Our mission -- Space, the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enter .. OOPS, sorry, I got carried away. Let me start again.

Our mission -- Warm Waters and Great Weather: The final frontier. These are the voyages of the Motor Vessel Traveling Soul. Its five-year mission: to explore strange warm waters, to seek out new forms of recreation and new civilizations, to boldly go where no Brown, Applegate or Higgins has gone before.

Friday, June 28, 2013

17 - 21 May: Inside, Outside and Up the ICW

NOTE: Before you read the following paragraph you MUST find someone with a deep, coarse voice. James Earl Jones’ is deep enough, but far too smooth; Lee Marvin, now Lee Marvin could make it work.

AARGH! Thar we wuz, anchored in the marshes near Fernandina Beach, ready to run the line and stay ahead of the King’s Navy. We were in a good anchorage; it was quiet and so were we. Neither of us had any desire to hang at the end of a yardarm – which is what we suspected them Limey Tars had in store for us. We could see one of their boats. It crawled forward slowly, looking into each little creek and all the little rivers. As they sailed by we could see them; they wuz  just  polishin’  their cutlasses and cleaning their pistols.

Aye, if they caught us, we knew it would be a hard fight, but we also knew if we could just make it past the inlet and onto the high seas that our superior seamanship (and 1100 horsepower contained in two Detroit Diesel 6V92s) would give us a better than even chance of escapin’ them scalawags. We waited until they tacked to port – then I gave the order to “raise the mains’l, the jib, the mizzen-thingie that they raised on Master and Commander,” and I reminded the crew “to set the topgallant studding sail ( … really, that is the name of a sail!) Most of you have already realized that when we did all that we had exactly zero inches of sail up because … well … Traveling Soul is a power boat, not a sailboat.) Anyway, I then had the crew “stoke them boilers;” and that did it. That day, Traveling Soul might have been the fastest ship in northern Florida (or at least the fastest recreational motor vessel in the Fernandina Inlet.) And though it was a close-run thing, we made it into the glorious North Atlantic and away from our tormentors.

Okay, maybe that’s not exactly how it was, but I was just trying to spruce up a discussion of our foray into the Atlantic. With one or two exceptions, it was really a boring trip. What were those exceptions you ask? To learn about those, you will have to keep reading.

You are probably asking why we went into the Atlantic in the first place. Well, some of you will remember the Deadly Georgia Attack flies! Since our adventure last year and Ann’s victory over the flies in the Battle of Kilkenny Marina, we have maintained a nervous cease fire with the flies. We thought, therefore, it would be best if we recognized their sovereignty in the state of Georgia and skipped that part of the ICW altogether. In addition, of all the states along the ICW, Georgia seems to care less about the depth of its Waterway than any other. As a consequence, running the Waterway in Georgia leaves the captain with the “ICW hunch,” where he holds on to the wheel and leans over the instruments, keeping one eye on the depth gauge, one eye on the GPS chartplotter and one eye on the waterway. Yes, I realize that makes him look like a three-eyed hunchback goon, but that’s exactly how he feels sometimes. Anyway, in addition to the flies, the hunched-back captain pose, and Kilkenny Marina itself (dum da dum dee dum dum dum dee – to be hummed to the tune of Dueling Banjoes from the movie Deliverance) there is the simple math.

Because of the winding nature of the ICW, it is 314 statute miles from Fernandina to Georgetown, SC.  Because we go about 80 miles per day, it takes us roughly 4 days to make the trip. If we go into the Atlantic, by contrast, we can travel 178 miles from Fernandina to Charleston, then 40 miles on the ICW from Charleston to Georgetown for a total of 218 statute miles. Moreover, since we go 24/7 on the outside, it takes us about 18 hours on the outside and another four on the inside– or one very long day. It also saves us about 100 gallons of fuel. The logic for us was inexorable; we went on the outside.

I am not sure you can read it, but this is our Lat/Long
list for the night of May 17 - 18
The last time we went outside we made a mistake.  We left Charleston at about 10 AM and arrived just outside Fernandina Inlet at 6AM. Even though the channel markers were lit, at 6 AM it was too dark for me to feel good about running the inlet and making it to the anchorage we had planned. As a result, we hung around the outside of the Channel for about 2-3 hours (it was November) until it was light. This time, before we left Fernandina, we calculated when we would have to leave our anchorage to arrive outside Charleston at 8AM. In the event, we timed it perfectly. We filled up with fuel at 12:30 PM or so, and left Fernandina at about 1:30 in the afternoon. We arrived at Charleston’s outer channel markers at 8AM. We then cruised into Charleston harbor and headed another 40 miles up the ICW before we stopped in Georgetown, SC for the night.

