Onward’s Cruise Journal 2008-09

Cruise from Maryland to Bahamas via ICW & Return
Oct-Nov 2008

30 Oct 08 Baltimore to Rhode River

  • The goal was to leave the pier as soon as the Anchorage Marina’s office opened. The reality was, as always, things took more than twice the time I estimated. And then there was the unplanned activity that became necessary. I had planned to install the two new 85-w Kyocera solar panels on the stainless steel mounting strut I built yesterday over the rear edge of the bimini. I was able to quickly assemble the panels’ mounting brackets and then get the two panels mounted on the strut. They looked good. Then, just as I was getting to cast off, I noticed the panels were at a different angle than I had set them. I thought it was due to the NW wind that had briefly come up. It was, but not as I had originally thought. Apparently the wind put enough force on the strut hardware that the set screws that hold the SS tubing into the connector could not hold and a brace had come loose. So the unplanned event was having to take the panels down and stow them carefully wrapped up on the edge of my berth. Of course, the one sharp edge managed to put a slight tear in the bimini that I will now have to sew. Ah well, so it goes.
  • The dock staff came down to help me get lines aboard as I left the pier at 1200 only to find that the NW wind had driven the water level down several feet and Onward’s keel was not resting on a 5.9’ hump – a bit less than the 6.2’ needed to float free. With the tide continuing to fall, it was time to try to plow my way out or stay for another day. Again the “Chesapeake Ass Wiggle” maneuver that I have developed over the last 30+ years of groundings proved its worth after ~ 5 min and Onward broke free into deep water. Good to be finally underway!
  • The day was sunny with light winds and due to the late departure I proceeded under power S and put into the Rode River to anchor before dark. I chose to anchor in the bight on the S shore across the river from R6. I cooked up a big batch of chili stew. It was a quite night and I slept the sleep of the exhausted.
31 Oct 08 Rhode River to Smith Creek MD
  • An early departure with ~10 kt WSW winds led to motor sailing S. I had originally intended to put into Solomons but pressed on to the Potomac as I was making good time. I put into Smith Creek, the first harbor on the N shore of the Potomac, that I had first visited when cruising with Steve & Mary Jane Floyd in 2004.
  • Along the way, I received a call from Pam & John Loving, Compass Rose, who were just approaching Norfolk. They had heard Ed Burke on the radio and wondered if I was around. I hope to be able to catch up with them along the way.
  • Another beautiful sunset ended the day. I cooked up a big batch of pasta sauce stew. Another quiet night.
1 Nov 08 Smith Ck to Free School Ck VA
  • I departed Smith Ck early and was again impressed with just how big the mouth of the Potomac really is! Winds were ~5 kts right on the nose so it was another day of motoring S. I made such good progress that I could have put into Norfolk or Hampton before dark. However I decided to explore Virginia’s Severn River on the S Shore of Mobjack Bay. I anchored off Free School Creek for the night and experienced another beautiful sunset. I called Ed Burke and found that Merlin had just cleared the lock at the beginning of the ICW. They will be several days ahead as I can’t depart Hampton until Mike Yorke arrives on the 5th.
2 Nov 08 Free School Ck
  • I declared today a lazy day to catch up on miscellaneous things – like getting Onward’s web site revised and this new journal started. It was nice to have the sun up earlier but I’m not looking forward to having it set earlier as a consequence.
  • I learned by email that good friends Richard Ewing and Idarae Prothero were in Hampton aboard Molto Bene preparing to sail with the Caribbean 1500 – they are fleeing the winter in Annapolis this year.
3-6 Nov 08 Hampton VA
3 Nov 08
  • I decided to move to Hampton a bit early – Mike Yorke was scheduled to join me there on the 5th – so I can get some key boat tasks done. It turned into a good sailing day with 10-13 kt winds from the NW. I put into Hampton Downtown Public Piers again. Fortunately, several men were on hand to help me tie up as there was a significant cross wind acting with the current to make backing into the slip a challenge. I met up with Richard and Idarae who invited me to a friend’s home for an oyster roast. What a great way to arrive!
