New Year, New Place

The end of the year is always a busy time for us with Christmas, Cloe’s Bday, our anniversary, and New Year’s. This year is busy, but with all the right things for the right reasons. We spend all our time together playing boardgames, building puzzles, playing at the beach, kayaking around the anchorage, and crafting. Now we do live on a boat, so it’s also filled with boat work and a few errands, thankfully with Eric’s parent’s car. (It is also nice to have a homeschool holiday too.)

From Eric:

We stay in West Palm through the holiday and well into January.  We are able to secure a mooring location and decide to put in a mooring with some of the excess chain and line from the boat.  I buy a couple of sand screws to anchor the mooring to the bottom.  We have a fairly simple plan; attach everything together on the boat, toss it into the dinghy, go to the location, drop it to the sea floor, dive in after it and screw one to the bottom, then go to the other screw and get that one into the sand.  As with all plans they are good right up until execution.  However, our plan is thrown off course days before.  A front comes through and the wind picks up to 20+ knots.  By the time all the parts come in, the water has about 1 foot visibility.  We are on a time crunch because my parents have to get back to their house. 

I am running out of time and the day that we have to put in the mooring is bitter cold, around 35 degrees outside, the visibility is less than a foot, and the waves are almost a foot.  My mother decides to help by continually informing us that if we dive in these conditions we are going to die.  All in all it is going to be challenging.  The good part is that the water temperature doesn’t drop like the air, it isn’t warm, but not bitterly cold.  I give my dad my wetsuit and I just suck it up.  Our plan is largely unchanged, it is just going to be more challenging as we aren’t able to see anything.  Dad and I go over the plan several times before we go underwater.  As I first get into the water and onto the bottom, the lack of visibility is completely disorienting.  Between the cold water and not being able to see I feel like I am spinning.  It takes considerable concentration to steady up.  Clearly training for these spins by using alcohol pays off.  Just over an hour later we successfully drive both sand screws into the bottom, albeit the screws are about 90 degrees from where I want them, but they are in. 

Once in the dinghy and heading back to the boat I am shaking uncontrollably.  My lovely wife has anticipated that we will be cold and has made hot chocolate. She’s clairvoyant.  It is the best hot chocolate I’ve tasted in some time. 

I decide to let the mooring settle for about a week before moving on to it.  In the mean time Kelly wants to provision for the Bahamas as we won’t be back up this way before we cross over.  She works with the local Publix and buys over $5k in food.  The manager at Publix says they can deliver, as that is one of the conditions of the purchase.  It takes the better part of a week to satisfy the vast majority of Kelly’s list.  Publix takes two days and 5 truck loads to deliver.  Each truck load takes me 3 trips in the dinghy.  In the end we have a ton of food, quite literally.  I think we loose about two inches of freeboard and the bottom step of the stern is dangerously close to the water.  However, somehow we get it all stowed for lack of a better word.  Tali has to give up her bed for some storage. 

Ok…in my defense, provisioning. is. hard. Before moving on the boat, I even practiced boat provisioning. Seriously. I went a long time between grocery store runs, switched from fresh and frozens to canned, and introduced a moderate amount of beans to our diet to thwart inadequate protein consumption and infamous Hauquitz room-clearing gas events. I thought I was ready for my first real provision. I was wrong. I blame my not-so-stellar math ability wrongly calculating our ‘portion to reality’ ratio. The good thing is that everything I’ve overbought is shelf-stable, so nothing is going to waste. Well, almost nothing. But that’s for a later blog post.

From Eric:

After spending a month in West Palm we are finally ready to move out.  It is good to get provisions, I make some needed repairs, and putting the mooring in gives us a home base.  We decide to leave at sunset and sail through the night past Ft. Lauderdale and into the south of Miami.  This is going to finally be a good night sail. 

The wind is blowing 10 knots from the east.  The wind is supposed to hold steady through the night.  I put up the sails and put the engines into neutral.  We are only sailing at 3 knots, so it looks like it will be a long motorsail; however, the wind starts to strengthen.  By 20:00 the wind is up enough that we can sail at 5+ knots and I turn off the engines.  By 22:00 the wind is gusting over 25 knots and we are moving at 8+. 

