Wednesday, May 30, 2012

May 30th - Beaufort to Oriental, North Carolina

Lat: 35 02N Long: 76 42W

We'd thought we'd seen everything along the ICW but you always see something new. Our recommendation .... don't travel the ICW on Memorial Day! It's a zoo! Passing through Wrightsville Beach we encountered about 500 small power boats rushing around in all directions just below the bridge. They were all bulging at the seams with scantily clad women with one or two guys and not one of them was even remotely looking to see where they were going. We almost got into a collision twice while waiting for the bridge to open.
Once we successfully made it out of there we headed north to the Figure of 8 swing bridge which refused us an opening because it was now blowing in excess of 35 knots ..... so we waited again ... fun isn't it?!
After about an hour the wind died down and they opened the bridge for us ... whew!! Let's get out of here!
On we went following our chart plotter and the poles they use here for waterway markers. They are supposed to be the same as on the screen.

Pretty straight forward isn't it? Well, when you look outside this is what it actually looks like. I took both of these shots within seconds.
We've been down through here before but it sure doesn't resemble what's on the chart plotter above. Can you see any islands or nav aids?

Stepping back a little ......
Our first day out after leaving Beaufort, South Carolina we headed up to Charleston, SC, where we spent the night at the Maritime Center Marina. Then on to Georgetown, Myrtle Beach for the night before heading north to Southport. The folks along the ICW will do anything to stop the sport fishers from creating huge wakes and destroying their properties. We've seen funny signs, threatening signs, signs that say "Smile ... you and your wake are being recorded" and various others .... but nothing seems to work.

Our arrival in Georgetown was relatively easy as it is very well protected behind a man made island.
Our Dock mate was this beauty. She was built entirely of mahogany in 1935 by John Trumpy ... hence the type ... a TRUMPY! We saw a bigger version in the Bahamas. It was named "FREEDOM". This was "ENTICER".

Georgetown is another example of civil war era houses but have an added twist thrown in. During the civil war, when General Sherman was burning all the towns in his path, the people of Georgetown foresaw this and removed all the official documents to the court house inland at Darnville for protection. For some unknown reason, Sherman swung west and went around Georgetown .... however, on the way through he burned Darnville to the ground along with all the documents .... including deeds for all the properties in Georgetown. To this day the folks here have no proof that they actually own their homes or the properties they stand on.

Every now and again along this tranquil passage you pass by a group of condos where not only does everybody know your name .... but everybody owns 65 foot Viking sport fishers.

It's no wonder there was a gas shortage down here.

Continuing along on the ICW brings solitude as it quietly winds its way through the mangroves and deserted rice fields of the early 1900's.

Every now and again you would come upon one of these old swing bridges that link the outer banks to the mainland, but for the most part they are fixed highway bridges with a clearance of 65 feet.

Approaching Southport we saw that one of our favourite places, the Provision Company wharf, was full so our new cruising friends Chuck & Maryanne, on "SYMPHONY suggested we dock up the river a little at the Deep Point Marina, on the Cape Fear River.
The Cape Fear River is appropriately named as when the winds kick up to some 25-30 knots with a strong out flowing current, this place can become very nasty as you steam up the river towards Snow's Cut and Carolina Beach.

Next stop took us through the craziness of Wrightsville Beach before heading further north to Surf City, Morehead City and on to Oriental. This was supposed to be a pleasant trip but as I stated at the beginning, this was Memorial Day weekend. It's sunny and hot and everyone in the USA owns a boat of some sort .... and they're all heading to the beaches in droves.

Better get out of the way folks .... nothing stops them ..... they're all over you ..... they even cut in close to the commericial barges so they can get somewhere first ..... I don't think they know where that is ... they just go.

As long as there's some sand and it resembles a beach, they're out there. Even if they don't have a boat ....

Some people will do anything down here to sell their house. Any takers?

With the uncertainty of Tropical Storm Beryl approaching us from the south in a couple days, it was time to find a safe haven. Oriental looked like the logical place.
We're tucked in behind the Oriental Marina & Inn at a very secure dock. The town of Oriental closely resembles other small and peaceful boating communities like we have at home, such as Chester and Mahone Bay, NS. We have a couple large trawlers on either side of us and a big Inn out ahead so we have pretty good protection here.

Today is May 30th .... and it's raining cats and dogs.
Tomorrow we're heading out after Beryl passes out to sea. This time, instead of the Dismal Swamp Canal we're taking the outside Virginia Cut via Coinjock, VA to arrive in Norfolk in about 4 or 5 days.

Friday, May 11, 2012

May 11th - St. Augustine, Florida to Beaufort, SC.

