Friday, November 26, 2010

St. Augustine, FL to Delray Beach, FL

Delray Beach, FL
Pelican Harbor 26 25.39 N 080 04.1 W

Happy Thanksgiving to our family and friends! We apologize for not updating our blog for this past 3 weeks. The truth of the matter is that with past postings we have taken advantage of rainy days to update our blog and there have not been any rainy days since we arrived in sunny Florida. As a matter of fact we have been having spectacular weather... mid 80's, warm breezes, low humidity, etc. everyday. 
So here’s the rundown of what’s been going on with us since we left St Augustine on Sat 11/6:

Daytona Beach anchorage on the
Halifax River with  a view of the
2 fixed and 2 bascule bridges
 We continued traveling south down the ICW and made an overnight stop in Daytona Beach anchoring almost within sight of the Daytona raceway. It was too windy and choppy to feel like dropping the dinghy to visit the area, much to Kathy’s dismay (avid NASCAR fan). As we move further south we are entering into more developed / populated areas which means we need to contend with more bridges. Many of the lift and bascule bridges open on a fixed schedule. This often requires us to wait or slow our speed to match openings.

We had hoped to leave the ICW and venture outside some during this stretch to avoid the bridges. However, on those occasions when we were at a good inlet the weather was not suitable or when the weather was favorable there was no navigable inlet. So we just kept motoring inside down the ICW.

Kennedy Space Center
Vehicle Assembly Building
 Sunday was extremely windy as we traveled 15 miles down the shallow Mosquito Lagoon, then through the Haul-over Canal and into Indian River. The enormous  526' tall Vehicle Assembly Building at the Kennedy Space Center was visible from 20 miles away. Entering the Indian River marked the end of the strong river currents that we have been experiencing. We arrived in Titusville and entered the protected Titusville Marina basin in 25 knot winds with the intent of filling our water tanks and then anchoring in the harbor just outside the marina. However strong winds and choppy conditions in the anchorage and a dockage fee that was too good to pass up ($1.20/ft/night) made it a no-brainer to stay dockside for the night. The marina facilities were excellent and Kathy took advantage of the laundry facilities We sighted our first Manatees lolling around in the warmer marina waters. 

Dolphins following us while we
dinghied around the
Banana River one evening 
We left on Monday morning 11/8 bound for Melbourne. The space shuttle, who's launch had been cancelled just 2 days before was visible on the launch pad through binoculars. We had planned to come to Melbourne to attend another SSCA (Seven Seas Cruising Assoc) GAM, as we had done back in Annapolis in Sept. While we were in St Augustine the week before, we crossed paths with Rich & Carol Wellman who own another Manta catamaran "The Great Catsby". They were bringing their boat down from Point Judith, RI. traveling a similar route as ourselves to their winter home in the Melbourne area. Rich arranged to have us stay on a friend’s private mooring ball on the Banana River near their lovely condo. We had a wonderful time with them all week as well as meeting up with other cruisers at the GAM.
High rises along Palm Beach from
our Lake Worth anchorage 
 Monday 11/15 we left Melbourne traveling down to Fort Pierce and anchoring in a place called Faber Cove. This is a calm, protected little cove (just the way we like 'em! ) surrounded by pretty homes a mile off the main ICW channel. After a great night’s sleep we continued on through more bridges to Lake Worth in North Palm Beach. High rise apartments stretched along the beach signaled we have now entered the “Gold Coast”.

We arrived in Delray Beach last Wed 11/17. It had been our intended destination for spending an extended period of time while we provision Carina for the Bahamas as well as carrying out boat maintenance chores, receiving various parcel packages and mail and other business. Since departing Norfolk VA on 10/15 it has taken 22 actual days to travel 1066 statute miles, entirely on the ICW.

Arriving at Peg & Paul's condo with
Carina anchored in Pelican Harbor
We anchored in a man-made lagoon called Pelican Harbor, just in front of our friends Peg & Paul Zawadski's condo  complex. Peg & Paul were our landlords for the 4 winter seasons we had rented their condo in Milford CT (while they were down here in Delray). They made us feel right at home and we were immediately befriended by many of the other folks at the condo complex also.

