Monthly Archives: April 2015

Work gets in the way!

Morehead City, NC

It has been a busy 5 days and we have not moved the boat since arriving on Saturday, and therefore no posts.

Saturday (4/25): We made a safe passage from Top Sail Sound to Morehead City, including through Camp Lejeune where we were thankful they were not doing firing exercises on the beach as they close the ICW in that area when they do. This could have delayed us by as much as 5 hours in a very narrow part of the ICW. Fortunately, our only delays were caused by our own poor timing on two swing bridges; one just north of Top Sail Sound that only opens on the hour, and we were 20 minutes late for the opening and had to wait 40 minutes for the next opening. The second bridge was at Camp Lejeune (Onslow Beach Bridge) and we were only 10 minutes early for that one.  For most of the day it was cloudy and overcast, and we had a bit of rain along the way.

Artillery Exercise Equipment Camp Lejeune

Artillery Exercise Equipment
Camp Lejeune

Target Practice Camp Lejeune
Target Practice
Camp Lejeune

  We came into Morehead City mid-afternoon and had to put fuel on the boat and get a  holding tank pump out. The wind had really kicked up and the current was running wild which made controlling the boat quite a challenge. Fortunately, Mark was driving and approached the fuel dock cautiously.  However, we had to abandon our attempt or we would have crashed the boat into concrete pilings and the dock. Our second attempt was much more successful and we were able to get all tied up with the help of 3 wonderful dockhands.  After the fill-up and pump-out, we had to move the boat to the slip we were assigned. Again the wind proved to be a challenge, but Mark did an awesome job of getting us off the fuel dock, moving the boat around the marina, and then backed into our slip. Did I mention through all of this, it was also drizzling?  Of course within 30 minutes after docking, the wind and rained stopped and it was calm as can be in the marina!

Dock master Bill - Morehead City Marina

Dock master Bill – Morehead City Marina

The marina here is really in a great location and there are lots of restaurant choices in walking distance.  One of the best features is they have a loaner car they rent for $10 for 2-hour increments.  So after we got showers, we rented the car and used it to drive to AVIS and take advantage of a free weekend coupon we had with them. After returning the marina loaner car, we used our rental car to make Sat. evening mass at the church nearby (St. Egbert). Not as pretty as the one in Charleston but very welcoming to visitors. Afterwards we drove over the bridge and into Beaufort (2 miles away) where we had dinner at a terrific new restaurant (City Kitchen) that overlooks the boats in a marina. In this area they are building a new bypass highway that will take cars directly to Cape Lookout, bypassing downtown Beaufort. It is literally going to go right by the restaurant and is all the topic of conversation by the locals.

Sunday (4/26): Since we went to mass on Saturday evening, we had our morning free and decided to go out to a local place for breakfast (“Georgia B’s”).  We arrived at 7 am just as they opened and we were the only people in the place. The food was good; not great, but it was pretty cheap. The serving pieces used by the restaurant are hand-made pottery with a folksy and colorful flair to it. They also sell some of it in the restaurant. Come to find out the owner (Georgia) has a sister who makes the pottery and lives in Cocoa Beach. Small world!

After breakfast we made a quick trip to the local Wal-Mart to get a few things. On the way back to the boat we decided to go into downtown Beaufort, since we had the rental car. Mark had been to Beaufort a few years ago on a boat delivery and wanted to show Denise the town.  On Saturday we had met another cruising couple (Mary & Brad Barger) who were in the marina slip next to us in Southport, SC; although we did not have a chance to meet them there. They came into Morehead Marina right behind us and we had passed them earlier on the ICW. So we invited them to join us and we had a wonderful time getting to know each other all afternoon, despite the cool and intermittent rain. They were leaving the next day and heading north and we hope to see them later this summer on the Loop! This is really what the adventure is all about.