Prior to leaving Fernandina, we filled up at Port Consolidated (cheapest fuel in the area by nearly $1 per gallon) there was one other boat also filling up – the trawler Carolina, a 44 foot Defever. We followed her for a while heading out the inlet, until we figured out that Carolina was going the same direction we were. We called her on the radio and found that she used to make the run from Fernandina to Charleston but now she only goes as far north as Savannah. The reason she doesn’t have to go to Charleston anymore is because the owner’s new insurance company only requires that the boat be north of Savannah for the hurricane season, whereas our insurance company requires we be north of Hatteras. Hmmm. The name of his insurance company is Ace. We will definitely be checking out Ace over the next few months. It is odd how, when and where you learn about insurance companies in this lifestyle.

I had deliberately plotted a course that kept us less than 15 miles or so from the coast. The good thing was that most of the time we could see the coast line. Although not entirely necessary, let’s face it, seeing the coast does give you a sense of security – even if you are not likely to be able to swim the fifteen miles to safety if something happened. The bad thing is that, the closer to the shoreline you are, the more buoys, navigation markers, private navigation aids, ships, recreational boats and other “blips” there are on the radar screen. On the radar, a blip, is a blip, is a blip and it is very difficult to discriminate a boat from a small ship from a navigation aid.

The sunsets can sure look beautiful when you are
off in the Atlantic looking westward. I guess in this shot
we were a little beyond visual distance from the shoreline.
In fact, just as it had turned dark – about 10 PM or so – the radar showed maybe twenty different blips on the screen.  I tried to match up all the blips to the buoys and other kinds of navigational aids on the charts we had, but it was really too hard and I finally decided that there weren’t any boats or ships out there, that they were all NAVAIDS. Well, I was wrong. For some reason I stuck my head out of the hatch (doorway) and about 200 feet in front of us I thought I could see … yes .. I think that is a green light … hmmm, I wonder … YIKES, it’s a boat!!! I immediately turned hard to port (so I could pass behind the ghost boat in front of me) and took Traveling Soul out of gear (to slow her down). I then hit five beeps on the horn (the sound signal for danger). The sports fisherman crossing in front of me didn’t even slow down and continued on his merry way as if nothing was the matter.

As a result of that little experience we made two changes to our routine. First, I took us a few miles further into the Atlantic. I don’t think we went more than two or three additional miles into the ocean, but it took us away from all but a few navigation aids. Now we wouldn’t have more than a few blips on the screen at any one time and would no longer face the problem of the impossible-to-read radar screen. Second, we agreed that every five or ten minutes or so, one or both of us would look out both of the hatches to make sure some sports fisherman wasn’t sneaking up on us.

Other than that, the seas were only about 2-3 feet and the wind probably less than 10 knots. Every hour or so we plotted our latitude and longitude on our paper charts, just to make sure we knew where we were and where we were going.

About 8AM we pulled level with Charleston’s outer channel markers and headed into Charleston Harbor. We had stopped in Charleston on every trip through the area and had stayed for over a month at least twice. This time we decided to keep going until we hit what looked like some really cool anchoring spots up the ICW. We looked and looked and couldn’t find those great anchoring spots. We found a few but in each instance decided to keep going. Eventually we decided that we would go to Georgetown, SC. Georgetown is a hot spot for cruisers and just off the ICW. We called and reserved a slip (it was Saturday and pickin’s were slim). We found one at the Harbourwalk Marina. A number of Active Captain’s reviews swore that this was a five-star marina. It really wasn’t too bad, but I am here to tell you it didn’t deserve five stars. (I have noticed, over time, a decided inflation in the scores reviewers give marinas on Active Captain. They just don’t seem as useful as they once were.)
Anyway, according to Wikipedia (most of the following is straight from Wikipedia) Georgetown is the third oldest city in the state of South Carolina and the county seat of Georgetown County. It is located on Winyah Bay at the confluence of the Great Pee Dee, Waccamaw, and Sampit rivers. In 1526, the Spanish, under Lucas Vasquez de Ayllón, arrived here with North America’s first load of African slaves and founded San Miguel de Gualdape, the first slave-based colony in North America. The colony failed for multiple reasons, including a fever epidemic and a revolt of the African slaves, who fled to join the Cofitachiqui Indians in the area.
After settling Charles Town (Charleston) in 1670, the English established trade with the Indians . Trading posts in the outlying areas quickly became settlements. By 1721 the colonial government granted the English residents' petition to found a new parish, Prince George, Winyah, on the Black River. The Indian trade declined soon after Georgetown was established, as planters cultivated indigo as the cash commodity crop with rice as a secondary crop, both dependent on slave labor. Profits were so great between 1735-1775 that in 1757 the Winyah Indigo Society, whose members paid dues in indigo, opened and maintained the first public school for white children between Charleston and Wilmington.

