The end of the ICW!

Coinjock, NC (Tuesday, 4/30)
Way before the sunrise, Denise ran the marina/gas station parking lot and the gravel road leading up to white house on the point.  After 8 or so laps, she had only logged 2.5 miles and said “enough”. Talk about boring!

While the morning sunrise over the Alligator River started out spectacular, fog rolled in for a short while. However, by 7:00 a.m. it had lifted and most all the boats in the Alligator River Marina left.  We were among the earlier ones to leave because we knew the wind would pick up and we did not want to get caught in the chop on the Albemarle Sound.  It was 13 miles from the end of the Alligator River across the Albemarle to the North River; it should have only taken us between 30 – 45 minutes to cross.

But on a boat, things often do not happen as planned. We were out on the Albemarle making good progress and under acceptable conditions, cruising along at 20 knots when our “hot engine” alarm went off.  We slowed the boat and Mark did some investigation in the engine room, which requires us to lift the salon floor to obtain access. Denise was driving with the assistance of autopilot, but there were crab pots to dodge everywhere.  Eventually Mark deduced that the engine was being starved of fresh water which is used to cool it.  The usual culprit was the raw water strainer, but it was clean.  One quick test and we proved that insufficient water was getting to the strainer, meaning we had a partial blockage from the thru-hull to the strainer.  We were able to continue our path north, but we could only cruise around 5 knots; a turtle’s pace compared to the jack rabbit speed we were used to.

It took us an hour to get the rest of the way across the Albemarle Sound and the wind had already started to build.  Once in more protective waters, we decided it might be worth stopping and Mark could dive on the boat to get rid of whatever was causing the clog.  We chose to stop at Buck Island, the best anchorage around in this low-lying area of the ICW. Even though it was the best spot around to pull off, it was still a little bouncy with waves from the wind.

Buck Island Anchorage area

Buck Island Anchorage area

We had also devised another plan (now plan A) with Mark going in the water moved to plan B. The water here is colder than we are used to and it wouldn’t be fun. So we chose plan A, which involved getting into the dinghy and using our pole and a scrub brush to try and free whatever was causing the clog.  Mark had little success with this and we thought it was not too safe for him to go in the water now, so nix plan B.  Plan C involved getting to Coinjock and hiring a diver to check it out in better conditions.

While Mark was doing this, Denise called Coinjock Marina and made a reservation for the night.  This is the last place we wanted to stop again, but close enough for us to get to if we could only go 8 knots. She also requested the name of a diver that could meet us at Coinjock, and like all good marina’s they provided. And while all this was happening, the trawlers that left with us out of Alligator River Marina passed by us on their way north.

We put away the dinghy, pulled up the anchor and cruised without issue at 8 knots into Coinjock Marina. And just like last time, they put us at the southernmost end of the 1200 foot long dock, with our bow hanging off and a stump in the water 3 feet from the boat.  And just like before it was because they had a full dock scheduled for the night – which they did. Yachts, sailboats, sport fishing boats, and trawlers all sandwiched in like sardines in a can.

Coinjock dock

Coinjock dock

It was also a challenging work day for us.  As it was the end of a month, Mark had two clients calling with accounting-related software issues that needed immediate attention, and Denise had a client trying to close a software selection deal by midnight (which they did).  So both were on the phone several times for conference calls or web meetings. Thank goodness for our hotspot!  And once docked, we were attempting all of this while Mark washed the boat and Denise was trying to catalog pictures and write this blog.

At 3:00 p.m. Jeremy the diver showed up as promised.  Initially when he dove on the underside of the boat he found nothing.  So Mark requested he remove the screen on the thru-hull, and try to free up anything that could be clogged, but nothing really was found.  On a 3rd try and putting a pressure washer up into the thru-hull, he was able to wash out some type of muddy debris. However, there was low confidence that this was the culprit.  He did all he could do and once we paid him, he was on his way.

Diver Jeremy

Diver Jeremy

Given this, we devised a plan for the next day: if the pressure-washing worked we would continue on to Norfolk; if it didn’t work we would slowly cruise (at 7 kts) 30 miles north and stop at Atlantic Yacht Basin. There we could have a service person try to solve the issue, and as they are a working yard they could haul the boat if required.  Not a cheap option, but one that would work to keep us moving.

Meanwhile, Mark talked to Bob (“New Horizons”) – who was also at Coinjock – and they devised a possible test for us to do to see if it did indeed work. But the test would have to wait until morning as we were tired and hungry.  After we wrapped up the work day, got showers, and talked with family, we headed up to the Coinjock restaurant for a quick dinner.

A note about the cruising community:  We are so grateful for all the cruisers who helped us today.  We had several of them call us when they saw us slow on the Albemarle, at anchor, and even when we pulled into Coinjock.  We even had one who was willing to pull into the anchorage and help us out.  Bob (“New Horizons”) was especially helpful, willing to call his Cummins-engine friend and offering suggestions based on his years of boating experience. The kindness and sharing that takes place is really heart-warming and reinstalls our faith humankind.

Norfolk, VA (Tuesday, 5/1)
We started the day doing a few things recommended to deal with the engine water intake, including moving the valve back and forth while running the engine at different speeds.  When all looked good, we paid the marina bill and pushed away from Coinjock.  We were one of the last boats leaving today, so that meant we would have to pass all the slow trawlers and sailboats, if we could cruise at our normal 20 kt speed.

Our first few miles through the no-wake area allowed the engine to warm up.  Then we came to the Currituck Sound and we could finally increase our speed to 20 knots, which we did with no issues.  We watched the temperature like a hawk, but the issue appeared to be resolved.  Now on to regular cruising and slowing only to pass the trawlers and sailboats that left ahead of us.  As we left the Currituck Sound, we crossed into Virginia and left North Carolina in our wake.

Currituck Sound

Currituck Sound

We headed up the North Landing River and eventually came to the North Landing Bridge. This is the first of 3 road bridges and a lock that we had to negotiate today. There are also 3 train bridges that could potentially hold us up but they are only closed when a train is coming. Two of the road bridges only open on the half hour and the last one (Great Bridge Bridge) coordinates the opening with the lock and only opens on the hour.  The distance between these is not always favorable to hit the “next” opening, and it is not uncommon to have to wait.  We had less than 50 miles to go to Norfolk, but we knew from past experience that this still could be a very long day.

And the whole chain reaction is paced by the North Landing Bridge which we approached as the #2 boat in line, and with 5 minutes to go until the scheduled opening.  When it did not go up as scheduled, the bridge tender announced over the VHF that the bridge had broken.  Behind us the boats started to stack up like a major traffic jam on an interstate and all we could do was wait.  Soon the bridge tender announced that it was going to be a long wait and that we were free to anchor (not usually allowed in the ICW) until further status was known.

We set an anchor even though we could see the repair crews working on the bridge, but we also knew that this could be an all-day wait.  When we were on our way to Maine in 2017 we had to stay in Coinjock an extra day because of this very bridge breaking.  It is known for this and since there is no place to anchor or marinas to go to, boaters have to turn around and go back to Coinjock if it can’t be fixed that day. It is not permissible to anchor overnight in the ICW, and outside the channel it is either too shallow or full of tree stumps.

So we waited. And it got hot and buggy as morning turned to afternoon.  After lunch Mark suggested we put the generator on and crank up the AC.  Which is exactly what we attempted to do, but the generator would not stay on.  We have been here before; when we don’t run the generator often enough the impeller gets brittle and breaks.  Fortunately, Mark knows how to fix this, we had a spare onboard, and we had the time to do it.  Within 45 minutes he had it all successfully repaired, and we were cooling off with air conditioning.

