), but it was nice and quiet. When Bob did his engine room check after we arrived he found water leaking into the bilge. He worked on replacing a hose clamp that broke on the oil cooler, allowing water to enter into the bilge under the starboard motor. It had broken sometime this afternoon, because Bob had done his engine room check this morning and everything looked fine. We had about 10-15 gallons of water down there. It was not something we had planned on, after a long day of 81.1 miles on the water, but it needed to be fixed. Luckily, Joe, the resident dockmaster, had a spare hose clamp and the repair went well. We had a later dinner after cocktails and appetizers. Then we relaxed with some TV. Tomorrow we had plans to be in Fernandina Beach, FL. We can hardly believe it. Florida here we come!!
August 9, 2011 Hidden Harbor YC (Brunswick) to Fernandina Beach, FL
We didn't set the alarm because we thought we'd get up early without it, but we must have been more tired than we thought and woke up at 6:45. The sun was just coming up over the salt marshes.
It was gorgeous and the air temp was feeling cooler than yesterday. The lower clouds hid the sun for awhile and with a steady breeze, it was refreshing. We prepared ourselves and the boat to leave. Joe, the resident dockmaster, told us last night he would have a continental breakfast in the boater's lounge for us this morning. We went up to the lounge to partake in the goodies after we walked Auggie. He was so nice to do that for us! leaving the lounge we could smell smoke in the air. There must have been a fire nearby because we could see there was a smoky haze in the sky. We pulled away from the dock, with Joe's help, at 7:30 and made our way back out to the ICW and down to the tip of St. Simons Island, where an old village serves as a permanent resort colony now. From there, we crossed into the St. Simons Sound. St. Simons Sound was a little rough with the wind, so we picked up speed to stay dry just until we crossed the sound. We caught the ICW on the other side which cut through the length of Jekyll Island, between the land and the marsh. As we left the tip of Jekyll Island and entered St. Andrew's Sound, we passed a shrimp boat coming in from a morning of fishing. He had his nets down to rinse them and the birds followed, picking up the remnants.
The ICW took us 2 miles into the ocean here to get around a large shoaling area in the middle of the sound. Luckily, the conditions were perfect....wind and tide working together creating smooth conditions. Approaching the northern tip of Cumberland Island, we could see the large sand dune cliffs.
There was also a single house perched on top of a sand cliff overlooking the ocean. What a view they must have!
Cumberland Island is a National Seashore--85% of the island is owned by the federal government. Nothing is available beyond campsites, water, and restrooms. The rest of the island....the 15% of private property includes Greyfield Inn and several homes passed down through generations of Cumberland families. In the Brickmill River, we came upon a sailboat that had run aground by swinging too far away from the ICW markers. It was 10:00 and the tide was going out. Low tide was at 12:30, so he would probably be there until the tide started to come again.....around 2:30. We called them on the radio to see it they wanted us to give them a big wake to bounce them off of the bottom, but they must not have had their radio on. No one answered. Oh well....at least we tried to help.
Our last sound to cross before entering Florida was Cumberland Sound and the St. Mary's River which marked the boundary between Georgia and Florida. We crossed into Florida at 11:30. At the entrance to the Amelia River sat Fort Clinch State Park.
We got tied up to the dock at Fernandina Beach and were sitting in the comfort of our AC at 12:00.
We had some lunch and went up to the office to register and walked into town to visit the bank. We needed some singles for tipping and more quarters to do laundry. On the way back we stopped at the Palace Saloon, the oldest tavern in Florida, for a cold beer.
Once we got back, I cooled off a little before taking Auggie for a walk. The cement docks were so hot to the touch, that I had to carry him to the grass....or what is left of the grass. It has been so dry here, that the grass is all dried up and looks like straw. I didn't want his little paw pads to get burned. Aren't I a good mom? Back at the boat we relaxed a little and watched the skies change as it started to look like rain. Rain would be good! The wind picked up and the clouds darkened. We checked the radar and it looked like we were going to get one dandy of a storm. Then we heard thunder and the boat started rocking with the waves rolling into the marina. We felt sorry for the boats at anchor and were happy to be tied to the dock.