I know, I know. This plaque and the Wikipedia
discussion do not necessarily agree. I guess we need
to pay historians more money to figure out the
truth so we cruisers can always be perfectly correct
in our blogs.
During the American Revolution, the father and son Georgetown planters, Thomas Lynch, Sr. and Thomas Lynch, Jr., signed the Declaration of Independence. During the final years of the conflict, Georgetown was the important port for supplying General Nathanael Greene's army. Francis Marion (the Swamp Fox) led many guerrilla actions in this vicinity.

Following the American Revolution, rice surpassed indigo as the staple crop. It was cultivated on the swampy lowlands along the rivers, where enslaved labor built large earthworks: the dams, gates and canals to irrigate and drain the rice fields during cultivation. Large rice plantations were established around Georgetown on its five rivers.

By 1840, Georgetown County produced nearly one-half of the total rice crop of the United States, and Georgetown became the largest rice-exporting port in the world. Wealth from rice created an elite European-American planter class; they built stately plantation manor houses, bought elegant furniture, and extended generous hospitality to others of their class. Their relatively leisured lifestyle for a select few, built of the labor of thousands of slaves, lasted until 1860.

Main Street in downtown Georgetown, SC.
Nowadays, Georgetown is a perfectly laid out little town. It is not dissimilar from Fort Collins, CO in the 1950’s (my birthplace), from Saugerties, NY (Ann’s hometown) in the ‘50’s or from the hometown that many of you remember from your youth. You get the feeling that you could safely stroll the streets at any time day or night – though why you would want to stroll around after they rolled up the streets at 7PM, I don’t know.

Having arrived a little late on Saturday we decided to wait ‘til the next day before we went downtown to explore. Now the stores and shops in many small towns are closed on Sunday, and that is especially so in the American south. However, our experience is generally that the tourist spots, like restaurants, gift shops and even museums are open on Sunday afternoon. Apparently that general rule doesn’t apply to Georgetown. About half of the restaurants were closed on Sunday, and only a couple of gift shops were open at any time during the day. Well, we decided that since we kind of liked Georgetown, since we didn’t get to see much of the cool touristy stuff and because we were ahead of schedule that we would stay an additional day.

The next day? Of course it was raining all day long. Ann managed to get to a few of the museums and to get a pedicure, but I stayed on the boat. I really don’t like walking on my bum foot in the rain.

We saw this sign in one of one of the little
shops the only little shop opened in
Georgetown on Sunday. I want to change it to:
Boat Rules
ANN’s NOTES: Michael pretty much summed up this part of the trip. What he did not mention was that we were awake for 26 hours and 20 minutes.  We left Fernandina Beach FL on Friday the 17th of May at 1:10 pm. Arrived in Charleston Harbor SC on the 18th of May at 8am. Then kept going on the ICW, arriving at Georgetown, SC at 3:30 pm. That is a lot of hours to be awake, we both got a ``second wind” and we were fine. Plus docking in Georgetown was a slow moving nightmare, they put us in an inside slip by the fuel dock , very close quarters getting in by some very large shrimping boats, where we had to turn into the slip. Add a lot of wind, strong current and two dock hands that were less than skilled and two tired people… a fun time was NOT had by all. I pretty much strong-armed the boat into the slip and the captain was yelling at the dock hands and not me.  To top it all off the marina knew a larger boat was coming in (the boat did dock next to us – all 200 feet of her!) and we had just arrived and were asked if we wanted to move …. Ugh … I don’t think so … FYI … we stayed in our slip.

When we were out in the big blue and very dark Atlantic, I got a lot of practice doing lat/long on our paper charts. Every hour or so we would check the course on the paper chart with what the GPS on the Garmin said we were. Not only was it fun but it made me stay awake and I felt like I was helping in some way. Watching the radar makes me cross-eyed and is sort of boring, but needs to be done in order to stay safe.