Finally, at 2:00 the bridge tender said they would be opening only partially and that we were free to go through.  We got through this bridge and made the 2:30 opening for the next bridge, but missed the opening for the Great Bridge Bridge.  We ended up waiting 45 minutes for this and the Great Bridge Lock, motoring in place in front of Atlantic Yacht Basin. We were grateful that we did not have to pull in here for a repair, and while we waited all the other boats caught up to us and filled the lock.

Atlantic Yacht Basin

Atlantic Yacht Basin

2nd in line at Great Bridge Bridge

2nd in line at Great Bridge Bridge

Entering the Great Bridge Lock

Entering the Great Bridge Lock

At the Great Bridge Lock

At the Great Bridge Lock

Boats leaving Great Bridge Lock

Boats leaving Great Bridge Lock

Once through the lock, we were able to finally make some good time moving up the river on our way north.  Eventually we came up to Top Rack Marina where we stopped to fill up on diesel.  We always stop here as they have the best prices around for fuel.  They have a restaurant on site that is supposed to be really good, and they offer a free night’s stay at the marina if you eat here. We have never taken advantage of this because it is right on the ICW and many boaters do not honor the No Wake Zone; we don’t feel like getting slammed by the wakes. But, we know cruisers who have stayed and like it.  As we fueled we watched a few of the boaters cruise by and figured we would see them in Norfolk as many were staying at Waterside, like us.

Once again, we were on our way for the last 8 miles of our journey, only to get stopped again.  On the way into Norfolk there are several high road bridges which we can clear, and three train bridges. As luck would have it, we got stuck as one of the train bridges was down and a queue of boats was ahead of us waiting on the opening.  Thankfully, it was only a 15-minute wait and then we were off again, heading up the Elizabeth River to Norfolk where the ICW ends.

Last railway bridge

Last railway bridge

We were the fourth in a line of boats pulling into Waterside marina at the same time, so we hung out in the river until they were ready for us.

Approaching Waterside Marina

Approaching Waterside Marina

Mark backed the boat into its slip without incident and we were tied up in no time.  It was 5:20 pm and it took us over 9 hours to travel 50 miles!

IO at Waterside Marina

IO at Waterside Marina

After checking in with the dockmaster and taking with a few other cruisers, we went back to the boat for dinner onboard.  We are staying in Norfolk until Friday morning, but have an option to stay until Saturday morning if we chose.  After dinner we intended to plan our upcoming days, but we were just too tired; it would have to wait for morning.

Sometimes we see the funniest things while underway. Here are a few pictures from the last two days:

Ironing while underway on Sun Punch

Ironing while underway on Sun Punch

Runner on bridge - 90' up

Runner on bridge – 90′ up

Stay tuned for more of our adventures on Island Office.

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Alligator River Antics!

Alligator River, NC (Sunday 4/28)
We left New Bern at 6:00 am with the hope that we could take the Neuse River east where it dumps to the Pamlico River, then the Pamlico Sound and eventually up to the Albemarle River. After that we would be in protective waters and would go to an anchorage just south of Coinjock for the evening.  We also knew we had two bailout options and could take either one of those fairly early in the journey, but once we passed the second one we were committed to the plan.

Once out on the Neuse River it was fairly calm and we made great time.  We passed Oriental, NC to our north and continued heading east as planned.  We crossed over where the ICW intersects the Neuse River (first bail-out point) and although the wind had picked up, we opted to continue on.  As we made our way further east, the waves started to build. The more we continued, the more it became apparent that the wind and waves would just get progressively worse, and we did not want to get beat up once we got to Albemarle Sound.

So once we crossed the Brant Island Shoal we took the second bailout, and headed up the Pamlico River. By the time we turned north up the protected Pungo River, the wind was really blowing and the waves had developed a chop with some white caps. We definitely made the right call. Here is a picture of the chart and the route:

Chart of path

Now the question became where to stay the night. If the weather was going to be great, there were plenty of anchorages, including in South Lake where we stayed in 2015.  But it was forecasted to be very windy for the next two days, there would be no crossing the Albemarle River, and we knew we had to stay put somewhere.  We also had to have internet and cell access as we had work to do for clients.

Looking ahead, we made reservations for 2 nights at the Alligator River Marina; a place just north of the Alligator River Swing Bridge which shuts down if winds exceed 25 mph.  This allows us to stage for the crossing when the weather improved. The downside to this marina is that there is nothing there. It literally is a gas station with about 30 slips, but the reviews were great as they had clean restrooms, laundry, a cruisers lounge and great customer service. More importantly, they had great WIFI.  But it is in the middle of nowhere.

Heading north up the Pungo River we had to pass the town of Belhaven and the Dowry Creek Marina.  As we approached we reconsidered our plans to go to Alligator River Marina and decided to turn in here. We had stayed here in 2017 and really liked the place. Although not downtown Belhaven, they have a loaner car that would enable us to spend two days near a town with amenities, and they had free laundry.  We called them to determine availability, and once confirmed we turned off the river and up the channel to their marina. Even though it still was before noon we had already traveled 67 miles.

After we docked and settled the boat, we discovered not only did they not have good cell service (like NONE), they had lost their large antennae in the storm on Friday night and had no internet out in the marina.  They did have a hotspot set up in the cruisers lounge and we were able to use that 24-7 if we wanted to.  As we checked in, we expressed our concerns.  The owner of the marina was very understanding and really put forth the effort for finding a solution, including checking out the library in town for their hours.  She let us reconsider our stay and told us we could pay later.  We checked out the speed of the WIFI in the cruisers lounge and discovered it painfully slow.  Then we went back the boat and attempted several other options – none of them worked. If we would have had just cell coverage or just internet, we could have made it work. However, without either one of these for 2 days, it was not doable. So we informed the marina we would be leaving, and they were very understandable. We untied the dock lines and continued on our way up the ICW.  Fortunately, (and mainly because we had no way to call) we had not cancelled the reservation at the Alligator River Marina.

Dowry Creek Marina

Busted antennae at Dowry Creek

Then next 30 or so miles was quite boring, traveling on the Pungo River, and then the Alligator-Pungo Canal.  We passed only a handful of boats along the way and for 20 of the miles, there was no cell coverage; the only part of the ICW we have ever not had it.

 

Eventually we came to the Alligator River which is a wide-open body of water, with only part of it deep enough to cruise across.  In a lot of ways it reminds us of the Indian River back home.  We no longer had the protection of the trees or the narrowness of the canal, and it was a bit bumpy but tolerable. We passed a crabber who was out working the crab pots, but other than that there were no other boats.

Crabber on Alligator River

Crabber on Alligator River

Finally we came to the Alligator River Swing bridge, requested it to be opened, and the bridge tender did so promptly.  Once on the other side we made the left turn into the channel that would take us to the Alligator River Marina.  There are rock jetties on both sides of the entrance and when combined with the wind and waves made for a squirrely passage into the small harbor.  The dockhand was waiting for us to grab a line, and his help was appreciated as docking was a huge challenge. Mark did a great job despite the wind and current wanting to slam our boat into the docks.  It took a while to settle the boat with additional lines and fenders, but finally we did. Even though it was only 1:30 in the afternoon we had cruised 101 miles.

Since it had been over week, Mark decided the boat needed a wash and proceeded to scrub the salt off of everything. Denise got caught up on some photo cataloging, blog writing, and checking in with family.  We also met some of the other boaters who were at the marina, including San and Lisa (“Panacea”) who are Loopers and were from Southern California, and Bob and Laurie (“New Horizon”) from Rock Hall, MD.

The Alligator Marina office is really a gas station, and also offers a small “to go” restaurant. But it stops serving at 5:30 pm and offers a very limited menu.  It attracts mostly a lunch crowd of people on their way back to the mainland from the Outer Banks. Given this, we chose to eat a pre-home cooked chicken dish in from our freezer for dinner. The wind had died down and the marina was quiet so we were able to relax a bit. Because we had a decent internet connection we were able to watch the news and stream TV before retiring for the night.