Major provisioning for the 6
months we'll be in the Bahamas
 Coincidentally, we have other close friends in Delray Beach. Mattie & Ed Sears have Piscataqua (another Manta cat) but they also have a beautiful condo just 2 miles back up the ICW. Like Great Catsby, they had also just returned south after spending the summer aboard Piscataqua in the northeast. Mattie and Ed graciously gave us the keys to their car for many days so we were able to accomplish all our errands. We moved Carina over to Peg & Paul's condo guest dock to make it easier to bring on board cat litter, cat food, food staples, paper goods, booze, engine oil, etc. - All the things that are typically more expensive to purchase in the Bahamas. We are also now official FL residents having obtained our drivers license, voter registration and dinghy vessel registration.

Sand sculpture along Delray Beach
 We've also had time to walk the beaches and drive A1A with the top down (did I mention the car was a convertible !) past gorgeous multi-million dollar beach side homes. Downtown Delray Beach still has much old beach town charm mixed with  trendy shops and restaurants along Atlantic Avenue. We have been splitting our time and getting a change of scenery by moving Carina between Peg & Paul's docks and up the ICW to just off Mattie & Ed's condo docks. The nightly socializing and partying has been delightfully excessive and endless. Between the two locales, we've been to 4 poolside barbecues and out to dinner at 5 restaurants thus far this week.

View of Carina from Mattie & Ed's
11th floor condo balcony. ICW to right,
Atlantic ocean distant left

After spending two days anchored in the basin overlooking Mattie & Ed's place, we raised anchor on Thanksgiving morning and motored 2 miles back down the ICW, returning to Pelican Harbor where we had a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner with Peg and Paul, their daughter/ son-in-law and another couple. 

Experiencing a traditional fall holiday in a sub-tropical settings is certainly something different for us so it was strange arriving for Thanksgiving via boat and dressed in shorts and summer shirts. It will take a little getting used-to seeing shopping center Santa Claus' wearing shorts or of live Christmas trees being sold amidst palm trees. 
Typical precariously perched Barnacle
in Pelican Harbor. Peg & Paul's
condos and marina background 
 We plan to stay in Delray Beach through next Wed. 12/1, the expected arrival date of our last engine parts shipment before heading south down to Key Biscayne where we'll wait for a good weather window for crossing the Gulf Stream to Bimini.  

Friday, November 5, 2010

Beaufort, SC - St. Augustine, FL

St Augustine, FL 29 53.26 N 081 18.30 W

This past week we made our way down the ICW about another 250 miles from Beaufort, SC (mile 536) to St. Augustine (mile 777).

We left the town docks of Beaufort, SC last Friday morning 10/29. The morning started out a chilly 50 degrees after a cold front pushed through overnight but it turned out to be another clear sunny day with temperatures reaching the upper 70’s by afternoon. We traveled down the Beaufort River with strong northerly winds at our stern past the sprawling Parris Island USMC training base. We then crossed the wide and deep Port Royal Sound with somewhat boisterous sea conditions due to winds blowing against incoming flood current. Leaving Port Royal Sound the ICW flattened out once again as it entered more rivers and creeks. We passed Hilton Head Island, then crossing the Savannah River into the state of Georgia.
The 140 mile portion of the ICW in GA winds through river marshes behind a series of outer barrier islands known as the 'Sea Islands' (Sapelo, St. Simons, Jekyll, Cumberland). Unfortunately, there are few good anchorages in this area that offer good holding, minimal current, or wind protection. The tidal ranges are 8’- 9’ producing swift ebb / flood current reversals. Needless to say they’re not the calm water sheltered anchorages we prefer. 

Bicycling around Isle of Hope
 So with no real protected anchorages on this stretch of the ICW we opted to dock that night at Isle of Hope Marina in the Town of Isle of Hope which is a suburb of Savannah, GA. 
After checking in we took advantage of the free marina bicycles to peddle around what turned out to be a picturesque, quaint and settled small hamlet. 
Quaint neighborhood scenes
Beautiful Live Oaks with their hanging Spanish moss lined every street. The pleasant fragrance of tall Pine trees and flowers was in the early autumn air as we peddled around neighborhood streets. We were pleasantly surprised by this stop and decided we would probably come back here.