The trip up from Titusville went without incident. We'd been up through the ICW in the area before but it was a little different this time. When you're travelling by boat down a relatively narrow channel you tend to get focused on looking ahead or at the chart plotter. You very rarely look back unless you detect one of those big sport fishermen that are going to run you down very soon. As a result, the trip back took on a different look.
We stayed at a mooring in front of downtown St. Augustine for a couple days as we waited for my brother Dan and his friend Rosa to arrive on Sunday at which time we took a dock at the Municipal Marina for the day. We thought we'd seen just about everything in St. Augustine, but with Dan & Rosa, we discovered a whole new area of the inner city known as the Old Spanish Quarter. Basically it is a two mile pedestrian mall through the tiny streets and very old buildings. We gained a whole new appreciation for this place.
On Monday morning we had leave and start our journey north to Fernandina Beach. We had met two other new boaters, Chuck and Maryanne on Symphony, and Brian and Maxine on Benchmark. Both couples were also heading north after a winter in the Caribbean. The night was spent on moorings off Fernandina in strong winds and heavy rain.
Morning arrived and it was time to head north again. Benchmark had some issues with their inverter so they decided to remain and Symphony decided to run up the ICW rather than to make the outside run up to Brunswick, Georgia ... so on we went.
It was a good day with slight SE seas but not enough wind to carry us under sail alone .... this seems to happen a lot to us ... so on came the iron spinnaker once again.
Once inside we made our way in through Sapelo Sound, up the South Newport River to the Wahoo River where we found a cozy, bug and horse fly infested anchorage among the bullrushes .... and did I mention our breakfast friend ... the alligator? (31 36N 81 11W)

This 7 footer came knocking at the door looking for some fresh chicken ... but I was staying on the boat

A brief overnight stay at anchor turned into an early morning start for the short run up the coast that brought us inside of Hilton Head Island to an anchorage off the ICW in a small creek known as Skull Creek (32 15N 80 45W). This was a very quiet and secluded anchorage in behind a number of small islands that had their beginnings as spoil grounds when dredging the ICW .... or so we thought.
The women down here must be good cooks, because around supper time every fisherman from South Carolina came roaring in right past us leaving a huge wake for us to bounce around in.
We weren't going to drag the anchor tonight because we had put out 100 feet (our standard) of chain in 17 feet of water.
One hundred feet !!! Why did I have to put out that much? When we tried to retrieve the anchor the next morning .... BANG !!! Our electric windlass had raised about 10 feet of chain and it fetched up hard. No matter what we did, the chain was caught on something real heavy and very hard. Now what? .... TowBoat U.S. to the rescue! .... and bring a diver please!
Chuck and Maryanne had heard the Coast Guard calling us the day before (that was because I'd reported a buoy about two miles off position), but they couldn't hear us. Now they were hearing us calling TowBoat U.S. for help.
What had we gotten ourselves into? They were very concerned for us.
Well, the boat showed up, with diver who quickly discovered that our chain had tightly wrapped itself around some very big, steel. It could have been an old cannon or anchor but he wasn't sure. All he knew was that there was no way we were going to get it free without his services, so down he went again..... I let out a lot of extra chain, and could feel him tugging on the chain to remove the five or so wraps we had around this big object. Fifteen minutes later and we had our anchor back. Goo job Gene!!
Go figure, we probably discovered the only Confederate ship to have sunk in this water!
Soooo, off we go again, without our tails between our legs as this one wasn't our fault, and a short 20 mile run brough us up to Beaufort, S. C. (pronounced Bee You Firt).

WOW !!! What an amazingly beautiful place this is. It's one of the only towns that wasn't burnt to the ground by General Sherman in the Civil War. All the old plantation houses here date back into the late 1700's to early 1800's and they are certainly things of beauty. All two story with larger verandas and tall pillars. Right out of a page in the history books.

The entire old part of the town looks like this.
Eleven of the homes were used by the Confederate Army and converted into hospitals for the wounded soldiers. This one was Hospital #1.
The mansions are majestic looking as they stand among the live oaks.

The Spanish moss hanging from nearly every live oak tree provided a tranquil setting.

As we strolled through town we came upon St. Helena's Church. The surrounding church yard is a cemetery that contains the graves of many Civil War soldiers from both the Union and Confederate forces that were killed in action.

The graves are all laid out in perfect formation.

We read with great interest how these young gentlemen had lost their lives fighting to make America into a strong and united country .... (man I've been down here too long) ..... but this was still the United States and their history .... Wait!! What's this?

This war just got a lot closer to home.
Here lies the grave of a Cape Bretoner, from Louisbourg, who was a major in the 4th Regiment, SC Artillery. He had married a Beaufort girl, Sarah Wilkinson in 1778. He was the Lieutenant of Grenadiers in the Seven Year War, fought in the Civil War, was wounded in the Battle of Savannah and died in 1791 in Beaufort, SC.