 


Alligator River, NC (Monday 4/29)
Although we went to bed when all was quiet, we were awaken around 11 pm by fierce winds. The boat was really rocking and the water was loudly slapping the hull.  The wind had shifted from the South to the North and the water funneled into the marina causing a rolling motion. It reminded Denise of the 4 miserable days in Grand Haven, Michigan in 2015.  It was hard to get back to sleep and when we did, it was hard to stay asleep; it was that way all night long.  In the morning when we got up we noticed the north wind brought in cool weather again. It was 52 degrees and back to long pants and jackets.

Denise spent the morning doing a few loads of laundry while Mark did some work, repaired the binoculars (broken yesterday) and took a nap.  Between loads of laundry, Denise made a contribution to the 1000 piece puzzle that was in the cruisers lounge and got caught up on some emails.

After lunch we spent the rest of the day working for our clients. Between client calls Denise finished the last blog post and we watched other boats showing up in the marina. Everyone was now staging to cross the Albemarle River on Tuesday when the wind is (finally) supposed to die down.  By the time 5:00 rolled around, there were around 15 boats and we all gathered in the cruiser’s lounge for “docktails”.  We met many new cruisers, some were Loopers and a few were not.  We all were comparing notes with most everyone planning to depart in the early morning before the wind had a chance to build again.

 

We went back to the boat for another meal on board and for planning out our next few days.  We walked around the marina for some exercise and then back to the boat for the evening before the mosquitos could carry us off.

Work and Projects!

New Bern, NC (Monday 4/22)
Wanting to go for a run and get back before Mark left for his client, Denise set the alarm for 5:30 am.  When it went off she rolled over, turned it off, and fell back to sleep. When the backup alarm went off (for Mark to get up) she woke up but by then it was way too late to go for the run. Apparently the body needed sleep over exercise.

Once Mark left for his 45 minute drive to the client in Washington, NC, Denise took some time to do work for her clients and doing administrative office tasks.  After that, she ran some errands in downtown New Bern.  First she mailed her old running shoes home so as not to take up valuable space on the boat.  Then she had a task to take a magnet door screen to a canvas place and have it cut and sized so it will fit on the back door of the boat. This is our latest project.  Then she checked in at the temporary marina office and picked up a package Mark had delivered there.  In the afternoon she went back to the canvas place to pick up the screen and then back to the boat for more work.

In the evening, when Mark came back from the client site we went on a mission. This time we were looking for a solution for attaching the screen to the back door of the boat.  Seeking the Scotch® “Restickable” tabs for mounting, we first checked at WalMart, but ended up finding them at Staples across the street. All of this was in the same vicinity of all the box stores for New Bern. There was also a Panera Bread which is where we ended up having a light dinner.

Once back on the boat, we discussed how best to attach the screen with the tabs and agreed to give it a try one day this week when we need it.

New Bern, NC (Tuesday, 4/23)
This morning Denise did get up early enough to go for a run along the Neuse River and through the downtown neighborhood with older historic homes. Most of these either line the water or are across the street, and were impacted by hurricane Florence.  Although some have already been repaired, many are still a work in progress. Here are some pictures from sights on her run:

Mark left for the client site and Denise then spent the whole day doing a boat preventative maintenance project that we wanted to do before we left home, but ran out of time. She polished all of the inside of the galley, helm station and main salon. This included polishing all the wood, waxing all the fiberglass, and cleaning the floors.  Even though it is less than 100 square feet of living space, it is tedious work and exhausting.  But once done, the boat looked great.

Not long thereafter, Mark called to say he was on his way back to the boat, giving Denise time to get a shower.  We then went to Dinner at “The Chelsea”; a pretty good restaurant in downtown New Bern. We ate here the last time and really liked it, so we wanted to go back, and we were not disappointed.

The Chelsea

The Chelsea

New Bern, NC (Wednesday, 4/24)
Once again the morning, Mark went to work at the client site and Denise did some work from the boat.  Around noon her cousin Elizabeth, husband Ken and son Daniel (now 13) came for a visit.  Although from Ohio they were on Easter break visiting Elizabeth’s dad in NC, and made the drive to visit us.  This is the same cousin that came to visit us in Key Largo in March 2016 when we were finishing our Great Loop adventure.

Shortly after they arrived we went to lunch at Morgan’s Tavern & Grill, then to the Pepsi Museum more of a touristy souvenir shop than museum. Since New Bern is the home of where Pepsi was formulated, it’s a must-see place when visiting.

Pepsi flags throughout town

Pepsi flags throughout town

We then walked to Tryon Palace; the first permanent capitol of North Carolina and home to the Tryon family.  Completed in 1770, it was the site of the first sessions of the general assembly for the State of North Carolina following the revolution, and housed the state governors until 1794.  We walked around the gardens, but did not take the tour inside the actual home. Here are pictures from here:

Daniel Elizabeth and Ken @ Tryon Palace

Daniel Elizabeth and Ken @ Tryon Palace

We then went to Cow Café for a much deserved ice cream as it was hot and needed a refreshment.  Afterwards, Elizabeth & Ken went to visit an old friend and Daniel hung out on the boat with Denise.  This was a fun time for Denise to talk with Daniel as a young man and hear of his hobbies (many) and future interests (Eye doctor?).  He also got some time to text with his buddies from home, whom he was missing.

Ken & Elizabeth returned at the same time that Mark got home from client so it could not have been timed more perfectly. After some socializing time on board Island Office, we made our way over to Persimmons Waterfront Restaurant on the Neuse River.  Our dinner here was delicious, and the atmosphere was really great, overlooking the river and the nearby Galley Marina. However, the service was very slow which was really irritating as the cousins had to drive back to Fayetteville and we didn’t want to keep them too long. We were grateful for their visit as we always enjoy their company – it was the BEST surprise of our trip so far.

New Bern, NC (Thursday, 4/25)
In keeping with her 3-day a week schedule, Denise got up early in the morning and went for another run. This time she headed around the NC Historical Center, more historic homes, and around the New Bern Historical Society Gardens. She also ran through some of the downtown streets, including one that shared the same name of her running friend Jim Reed.  Here are some of the photos:

 

Old St. Pau'ls Catholic Church

Old St. Paul’s Catholic Church – no weekend masses here anymore

Down East Porta Pottie - Long way from Maine!

Down East Porta Pottie – Long way from Maine!

Denise got back in time to see Mark off to the client site. The rest of the day she spent time either working from the boat, or making up a salad for future lunches. In the afternoon, the marina pump-out boat came by and emptied our tank.  This is a free service offered by the marina, especially since their restroom facilities were not available. But a backlog of boats required upfront notice which Denise had done on Tuesday. Usually Mark would handle this particular task, but since he wasn’t available, Denise took care of it all.  If only they would have come later in the day, he would have been able to do it; a neighborhood-wide power outage at the client site closed the plant and Mark came home early.

In the evening we were able to meet up with our associate Bob Griswold and his wife Mary. Although retired, Bob does work for us on occasion when specific projects come up that can utilize his talents.  We first drove to their home, and then went to dinner at Crabby Patti’s – a local seafood restaurant owned by a former fisherwoman from Long Island Sound.  We were hoping to meet her, but she was not in the restaurant that night.   After dinner we went back to the Griswold house for continued conversation about their cats and politics.  Eventually, it was time to leave and we headed back to the boat for the night, happy that the wind had finally subsided.

Crabby Patty's

Crabby Patty’s

New Bern, NC (Friday, 4/26)
Today was the last work day for Mark at the client site, and he headed off to their plant like the other days this week. Denise spent most of the day on conference calls with a client and with software reps; she also got some much needed reading done.