Blustery cool day - Beaufort

Blustery cool day – Beaufort

Mary and Brad Barger

Mary and Brad Barger

 

Downtown Beaufort, NC
Downtown Beaufort, NC

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday afternoon Mark drove Denise to the Jacksonville, NC airport as she had to be in Atlanta Monday morning. This was another reason for using the free rental car, and enabled Mark to make a grocery store run and do other errands. The airport services Camp LeJune and two other military bases in the area, so it has a lot of activity. As a result, they are building a new terminal, but the old one (circa 1960’s) consists of two gates and one TSA security screening.  What an experience!

Monday (4/27) through Wednesday (4/29): Denise worked in Atlanta at a client site, and Mark worked from the boat, and did laundry and boat chores.  Mark rented a car from Enterprise so he could drive to Jacksonville, NC and pick up Denise.  On the way home we stopped in Swansboro and bought some fresh shrimp from a local seafood shop; typical of ones we see all along the way.

Swansboro, NC

Clyde Phillips Seafood Market

It doesn't get much fresher!
Back of Clyde Phillips Seafood Market

 

After a Chick-fil-A dinner and quick trip to buy Denise a sweater and long-sleeve shirt at TJ Maxx, we made it back to the boat as the rain started to come in again.  It is much cooler than we expected and wished we would have brought a few warmer clothes. Spring here is way different then the two days of it in FL.

Tomorrow (Thursday) we plan to leave Morehead City and head to Bell Haven, NC.  We have 4 days to get to Norfolk, VA, which should only take 3 days. However, the weather is not in our favor with high winds expected Friday night and all day Saturday.  Since we have 2 major open water areas to cross (Pamlico Sound and Albemarle Sound) in the next few days, we want to move north in case we get hung up an extra day somewhere.

Because we have been so busy with work, we do not have time to post a lot of pictures. Here are our highlights.  We hope to remember to take more pictures and post them as we go.

Hope all is well. Please keep the emails coming to let us know what is going on with you – we miss you all!

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To Anchorage in Top Sail Sound

Southport, NC. to Top Sail Sound Anchorage – 4/24/2015

This morning we woke up to very chilly weather in Southport (49 degrees) and that kept us on the boat for a while; dashed were the original plans of going for an early run.

Southport Marina

Southport Marina

After the sun came up and we got going.

Southport Waterfront
Southport Waterfront
Morning run along waterfront at Southport
Morning run  Southport waterfront

 Denise ran and Mark rode the bike all around Southport including their harbor boardwalk that overlooks the ICW. Although it doesn’t have as quaint a downtown as Georgetown (see prior post) there are lots of shops along the main thoroughfare through town.

What was really neat was to see the lovely old homes that have been around since the late 1800’s that people have restored and are actually living in.  These houses are not really big, but they are really beautiful and many are on streets lined with big shady oak trees.

Southport Typical Street
Southport Typical Street
Southport house on Waterfront

Southport house on Waterfront

 

 

The waterfront has a great park and several piers that you can walk out on, which on a clear sunny day like today was spectacular.

Another cool thing about our visit here was that there was a “plein air” event going on, so many artists were about on the waterfront painting today. For those that don’t know, “plein air” is a French expression meaning “in the open air,” and refers to the act of painting outdoors with the artist’s subject in full view.

Southport Waterfront

Southport Waterfront

Plein Air Artists
Plein Air Artists

 

We left the marina at Southport with the intention of going to Wrightsville Beach for a night at anchor.  However, we were enjoying our spectacular day on the boat and arrived in such a short time, that we pressed on. Instead we found a very cool anchorage in an area known as Top Sail Sound, about 20 miles north of Wrightsville Beach.

Topsail Anchorage looking West

Topsail Anchorage looking West

House to the East of Top Sail Anchorage
House to the East of Anchorage

 

We are surrounded by Marsh to our West and a barrier island that is one block from the beach to our East. The island has amazing homes on it with boats in their backyard docks (facing us).  We hear nothing except the birds and slap of the current on the bottom of the boat hull.  It is so peaceful here that Mark actually got in a late afternoon nap.  That was until the helicopters came by – Camp Jejune is just northwest of here.