The boat we saw earlier that had been aground, appeared near the marina. It looked like they wanted to tie up to the dock in this storm, so Bob went out to catch their lines along with one of the dockhands.
The sailors were happy to be at the marina after being out in the storm. Bob came back to the boat drenched from the rain.
I was happy that he was able to help them. We would want someone to help us if we were in the
same circumstances. After the rain passed, Bob cooked chicken on the stove because another storm was pending and the wind was causing havoc to the grill. After dinner, we relaxed after our trip of 47.1 miles today. It rained for a couple of hours and then it stopped. Another storm blew through before nightfall and then it was pretty quiet. We walked Auggie in between the storms and then turned in for the night. We decided it would be wise to be tied to the dock with this pattern of afternoon pop-up thunderstorms, so we would leave early in order to be at our destination by early afternoon.
August 10, 2011 Fernandina Beach to St. Augustine
Ta-da! Today we are officially gone 4 months. This morning we got up with the alarm to get an early start. We wanted to be tied up to the dock in St. Augustine before any pop-up afternoon thunderstorms arrived. That seems to be the pattern lately. It was still dark when I walked Auggie and Bob dried down the boat after the rain yesterday. When we pulled away from the dock at 7:00, it was already light. It was a cool 74 degrees this morning with a nice breeze. Loved it! It didn't last long as the sky was mostly clear and the sun started to heat things up. The ICW passed through the marshlands that were populated with many kinds of water birds-osprey, egrets, herons, woodstorks, and spoonbills.
We crossed the St. Johns River--which leads into Jacksonville. We didn't run into any ship traffic there. We did pass a few sailboats going in both directions and a few fishing boats, but other than that, the boat traffic was light. We traveled at cruise speed through much of the Amelia River on our way to St. Augustine. We saw these people who really knew how to beach their boat. They probably didn't figure on the tide going out that far! I guess they'll be there awhile.
We passed by the St. Augustine Inlet as we neared the city where cars were parked on the beach for a day of fun in the sun.
As we turned the corner, we could see the city and the Castillo de San Marcos (Fort).
As we made our next turn towards the Bridge of Lions, we could see the familiar black and white striped lighthouse protecting the shoreline.
We crossed under the Bridge of Lions to the marina and arrived in the St. Augustine Municipal Marina at 12:30.
We took a slip in the marina after traveling 61 miles today. At this time of the year, the marina was pretty empty.
We had eaten lunch on the way, so we cooled off a little before taking Auggie to shore. After we cooled off, Bob went to register us and I took a walk into town to look around. When we were here last April, we didn't stay in the city marina so we didn't have access to the city. There were lots of tourists milling around and doing some shopping and sightseeing. I decided to walk down St. George Street filled with lots of shops and restaurants.
I popped into a shop with AC when I needed to cool off and stopped for a root beer float to treat myself. I found the garden flag store that I was looking for and bought another garden flag to add to my collection. On the way back, I wanted to see if the city had returned the lions to the Bridge of Lions. While the bridge was under construction last year, the city stored the lions for safekeeping. When we went through in April, the lions were not back in place yet. I found the lions standing at the base of the bridge where they belonged.
I got back to the boat after about an hour, just in time to see some Jack Cravelles (fish) rounding up the bait fish in the marina. The schools of bait fish were jumping out of the water in a frenzy to avoid getting eaten by the larger fish. Some kids who were fishing actually caught a Jack while we were watching.
This white egret wanted to get into the act as well. I'm sure he was hoping that one of those bait fish would come his way.
After the action stopped, we went inside to watch a movie and stay cool until the sun went down. Bob grilled steaks for dinner and we walked Auggie as the sun set and things started to cool off a bit. The lights came on in the city and lit up the area. It was pretty and very peaceful.