The night is cloudy and dark, but the western horizon is illuminated by the cities.  At around 23:00 I see the lights of a tug pushing a barge.  It takes me a long time to identify its orientation and I have to change course to keep a comfortable distance.  At midnight the gusts are approaching 30 knots and I decide to reef.  The waves are steadily building, but they are not concerning.  Unfortunately with our speed in excess of over 8 knots, we are going to blow by south Miami way too early to go in.  At around 3:00 we approach the inlet to Miami.  Holy crap it is busy.  There are tugs, tankers, barges, and cruise ships all over lining up to get in.  I am not comfortable with the crowd.  I have Kelly turn on our deck light to make us more visible, but with these sizable boats, I don’t think it will matter.

I look for a gap to be able to cut across the inlet traffic.  It looks like I can make it between a cruise ship and a freighter.  It’s amazing how slow it seems to take to get across a 200 foot channel when there is a freighter bearing down on you.  I put the engines on and throw her into gear.  We pass in front of the freighter by probably a hundred yards or so, but at night it seems like it is just on top of us.  The freighter doesn’t like it either and tells us with the blast of his horn. 

Our plans of going into No Name Harbor just south of Miami are dashed.  It is 3:30 and we are passing by the inlet.  I am not going to attempt a new inlet in the dark, so we continue south.  I figure as the light starts to rise I’ll be able to pick out a different place for us to anchor.  We get another 20-25 nm before the sun comes up.  I look at the chart and find what looks like a cut into Biscayne Bay in north Key Largo.  We get there just about sun up. 

There are two creeks that run into the Biscayne Bay at the north end of Key Largo.  They are about 1/2 nm from each other.  Looking at the charts shows that they both have about 5 ft depth.  We draw 4.5 ft, so it will be close.  For no logical reason I chose the more southern one.  Then I think, “Maybe we’ll get lucky with the tide.”  I ask Kelly to look up the tide schedule.  She finds that low tide is at 7:15, good…not good it is 7:27.  I guess if we go aground the tide will be coming up, so it will float us off.  The entrance to Angelfish creek is shallow and I see the depth sounder read 0.1, but we make it into the creek.  Once in the creek it is plenty deep.  As we exit I turn the boat into the wind and we anchor a hundred yards from the creek.  With the anchor down I go to bed.

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Our 1st Keys anchorage – Good morning Key Largo!

Our First Boat Christmas

From Eric:

After the cold front comes through Cape Canaveral, we head back out the lock on our way south to Ft. Pierce.  Once again the lock is tricky because of the crosswind; however, this time our vast experience helps and it only takes us an unreasonable amount of time to get tied up.  Somehow there is a current in the lock that I didn’t account for and this causes a bit of trouble.  I think the lock operator just likes to screw with people.  (We also have dolphins travel the lock with us. They are so darn smart!) Once out of the lock it is a good sail to Ft. Pierce and we set down the anchor just after sunset. 

Two things are the driving forces for stopping at Ft. Pierce: a visit from my cousin Julie and going to the Navy UTD-SEAL Museum.   Both visits are fantastic.  I visited the Seal Museum when I was a kid 25 years ago, and they have over doubled in size.  Unfortunately we only have a couple of hours to get through the museum because our school day took a bit longer than anticipated.  The girls have a great time with all the interactive displays and go bonkers for the obstacle course.  It is fun showing them how to execute the obstacles.  They do an excellent job.

With less than a week before Christmas we decide to head down to West Palm Beach.  I have an uncle that lives down there, and my folks want to visit all of us.  The wind calms and we motor down to West Palm.  It is rather unremarkable save for the fact that we catch three smallish tuna.  We have been dragging lures through the ocean every time we go out, but to date, we’ve caught nothing that we’ve kept to eat.  As a matter of fact, we’ve been dragging lures so long that we don’t expect to ever catch anything so we are caught by surprise when a reel starts to sing. 

I am at the helm and hear the fishing reel start to pay out line.  My first thought is, “what is that noise?”  I recover my wits and identify its the fishing rod, put the auto pilot on and go to reel in what I can only assume is the dumbest fish in the ocean.  I mean we’ve been dragging the same lures for 1000 miles and every fish has passed them up.  So whatever fish has actually decided to take a shot at this lure must be solidly stupid, however, to me, this is awesome.  I reel in my stupid fish with great vigor.