Military Buzz us - Topsail Anchorage

Military Buzz us – Topsail Anchorage

We have seen the most amazing things along the ICW today: one house that had a life size giraffe statue in the backyard; one with a 5’ swan statue by their flagpole; and one with an Indian Warrior sculpture about 10 feet tall.  We have seen white sandy beaches and barrier islands that come right up to the ICW, and very shallow waters. Perfect fishing areas.

Indian Warrior sculpture - NC ICW
Indian Warrior sculpture – NC ICW

 

Fisherman on the ICW

Fisherman on the ICW

 

 

 

 

 

We have also seen the most amazing homes along the western short of the ICW. Here are some of the “average” ones:

Mansion on NC ICW

Mansion on NC ICW

Mansion on NC ICW

Mansion on NC ICW

 

 

 

 

 

In the anchorage were unable to get a good Wi-Fi signal from a neighboring source (we got one off the Marriott Courtyard in Charleston for 3 days) and since we are not in a marina we turned on the AT&T HotSpot to get email, etc. It works pretty well and allows us to really do work from the boat.  Today we truly are an “Island Office”.

Tonight we made fajitas for dinner and watched a gorgeous sunset over an increasing cloudy sky. It is clear the weather is turning, and tomorrow it is supposed to be overcast with storms in the afternoon. Our plan is to be safely tied up to a dock at Morehead City Marina in Morehead City.  We will post again from there in a few days.

Sunset Top Sail Anchorage

Sunset Top Sail Anchorage

The Carolinas!

Charleston, SC. To Southport, NC. – Thursday, 4/23/15

Well we have officially entered our 3rd of what will be 22 or 23 states on the Great Loop.

We left Charleston yesterday a little later than planned so Denise could get in a short run before leaving now that she has her shoes (YEAH – thanks Kim). The run included a park near our marina, around the Citadel campus and into their football stadium.

The Citadel Stadium

The Citadel Stadium

Once she got back we untied the lines and headed north to Georgetown, SC.  A small town on the ICW that we knew nothing about, but discovered a little gem.  This is your quintessential small town America with a clock tower (now the rice museum) and old fashioned angled-parking in front of the stores.

Rice Museum and Clock Tower

Rice Museum and Clock Tower

Harborwalk

Harbor Walk

 

The stores are all unique and cute, and we ate dinner at a terrific restaurant (Alfresco Bistro) that gave us leftovers for another meal.  This town also has a waterfront near the marina with restaurants that overlook the small harbor and a very nice boardwalk with two parks that border the beginning and ending of the waterfront. There is a paper processing plant that now does all types of recycling (we think) and works 24/7 – which we could hear going all night long. However, it didn’t stop us from getting a good nights sleep.

Plant near marina

Plant near marina

The marina is first class, with the cleanest bathrooms and friendliest dock master (Larry) we have yet to experience. Great Place!  You should visit this town by car if you get the chance.

Harbor Walk Marina

Harbor Walk Marina

Larry at Harbor Walk Marina

Larry at Harbor Walk Marina

 

 

Today we took the ICW from Georgetown, SC to Southport, NC for a total of 84 nautical miles (nm).  It took a lot longer than normal as there are many “no wake” zones in the upper part of South Carolina, especially around Myrtle Beach, but we were tied up to the dock by  3pm, the boat washed by 5pm, and our showers and drinks in hand by 6 pm.  It was windy and cool, but a second day of pure sunshine!

The motoring up the ICW in South Carolina provided some very diverse scenery.  We started out with typical South Carolina low-country marsh and grassy area. Then we saw trees and it began to look more and more like parts of north Florida, with pine trees and cypress. Finally lots of big homes not unlike Charleston area, or condominiums with private docks.

Passing Golfers

Passing Golfers

But the funniest thing we have yet to see on the ICW was the Waterway Hills Golf Club in Myrtle Beach. The course is built with half the holes on each side of the ICW, and then golfers and their bags use gondola (aerial trams) to cross the ICW. This has got to be a “bucket list” course to play for any golfer!