August 11, 2011 St. Augustine to Daytona Beach (Halifax Harbor)
Bob got up before the alarm went off to check on the refrigerator. It was making strange noises. He got me up to leave before 7:00 with the slack tide, only it was NOT slack. With the help of one of the dockhands, we left the dock without issue and proceeded south. Today was forecast to break records for high temps at 99 or 100 and at 7 AM it was already 80 degrees and very humid. Nothing wanted to dry after we wiped down the boat from the dew. We had to transit the notoriously shallow and shoaling area of Matanzas Pass today on a high tide (or as close as we could get). We did our homework yesterday checking Cruiser's Net, an interactive website for boaters, by boaters, with reports, reviews, and all kinds of information to help traveling cruisers. There were reports of several groundings recently and information about a dredging operation taking place there. We also decided to call BoatUS, who gave us local information about the area, and the phone number of the dredge manager we could call. We were all set! We approached Matanzas Pass at 8:30 and the tide was up. That was good! Bob called the dredger and got directions on where to go.
We hugged the shoreline where it was deep, like he said.
All of a sudden, the depth sounder alarm went off. The dredger captain blew his horn and came running out of the wheelhouse. He waved to us to go on his other side. That is NOT what he said on the radio, but we followed his direction and the water got deeper. Thank goodness he and Bob acted quickly and averted a problem. The skies got cloudy and it almost looked a little like rain to the west. The clouds were a relief from the sun's heat and we hoped they would stick around for awhile. If things go well for us, we might be home in 10-14 days. The biggest obstacle in getting home will be Lake Okeechobee. There are two issues involved in crossing the lake.
1. The entrance and exit to the lake, (Port Mayaca and Clewiston), are shallow. (Bob would like the depth to be 5 ft. for his own mental comfort. Although we only draw 2 3/4 feet, we will be somewhat heavy with fuel, water, etc.)
2. The frequency of the 2 lock openings at each end which control the lake and are based on the water depth. (Right now they only open at 9 AM and 4 PM on each end of the lake. The three locks in the middle on are demand.) We have been encouraged by all the rain that the middle of the state has been getting and have been checking the Corps of Engineers website daily to check on the lake levels. Another factor to take into account is wind and waves which affect levels of the water. Ideally, we would want to make this passage on a calm day.
So there you have it! Keep your fingers crossed and pray for rain in the middle of the state. If the lake levels are too low for us to cross safely, we would have to go around the tip of Florida. That adds 4-5 more days on to the trip and over 200 more miles...and that's with good weather. Add to the mix that one of the middle locks, Moore Haven, will be closed Sept.-Nov. for maintenance and of course, any hurricanes that start brewing. Isn't boating fun??????????
It was getting hotter and hotter as we moved farther south down the ICW. We passed an area that was a state park along the ICW. These people found an island where they had a campsite all to themselves.
Down the ICW, at Newcastle Marine, they were installing a radar tower on this brand new yacht.
I drove for about an hour to give Bob a break. He acted a little nervous, but he knew I could handle it.
During that time, a dolphin came and swam alongside of the boat. Bob got to see him up close as he swam and jumped near the boat. He doesn't often get to see that because he's always driving. We had lunch on the way and arrived in Daytona Beach at Halifax Marina about 12:30. Our trip today was 53.5 miles. We took on a little fuel to tide us over and get us to Canaveral tomorrow, where we'll do the big (cheap) fuel up. We took our slip for the night and were tied up by 1:00.
We spent the afternoon in the AC as the temps continued to rise. I did a load of wash, since it was convenient to the boat and we hung out most of the afternoon watching some TV. It was brutal out there, so to walk Auggie, I had to carry him again. The cement was just TOO hot for him to walk on it. Bob cooked pork chops on the grill, but I bet he could have cooked them on the cement, it was so hot. We walked Auggie as the day cooled off and the sun began to sink in the sky. Tomorrow would be another long, hot day.
August 12, 2011 Daytona Beach (Halifax) to Canaveral Barge Canal (Harbortown)
Same old, same old. Up early with the sun....already hot and humid....light to no wind.....left around 7:10.