Oh yeah, his name? John LaBoularderie de Treville, born in 1742 in Louisbourg, NS. Canada wasn't even a country yet! Halifax wasn't even founded when he was born!

We wanted to place a small Cape Breton flag by his grave but we were told not to.

Back to the present time ......
Friday morning was very pleasant wso we decided to walk into town to eat breakfast at Blackstone's Café What a perfect old fashioned little café

How many cars do we see that look like this running around?

We just had to check out this place, Ahhhh .... found it!

Jan was in Lollipop Heaven.

The next morning we decided to walk to town for some site-seeing. They must have awfully short dogs around here.

They even make the hydrants short for them. How accomodating!

We've had a few very enriched days here in Beaufort, SC but it's time to leave. Tomorrow it's north to Charleston. Man .... I need a hair cut!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

May 10th - Titusville to Universal Studios

It seems like so long ago that we left Titusville, Fla. In a nutshell, we motored up to St. Augustine and waited for my brother Dan and his friend Rosa to visit us from Orlando on Sunday the 13th. In the meantime we did the tourist thing ..... AGAIN!!! We rented a car to run to Orlando and see Universal Studios with its many rides and thrilling displays.
Well, after nearly five months of seeing near zero population and no big highways this was quite the eye opener. I must say that they sure have a funny way of placing things together down here. I wonder what part of the dog the wings came from hahaha....??
Both of these restaurants were beside SPCA's. Makes you wonder ....

We got up early in the morning and drove the hour to Orlando. It was actually a nice change from sitting on the boat.

Universal Studios here we come. They are so organized here as are all the major attractions. The lineups are very long, however, if you purchase a priority pass online for an extra $30 each you got to go to the front of most lines. We didn't have to wait more than 5 minutes for most rides.

I thought it was a little steep at first but when you see lines taking up to two hours long and you walk right to the front, it is worth it.


The highlight of the day was the Harry Potter exhibit. It was fantastic and if I took one photo of the castle, I took a hundred. What a site ... and life-sized.

The village of Hogsmeade where the kids escaped to from Hogwarts put you right there with them.

I didn't realize that riding on a broom through a game of Quidditch and dodging dementors at an extremely fast rate could make one come very close to woofing ones cookies. Man, what a ride. The 3D surround screen and sound sure made this thing seem real. It was just a bit fast for us older guys.... hehe. I would highly recommend this experience to everyone. Next stop was a little shot of butterbeer to cool off with before lunch.

Next stop was the Jurassic Park display and some pretty fast roller coasters before it was time to settle down to something more our speed ... Dr. Seuss .... who else ....

What's better than a leisurely ride on a Dr. Seuss, high in the sky trolley through every book we ever read as kids ... and adults .... Cat in the Hat ... Green Eggs and Ham ... Hop on Pop, One Fish, Two Fish etc...

Ok already ... I need some more action .... On to the Super Heroes section. Spiderman was a 4 dimensional ride that took you through a thrill ride in Lower Manhattan that matches no other. You got hot from fire balls ... wet from water balls that are hurled, and after crashing into the side of the Empire State Building and spiraling towards the ground only to be saved at the last minute as Spiderman's web captures you and hauls you quickly into the air just seconds before your life would come to an end. What better way to end a great day of very wet water rides, thrilling rides, easy rides and journeying back to the Wizarding World of Harry P9otter ..

Oh yeah ... one last roller coaster ... THE HULK!!! YEE HAWW!!
What a thrill as I got shot out the end of that tube on the ride of a lifetime!! I'm NOT too old for this stuff!!!
Oh baby ..... Ahhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!...... I'm going to die!!!! I love it!!

Ok, that's over ... The next photos tell the rest.

Jan has the same views that I have ....

However, all good things must come to an end ... but before we go ... just one more stop ... Margaritaville for some margaritas!

Time to head out ... See you back on the boat.....

Friday, May 4, 2012

May 4th - Titusville, Florida

This week we're spending a little time here at the Titusville Municipal Marina. We have a car rented and are spreading ourselves out a little enjoying the local attractions, beaches and doing some site seeing.

So, when in Titusville where do you start ...? NASA and the Kennedy Space Center. This place is so huge and prominent in the area. It really is unfortunate that when NASA shut down the shuttle program it virtually destroyed the economy here when they laid off 25,000 employees. We are seeing homes selling for $30K.

Back to NASA .....
We arrived at the KSC visitors center to begin our tour. The first thing you observe is the immensity of these rockets that are being shot into space.