During the day, we had intermittent rain showers; a bit in the morning and then again in the early afternoon.  But in late afternoon the wind picked up a great deal and Denise had to take the canvas awning off the back of the boat; it was acting like a sail and bouncing the boat around. The evening forecast looked awful, with a big storm coming.  So, when Mark came in from the client site, we opted for a “to-go” dinner from Outback since it was located right over the bridge. Mark ventured out and for the pickup and arrived back just in the nick of time. The storm came up and had us under a brief tornado warning, but it passed quickly. Afterwards there was a noticeable drop in temperature and we no longer needed the AC on in the boat.  Time to once again break out the blankets to sleep tonight.

Friday night storm

Friday night storm

New Bern, NC (Saturday, 4/27) Normally we would have left New Bern and headed back on our adventure north. However, we had to consider where would be the best place to go to church this weekend.  Given the limited offerings until we get to Norfolk, we decided to stay in New Bern one more day and attend Saturday evening mass here. This would also afford us the opportunity to go to the grocery store and provision the boat for the week ahead.

To start off the day, Denise went for a run in nice cool 52 degree weather.  It was a great day for running and she was energized by the beauty along the Neuse River.

When she returned she talked Mark into going to the Farmer’s Market held here on Saturday.  It is small by comparison to Winter Park’s, but a few local growers, wineries, and artists had some interesting things to sell.

Once back on the boat we took care of a few boat chores (cleaning windows, etc.), took showers and then ate lunch.  After lunch we walked to the downtown hardware store for a tool Mark was looking for to assist with removing a plumbing fitting; just in case we need to do that again. They didn’t have it so we put Tractor Supply on our places to go to in the afternoon, and before the rental car had to be returned.  We also made a run to Publix for some weekly groceries.  Most likely this will be our last Publix shopping experience until October when we are back in the south. Even Publix here in New Bern has a bear in front of their store.

Publix Bear

Publix Bear

In the evening we went to mass at St. Paul’s for 5 pm mass, then we returned the rental car back to the airport.

From thee we got an Uber to take us back to downtown New Bern for dinner at Captain Ratty’s.  Although we were not originally planning to eat here, when Denise learned it was owned by the Aunt and Uncle of one of her Marathonfest running buddies, we knew we had to go.  We had a chance to meet Debra and eat a terrific meal with great service.  We then walked back the boat and got it ready for tomorrow’s departure, stowing all that was not necessary as we had an early departure and a long day planned.

Sculpture appears to be a big thing here in New Bern. In addition to the decorative bears that are all throughout town, there are lots of other pieces of art. Here are some other photos:

Art scultptures in town

Art sculptures in town

Spider Lily Sculpture near Covention Center

Spider Lily Sculpture near Convention Center

Airport art sculptures

Art sculptures at Airport

Art sculpture at airport

Art sculpture at airport – paper airplane with pencils

 

 

 

 

 

 

Not so New Bern!

New Bern, NC (Easter Sunday, 4/21)
Who would have guessed that with the wind blowing so hard last night, we would have woken up to a much calmer marina.  It was like someone turned off a switch and the wind died. Mother Nature really is truly remarkable.

Denise got up and published the last blog while Mark got to sleep in a little longer.  She saw our friends on “Seabird” off and wished them luck in the travels back to Connecticut. We hope to catch up with them on our way through the Long Island Sound area in the fall.

Before leaving Beaufort, Mark decided we should top off our fuel and the best price around was at our marina.  This should give us enough fuel to get all the way to Top Rack Marina near Norfolk; a known spot for buying good cheap fuel.  Because of the holiday the fuel dock would not open until 9:00, so we left our slip and tied up there until owner Tony was available.  While fueling, we had a chance to learn a little bit more about him. He used to have fishing boats here in Beaufort and in St. Augustine, but the industry had changed and he got out of that business.  We also got to meet Roy, his employee who was responsible for washing the bird poop off the docks every morning, as well as other chores. Not all marinas do this and we are so grateful that this marina does. We told Tony that we really liked this place, and would be coming back to stay again in the fall.

Mark went with Tony back to the marina office to pay the fuel bill. While waiting Denise got the boat ready to go, including turning on the engine to get it warmed up.  This must have been a signal for “Ms. Darlene” to exit her slip, thinking we were leaving immediately.  But, Mark was still not back and so “Ms. Darlene” had to wait in the narrow channel by the fuel dock.  The captain was really cool about it, but had to do some fancy maneuvering when another fishing boat came up behind him and needed to go through the narrow channel. He managed to pull into the slip next to the fuel dock while waiting for the other boat to go by.

Ms. Darlene - waiting on fuel dock

Ms. Darlene – waiting on fuel dock

Meanwhile Mark showed up and in 5 minutes we were off the dock and underway. We headed out of the marina and up the ICW through Core Creek.  We passed along familiar sites of the True World Marine Boatworks, Beaufort Marine Center, and Jarrett Bay Boatworks; a fuel stop we usually use, but not so cheap anymore.  There were several derelict boats in the area and like FL, we cannot understand why these have not been salvaged or hauled out of the waterway yet.

Continuing north we went under the Core Creek Bridge and along what eventually becomes Adams Creek.  We both were amazed at how much development there had been in this area in the last two years.  It seems like where there is water, people build houses and docks; sometimes the toys are worth more than the structures on land.

Soon the houses gave way to more rustic surrounds, and the river opens up wide with little coves on either side. We anchored in one of these coves in 2017 while waiting on the wind to die down before crossing the Neuse River. There are some houses along the shore, but they are not near as close together as before.

We turned left and headed up the Neuse River (the ICW actually goes right). Even with the little bit of wind on our nose, it was a cool but spectacular day to be on the water.  We definitely made the right decision to stay the extra day in Beaufort.

Intersection with the Neuse River

Intersection with the Neuse River

It is 20 miles off the ICW up the Neuse River to reach New Bern, NC, and so for us it was a nice hour of great cruising.  We cruised past the Pine Creek Recreation Area and MCAS Cherry Point, totally enjoying the beauty of being on the water.

Great Day on the Neuse River

Great Day on the Neuse River

Having stayed in the New Bern Grand Marina in 2017, we were looking forward to coming back. We were happy to be back in this town as it is quaint, but with a rental car it give us access to conveniences and places we often miss when cruising: Publix, Walmart, etc.  This area was almost destroyed when Hurricane Florence came through in September of 2017 and you can check out a video about it here. However, we had read an update on Active Captain from December of 2018 with rave reviews and heard it was operating again.  Denise was looking forward to the pool and gym access of the nearby Doubletree hotel.

Since we had received our slip assignment in advance, we went under the New Bern (US 17) and Alfred Cunningham (US 70) Bridges and easily navigated to our slip.

Approaching New Bern Bridge

We tied up the boat with a little assistance as no one from the marina office replied to our VHF calls on the radio.  This did not concern us as the same thing happened when we were here before.

After tying up and settling the boat, we were met by a local woman who is a live-aboard. She advised us that the Doubletree was closed, the restroom and laundry facilities were not available, and the marina office was temporarily relocated to a small building about 2 blocks away.  We secured the gate access code and the WiFi password from another live-a-board boater and then walked up to check in at the relocated marina office.  We found a sign on the door that said that they were closed for Easter! Could they have not told us this in advance in the email when they confirmed our reservation and gave us the slip assignment?

We were not happy about this and Denise tried to come up with alternative plans, including leaving and going to Oriental, NC.  But every alternative we considered left us with not being able to meet certain requirements, including access to a rental car for Mark and a place to go to church next Saturday evening.  We walked back to the boat by way of the Doubletree and could see evidence of the renovations, but also some of the destruction from the hurricane.