As we moved from South Carolina to North Carolina, the ICW became more and more populated with houses along the way and each with private docks. Most of these have boat lifts that keep their boat out of the water. However, since a boater is still responsible for their own wake, you must slow down to prevent damage to others property.

NC ICW Houses
NC ICW Houses

 

This slows the journey quite a bit in our go-fast boat, and has Mark clamoring to go off-shore for part of our future trips. Denise keeps reminding him he will get the chance in New Jersey where it is required in order to get to New York.

 

Swing Bridge #1

Swing Bridge #1

We also passed a swing bridge that had to open for us (and other boats) and two small inlets that were quite squirrely to get through due to tidal currents. The second one was the most stressful for Denise who was driving, as there were 3 barges and active dredging going on in a very narrow channel.  Of course our boat handled it well as did the Captain!

As far as the weather goes: well we could not have asked for two better days. It has been cool (in the 60s – low 70s) and we have had cloudless skies of pure blue.  I know the Florida people will find this hard to believe, but we have had to use our heater at night and Denise frequently wears a long-sleeve shirt during the day – it is always cooler on the water.

Other sites we have seen:

Smiley pirate

Smiley pirate

River Cruise Boat

River Cruise Boat

Tomorrow we will stay in Southport for a few hours to experience the town, and then move the boat 22 miles to Wrightsville Beach for a night at anchor. Our plan is to go from there to Morehead City so we can be close to an airport; Denise has to go back to Atlanta Monday – Wednesday next week and Mark will stay on the boat to take care of things there (like laundry, grocery shopping, repairs, etc.).

Some of you are getting the notifications of a new post automatically, but others are not. I have been told that when you first logged onto our site it asked you if you wanted to be notified of updates. I don’t know how to do that if you did not do it originally, so I will keep the email notices coming

We will try to publish an update on Saturday or Sunday.  We hope you are all well and that you have a great weekend.

Enjoying Charleston

Brunswick, GA to Charleston, SC.

We are now in Charleston after uneventful passages from Brunswick, GA and Beaufort, SC (pronounced BUE-FORD).  We left Brunswick, GA on Saturday morning after a 3-day stay there; Denise had to fly to Atlanta and visit a client on Thursday and Friday.  We found Brunswick Landing Marina to be a great location to put the boat for a few days. It is a well-equipped marina with free water, pump-out, great diesel prices, and have several restaurants within walking distance.  Its airport is small (4 gates) with only 3 Delta flights arriving/leaving per day, but made traveling to Atlanta very easy.

Mark's new friend

Brunswick Manatee

South Carolina Welcome Committee

South Carolina Welcome Committee

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our Saturday night was spent on the “hook” just outside of Beaufort. It was quite peaceful and we were surrounded by awesome homes with private docs less than 100 feet away.  We had a great time watching a handful of dolphins dancing around our boat with the incoming tide, until it got dark and bugs started to eat us alive; then it was time to go in.  As we had made a long passage that day, we both went to be early and got a great night’s sleep.

Our original intent was to get up early and go to 8:00 am mass in Beaufort, and then head north to Charleston. However, when we woke up early Sunday morning, the forecast looked like we were going to get really wet all day, with severe thunderstorms threatening later in the day.  Also, because going to church would require a dinghy ride and we didn’t feel like getting wet on the way, we decided to just leave early for Charleston. So at 7:00 am we picked up anchor and got underway, but had little to worry about as we barely got any sprinkles all day.

By noon we were tied up at the dock at Bristol Marina; home to Coastal Carolina Yacht Sales who actually sold us our boat.  Since we are a past customer, they allowed us to stay in one of their slips and they were very gracious hosts.  We are grateful for their hospitality, and I am especially thankful that they had a package waiting for me: my running shoes!  I had accidently left them behind and my terrific friend and neighbor Kim was kind enough to ship them to me.