OK…I know you have been waiting for the next section….the WILD LIFE COUNT…

  • ·         Friday May 17th 2013    1 domestic yellow finch (sad but true … the poor thing was lost about 20 miles into the Atlantic – well out of sight of shore. He flew and was in our bimini on the second deck)
Michael saw a Sea Turtle (funny how only HE sees them)

  • ·         Saturday 18th of May 2013    2 single Dolphins to greet us at Charleston inlet

2 playing dolphins in our wake

                                                    1 pod of  dolphins

                                                     1 pod of 3 dolphins

Stay tuned for our next blog….thanks for reading…

Traveling Soul…OUT

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

11 - 16 May: West Palm Beach to Fernandina Beach

Because of my Achilles issues we have fallen behind. We are determined to make it all up, however. Here is Section I of our three part trip up the ICW - 11 May to 16 May from West Palm to Fernandina Beach.
Yesssss! I have finally done it. I am prepared to die and go to heaven for I have seen an alligator in the wild. I know! You are thinking how brave I must have been, as this thing was huge. Ok, maybe not huge, but he was big. Ok, maybe not big, but he certainly wasn’t small! He was at least bigger than a breadbox – maybe as much as four feet long. Yea, it was death-defying: facing such a challenge in my 52 foot power boat, fifteen feet above the water on the flybridge. Well, you just keep thinkin’ that way and we’ll get along just fine! Once again, though, I am ahead of myself. I need to tell you about the nights in West Palm Beach, Vero Beach, Marineland Florida and the Shrimp Capital of the world, Fernandina Beach Florida.

The dinghy on the left, equipped with an external engine and wings, becomes the airborne dinghy on the left -- at West Palm Beach Florida.

When we got back from the Bahamas we left Traveling Soul in West Palm (as we cognoscenti in the boating world call West Palm Beach, Florida) and headed up to the DC area to see more doctors – and this time we finally had some luck! No, the infected area is as bad as ever, but we found a doctor who seems to know what he is doing. I have surgery scheduled for 3 June at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, MD. Present will be an orthopedic surgeon, a plastic surgeon (to close the wound after the operation) and an infectious disease doctor.  OK, enough about that.

While in West Palm, we completed Phase II of our three-phase Head Recapitalization Plan. We have the following:

o   Forward Head: New toilet, old Lectra San waste processing system and new macerator pump.

o   Mid-Ship Head: New toilet, new Elecra Scan waste processing system (basically the same as the old Lectra San, but it now costs more) and new macerator pump

o   Master Stateroom Head: Old toilet, new macerator pump, and new Pura San waste processing system. (While the Electra Scan creates hypochlorous acid from seawater and electricity, the Pura San uses a tablet so you don’t need sea water. We got one of those so we can go places where the water is brackish and use the head without adding salt as we flush).

The plan is to replace the forward head with a new waste processing system next year. Then we will have replaced almost everything that can be replaced.

We also had the bottom cleaned by a diver. Later this year we will have the bottom repainted. I will wait until then to explain how the paint keeps marine life from growing on the boat’s bottom. But the diver, as you might imagine, just kind of scrapes the algae, other tiny sea creatures and barnacles off the hull. Keeping the bottom clean makes the boat cut through the water more easily, increasing speed and/or saving fuel.

On 12 May we left West Palm and immediately headed to Port Consolidated in Fort Pierce, Florida to fill up with fuel. Port Consolidated sells diesel at a substantial great price; it is sort of the Costco of the marine fuel industry in Florida. At Fort Pierce, we got it for $3.85 per gallon, about 50 cents less than all the competition within 50 miles or so – and believe me, I checked.

Lobstah roll, homemade potato chips and Killians ... MMMMMM
After our fuel stop we continued our trip north to Vero Beach. Some of you are thinking, “hmmm … I think I have heard something about Vero Beach before,” and you would be right. According to Ann, Vero Beach is the home of the best lobster rolls outside Maine … excuse me, that should have been “lobstah rolls.” Anyway, Ann’s Mother’s Day present from me was a lobster roll from the Red Onion. It is a good thing we went because, sadly, the Red Onion is closing its doors and moving. We won’t be able to walk from the mooring area to its new location and, as a consequence, may have to forego their Rolls forever. (Deep Wistful Sigh.) We’ll continue to visit Vero Beach, however, as the mooring balls are plentiful and they only charge around $12 per night. I know, I know. After I just dropped nearly a grand on fuel, why am I so happy save a few bucks by tying up to a mooring ball as opposed to staying in a marina? I’ve got no idea – but I am!

While at Vero Beach we saw our friends Vic and Gigi aboard Salty Turtle. We didn’t get to visit with them for long, but are looking forward to seeing them again next year. Also, we saw Jim Guy aboard Ocean Dance. Jim is heading west through the Okeechobee waterway to the west coast of Florida. We hope to see him again next year, too.