Damage to the Doubletree

Damage to the Doubletree

Once back on the boat, we requested an Uber and took it to the New Bern airport to get Mark the rental car he would need to drive to and from his client all week.  It was like having freedom!  We stopped at Walmart to pick up some things that we were unable to get in Charleston, and went back to the boat.

When we stay at a marina more than one night, we really settle in as if we were staying forever, including connecting to cable tv (if available). We have become so used to streaming via WIFI that we almost forget to ask if it is available as few marinas are offering it as they beef up their WIFI. However, this benefit is one of the items that is still as advertised at this marina, so we hooked up our cable and watched real TV for first time in two weeks. Denise is excited about having the Hallmark Channel for the next 6 nights.

Our Easter dinner was uneventful; we ended up cooking chicken fajitas.  In the middle of dinner preparation, we were visited by a couple of Loopers. Paul and Caryn Frink (“Seeker”) saw our Gold Looper burgee and stopped to say hello.  They completed the Loop in 2017 and want to do the Down East Loop. They went to Maine in 2018, but only as far as Portland before it got too late in the season and they headed south.  They have been here in New Bern since November and will be leaving at the end of the week. They told us about “Taco Tuesdays” – an event for anyone in the marina at a local restaurant, as well as a breakfast on Thursday mornings.  We may attend the Tuesday evening event, but only if Mark gets done at the client site in time.

After they left, we ate our dinner, did some measuring for an upcoming boat project, (Denise) worked on the blog and (Mark) watched an episode of Game of Thrones before calling it a day.

Tomorrow Mark will drive to the client site and Denise will work from the boat; starting off with a 9:00 am conference call. When time permits there is the “honey-do” list, which will include retrieving a package from the marina office that was (hopefully) delivered in advance of our arrival.

We hope this Easter (or Passover) holiday was good for you, and that the coming year brings you joy and peace.

Other pictures from today:

Stay tuned for more adventures on Island Office.

Nothing Could Be Finer!

Southport, NC (Wednesday, 4/17)
Today started a bit crazy but ended on a fun note.  Denise started with a walk around the basin where there are actually three marinas: Myrtle Beach Yacht Club (MBYC), Coquina Marina, and Lightkeepers Marina.  There is a wooden boardwalk that wraps around the basin and is overlooked by several condominiums. Total distance completely around the semi-circle is 2 miles. Great way to start a day.

Sunrise over the ICW - near MBYC

Sunrise over the ICW – near MBYC

What made it so crazy is that Denise had 2 conference calls in the morning, and we had to get them done before leaving Myrtle Beach.  The second call was to start at 10:30 and we were supposed to be out of MBYC by 11:30.  While Denise was on her calls, Mark put up our new AGLCA Gold Looper Burgee, as well as the new Down East Circle Loop burgee.  Along with the MTOA burgee, we now have 3 flying on the bow.

New burgees flying in the breeze

New burgees flying in the breeze

Denise’s call only took 45 minutes, so with 15 minutes to spare we were able to get off the dock and be on our way up the ICW to Southport, NC.

The weather was really nice; a bit cool but with a light south wind. It was a perfect day to go offshore, but Mark estimated it wouldn’t save us much time and going out the Little River Inlet looked a bit treacherous. Since we only had 30+ miles to go we opted to stay on the ICW and navigated around the recently dredged areas of Little River and Shallotte Inlets, and the not-yet-dredged and shoaling Lockwood Folly.  Along the way we crossed into the state of North Carolina, but since there is no Welcome Center we hardly even noticed.

Near entrance to Little River

Near entrance to Little River

At this point we passed a lot of houses and numerous small boats with families; guessing some kids are out of school as there seemed to be lots of families. Although the River is wider here, the ICW channel is still narrow and the barrier islands to the east and small inlets make for great kayaking and other personal watercraft. Passing is tedious and the constant slowing down is frustrating.  There is also the derelict boats to watch for like this one in Holden Beach that has been there for years.

Trying to pass this sailboat near Sunset Beach

Trying to pass this sailboat near Sunset Beach

Derilect boat still - Holden Beach

Derelict boat still – Holden Beach

We passed by St. James Plantation and their marina entrance; a place we have earmarked to stay at one of these days. However, it is so close to the town of Southport and we love this town that we always seem to go right past it.

St James Plantation Homes

St James Plantation Homes

St. James Plantation Marina entrance

St. James Plantation Marina entrance

Eventually we came to Southport where we had slip reservations for the night.  There was still time left in the working day so both Denise and Mark returned a few phone calls and dealt with items for clients.  Later in the afternoon, we were sitting on the boat and watched a large sailboat crash into the pilings and nearly hit a docked boat as they attempted to get into a slip. The wind had picked up and the captain could not control the boat.  It was a scary site for us as we were two slips away. Fortunately, they got away without too much damage and ended up on the fuel dock as they were leaving early the next day. Every boater dreads the day this could happen to them

Sailboat crashing into nearby boat

Sailboat crashing into nearby boat

In the evening went to hear a presentation on what to expect when cruising north on the ICW, or Offshore, all the way to Norfolk. Hank Pomeranz is the lecturer and provides valuable information to boaters about weather, the tides for the next 24 hours, and what to expect. He does this every night in the spring and fall out of the goodness of his heart, doing all the research that day and providing the latest forecasts, bridge issues and ICW conditions. We attended the first time in 2017 and we were glad we attended again as things change.  Plus he was kind enough to give us a ride to the restaurant as we were running late. Mr. P’s Bistro is a place we have wanted to eat at, but can never seem to get in as its small and usually booked up. But luckily we were able to make reservations and had a delicious dinner.  We highly recommend this place if you are ever in Southport.

Mr. P's Bistro

Mr. P’s Bistro

From dinner we walked back to the marina and went to visit Steven and Carol on “Seabird”, another Back Cove 37 – who were also at Hank’s lecture.  They were going to head offshore in the morning in the interest of avoiding the shoals of the ICW, and the nightmare bridge at Onslow beach (with its restrictive openings) in the Camp Lejeune area. The weather and seas looked very favorable, so after spending some time getting to know a little bit about each other, we agreed to go with them. We set plans to leave at 6:30 in the morning going up the ICW to Masonboro Inlet and then out to the Atlantic Ocean.

 Beaufort, NC (Thursday, 4/18)
As planned, we left Southport at 6:30 in the morning and headed north up the ICW for about an hour.  We first had to pass a narrow and shoaling area called Snow’s Cut, but we hit it at a good time and had no issues.  From there we cruised around the Carolina Beach area and inlet where we did see some debris in the water.

Flotsam in water near Carolina Beach Inlet

Flotsam in water near Carolina Beach Inlet

Seabird following behind in the ICW

Seabird following behind in the ICW

Shortly thereafter we made our way out Shinn Creek and through Masonboro Inlet into the Atlantic Ocean.  It was a beautiful calm day on the water, and we were able to cut through the Camp Lejeune restricted area buoys as there were no live fire exercises going on.

Leaving Masonboro Inlet

Leaving Masonboro Inlet

Leaving Masonboro Inlet - Wrightsville Beach shoreline

Leaving Masonboro Inlet – Wrightsville Beach shoreline

Camp Lejeune restricted area buoy

Camp Lejeune restricted area buoy

We had an uneventful passage with “Seabird” following right behind us into Beaufort Inlet.

Seabird Offshore NC coast

Seabird Offshore NC coast

As we approached the inlet it was a little choppy and we passed very close to an inbound fishing boat named “Jessica Marie” – like one of Denise’s niece.

"Jessica Marie"

“Jessica Marie”

Once inside the harbor opens up and we took the channel towards Beaufort and into our slip at Homer Smith Marina; two down from “Seabird”.  We settled the boat and checked into the marina where we met Tony Frost, the owner.  He and his son run this place; half marina and half seafood processor and market (more on this later).  We then sat down to eat lunch as it was just barely noon.  Had we taken the ICW we would still be underway.