Charleston, SC

Cathedral of St. John the Baptist

Sunday evening we were able to take a taxi to church and attend mass at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist. It is a beautiful church and just as we got inside the skies opened up and there was a torrential storm. Fortunately, by the time mass was over we were able to walk to the restaurant for dinner. We ate at BASIL which is a fusion-Thai restaurant that we had tried to get into several time before. It was delicious and worth waiting for.

On Monday we both had a little work to do in the morning, and then mid-morning were joined by my brother John and his wife Cathy.  Together we explored some of downtown Charleston, shopped in the Market, ate some good seafood at Noisy Oyster (lunch) and Hanks Seafood (dinner) and hung out on the boat.

Mark, Denise, Cathy & John

Mark, Denise, Cathy & John

They also took us to Wal-Mart and Publix so we could get a few things we needed.  In the evening we had a chance to just sit around and chat and I got lucky enough to actually beat John at a game of Cribbage! They stayed overnight on the boat and this morning we went on another adventure; to check out a sailboat that my sister and her son are interested in.  After lunch and talk of future travel plans we had to bid them goodbye.  We really hope they will join us along the Tenn-Tom waterway in the fall.

Bristol Marina

Bristol Marina at sunset

This morning we will leave for the 56 nm run up to Georgetown, SC and from there begin making our way towards North Carolina.  Denise will have to leave and go back to Atlanta next week, so we hope to get up to Wilmington, or near there so Mark can have some fun areas to explore while she is away.  In the meantime, we are trying to juggle our work schedules with enjoying our cruising destinations, while still trying NOT to be on a schedule!

We Are Off!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Yesterday, we untied the dock lines at Harbor Town Marina in Merritt Island (our home port) and began our Great Loop adventure. It has been a few years in the making, months in the planning, and now we are doing it!

We purchased our boat in August 2014 and had a “shake down” bringing her to Merritt Island from Charleston, SC.  But it was the AGLCA’s (America’s Great Loop Cruising Association) seminar on The Great Loop in January that got us really excited.  So now we are underway and can’t believe it is finally happening.

Our plans are to run up to Charleston, SC pretty rapidly and then begin taking our time cruising through North Carolina and the rest of the journey.  Having lived in Jacksonville, FL for a period of time, we got to know the ICW up and down the East coast quite well. Therefore, we did not want to spend a lot of time in known areas, but wanted to save those days for the other adventures that await.  Our short-term goal is to be in Norfolk, VA in time for the AGLCA rendezvous the first week of May.

Jacksonville, FL area

Pine Island Anchorage

Yesterday, we traveled north past St. Augustine and anchored out at Pine Island in Guana River Wildlife Management Area. This is a marshland area south of Ponte Vedra Beach where we have never visited, and proved to be a great anchorage. It was a quiet location with dolphins and lots of birds all around, despite threatening thunderstorms to the West.  There were two other sail boats in the large anchoring area, and that was it. We had a nice quiet dinner of leftover standing rib roast (from our freezer) and garlic-roasted potatoes. Yes, I am learning to use the convection-micro oven on our boat.

Today we left the anchorage at 7:00 am and made it up to Brunswick, GA where we will keep the boat for a few days.  Denise has to go see a client in Atlanta on Thursday & Friday, and Mark will be working on boat maintenance, office work and other “honey-do” things.  He will also get to explore the cute little downtown of Brunswick just steps from our marina.  We have never stayed here before, so I guess we could say the adventure really has begun.

Brunswick, GA

Horses on Cumberland Island

During our cruise up the ICW today we encountered very shallow water around Jekyll Island as we hit it at low tide.  Fortunately, we only draw 4 feet and made our way slowly along with one other boat.  But the highlight today was seeing the wild horses on Cumberland Island.  Of all the times we have passed this island we have never stayed. One day we are going to make this our destination just to see the horses up close.

Saturday we will head towards Charleston, SC and hope to meet up with Denise’s older brother and his wife. With fair weather and good luck we will arrive sometime on Sunday and spend a few days enjoying all that Charleston has to offer.

Please comment on this blog and let us know what you think. Tell us what you want to see more of, but keep in mind I am still learning how to do this!