There isn’t much of a fight and at the end of the line is a tuna.  It is about a foot and half long and I am able to grab the line and bring it onto the boat.  That’s when a debate starts.  Are we going to keep it for supper?  My girls are adamantly against killing the fish, but we don’t live in a democracy on this boat…and this fish is going to be supper.  Then things get interesting.  I had heard that people pour alcohol into the gills of fish to get them to stop fighting.  I sure as hell won’t be wasting my alcohol like that.  Another approach is to hit it with a club.  I think this will make a brutal memory for my girls.  I had also heard of using an ice pick to kill it.  This seems like the best option.  I have Kelly get our ice pick.  She brings out this flimsy plastic handled ice pick which I assess is going to be useless.  That’s when I remember that Kelly had given me a fish cleaning kit some time ago.  I tell Kelly to look in that for something.  All this time I am holding down the fish and it is fighting less and less.  Luckily there is a good two sided knife in the kit and that will be perfect.  It also comes with a cutting board.  I slide the cutting board under the fish’s head and go with a quick stab to the brain cutting the spinal cord. 

I had forgotten how much fish bleed and that tuna bleed red.  Luckily the girls have decided to go inside while I dispatch the fish because the blood flows.   My aim with the knife is true and the fish stops fighting right away, but that doesn’t stop the blood.  I decide that I will fillet the fish right there on the stern and get everything cleaned up. 

I haven’t filleted a fish in over 15 years.  I figurine it will come back to me, you know, like riding a bike; it doesn’t.  I have to make many correction cuts to get all the meat off.  By the time I am done, the back of the boat looks like a horrible massacre has taken place.  We place the fillets in a ziplock with some marinade and they go into the freezer.  I through the carcass into the ocean and wash down the deck.

Just as I finish, the other fishing rod starts to sing.  At this point, we have it down.  The girls run inside, Kelly gets the knives again, and I reel in another tuna.  I am astounded that there are more idiot fish.  We go through the same motions with a little more skill.  My fillet job is much more efficient though still very bloody.  Again as I clean up, the first reel sounds off again.  This is incredible!  We go through the exercise again and decide we are done fishing for the day. 

Later we find out that what we’ve caught is actually Little Tuni, which apparently aren’t desirable to most fishermen, but we don’t care. We finally caught something and we are going to eat them darn it! They end up being very good eatin and indulge ourselves. We even have a little leftover which I make into a dip that becomes a favorite. Also, with Eric spending so much time massacring fish on the stern, I spend a considerable amount of time at the helm, which I consider a step in the right direction.

From Eric:

We make it to West Palm in the early afternoon and are able to get a day of schoolwork complete with the girls.  West Palm is a great place.  There is an island just inside the inlet named Peanut Island.  It has a great beach, and we use a visit as a reward for the girls so they are motivated to complete their school work.  Additionally, the Palm Beach Sailing Club is jut a little ways into the inlet.  The sailing club is a great place to make a temporary home base.  For a temp membership fee you can use their facilities and get mail.  The people there are very friendly and we make some great friends. 

My folks come to visit us and stay through Christmas.  I also have a uncle that lives close by and we are able to have them come out to the boat for a Christmas sail.  We sail out of the inlet and into the gulf stream.  The wind is a little light and we have to motor our way back in.  Later we have a great Christmas dinner at my uncle’s house.  It is great to be able to see them and we have a great holiday. 

We are able to keep all but 3 of our Christmas traditions. Christmas morning is a bit different. We’re usually dealing with freezing temps, but this year we sit outside around the cockpit opening presents. We’ve made a lot of great memories during our first boat Christmas!

Ponce De Leon & Cape Canaveral

Our last post ended saying goodbye to Eric’s parents in St. Augustine. One of the not-so-obvious perks of staying on a mooring here is the benefit of using their shower facilities. I can’t knock our boat showers, cause not all cruisers have a generator to make warm water or a place to shower on board like we do. That being said, taking a shower on land…is heavenly. Seriously. Boat showers are more like taking a shower in your smallest closet with your kitchen sink’s sprayer. When you get to take a shower on land in a sizeable stall with amazing water pressure and consistent warm temps…ahhhh. Magical.

From Eric:

After saying goodbye to my parents, we sail down to the Ponce De Leon inlet near Daytona.  We have to motor the entire way so the ‘sail’ is uneventful.

The Ponce inlet has a huge, 175’ foot lighthouse that has been restored as a museum. Although the girls and I visit the museum, they do not seem interested in the history of the lighthouse keeper. They want to go up in the lighthouse.  It is an awesome spiral staircase that climbs all the way to the top.  The entire thing is hollow and the stairs are made of metal grating so you can see all the way to the bottom while you climb.  Tali doesn’t find this comfortable.  Once we make it to the top, we are treated with a spectacular view, the kind of thing that really makes you wish your camera phone doesn’t have a hazy lens.