Seabird and IO at Homer Smith Marina

Seabird and IO at Homer Smith Marina

Right after we arrived we received an invitation to join other “Loopers” for “docktails” on Herb Seaton’s boat (“Phantom”). Herb is an AGLCA member, on his third Loop, and is the Tarpon Springs Harbor Host. He knew we were in Beaufort as we all use an app called NEBO, which tracks our boat’s progress and alerts if AGLCA members are in the vicinity.  We agreed to attend and responded we would be there.

Mark had a little bit of work to do in the afternoon, and Denise went for a walk around the marina – looking for the way to the marina where we thought Herb’s boat was (Beaufort Yacht Haven). We later discovered that he was at Beaufort Town Docks in the downtown area; not next door, but a short walk away.  During her reconnaissance however, she stopped by a fishing boat and talked to two of the deck hands (Max and Aaron).  The “Alexandria Dawn” had an engine issue and came in to the marina for the repair. The deckhands were from New Jersey, so having experience boating the Jersey coast (and because she never meets a stranger) Denise spent time talking to them. They discussed their love for the outdoors, fishing for swordfish (their specialty), being offshore and the forthcoming bad weather.  The guys were headed back to New Jersey so they had chores to get done, and Denise had to get back to the boat so they said good-bye, but not before allowing a picture.

Aaron & Max on the AlexandriaDawn

Aaron & Max on the Alexandria Dawn

We walked to Front Street in downtown Beaufort and found “Phantom”. Having never met Herb, we introduced ourselves and were welcomed aboard.  Soon several Loopers followed including people from boats “Sunset Drifter”, “Dona Pacem” (whose boat we saw at MBYC), “Balahula”, and “Jealous Mistress”.  All of these people were on their first Loop and are headed up to Norfolk for the AGLCA Rendezvous in May. We were the only “Gold Loopers” so they had lots of questions and wanted to know all the cool places to go.  They were like sponges and we loved being able to share information from our experiences.  We exchanged boat cards and 2.5 hours later finally left to go get some dinner.  We were not interested in anything fancy, and ended up at the Spouter Restaurant for a quick dinner before walking back to our marina.

Dinner on 4-18 - Spouter Inn

Dinner on 4-18 – Spouter Restaurant

Beaufort, NC (Friday, 4/19)
The weather was forecasted to get really windy and thunderstorms were expected by the end of the day.  Before it got too bad Denise went for a short run downtown in the surrounding streets, taking pictures of the quaintness of this town.  It was really windy in that area, and we were grateful that we were on the northern side of town in an area that would be mostly blocked by the harsh winds. Here are some pictures of the town:

After breakfast we had the great idea to jump on the laundry before the weather got too bad.  The good news is that it is free here. The bad news is that a lot of other people had the same idea and there is only one washer and one dryer.  Since we did not want to be laundry hogs, we settled on a couple of loads of necessities and decided the rest could wait for another day. So, while Denise took care of the laundry, Mark used the marina loaner car to go to the Ace Hardware.  We had broken our shower handle and needed a replacement, and it is a standard item found in just about any store. Thank you Back Cove for making it an affordable repair item.

While attending to the laundry, Denise talked with Tony (owner) about the marina and the seafood processing business.  She learned that there really was a Homer Smith; he was Tony’s father-in-law. When he passed away he purchased the business from his mother-in-law and he (and now his son Matt run the place. He continues to expand the marina and they have plans to add a shower house and cruiser’s lounge this summer. One of the benefits of having the seafood business is that after processing, they have fresh seafood at really good prices that can be purchased before it is shipped out.  So we got 2 lbs. of very fresh jumbo shrimp and made plans to have this for our Good Friday dinner.

Fishing boat after offloading catch

Fishing boat after offloading catch

Fresh shrimp for dinner

Fresh shrimp for dinner

This is definitely our favorite place to stay in the area and we will come back here on our way home in the fall.  Here are some pictures of the surrounding area.

In the afternoon the weather continued to deteriorate as the day wore on, with winds really picking up.  Denise had wanted to go back to the downtown area to do some shopping, while Mark did some work and took a brief nap.

In the evening we got together with Steve and Carol (“Seabird”) for drinks and to get to know each other better, then we cooked up the shrimp with some rice and carrots and settled in for the night. It had started to rain and the wind was really howling.   It was going to be an interesting night and we were glad to be in a secured marina.

Carol & Steven Argosy

Carol & Steven Argosy – “Seabird”

Beaufort, NC (Saturday, 4/20)
The wind howled all night long and the rain loudly pelted our cabin top.  We both woke up several times just to make sure things were ok.  Fortunately, they had lifted all the tornado watches in our area, but it was still loud.

Finally after being unable to sleep, Denise got up and worked a bit on email and this blog. Just as the sun was coming up (and the rain had stopped) she went and put in another load of laundry, this time with no waiting line.

After breakfast Denise worked on cataloging pictures and trying to get this blog caught up.  Mark began a project to try and fix the slow leak from the hot water heater.  In the process of tightening the offending connector to the plumbing line, the plastic part cracked and now the project was a bit bigger. Luckily he had a replacement, but had to get the old one off the water heater.  With a little help of some of the fellow boaters in the marina, including Darryl (sailboat “Brigadoon” next to us) and Steve (“Seabird”), they managed to get it all fixed.  We get by with a little help from our friends!

Hot Water Heater repair

Hot Water Heater repair

Steve helping on the project

Steve helping on the project

When we saw that the weather was not going to be conducive to us leaving for New Bern on Saturday, we made sure we could stay an extra day in Beaufort.  However that now meant we had to find a church for Easter Sunday here in the Beaufort/Morehead City area.  Since we have been here before we knew that there is only one church and it is not far from the marina, but does require a car.  The challenge was that because it was Easter, they were only having one mass on Sunday at 10:00 am and it was going to be in the Civic Center. The church is just too small to hold the crowds. We considered leaving early for New Bern on Sunday and just go to mass when we get there. However, that would make it really tight and we would have to also allow time to get a cab to the airport, pick up the rental car, and get to mass before the last service.  That was not a good plan (if something will go wrong it will), so our only option was to go to the Easter Vigil at 8:00 pm.

We secured the marina loaner car early and used it to drive to City Kitchen; a restaurant we ate at the first time we visited the area.  It was nearby and gave us sufficient time to have a great meal and to still get to church. We then were able to get to St. Egbert’s with lots of time to spare.  Unlike our church at home, attendance for the vigil had the church at about 80% capacity.  The Easter Vigil at this church (which is a long service usually) was also done in parts in both English and Spanish and took 2.5 hours.  It was nearly 11:00 pm. when we got back to the boat – way into double digits and past our bedtime!

Marina Loaner Car

Marina Loaner Car

Dinner at City Kitchen

Dinner at City Kitchen

St. Egbert's

St. Egbert’s

Low Country Cruising!

Myrtle Beach, SC (Tuesday, 4/16)
This past weekend Denise had been mentioning how hot it seemed to be compared to last trips north on our boat. Well today all that changed.  Yesterday’s winds ushered in much cooler weather and we woke up to temperatures in the low 50’s.  It was the first day to wear long pants for Denise.

We had planned a long day on the water and wanted to get an early start. We had to go through an area in McClellanville that has a large shoal area encroaching on the ICW channel and needed as much water as possible.  Because of the timing of high and low tides and the time it would take us to get up to this area, we needed to leave as early as possible.

With that in mind, we left Bristol Marina before the sun was even up and headed out the Ashley River to Charleston Harbor.  We passed by the City Marina where we saw the Carolina Queen docked, and we saw more cranes working on new construction projects. Oh how this city has changed.  We also were treated to a gorgeous sunrise over clear skies.