Saturday we left Isle of Hope and traveled down yet more winding tidal marsh creeks, across the mouths of both St. Catherine’s and then Sapelo Sounds. This area is very remote with very few signs of civilization along the way. It seems as if even the ICW boat traffic is less. We anchored a mile up the Duplin River, located at the south end of Sapelo Island with only one other boat that night. Although the current flows swiftly through here the anchorage was pleasant as we had very little wind.

On Sunday we delayed our morning departure until after a mid-morning low tide in order to transit a short section of the ICW known as the Little Mud River that is reputed to have severe shoaling. We passed through without incident and then crossed over both Doboy and Altamaha Sounds and down the inland side of St. Simon’s Island. After clearing St. Simon's Island, we then crossed St. Simon’s Sound with the city of Brunswick GA. and it's paper mill stacks (and their odor) visible to our starboard. We transited past Jekyll Island via another notoriously shoaling canal cut through Jekyll Creek without incident. It makes a significant difference going through these shallow areas on a rising tide even with our shallow draft catamaran. Next was St Andrew’s Sound where the ICW makes it’s most easterly swing since Norfolk and took us ½ mile from the breaking seas of the open Atlantic.

The Brickhill River anchorage at 
Plum Orchard Landing, Cumberland Is.
Cumberland Island National Seashore was our destination for the next couple of days. Cumberland Is. is the largest of the GA Sea Islands at 17 miles long. Access to the island is by private boat (like us) or by ferry from the National Park Visitor Ctr. in nearby St. Mary's, GA. We anchored in the Brickhill River off of Plum Orchard Landing. Because we started late that morning, we also did not arrive until 5:30 PM and as the afternoon breeze calmed it became very buggy with No-See-Ums that even got through our screens.

The former Carnegie-owned
Plum Orchard Mansion
In the morning we took the dinghy to the dock at Plum Orchard Landing. Part of the island is still in private ownership but the majority is administered by the NPS. Large areas were deeded to the National Parks Foundation by members or heirs of the Carnegie family in 1971. This includes the still-furnished Plum Orchard Mansion that we were only able to peek into the windows of. We then walked 2 miles across the island along a trail forested with Live Oak, Pine & Palm trees and dense undergrowth to the beach on the ocean side.

We had the beach completely to ourselves except for four wild horses which came strolling along the dunes foraging beach grass. They didn’t seem to be the least bit bothered by us and continued munching while Mark snapped some pictures. Armadillos are also common on the island and we saw four of them on the walk back through woods. We met a couple from Alabama that were camping on the island. We pointed out the armadillos to them but they were not impressed. Apparently armadillos are a scourge in Alabama and about as common as squirrels are in Connecticut.

Walking the trail back across the island
to the anchorage on the west side

The beach at Cumberland
Island all to ourselves

With a change in weather predicted with rain and wind we decided to leave Tuesday morning 11/2. We crossed the St Mary’s River entering FL by mid-morning. Today is the first actual cloudy day with rain showers for us since the Chesapeake. We took on fuel at the Palm Cove Marina in Jacksonville Beach, FL just as the front came through with winds and rain. We decided to stay the night plugged-in dockside, condo-mode again. It was rainy and humid through the night so we really enjoyed the air conditioner.

St Augustine and the Bridge of Lions
from the top of the lighthouse

 Wed 11/3 we arrived in St Augustine, the oldest city in the nation, making the 1PM Bridge of Lions opening. We picked up a mooring in a newly installed city mooring field south of the bridge. 
Yes... we rode on one of these trolley
buses touring the city.

 That afternoon we took a narrated tour of the city on one of those tacky trolley buses that provided a great overview of the city and some ideas as to what we wanted to go back and visit. Thursday turned out to be stormy with rain and winds most of the day. We spent the day on the boat working on this blog and catching up on some reading.

A cool & blustery day atop the
St Augustine Lighthouse

Today was a very cool (in the 60's for FL standards) and blustery day but bright and sunny.We climbed the 219 steps up the St Augustine lighthouse to a spectacular view looking out over the city, harbour and ocean. We enjoyed a great lunch of Cuban fare at The Columbia restaurant before finishing up our city tour.

We're planning to leave St. Augustine tomorrow for Daytona Beach.