While at the Ponce inlet, the dolphins are incredible.  They are playing all the time.  I actually watch two of them perform some kind of communication where one slaps its tail on the water then the other does the same a few hundred feet away.  This goes on for several minutes.  I’ve never seen such behavior.

We spend a good long day playing at the beach. People can still drive on the beach here! Also it seems like everyone wandering around has a dog with them. Of course the girls point this out to us. They miss having a pet, and seeing everyone else with one makes them feel like they are missing out. This puts a damper on the mood, but only for a short while. We find out later that this beach is actually a dog beach. Of course it is. Go figure.

From Eric:

We leave the Ponce inlet for Cape Canaveral.  Cape Canaveral is interesting because the only place to anchor is on the ICW which means that we have to go though a canal, under an opening bridge, and through a lock to get there.  We’ve never been through a lock, so this is going to be a new experience.  Again we have to motorsail down the coast, but just as we approach the inlet, the wind picks up to about 20 knots.  Perfect, except we are done for the day.  The canal to get to the bridge and lock is fairly narrow so we have to get nice and cozy with a freighter that is coming out.  It’s rather remarkable what we can become comfortable with this after some experience. 

The lock is however something new.  The wind is coming on broadside which is not ideal.  I think that the lock operator is screwing with us.  I call and ask which side we should put the fenders on and that this is our first time through a lock.  He tells me to put them on whichever side we want.  When I ask if the fenders should be vertical or horizontal he again says, whatever I’d like. Not particularly helpful.  Then going in the lock there is no doubt, he only opens one of the lock doors.  The lock is maybe 60 feet wide, the door is a couple feet thick, and with just one door open the entry way is only about 27 feet.  Our boat is 24 feet wide.  It is a nerve wracking squeeze.   I put Kelly on the starboard bow and Tali on port so they can tell me how close I’m getting.

We’re able to make it into the lock without hitting anything, but that is only half the challenge.  I have to maneuver the boat up wind to the the side of the lock and tie her down.  It takes me like 10 minutes as I seesaw my way to the lock wall.  I’m fairly sure no one there is impressed. (I know I can’t do any better, but we all get a chuckle when all of the boats around us move to give us more room.)  Eventually I’m able to get the stern close enough for Kelly to get a line on a cleat then I use it as a pivot to get the bow line on.

Getting out of the lock is no issue as the operator now finds no problem opening both doors.  Once out, we take an immediate left turn and put down anchor.  We are spent. 

One reason we decide to stop here is, of course, the Kennedy Space Center. To our dismay, Tali has decided that she isn’t a fan of learning about most of the sciences, but she absolutely loves space science. We use this opportunity to foster her interest; however, due to budget constraints, only Tali and Eric go to the space center. Cloe and I stay on the boat and have a ‘girly day’ painting nails, watching movies, and baking cupcakes which makes our lil’ girl just as happy. Eric and Tali leave bright and early to make the most of their day. They stay there until closing which means they don’t get back to the boat until well after dark. I’m not a fan.

The problem is that I don’t love being in the dingy after dark and I still don’t have faith in my dingy driving skills quite yet, but if I want the crew back on the boat, we’ve gotta do what needs to be done and go get them. Cloe does a great job with the spotlight. I may or may not have had a little trouble starting the dingy and forgotten to push off the big boat and skidded down the starboard side, but you know what…we made it to shore, picked them up, and delivered them back. I’ll call that a success. They can’t contain their excitement. They have such an amazing time that they don’t stop for lunch until 3. Tali says that she feels it’s on par with Disney!

Unfortunately we get caught by a cold front, so we hunker down for a bit. While here we meet a few other cruiser boats who anchor by us, S/V Country Dancer and S/V All In, a fellow Leopard. All good people. Both have boat dogs who the girls enjoy loving on. The girls are invited aboard Country Dancer for Christmas craft time and we have a ball. The next night we host our first cruiser dinner and enjoy every minute of it. They share lots of cruising and finishing advice and we soak it up. We’re all headed south so we know we’ll be running into them again.

Our First Boat Thanksgiving

From Eric:

We sail down to another of Kelly’s favorite anchorages in north Hilton Head called Skull Creek.  We have another great sail cruising at 8-10 knots.  Kelly still hasn’t shown much enthusiasm for sailing, but hopefully she’ll start to appreciate the beauty of movement without using fuel.  I hope that in time she will see a good sail as an acceptance by the wind and ocean and not just a slow way to get somewhere.  While we are sailing I see two pods of stingrays.  I’ve never seen a pod of stingrays before, I didn’t even know that they swam in pods.  I’m not even sure if a pod is what you call a group of stingrays.  Either way, I see two of them a couple of hours apart.  The first has at least 100 stingrays in it, and the other is about half the size.  It truly is incredible what you get to see out here.