We moved south on the Halifax River to Port Orange. There, a small mangrove island is a nesting ground for pelicans, egrets, and cormorants. We found it to be bursting with pelicans.
I have never seen so many pelicans in one place.
Since entering Florida, we have once again begun to see pelicans and manatees, which had been absent in the northern ICW of the other states we've traveled through. At the Ponce de Leon inlet, I spotted the red lighthouse towering far above everything else in the area.
More dolphins came to swim alongside the boat here. This time I was able to get a couple of pics as they jumped and came up to look at me. (The only time we saw dolphins on this trip was in SC and they seemed to be a smaller variety.)
There was barely a breeze today, except for the one we made for ourselves when we went at cruise speed. There were a lot of "slow, no wake" manatee zones where we had to go at idle speed and that was brutal in the heat. Bob had commented on our trip north that he had the sun on his side of the boat then, but that I would have it going home (south) when it was hotter in August, and he was right. I did my best to create shade on my side of the boat with towels, etc. and it worked well much of the time. Today it was very helpful! We entered Haulover Canal on our cut through to the Indian River.
It is usually filled with fishermen and today was no different. The Indian River was glass calm---not a ripple on the water which meant no breeze for us.
We entered the Canaveral Barge Canal at Merritt Island to go to the Harbortown Marina for the night. It took us 30 minutes to transit down the canal to the marina and it was HOT! We took on fuel before arriving at our dock at 1:00 after 66.9 miles. Thank goodness for high speed gas pumps. We got tied up and put on the AC as fast as we could. We were both wiped out from the heat and wanted to settle in with a cold drink. Once we got cooled off, we walked Auggie and checked out the "happy hour" time at the bar. We decided to have "happy hour" on the boat and stay out of the sun. Bob turned on the generator to see how it would run. We hadn't used it since we were in the Potomac, about a month ago and wanted to make sure it ran in case we needed to use it. When it turned it on, it started to squeal and no water was coming out of the through hull. That wasn't good. He checked the sea strainer in the boat and it needed some cleaning, but the one under the boat might still be clogged. We would need to have a diver come and check it. That means staying another day here in Harbortown so Bob can do some work on it and have it looked at. He made some phone calls to local divers to set something up for tomorrow. After cleaning up, Bob cooked Mahi Mahi on the stove. It was too hot to grill out in the back of the boat. Tomorrow we had plans to move on to Vero Beach, but that will have to wait a day. Either way it will be another hot, grueling day. The temps are not supposed to be that high (94), but factor in the high humidity and lack of wind and the heat index rises to the 105 to 115 range. Bob checked with the Lake Okeechobee lockmasters, a TowBoat US guy in Clewiston, and the yardmaster at Indiantown Marina who all have local knowledge about crossing Lake O. We are confident that we can get across the lake at this time if we follow their suggestions and if we don't delay. The lake has been slowly rising in the last few weeks, but it could start to drop at any time without enough rain. Better to go as soon as we can. After the sun went down, I gave Bob a haircut and we walked Auggie. He got to run around with another dog his size and had a great time. When we all got back to the boat, we were ready to relax. Bob and Auggie fell asleep on the sofa and after watching a little TV, I woke everyone up to go to bed. The sun and heat sure zaps the energy out of you!
Note: After traveling through Matanzas Pass the other day, Bob wrote a report about our experience to the Cruiser's Net, a boating website to help other boaters. His report was published in the Cruiser's Net weekly report. See below:II. Navigation Instructions for AICW/Matanzas Inlet Intersection, Statute Mile 793 In an earlier Alert, we informed one and all that, AT LAST, dredging was underway at the Eastern Florida AICW/Mantanzas Inlet intersection. To be sure, that is GOOD news, BUT this project will take awhile to complete, and while underway, successful navigation of this crucial intersection, south of St. Augustine, is trickier than ever.
Fortunately, we have just put up an important posting from Captain Bob Shaw, who gives all of us some good advice on how to safely cruise through these "under construction" waters.