Our next stop was Titusville, FL. Within the cruising community there is something of a Buzz around Titusville. The Municipal Marina there is trying to make itself a natural stop for cruisers like us. They have taken a number of steps including adding a huge mooring field and charging only $10 a night for tying to a mooring ball, making a courtesy car available, and several other things. We had intended to stay there for a couple of days so we could see what the hubbub was about, but we really didn’t have the time. We needed to keep moving north, so we only stayed one night. We’ll be back and try again, but I gotta tell you that it is very wide open with nothing to break up the wind. In Vero, the mooring field was between a wooded island and the mainland creating a somewhat cozy mooring field; in Titusville, not so much. Well, maybe if they have a courtesy car …
We saw more dolphins on this trip than just about any other. Moreover, the dolphins liked to play in our bow wake! Ann always goes out and talks to them. Me? I nod, thank them for keeping my crew happy and drive on.

Although we are very good at catching mooring balls, the wind made it somewhat difficult and a little piece of their Styrofoam float – technically called the mooring “pennant” – came off and is now proudly displayed in our curio cabinet.  In mooring, the difficult part is not so much catching the pennant and bringing it on deck, but keeping the pennant on deck while you run the snubber lines through the pennant (for both sides) and then back to the cleat can be a major issue – especially if the wind is blowing.  Anyway, we got it done and spent the rest of the night in Titusville.

The next day we were on our way to Marineland, Florida. We had passed Marineland a couple of times on our way up and down the ICW, and lamented that we did not have time to stop and check it out. This time, we decided to heck with time schedules, we needed to find out about it. Financially, it was a pretty good deal at $1 per foot – certainly more than a mooring ball, but $1 per foot isn’t bad. Now most of you think you haven’t heard of Marineland Florida; but you have. Formed in 1938 it was the first “marineland” and apparently did very well. It was the first oceanarium in the world and the predecessor to all the “Sea Worlds” and “marinelands” that exist today. Moreover, it was the backdrop for several episodes of the TV show Sea Hunt, starring Mike Bridges, and it was the set for … (drum roll please) … Creature for the Black Lagoon.

After Marineland, it was on to Fernandina Beach. It was during this section of our voyage that I reported last year on the historical significance of Fernandina Beach and won’t go into it again this year. I will say, however, that Fernandina is important to us for four reasons. First, it has a very pricey marina. Second, it has an outlet to the ocean. Third, at Port Consolidated, it has the cheapest diesel fuel in the state of Florida and finally, it has several very nice anchorages. Put that altogether and it gives us an opportunity to ignore the overpriced marina by staying at one of the anchorages (take that you greedy *%#$#$&@#^*@#&) and still make it in time to fill up with fuel and get into the ocean to head north to Charleston. And that is what we used it for. Next time I’ll tell you about our adventures on the high seas. But I want to get this entry out before you thought we had disappeared.

ANN’S NOTES:   Michael did a good job summing up the past month or so…we were on a mission to get back into the VA/MD waters and get settled into a slip before the surgery.  Glad we are here with family and friends close by and our little Miata to get us around.

Vero Beach and the lobster roll were wonderful and it will NOT be the last one I have…I have the new address and the number for the local taxi. I can be one determined woman when it comes to lobster.

I do have a very large wildlife count so I will get to that and let Michael send this off tonight.

§  Saturday 11 May 2013 Ft. Pierce
o   Dolphin pod of 5


§  Sunday 12 May 2013 Vero Beach FL Mooring field
o   4 dolphins seen on two different dinghy rides
o   2 dolphins in the mooring field 

§  Monday  13 May 2013 Vero Beach FL to Titusville FL on the ICW
o   Pod of 2
o   Pod of 3 x2
o   5 singles
o   Pod of 5 following us on the side of the boat
o   1 very pink Flamingo flying
o   1 single dolphin playing in our wake 

§  Tuesday 14 May 2013 Titusville FL to Marineland  FL on the ICW

o   Lots of butterflies all  over the place
o   Pod of 4 dolphins
o   11 single dolphins
o   Pod of 3 dolphins
o   Pod of 3 playing dolphins x2
o   1 stingray
o   1 very Large manatee
o   3 smaller manatees 

§  In the Haulover Canal

o   11 Manatees some in small pods, some single
o   4 very playful dolphins that I sprayed water on from a wash down hose on the boat. They loved it, jumped into it, and generally had a great time!!!! 

§  Thursday 16 May 2013 Marineland FL to Fernandina Beach anchorage

o   7 single dolphins
o   Pods of 3…4…6…10 x2…12
o   Playing dolphins  1…2…3…4
o   1 Bald eagle
o   1 GATOR!!!!
Travelling Soul ... Out