Our stay in Skull Creek is relaxing.  I’m able to get some dinghy parts and catch up on some maintenance tasks.  The problem were confronted with is that the days are getting so much shorter.  The shorter days mean that we can’t travel as far as we did on the way north.  This puts us in a situation of needing to perform another overnight sail.  I know that if we can get a good overnight sail we’ll be able to do it more often and get further along.  Kelly resigns to the overnight sail after looking all over for other inlets that we could use.  There are none. 

We leave Skull Creek around 5pm.  The wind is up at about 25 knots with gusts to 35.  We start the night with a reefed main and that is enough.  Our course is going to bring us dead down wind so I end up jibing every few hours for the 100 mile trip.  The waves are a little larger then predicted, but they aren’t scary.  The real problem is that the clouds are out and there is no moon.  The lack of a horizon disorients Kelly and she ends up going down soon after sunset.  Fortunately we’ve got this night sailing thing down.  Kelly already made some tea and mochas.  I have a couple audio books and am able to just blast down the coast at 8-10 knots surfing down the waves.  (I did set my watch to go off every hour to check on him to refill his drinks, bring food, etc. I can’t do much in this state, but I can do what needs doing.)

Our timing is near perfect.  The sky is just starting to get light about 1.5 hours away from the St. Mary’s inlet, however, the waves have grown through the night and I am surfing down 8-10’ rollers.  Our navigation is almost right on… almost.  I can see about four miles from the inlet that I am not going to make the end of the stone jetty and will either have to throw in a couple of extra jibes, or crash on the rocks, the later not actually being an option.  I am only going to be about 100 yards short of the mark, but I don’t want to push heading down wind that far for fear of an uncontrolled jibe that can damage the boat.  I am able to gut out two more jibes and sail us into the protected inlet.

After being up all night I am ready to throw down the hook.  We know that St. Mary’s had been destroyed by the hurricane, so instead, we head south to the closer anchorage of Fernandina.  We find a good location where the holding is good, the 7’ tide won’t put us aground, and we have room to swing.  By the time we get into the inlet the girls are awake and after anchoring I take a nap. 

Eric did a great job getting us here. I still feel bad about not being able to help as planned, but he doesn’t seem to mind so much. This anchorage is way more industrial than expected, but we knew not to anchor closer to town because they are STILL cleaning up from Hurricane Matthew. (Reviews note a lot of debree on the bottom which can foul an anchor.) So the dingy ride is a long one, 15 minutes, but its not the longest we’ve had thus far. (Little River’s dingy ride was ~ 30 minutes.)     

After a few days of work, we head ashore to check out the town, and it’s a great town! We do our usual, ask locals what we should do and where we should eat. A few people mention a small seafood shack, Tomoti’s, so we eat there and aren’t disappointed. We also visit the Amelia Island Museum of History, a small but excellent museum that shares the town’s interesting history. (Interesting tidbit – Amelia Island is the only place in the US to have been governed under 8 different flags.) They have a kid scavenger hunt where they answer questions about the exhibits which gives them a go at the treasure box at the end. The kids loved it. We also find the hopper bus which, for $1, the driver will give you a great tour of the island. We learn the best place to buy boatloads of awesome local shrimp. We do our part to help out the local fishermen & indulge.

From Eric:

Fernandina is a great location.  We stay here through Thanksgiving and have a great time.  The town is fantastic with lots of interesting shops and history.  There is a Civil War era fort, Ft. Clinch.  There is no tour, rather it is a ‘guide yourself’ operation.  It appears that it was never finished and the one time it could have been used to repel the North, the soldiers high tailed it out of town instead.  My folks come down and join us for Thanksgiving week.  It is a great visit and we get a lot done.  Previously Kelly and I discussed making Thanksgiving supper on the boat, but elect to have Publix cook it for us, so we just pick it up.

It rains most of Thanksgiving day, so we’re all cramped in the boat, but the food is decent and company is good, so it’s alright. We play a lot of games, especially Farkel, the kids’ new favorite. The next day we head to town for their annual Black Friday PJ block party. Les & the kids wear their PJs which gives us discounts at stores and cafes. Another coincidence, one of my friends from Missouri, Patrice, is visiting her son who lives just across the state line, so we’re able to get together. We bring her and her crew out to the boat for a quick tour. While we’re catching up, Les & Carl spoil the girls with fun activities from the block party like mini golf and face painting.