The capsule that the astronauts lived in when they went to the moon is just a small little spec at the top of this atomic bomb. You can see how small it is at the top of the next pic..... the tiny black part is so small there wasn't even room to roll over.

I got the chance to squeeeeeeezzzzzzzzzeeee into the capsule and it's very small.

We are unsure whether these guys were heroes or just adrenaline junkies. Whatever the case, you have to give them credit.
Our fist stop on the bus tour was the huge Vehicle Assembly Build where they assembled and stacked these monsters. It's the largest single story building at 575 feet tall.

One of the space shuttles (actually just the orbiter) could be seen parked outside. Atlantis and Endeavour were inside their hangers.

Next stop ..... the launch pads. They are huge too. Here's pad 39A where most of the shuttle launches took place. You can't even make out the trucks that are parked at its base.

They said that a shuttle launch shook all the houses in Titusville.

Our last stop of the day was the magnificent Saturn V display. The Saturn V rocket is the one used to launch the Apollo missions and there was one on display ... and on .... and on .... and on. This giant never ended.
I would have loved to have seen this get launched.

This is a full scale replica of the rocket.

You know, the people at NASA are very proud of what they accomplished and after seeing the immensity of these rockets and of the space shuttle components, they have a right to be proud.
Inside this display building is a vault containing such items as moon rocks, Neil Armstrong's space suit complete with moon dust, the re-entry capsule used and much more.

Today was supposed to be special as they were launching a "communications", read that as "spy" satellite, using a huge Atlas rocket from Cape Canaveral and we had front row seats. We could see the Atlas sitting poised for launch out on the pad. This 161 ft baby was going to fly.

T minus 4 minutes and holding for final checks ..... Damn, a cooling valve won't open and we have a delay. After 45 minutes, the launch window is closing and they decide to cancel until tomorrow.

So back we went to the visitor's center where we got to experience a life-like shuttle launch inside the simulator ..... and folks, your whole body shakes like hell and the skin on your face really does peel back when you're pushing 3G's .... even in a simulator.

A couple IMAX movies and some more very interesting displays and it was time to leave. We can always watch the launch from the boat .... or can we?

On the way back along the NASA Causeway (we went under it the other day on the boat) we passed the Astronaut Hall of Fame where they display a mock-up of the shuttle orbiter. We didn't go in.

Like I said .... We'll see the launch tomorrow from the boat.

So, as we sit on the park bench in the cool shade (remember it's 90 degrees down here) and we have 10 minutes to go, I told Jan that I was going to run down to the boat to get the camera and a cold beer for us.
As I came outside I heard the rumbling ..... the flame was immense ... the rocket was launched while I was inside ... and damn ... I missed it .... AGAIN!!!
I did however get a good picture of the smoke trail as it passed through the clouds.

So what's to do now .... All the excitement of supersonic speed and the space race is over.
As we sit on the boat, the guy next door is washing down his deck. I look down and see the complete opposite of speed ..... here we are, five manatees jockeying for position to get the most of that fresh water running down the side of the boat .... They are huge but very slow and clumsy.

We have a few more days to kill down here in Titusville while we wait for my brother Day to arrive in Florida on May 12th. He said he'd rent a car in Orlando and drive up to St. Augustine to see us for the day. We'll take the boat up there around the 10th.
Well, it's another car rental for us and we decide to drive up to , where else ... DAYTONA BEACH!.... and what do you do there? You drive on the beach, go for a swim, and take in a little more sun.

Daytona Beach itself is amazing. It's huge and the sand is packed down so hard that it's like cement. You could just sit back and imagine the old cars of the 50's as they raced out here on the beach. Now there are very defined roadways with a strictly enforced 10 mph.

Ok, enough of this. Besides we didn't bring our chairs or umbrella and it's pretty hot here on the beach. By the way, all the people are actually down the other way behind me.
So, it's back in the car, and since we're so close, let's check out Green Cove Springs. This is supposed to be where all the Canadians store their boats for the summer while they return home.
AND IT'S TRUE ... As reflected in this picture.

We took a drive around inside and saw all the boats we'd been travelling with including TANGO, WET WINGS, and CASTELLO. We also saw Randy & Susan's boat NANCY DAWSON that we knew so well from Dartmouth Yacht Club.
The yard is being expanded to allow for many more Canadian boats, so business must be good.

Well, it's getting late and it's time to head back to the boat. A quick jog into Jacksonville then on to I-95 for the run home.

This has been a busy day. Tomorrow we water up and get the boat ready to start the run north. "What's that Jan? What do you mean we're this close and you're not missing HARRY POTTER"? Oh well, I guess Monday means a trip down to Orlando to Universal Studios for the day. We've been to Disney a couple times before so maybe we can do that again n our next trip.

It's been a long day .... Good night folks.