With little water traffic at this time of day we quickly made our way across Charleston Harbor and picked up the ICW channel at the end of Sullivan’s Island.  Here there is a no-wake zone so it is slow going for a while, but we could speed up until we got to Isle of Palms. We keep saying we want to stay here one time, but with free dockage at Bristol Marina it is hard not to always stay in the heart of Charleston.

Shortly after Isle of Palms we passed another dredge, but the crew had not yet started work for the day and we had no problem getting around them. The shoaling in this area has been bad because of the currents from the nearby inlet, and because of the recent hurricanes.  Fortunately, much of the ICW is now being dredged and this area is no exception.

Dredge just north of Isle of Palms

Dredge just north of Isle of Palms

Through most of the morning we cruised through remote parts of low-country South Carolina. We passed by several remote homes, Clemson University’s Camp Sewee, and the Francis Marion National Forest Recreation Area.

Eventually we came to McClellanville and at 3 hours before low tide saw shallow depths of 6 – 9 feet. Since we only require 3’6” (we like to say 4’ to be safe) we were ok, but we were still thankful we left Charleston early.  In 3 hours we may not have been able to pass this area at low tide, especially since today the tide was going to be lower than average by almost half a foot.

We made it through another shallow area further up the ICW, and then soon came to the floating “swing bridge” near the Tom Yawkey Wildlife Center. This is really a barge (“Miss Ellie”) that moves across the ICW channel to form a bridge, enabling cars to cross.

Tom Yawkey Wildlife Center floating swing bridge

Tom Yawkey Wildlife Center floating swing bridge

Next we entered into the Winyah Bay, a wide open area between the SC barrier islands and the ICW.  It was very windy and the boat got quite a lot of sea spray all over it. Although most of the morning we had been headed east, here we finally turned north (for a while) and passed the town of Georgetown.  We usually stay here for a day or two and enjoy the quaintness and fine hospitality of this great town, but not this trip.

Once across Winyah Bay, the ICW enters the Waccamaw River, with Pawleys Island to our right.  This is one of the prettiest parts of the river, with beautiful scenery, lots of birds and wildlife. We passed Wacca Wache Marina (where we stayed in 2017) and the nearby anchorage that had a few interesting boats.

Here the ICW begins getting narrower and there are houses with docks along the way, slowing our progress.  Much of this area was affected by high water during the hurricanes of 2017 and 2018 and many of the homes are being repaired or even totally rebuilt.

We came into an area known as Socastee where there is a swing bridge that has a 10’ height requirement, so we had to have it opened for us.

Socastee Swing Bridge

Socastee Swing Bridge

As luck would have it, they have an “open on demand” schedule and it took no time to get through.  The bridge operators in SC are really very friendly and our timing couldn’t have been more perfect.  Denise had a conference call scheduled for 3:00 and we needed to be near a place where she could take the call without the boat engine running.  Since some of the area had been slow going, it was going to be tight to make it to the marina in time for the call.  To add to this concern, we had to stop and get fuel at the marina before moving into our slip.  Every minute counted and waiting on a bridge or slowing for a fishing boat, sailboat, Jet Ski, etc. was creating a bit of stress.

In this part of the ICW, the channel is very narrow and there are houses all along.  As we moved north we passed the Barefoot Landing (east side), now re-developed into a bunch of high-end restaurants, and the Barefoot Landing Marina (west side); where we stayed for a week in 2017.

Finally we reached the entrance to the channel to take us to the Myrtle Beach Yacht Club, with a clearly visible Governor’s Lighthouse as a landmark.

MBYC

Governor’s Lighthouse – Landmark to MBYC

We headed straight to the fuel dock and just in time; Denise had nearly 5 minutes to get on the conference call while Mark took care of putting fuel on the boat.  He was also successful at getting the dockmaster to let us stay on the fuel dock until the call was over.  Once complete, we moved the boat to the slip for the night.  Mark gave the boat a good wash to get all the salt spray off of it while Denise cleaned up the inside (it is amazing how filthy it gets in such a short time).  We grabbed showers and walked over to Clark’s restaurant for dinner, which is right next door to the Yacht Club.

The Yacht Club was highly recommended by other cruisers who have had extended stays here and through MTOA – a cruising organization we belong to. In fact we met the MTOA Port Captain (Bud Lloyd) and his wife Elaine as we were heading out to dinner. Bud is the Assistant Dockmaster at the club and was the one who gave us permission to stay on the fuel dock for a little extra time.

We would have liked to enjoy  all the amenities of this club: a pool, nice surrounding areas and a restaurant (unfortunately closed on Mondays and Tuesdays), but our visit this time is only overnight.  Perhaps next time we come this way we can spend more time here.

After dinner we were going to take a walk around the marina, but the cool night air coupled with sheer exhaustion changed our plans. Instead we headed back to the boat for writing the blog, cataloging pictures and watching a little TV before calling it a night.

Here are some pictures from the MBYC and of the day:

Myrtle Beach Yacht Club pool

Myrtle Beach Yacht Club pool

Yacht Club Pet stop

Yacht Club Pet stop

Artwork in womens restroom

Artwork in womens restroom

Marina and sourrounds - MBYC

Marinas and condos around MBYC

 

Coastal Carolina!

Hilton Head Island, SC (Saturday, 4/13)
Today started early as we had a lot of water to cover, but more importantly we had to get past some known shallow areas on the ICW when we still had the tides in our favor.  As soon as there was sufficient daylight, we pulled out of Jekyll Island Harbor Marina and headed north.

Just outside of Jekyll Creek, we passed the dredge getting ready to start for the day. This area is known for having “skinny water” (meaning shallow depth) as it shoals frequently from the tides of St. Simons Sound to its north. They have just started to dredge here, and even though we were 2.5 hours before low tide we still went slowly for fear of running aground.

Dredging Jekyll Creek

Dredging Jekyll Creek

Once past the dredge we continued on at our usual cruising speed for 20 miles before turning up the Altamaha River to Two-Way Fish Camp.  As you can probably imagine, we are always shopping for reasonably priced fuel and this slight diversion was worth it.  If not for the cheap price, there is not much here; only a restaurant and a small marina with a few live boards in a very remote area. We filled the fuel tank and we were on our way back down the river to the ICW.

Two-Way Fish Camp Fuel Stop

Two-Way Fish Camp Fuel Stop

Our cruise took us past Doboy Sound, Sapelo Island, and St. Catherine’s Sound and into an area known as Hells Gate*.  This area is very shoaled-up and we tried to make sure we did not go through here at low tide like we did when heading southbound in 2017; we saw less than 3 feet under our 3.5 foot boat at that time. Following the GPS coordinates and path shared by Bob423 (aka known as “Poughkeepsie Bob”) of Waterway Guide, we safely traversed the area without incident.

*Not to be confused with “Hells Gate” on the East River in NY, or near Boothbay Harbor in Maine.

Soon afterward we came to Mark’s least favorite part of the ICW in GA; Burnside Island and Skidaway Island. It’s a stretch of water that is all no wake zone as it is populated with docks with boats in the water. Usually there are lots of SPOREs (Stupid People on Rental Equipment) in the water and we have to judiciously navigate around them, especially on a Saturday.  But because the weather was not great, there were few people out; just a few hard-core fishing boats.

Fishing boats off ICW

Fishing boats off ICW

We passed through Isle of Hope (a place we stayed at on our way to Maine in 2017), and shortly thereafter we came to Thunderbolt Marina, just south of Savannah.  We have yet to stay here on Island Office, but maybe we will on our way home in the fall. They are known for bringing you donuts and newspapers to your boat in the morning.