From Eric:

At some point over the break my wife and mother have an idea.  Kelly thinks it will be great to drive down to St. Augustine and have Dad and I take the boat.  So the weekend comes and Kelly and the girls leave for the 2 hour drive to St. Augustine, while Dad and I make preparations for the all day sail. 

It was so nice to only drive for a few hours (instead of sailing for a whole day to cover the same distance – yes, I said it). Thanks to Leslie, we stay in an awesome hotel by the beach, swim in the pool, and I get to do laundry the modern way. Score! We wake up and walk to the beach knowing that the boys are successfully underway. We head into St. Augustine, walk around, and have lunch at The Columbia.

From Eric:

As luck would have it there is almost no wind.  We end up motoring on a flat calm Atlantic ocean for 8 hrs.  For a short time we thought the wind was building and we set up the gennaker to catch it, but there is little to no success.  We have read that the inlet for St. Augustine can be tricky, but we find no such issue.  The channel is well marked and all is easy. 

We pick up a mooring ball in St. Augustine and set up camp for a few days.  The history of St. Augustine is incredible.  I think it’s the only old fort that we’ve visited that had its full compliment of armament.  The town is lined with shops to exploit the heritage of the town.  I find the area a little pricy but that’s what to expect in a tourist town.  We have a good time, but the town is set up for tourism, and there are no places to get spare parts or provisions.

Baby, it’s gettin’ cold outside

Since we don’t know when we’ll be on a dock again, we decide to provision a bit. Nothing huge, just grabbing some of the stuff we’ve run out of. We Uber again, and again, it’s a very positive experience. We quickly put the stuff away, and walk to one of the amazing ice cream shops a few blocks away before heading back down the river.

From Eric:

We go back down the Cape Fear River without much drama.  We stay the night in the anchorage we had found previously and head back to the west to Little River. 

There is a 20+ knot wind and the seas are 4-7’.  Kelly isn’t happy (yea, I wasn’t), but I had convinced her it would be fine once we got out into the ocean.  I was wrong. (yes, he was) It really isn’t any better.  The worst part though is getting out the inlet.  Just as we approach the narrowest part, a huge freighter is coming in from the other side.  I am a little nervous and call the freighter on the radio.  He states that as long as I hug the green side, we can both fit.  I’m fairly concerned as we go though the narrows with 6’ seas and a huge freighter so big and close that it blocks out the sun, but after that short excitement, the rest of the sail is easy right up to the inlet at Little River.

As we approach the inlet, the waves have grown to 8’.  It is fun, if not nerve wracking, surfing a 47’ boat into a narrow channel.  From our previous stay here, I know that I have to stick close to the sea wall, or end up hitting the bottom.  The question I have to wrestle with is just how close to the rock sea wall I should get knowing that if I catch one wave wrong, it will grab the back of the boat and spin us into the rocks.  I have the boat in full power trying to keep steerage while we surf the face of the waves and then slide down the back side.  Luckily my skill, and a lot of help from the man upstairs, we make it through the inlet and back to the anchorage. 

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We sure do love Little River. This spot near the inlet has something to offer everyone in the crew: Eric has the wind & waves, I have the beach, and the kids have their beach combing & boogie boarding in the surf. It’s perfect. We hang here and wait for a weather window to head South, cause it’s getting cold. In fact, since the cold front came through, it’s downright frigid. Freezing temps and cruising aren’t a good combination.

From Eric:

The good wind that propelled us to Little River brought with it some cold.  I went surfing and for the first time need my shorty wet suit.  The day starts at 49 degrees and doesn’t climb above 60.  At this point the family determines that we should head South.

  We sail to the inlet for Georgetown and, little did we know, are too late and the cold is coming.  From the inlet to Georgetown is 10 miles up another river.  The town is small and inviting.  We wander around and have a great time, however, after a few hours of seeing the town, we’ve seen all of it.  The entire commercial area is about 10 by 2 blocks.  A real wind is whipping up from the west and we decide to take advantage and sail south. 