4 Nov 08
  • Election day is finally here, Thank God! I was able to take the shuttle to West to pick up parts for completing the solar panel installation. This was good to give me a break from worrying about the election outcome. Richard & Idarae came over in the evening and we went to the Tap House for dinner and watched the beginning of the election returns. I returned to Onward to watch the outcome be confirmed and went to bed a thankful, relieved, and happy person. God Bless America. Experiencing this election had great similarities to the vivid memories I have of following John Kennedy’s campaign and the election of 1960 before I could vote. Being able to vote this time was better!
5 Nov 08
  • I got up to read more about the outcome and to listen to NPR news about the history-making event. I found the actions and comments of Americans around the country very moving. Good luck to our new President-elect.
  • Mike Yorke arrived and I promptly took him to the Tap House and we had lunch and then went back for dinner. So many beers, so little time.
6 Nov 08
  • Bad weather so we decided to depart on Friday morning. I spent the day working on strengthening the SS tubing solar panel mount destroying several high speed drill bits in the process.
7 Nov 08 Pongo Ferry
  • We got underway about 0900 from Hampton and stopped at Bluewater Yachting Center for fuel at “only” $2.65 / gal. The passage through the Elizabeth River bridges went smoothly as did the Great Bridge canal lock. We pushed on until 45 minutes after sunset to anchor in the bight just N of Pongo Ferry Bridge. A quiet night.
8 Nov 08 Alligator River
  • Made it through the first of the problematic bridges but only after bumping into the light that hung below the bridge! We also discovered a better anchorage just on the other side of the bridge. Onward again grounded while attempting to cross the Long Shoal Point shoal at the entrance of the Alligator River. The paper and electronic charts show that a turn to the W around the point of the shoal is needed when passing S of the G and R daymarkers at the tip of the shoal. When I did this (as on the trip N in the spring) I grounded. I was prepared this time and was traveling slowly so I was able to quickly back off and proceeded straight to the next marker. I later checked the latest NOAA ENC chart and it shows the channel has been dredged straight and no longer has the dogleg around the shoal tip. The rest of the day was good and uneventful. It brought us to anchor in the Alligator River just outside the mouth of the Alligator – Pungo River canal a few minutes after sunset. Cocktail hour was declared after anchoring. This area is amazingly barren of signs of humans.
9 Nov 08 Oriental
  • Mike Yorke had read about Oriental and so we decided to spend the night there anchored just inside the breakwater with 4 other boats. We went ashore for dinner at the Oriental Marina’s restaurant. Great food and a folk singer to boot.
10 Nov 08 Swansboro
  • We were underway at 0615. A beautiful sunny day for being on the water. We stopped at Beaufort NC and put into a pier at the Beaufort Town Docks for a few hours to have lunch ashore. I took the opportunity of being in the slip to reinstall the two Kyocera 85W solar panels on the reinforced SS tubing support. I will now no longer have them as bedmates. After a walk around town that included a visit to the museums and boat shop as well as some shopping, we had lunch at Clawsons. Now Mike has hit the NC high spots! We left Beaufort before 1300 and headed S. We anchored about 1615 in the river at Swansboro – a nice anchorage.
  • As we approached Beaufort, I heard Pipe Dream on the VHF and contacted Jim Seeman. They were just leaving Beaufort headed offshore to Charleston. After the Keys they plan to go to the Bahamas so we may catch up there.
11 Nov 08 Wrightsville Beach
  • Another early start; we were underway at 0645. The day dawned as another beautiful sunny and clear day. We made good time down the ICW except for a 30 min wait at the Wrightsville Beach Bridge. Due to limited good anchorages around the place where we expected to be just before sunset, we elected to put into Wrightsville Beach and anchor near where I did last spring. We were anchored by 1445. It was a beautiful afternoon to dinghy in and walk around the barrier island and have a beer at the Blockade Runner hotel and then a fantastic dinner at the Southbeach Grille.
  • It’s nice to have crew. Today I managed to put a coat of varnish on the new salon table I built while in Baltimore. The teak really looks beautiful. I also worked on installing dividers in my cockpit “navbox” to hold reference books and equipment.