Take a good gander at:
Here's what you will find there:
Capt. Bob Shaw gives us good advice concerning passing a working dredge. The intersection of the AICW and Matanzas Inlet has had a shoaling problem for some time. Dredging was finally begun in the middle of June and will continue until the middle of September. This much needed dredging of this "AICW Problem Stretch" at the intersection of the Waterway and Matanzas Inlet, south of St. Augustine, will be in the approximate area of statute miles 792-798.
I came thru Mantanzas Cut today, 8-11, on a high falling tide going south. We rounded the first red wide and called the dredge on 13 and were told to pass him to the east, on the wrong side of the greens. WELL, I decided to follow along the west shore like always and the dredge blew his whistle and the operator came out and motioned for us to move to the east of him. The water on the west side was up to 8 feet and rising, so I quickly moved to the east side of the channel which is on the wrong side of the greens and found the deep water(15 feet). FOLLOW THE DREDGE'S INSTRUCTION.
Capt. Bob Shaw
August 13, 2011 Canaveral (Harbortown) to Vero Beach Marina
We woke up multiple times throughout the might for various reasons--one of them being to check out the Perseid Meteor Shower. No luck! The full moon was too bright. Bob got up at 6:30 to work on the generator. As it often happens, he goes to sleep with a problem on his mind and wakes up with a solution. This morning was no different. He remembered he could use a forceful stream of water to backflush the seastrainer. In doing so, he discovered it must have had an airlock in it and now it was gone. When Bob woke me up at 7:00, we tested the generator and everything worked fine. We called off the diver, got things ready in a hurry, and were off the dock at 8:15. It was a little later than we would have liked, but at least the problem was solved. We'll try and run a little faster today. Because of the oppressive heat, the weather forecast said there was a good possibility of strong thunderstorms popping up around noon and we want to be tied up and secure by then. This morning was very humid, like every morning for the past 2 weeks. There were low clouds, like fog or haze, hanging over the water. Everything felt damp! This early in the morning , there was no boat traffic. Since it's Saturday, I'm was sure things would get crazy later on. We ran at cruise speed (17.5 mph) for the first 25 miles-- 1.) to make up a little time and 2.) because it was so warm already. The breeze felt muggy, but good. It remained cloudy all morning which kept the heat level down. Near Sebastian, FL we passed the Pelican Island Wildlife Refuge. In 1903, Theodore Roosevelt set aside this 3 acre island as a bird sanctuary. Today Pelican Island, the first national wildlife refuge, continues to serve as a haven for ibises, egrets, cormorants, blue herons, and brown pelicans.
Today we saw so many dolphins in groups of 3 or 4 frolicking together--leaping into the air, slapping their tails on the water, swishing their flippers in a circle. We have never seen them so active before. One has to wonder is it mating season, were they herding bait fish, or just having fun?? It was a lot of fun to watch! We saw more people out boating as the day wore on. We saw this group hanging out on a sandbar.
Dark, rain clouds moved in from the west and from a distance we could see them dropping rain on the area below. We hoped to be tied up and settled in before it rained on us. We pulled into the Vero Beach City Marina at 12:20 after traveling mostly at cruise for 61.3 miles. We got tied up and plugged in with about 5 minutes to spare before the rain moved in.
It rained for a short time and then the sun came out. We took the opportunity with a break in the rain to register at the office and walk Auggie. He had a great time chasing geckoes in this banyan tree. Can you see his little tail sticking out of the tree?
I wanted to do a load of wash, but another storm cloud moved in, so I waited until that was done before getting started. I got a load in the washer and headed back to the boat before the next wave of rain came down.
We hung out for most of the afternoon while the rain came and went. We had dinner and watched a little TV. The sun was setting when I walked Auggie and this cloud was so beautiful with it's pink and blue colors.
The dark storm cloud with lightning in the west told me that we would be getting more rain this evening as it grew larger and larger in the sky. We finished our walk and waited for the pitter-patter of rain on the "roof". Nothing came. The mooring field at the marina was empty, compared to when we were here last in April. What a difference!
We would turn in early tonight so we could get an early start tomorrow for Stuart. We're getting excited to get home.