We wake up to a brisk 35 degree morning.  The wind is still up near 20 knots and the sail is going to be great, however, I am the only one of that opinion.  Kelly and the girls are on some kind of temperature shut down and it takes a significant amount of effort to get them to come up and pull the anchor.  We have not packed for the cold weather.  I have one pair of jeans and several tee shirts under my fowl weather jacket.  My daughters come up in 4 layers of sleeping attire and Kelly is sporting both pairs of pants that she brought and 4 to 6 layers of long and short sleeve t-shirts.  We successfully bring up the anchor and all the girls go inside not to be seen again until we get to Charleston some 8 hours later. (Unfortunately that’s true, but it was so darn cold!)

Once I am out of the inlet I have to rely on the autopilot to assist me in getting the sails up as it was made quite clear that I would be getting no help from the family until temperatures became “reasonable”.  There is also some talk of mutiny and cars, but I will have none of that on my ship.  The sail down to Charleston is quite good save for the bitter cold that has me shaking at the helm the entire way.  I think shaking in cold is a good way to burn calories; at least that’s what I tell myself.  

We get to Charleston just in time for Halloween. We have yet to meet another kid boat, so we’re unsure if any of the cruisers anchored here will be participating in the festivities. I send Eric out into the anchorage to see who is willing to participate in trick-or-treating. To those, he provides little bags of candy so they’ll have some to give to the girls. The girls dress up in their costumes and have a great experience dingying around the anchorage. Some cruisers invite us aboard, other dressed up, and we even see Captain Lee again! The girls had a ball and we are thankful to those who helped make this an experience to remember.

From Eric:

Charleston is an outstanding city and we enjoyed it the first time we were here.  At this point Kelly had to travel up to RI to get some paperwork done, so the girls and I are left without supervision. 

This is the first time I’ve traveled alone in ten years! Even though this is a quick business trip, I’m soaking up all the family and fun that I can. My Dad and I do a lot of chatting and stay up way passed our bedtimes. The Kessons have a great impromptu night out to catch up. My visit goes by too quickly, but I know that heading back means that we can head to warmer weather.

From Eric:

Another of the great coincidences is that my brother’s in-laws live in Charleston.  We are able to visit them a couple of days and get some great food and conversation and have an awesome time.  (Yes, and thank you for getting me to and from the airport. Love you guys!) Once Kelly returns from RI it is time to continue heading South.  The weather isn’t freezing, but is still a little on the cold side.  Thanksgiving is about a week and half away and we are hoping to be in Florida.

Cape Fear, Willmington & Little River – oh my!

In our last post, Eric shared with you his first windsurfing experience since casting off. I’m happy to report that he’s done it many more times since then and has gotten A LOT better. We’ve also decided that if we keep posting at this incredibly delayed rate, we’ll still be writing blog posts well after our adventure is over, so we hope to post weekly until we catch you up to our present.

It’s Eric birthday! We’re celebrating in Little River, South Carolina. The girls have decorated the salon and we’ve planned the day to give him some surfing time.

From Eric:

I was able to get up at sun rise and head out to surf.  I had seen the surf yesterday and it was about chest high with a lot of close outs, but definitely surfable.  This morning the surf would be just as good.  It was really quite the feeling being able to jump off the boat with the surf board, paddle in, walk the beach, and paddle out to the break.  The surf was just as I had seen it.  The sets came in about 10 minutes apart and were predictable and catchable.  Most of the waves would close out,  but every now and then there was a nice ride in.  Those are the ones that keep making you go back.

When he got back, he fished off the back of the boat and, low and behold, he caught something! We’ve never seen anything like it. We had to research it. It’s called a Sea Robin, and it had legs. Really, it does. It’s a bottom dwelling fish that uses it’s leg-like fin spines to crawl along the bottom and uses its large side fins as wings. He put it back because even though it would have been neat to grill fresh caught fish on his birthday, this fish was just too odd to eat. Instead we celebrate with microwaved mug cakes.

We’re on the move again. We decide to head south to Georgetown, but once we get out of the inlet, the waves are calm and the wind is good, so we decide to go east to Cape Fear in an effort to head up to Wilmington, North Carolina. 

From Eric:

We are able to sail about half way before the wind calms on us and we have to start the engines.  There is no place to stop in between, so we have to get to Cape Fear in time to anchor before dark. (Remember rule number one?) Cape Fear has a wicked current that can run at over two knots, luckily we get to the inlet at near slack tide, so the current is minimal.  Kelly has scoured the books and finds what appears to be the only designated anchorage in the area.  It is west of the little town at the end of the Cape Fear River. 