12 Nov 08 N. Myrtle Beach
  • Oh the joys of SC inlets on the ICW! At Lockwood Folley, I had heard the local TowBoat US say to stay in the center of the channel so I did only to go aground. A local guy was passing by in his workboat and barge and he very kindly pushed Onward’s bow to starboard and enabled me to get off. At inlet, the water was so low, three boats that had passed me while I was grounded were now grounded here. I anchored, put down the dinghy and then used my portable depth sounder to profile the inlet. I discovered a complex sinusoidal path was needed to get through. I pointed out the tips of the shoals to the other boats and then went back to wait for the tide to come up enough to get through. It worked. We ran the rest of the way uneventfully and put into Dock Holidays Marina for the night. I called MaryJane Floyd to say hello. Steve was on the W coast and she only had her golf cart so we couldn’t get together. Mike and I walked to Outback for dinner and on the way I discovered a fireworks store. It was unbelievable. I had never imagined such a thing could exist and that there were so many types of fireworks available.
13 Nov 08 Georgetown SC
  • In the morning I found that Compass Rose and Merlin were both only a few hours ahead. Compass Rose was planning to stop in Georgetown and Merlin was going to press on a bit farther. I wanted Mike to see Georgetown so that’s where we made for.
  • Pam Loving made dinner aboard Compass Rose and invited Mike and I. It was so good to see these friends who helped me make the break from being marina-based and get underway to enjoy the cruising life way back in June 2007. We had a wonderful evening – another example of the joys of cruising.
14 Nov 08 Charleston; Friday Night
  • What a day! It began at 0630 in the fog and rain as we left Georgetown. Mike needed to get back to New York (withdrawals from being in the big city???) and we decided the best place to do it was from Charleston. I also heard from Ed & Tina Burke that they planned to spend Friday and Saturday in Charleston. It is hard to believe that Onward has caught up to Merlin too. A rain storm came up after we had made our way down Winyah Bay where the fog had been so intense and the water so still one could not make out where the sky left off and water began. We were on a high tide and life was good as we made excellent time through the costal canals and wetlands of SC. But when you travel more than 6 hrs you get to experience the other aspect of tides – the low ones. Tina Burke called back on the cell phone to say that they had experienced very low water as they approached the Ben Sawyer swing bridge. Well, when we got there 2 hrs later it was even thinner and Onward grounded out where one of the inlets crosses the ICW. I put out the anchor and waited an hour for the tide to turn and was able to back off and just squeek through. At the next inlet it took 3 tries to find a path across. We needed to push on because the bridge would close from 1600-1900 if we didn’t get there before 1600. We made it with 30 min to spare and the rest of the trip to Charleston was uneventful.
  • Charleston City Marina was full but we were able to put in to the fuel pier to fuel. Ed and Tina met us and got to help Mike make his exit and return to the cold north. I was able to fuel Onward and then during a lull in the wind that was holding me against the pier was able to get underway. Unfortunately they delayed me so long for fuel I had to anchor in the dark. It took 2 tries to find a good spot in the anchorage for the night and a blessed evening of rest.
  • I had a fantastic time traveling with Mike and now that I’m back to singlehanding it is a difficult transition.
15 Nov 08 Charleston; Saturday
  • About midnight, the blessed evening of rest ended when a squall came up after the strong current had shifted from flood to ebb. I looked out and saw I was getting close to a small boat that had been on a mooring buoy behind me. I powered up and moved away. I attempted to raise the anchor but could not get it up. Then a >50 ft boat that had been in front of me started forereaching on his anchor chain toward me. The skipper of the larger boat began yelling for me to power away. As I tried to deal with this, Onward got snagged on the mooring of the small boat. Its bow bumped into my toe rail several times and then came to rest with ~4’ of its starboard bow alongside my port stern quarter. I couldn’t move and when I tried to idle forward the mooring of the small boat got wrapped on my prop. I was now tethered fore and aft. The big cutter backed away, pulled up its anchor and moved somewhere. I used my cell phone and called the Coast Guard to report the incident and then TowBoat US who promised to come out in the morning. The Coast Guard called back to check that I was OK – very professional. I then spent the night in the cockpit trying to keep bumpers between Onward and the small sailboat.
16 Nov 08 Charleston; Sunday
  • A day to recuperate. Ed and I took the courtesy shuttle into the local West Marine where I got the parts I needed to complete the solar panel mount. Then Ed and I walked into town to meet Tina and then spent the day walking around and seeing the sights.