Thunderbolt Marina - near Savannah

Thunderbolt Marina – near Savannah

We continued north passing the handful of marinas and soon crossed the Savannah River; a major shipping waterway, and today we had to slow to allow a big cargo ship to pass.

Crossing Savannah River

Crossing Savannah River

Once on the other side of the river, we had now entered into our second state: South Carolina where the ICW continues on its winding path.  We headed north, then east, then north until we had Daufuskie Island to our east, and shortly thereafter we rounded the northern part of the Island.  The channel opened up here into Calibogue Sound where we could see the southern part of Hilton Head Island and the Harbor Town Marina Lighthouse.

Harbor Town Marina - South end of Hilton Head

Harbor Town Marina – South end of Hilton Head

We continued cruising north until we came to Windmill Harbor Marina; our stopping point for the night.  This is one of our favorite stops along the way and the third visit.  The marina is surrounded by condos in a planned community and you must enter through a lock before docking. It is small and allows only one boat at a time, and we had to wait on another boat that had arrived just before us. However, the turnaround is quick and 15 minutes later we were parked in a slip in almost the same location as our first visit in 2014.

Entering WIndmill Harbor Marina

Entering WIndmill Harbor Marina

The boat was filthy from all the sea spray, so Mark did a quick rinse off while Denise cleaned up the interior. This is when she discovered that after less than a week on the boat, her sandalitis was back; yes, this is not dirt, its funky tan lines from the deck sandals she wears.

Sandalitis in only 5 days!

Sandalitis in only 5 days!

Quickly we raced to finish up and get an Uber ride to take us to St. Francis by the Sea Catholic Church for the 5:30 Palm Sunday mass.

St. Francis By The Sea

St. Francis By The Sea

When mass was over we took another Uber back to the marina for dinner at the South Carolina Yacht Club, located directly across from where our boat was docked.

South Carolina Yacht Club

South Carolina Yacht Club

We ate here on our first visit (it was closed on our last visit – a Sunday and Monday) and we knew the food was good, so we were anxious to dine here again.  The meal did not disappoint.  We ate in the casual dining room (bar) of the Club and the staff was very friendly and unpretentious. It was not a typical stuffy yacht club and there were several families also enjoying their time there.  The food was great too!  We again discussed how we would like to come and stay here for longer than one or two nights.  After dinner we took the path along the marina to get to the other side where our bat was, and prepped for an early departure in the morning.

IO At Windmill Harbor Marina

IO At Windmill Harbor Marina

Charleston, SC (Sunday, 4/14)
Today the weather was not so great and it was forecasted to get stormy by the afternoon.  We left Windmill Harbor Marina as soon as the lock opened at 8:00 am to overcast skies and threatening rain.

Denise driving as we left Hilton Head

Denise driving as we left Hilton Head

The winds had picked up a bit and Denise was concerned about crossing the Port Royal Sound, north of Hilton Head.  It was a bit bumpy, but it only takes about 20 minutes to get across. However, the boat got a good spraying of saltwater again and we had to use the windshield wipers to see.

In no time we were in the protected waters and to our west was Parris Island; home of the US Marine base and where Denise’s dad did his basic training. The slogan on the water tower says it all; “We Make Marines”.

Parris Island Marine Base

Parris Island Marine Base

Cruising along we saw the Port Royal Marina, the US Navy Hospital and the town of Beaufort (pronounced BYU-FORT – not to be confused with BOW-FORT, NC).

US Navy Hospital near Beaufort, SC

US Navy Hospital near Beaufort, SC

While in route, we passed the Carolina Queen and many houses with docks along the ICW.

Carolina Queen

Carolina Queen

Some of our other sights along the way included more small fishing boats (causing us to have to slow down), a Kayaker braving the winds, and a Fireman’s boathouse.  We agreed we need to get that sign for Shawn Edwards (husband of one of Denise’s nieces).

We knew when we saw the tour pedaling boat (Saltwater Cycle) and the Charleston Crab House that we did not have that much further to go.  It wasn’t long before the ICW joined the Ashley River and we were looking straight at the Charleston City Marina.  Also visible were the cranes towering over new construction as the development of this great city is in full force.

We turned up the Ashley River and under the two bridges to the Bristol Marina where we purchased our boat in 2014; it felt like our boat coming home. But docking was quite a challenge as it was very windy and the current was running with it. However, Mark piloted the boat beautifully into the slip and with the assistance of two dockhands Denise got us all tied up; it was best she was not driving as she would have played bumper boats to get us in the slip.

IO at Bristol Marina

IO at Bristol Marina

As this was home to our yacht broker as well, there were several new and previously-owned Back Cove Sabre yachts in the marina.  Additionally, there were several Pursuits, Tiara’s and even an old Hatteras yacht as these are the other brands represented by the broker.

Once tied up we walked the nearly quarter mile up to the marina and checked in. Afterwards we walked around the docks to see some of the other boats, including “Dot’s Deal” – a Sabre 45 that had just come on the market this week.  We liked this model, but this particular boat has a red hull and we do not find that appealing.  There was also a Sabre 48 at the end of the dock that we really liked, especially when we saw its name was “Judy Davis” – the same name as Denise’s Godmother and wonderful aunt. (Yes a picture was sent to her).

"Judy Davis"

“Judy Davis”

But we found it most ironic that the boat directly behind us on the dock was called “Satellite Office”.

Boat behind us at Bristol Marina

Boat behind us at Bristol Marina

The weather continued to deteriorate and although we never really got rain, the wind really blew and our boat rocked a bit. However, we were tired from a long day and after a dinner of leftovers, downloading and cataloging pictures, we retired for the evening.

Charleston, SC (Monday, 4/15)
After a great night’s rest, Denise got up in the morning and went for a short run.  From the marina she took the now-familiar path past Brittlebank Park and the Joseph Riley P ballpark; home of Charleston Riverdogs (a minor league baseball team that are an affiliate of the New York Yankees).

And to The Citadel Military College.

But today she dedicated her run for running friend Donna who is battling cancer (Donna Strong).

Tribute shirt to Donna Nelson

Tribute shirt to Donna

After breakfast we walked up to the yacht broker’s office to say hello and retrieve a package; new running shoes Denise had ordered but couldn’t get delivered home before we left.  We said hello to Craig our broker and then returned to the boat for work (Mark), the writing of this blog (Denise) and then for lunch.

In the afternoon, we walked over to look at the Sabre 45, as Craig had told us it was open and we could go take a look. Of course he wants us to buy this boat, so he was very encouraging of us “exploring” it. We again agreed it would be a nice boat to own, but the price is high and we don’t like the hull color. Of course we could spend $10k to have it painted from red to something else (blue?).

We returned to the boat as Mark had several conference calls and Denise had to get the blog done.  We also had the pleasure of having Kim Russo of AGLCA (America’s Great Loop Cruising Association) stop by and delivered a few newly purchased burgees. Our current Gold-Looper burgee was tattered from 3 years in the wind and we acquired a newly created Down East burgee. These will go on the boat tomorrow after the wind dies down.

After Kim left we walked across the street from the marina to the newly opened Publix.  It could not be more convenient and we were ready for a few fresh items.  We also had decided to get a rotisserie chicken for dinner and once again eat dinner onboard.  We might be crazy for passing up the opportunity to dine in one of the great foodie cities of the south, but we know we have many other dining-out experiences in the days ahead. Plus, we just didn’t have the time tonight to eat out and get everything done that we had to do.

After dinner we cleaned up the galley, finished and posted this blog, and then prepared the boat for our very early departure in the morning. Tomorrow, we head to Myrtle Beach for more adventures aboard Island Office.

A few other pictures from the last few days:

THIS is low-Country SC

THIS is low-Country ICW cruising

Wildlife in marina

Wildlife in marina at low tide