From the inlet we go up the Cape Fear River for a few miles and then west in the ICW.  The ICW is fairly narrow in this area and our boat being 24’ wide takes up more than half of it.  I’m navigating on the chart plotter to the anchorage that Kelly found.  As we round the bend we find this so called “anchorage”.  It is humorously small.  I start to nose our boat into it and just laugh.  There is no way we were going to stay here.  There is just enough room to fit our boat and we only have a few inches of water under the keels.  If we did put down an anchor we could only use about 20’ of chain and then I could pee off the back of the boat and hit the other bank.  To make things worse there is a power boat just a little further up and he is aground. (I agree. This “anchorage” is a joke. It should not be marked as such.)

I always appreciate that there are two engines on our boat, and no time more than now, when I can pivot the boat around and get the hell out of here.  This does however cause a significant amount of stress because now we don’t know where we are going to anchor.  Kelly still doesn’t believe me that we can anchor just about anywhere outside of a channel, so she starts calling all the marinas in the area looking to see if anyone has availability for our boat.  In the mean time I start to head up the Cape Fear River to Wilmington.

As the sun gets low in the sky, Kelly finds a marina that says they can handle our boat.  It is a city park marina and is nicely priced.  It is about an hour up the river and we will be getting there around sundown.  However, as we approach the entrance, we call them on the radio and talk to someone else.  They say that at 24’ wide there is no way we can fit into the marina.  This puts us in a real bind.  (As you can imagine, I am not a happy camper. I did my job. I specified our dimensions and was told it would work, then when we get there, we’re told the opposite. Grrr. So frustrating!)

We are now running out of options.  I look at the chart and tell Kelly that we have just enough light to get up to the next island and we can anchor on the east side of the island.  That will get us out of boat traffic and we’ll be safe for the night.  Reality settles in on Kelly and she reluctantly agrees.  The sun is down and it is getting dark when we set down the hook.  The anchor sets well and we are set for the night. The anchorage ends up working perfectly and we decide that we will use it again on the way back down. (It really was a good anchorage. Now THAT one should be noted in the guidebooks.)

After last night’s fiasco, I double check our reservation with the Wilmington City Dock. Everything is a-ok. Thank goodness! It turns out that the Cape Fear River is quite a busy place. We wake up to a huge barge being towed up river, so we follow it. We eventually pass it and the girls wave to the captain. He returns their wave and toots the massive horn. This totally makes the girls’ day.

From Eric:

The way up the Cape Fear River is nothing short of awesome.  We are able to get a favorable current and zip up river.  I am enamored by the commercial traffic. There are huge barges, tankers, and freighters, and because the river isn’t that wide, we always have to pass fairly close.  The only sticking point is the lift bridge at Wilmington.  We can’t find the info to contact it, and it doesn’t respond on channels 16, 13, or 9.  Finally as we approach, with a following current (i.e. we’re moving pretty quick & can’t really stop), one of the tugs tells us to try channel 18.  (Our guide said the bridge monitored 13 – not so much. We also couldn’t find the bridge’s lift schedule anywhere – not online, not in the guide! I’m learning that guidebooks are merely that, ‘guides’ – sometimes right, sometimes not.) We contact the bridge and they said they have visual on us and will open as we approach. 

After spinning a few donuts in front of the city docks we are able to dock just on the other side of the river from the battleship North Carolina.  The North Carolina is the main reason we have come to Wilmington.

Eric noted that this was about the same spot that they were tied up 30+ years ago when cruising with his family. He shared a cautionary tale that when they were there, he hadn’t finished his schoolwork that day so he wasn’t allowed to go tour the battleship. Needless to say, I’m not sure who was more excited about seeing the battleship, him or the girls. We learn that the battleship dock is being worked on so we can’t dingy over as planned, so, for the first time, we Uber it. Works great – highly recommend!

From Eric:

After docking we have lunch and head to the battleship. We spend 3 hours touring the battleship and it is awesome.  The size and complexity of the ship is amazing.  We are able to tour everything from the engine room to the bridge.  It was worth the trip.

I wholeheartedly agree. The amount of orchestration it took to run this small city on the water is incredible. The self guided tour is great. We explore every corner of the boat and don’t leave until closing. If you’re in the area, you need to check it out.

We’re ok!

If you’re wondering why we haven’t posted anything for quite some time, know that we’re doing fine. We’ve just had terribly slow internet speeds for the past few months and this doesn’t allow us to add pictures to our posts…and posts without pictures just aren’t as good, right?!!

We’re currently in the Bahamas and will be back in the U.S. (with better internet speeds) in May. We’ll start posting again, weekly, to catch you up with our travels. It’s been quite an adventure! We can’t wait to share it with you.