17 Nov 08 Ashepoo River
  • The morning dawned clear and sunny but cold! I was a whimp and took advantage of shore power to run the heat pump during the night. Tonight will be interesting with freezing predicted! The crews of Lady of Lorien and Merlin came by at 0815 to help Onward away from the pier in the long and narrow fairway that had a fairly fast current running in it. I was able to back down into a side fairway and turn around for exit without incident. The flotilla made the parade of boats awaiting the 0900 opening of the Washpoo Bridge. The day was beautiful and we ran a bit slower than I had been traveling before. At 1515 we anchored in the Ashepoo River just N of the northern Ashepoo-Cousaw canals.
18 Nov 08 Beaufort SC
  • We arrived in Beaufort just at lunch time to find Compass Rose in the anchorage. I took the dinghy ashore and tracked down John and Pam Loving at Nippy’s – a small local restaurant. After ordering a burger – which turned out to be really good – I discovered that the better dish would have been their house specialty, a big bowl of fish chowder. Next Visit! We spent the afternoon walking around town. I took the opportunity to see a demonstration of a battery powered pepper mill at the Firehouse (they didn’t have batteries for it when I was there in the spring) and then decided to buy one.
  • In the morning TowBoat and a diver came out. He quickly got Onward free from the warp on the prop. He then discovered that my anchor chain had gotten caught under two concrete slabs. No wonder I couldn’t retrieve it. He was able to free the chain and I raised the anchor.
  • Once the anchor was free, I put into the City Marina where Ed & Tina helped tie me up. I was tied port side to which enabled me to inspect the side. Thankfully there were just gelcoat scratches and some chips along the stern edge of the sugar scoop stern. The SC DNR sent an officer over for an incident report. I called West Marine and had them put together anchors and rodes to replace those Onward had tangled with. I spent the rest of the day recuperating before taking a cab with the Burkes into dinner.
19-20 Nov 08 Isle of Hope / Savannah GA
  • We arrived at the Isle of Hope Marina in late afternoon and I took time off to relax and read. Cocktail hour was held aboard Merlin and I got to meet Harriet and Skip aboard Moondance from Baltimore who are friends of Ed and Tina making the ICW – Bahamas journey for the first time. The marina provided a loaner car so we made the short trip to the WalMart superecenter and did our shopping. I now have the ingredients I need for the Onward Thanksgiving Chutney that will be the dish I contribute to Thanksgiving dinner at St. Marys.
  • On Thursday morning, I took the opportunity of a sunny and relatively warm day at the pier to complete the SS tubing bracing for the solar panel mount – now I need to complete wiring the panels. Around noon, Jeff and Jan Miskin, friends of Ed and Tina who now live nearby, came over for a visit. They then took us into Savannah where we started off with a great lunch then walked around the parks and toured three buildings of the Telfair Museum. The first house was built in 1816 and was designed by a young British architecht, Jay. It had many features that I had seen for the first time in a 19th century manor house. Definitely worth the visit. The modern wing of the Telfair had a temporary exhibit of photos from the 1964 civil rights march in Savannah that was peaceful and effective. I found it a very emotional experience viewing these photos that centered on voter registration efforts in light of the 2008 presidential election. I felt very proud of how far America has come, what a wonderful nation it is, and how great it will become.
  • We finished off the day at an Irish pub before returning to the marina.
21 Nov 08 Cattle Pen Ck
  • A leisurely departure was in order to have sufficient tide to get through Hell Gate without event. I again got to talk with Pipe Dream who started a bit behind us and then passed us just N of our anchorage on Cattle Pen Ck. Onward hosted cocktail time for Merlin and Moondance.
22 Nov 08 Ft. Frederica
  • We weighed anchor at a reasonable hour and I discovered that I’d come down with a cold. In spite of dressing warmly, I continued to feel poorly. We got to the Ft. Frederika anchorage at about 1530. I was feeling so poorly I passed up my favorite time of day – cocktail hour. I had an early dinner and then crawled into a warm bed to read and sleep.
23-24 Nov 08 Jekyl I
  • I woke up feeling moderately good but still had not shaken the cold. I was up at 0530 and ran the genset and heatpump to warm the salon while I climbed back into bed to work on the computer. Where is global warming when you need it? When the sun came up, the Ft. Frederica National Monument was off the port bow – a small crenellated fort apparently built out of tabby by Ogolethorp the founder of the GA colony. We did not attempt to go ashore as the charts say landing is prohibited. However I didn’t feel good enough to try anyway. We weighed anchor at 0730 in order to get through Jekyl creek before low tide. Last year I navigated this at almost low tide and I believed I plowed a path through the silt. I anchored at 0930 while Merlin and Moondance put into the marina. As soon as Onward was secure, I got out a book and spent the rest of daylight hours reading and napping in the bright sun and 70+ degree temperatures in my “sunroom”.
25-27 Nov 08 St. Mary’s GA
  • Onward, Merlin and Moondance left the anchorage early and as we went across St. Andrews Sound, we decided to go outside as the seas and winds were mild. The exit was easy out to sea buoy 3 where I noticed that sea buoy 2 was placed inshore from where my electronic and paper charts show the deeper water was. Having learned lessons on the ICW about honoring buoys that are placed in areas where shoals form, I headed Onward around 2 and soon discovered an uncharted 2A. I was just inside the rhumb line and saw depths go down to 9’! Merlin saw < 7’ at one point! Having used this inlet for the first time it will also be the last time as shoaling has rendered it hazardous in even mild conditions. We have consistently found that local shrimp trawlers refuse to answer the VHF – nice people.
  • After getting out to sea, the wind built up to 15-24 kts from the NW. At one time Onward was forging ahead at 10.5 kts. I took in sail to allow the other boats to catch up and we entered the very well marked St. Mary’s inlet without incident. We did make good time and were able to anchor in St. Marys by early afternoon. The anchorage was not as crowded as last year and we secured places near the last green day mark. As always, the people in town were wonderful. The Visitors Center had my mail and the replacement chain stripper for me.
  • Ann Barr and her husband on Sea Tramp were the principal organizers for the cruisers. The owners of the Riverside Hotel / Seagles Saloon are also organizers for the event and essentially turn over their facility to cruisers. There was cocktail hour at Seagles where we got to meet many fellow cruisers. On Wednesday, the cruisers had a van that we took into the WalMart for food shopping. A cruiser staying at the marina organized a Pain Killer party that then led to another cocktail party at Seagles.
  • I used Wednesday morning to open up the genset to try to find out why it has been shutting down like it is fuel starved. It appears a couple of wire bundles may have been trapped by the sound cover against the electronic throttle control preventing it from moving correctly (or perhaps causing an intermittent short). After freeing this it ran normally.
  • On Wednesday afternoon, the new Raymarine A70D stand-alone chartplotter with internal GPS, charts, and digital depth sounder arrived at the Visitors Center along with a wireless remote for the autopilot. As a singlehander, I wanted a back-up gps-chart plotter in case my E120 ever goes out. More things to install now.
  • Thanksgiving was great. It started with an oyster roast. Plenty of food with the townspeople providing turkeys and the cruisers providing side dishes. All of the Onward Thanksgiving Cranberry Chutney disappeared. A great holiday. The only thing better would be to have been with my three children.
28 Nov – 1 Dec 08 St. Augustine
  • Onward left St. Marys at 0700 with Merlin in order to get to St. Augustine before dark. Unfortunately this coincided with high tide that made Onward’s passage through several fixed bridges a bit tight but I made it with no more interference than I encountered at the infamous Pongo Ferry and Wilkerson bridges at the beginning of the ICW. In early afternoon the tidal current was finally in our favor and we made it to St. Augustine by 1630 – Merlin to a marina and Onward to the anchorage N of the Bridge of Lions. My chartplotter showed a bight with 20’ of water just W of marker 6. I explored and found there was good room between the E and W shoals. I was startled while anchoring in front of the Castillo de San Marcos national monument when they shot off two cannons. After all I came in peace!
  • I spent Saturday lazing around without getting much accomplished – sometimes I just need to hang out and recharge my personal batteries. I did manage to put the genset compartment back together and begin to figure out why the LectraSan won’t turn on.
  • Sunday was spent working on the LectraSan. That is an easy job made very difficult by the great engineering job I did by installing it in an otherwise unused space. Unfortunately this great engineering feat results in me having to hang half in the forward bed compartment to work on it. But lesser men… In any case I finally tracked it down to a bad pushbutton switch and engineered in a temporary replacement. The rest of the day was spent preparing for and watching a major storm front move through the anchorage. At one point a small shrimp trawler began to drag its anchor down on me until I alerted them by radio and the horn.
  • Monday was a sunny if a bit windy day and I continued my boat project work by fixing the digital gage on the forward port water tank and installing the new chain stripper on the Maxwell anchor windlass.