Onward’s Cruise Journal 2013
Cruise in the Bahamas & Return to the US

Updated: 16 May 2013

April 2013

1 Apr 13; Monday; Black Point

  • Bob Martin came over to return the flashlight and I scanned a document for him and helped find a dealer for him to order a repair part from. The Abbey then weighed anchor to move N to where they could do some snorkeling on the remainder of the slack tide. On the way out they came by so I could get a photo to send on to Bob Osborn for him to write his Corinthians Mainsheet article.
  • I spent a number of hours trying to figure out why ftp doesn't work using the BTC cellular data network. I tried all permutations and combinations I could think of to no avail. So, I wrote up the problem and sent help requests out to my web hosting company and the website software company. The network got glacially slow. I've noticed that service seems to fall off as weekends approach and don't get fixed until the beginning of the week. I guess BTC doesn't yet believe in 24/7 network maintenance in the out islands.
  • I also spent some time planning Onward's retrograde to the US. I got a reply from Wally Savory that he knew the folks who operate Tiger Point Marina at Fernandina which had been recommended to me by Jim Hamrick. I got a response to the email I'd sent them yesterday rom them and based on the recommendations, I've decided to move Onward there and have it hauled, bottom painted, hull cleaned and waxed, and stored on land while I'm on the W coast.
  • After lunch, reading and a nap, I felt like I should accomplish something before cocktail hour. I had not touched the SailRight since I had done a few seconds of testing after I'd adjusted the gib hook timing before the bobbin ran out. I had been a bit afraid that this apparent fix wouldn't hold so I'd put off doing a more extensive test. So this afternoon I got up the courage and tried it again with a full bobbin. Ureka, it works! So nice to have a functioning sewing machine again. After doing a bit of test sewing, I did a simple task that has been hanging for a long time: I sewed a nylon braid strap into the bottom of the bag I store the Milwaukee 1/2" cordless drill that I use to trim the genoa winches. I moved the lanyard of the chuck key from the handle where it had been tied to the new strap on the inside so it no longer gets wrapped around things and bangs up the fiberglass like it always seemed to do when tied to the handle. Big pains are cured by simple things -- if I ever get around to doing them.
  • I rewarded myself with a relaxing cocktail hour followed by a steak dinner and reading until sleep overcame me.

2 Apr 13; Tuesday; Black Point
  • I started the morning by working on the timeline for Onward's retrograde to the US. I also I decided to go back to the 15-min timer technique to keep me on task today as I seem to get lazy and bogged down when I don't use it. One of the tasks I tackled was filling the cooler with beer and I was pleasantly surprised to find that I still had 2 cases of beer to go. No getting thirsty on the way home. One of the beers I still had was Fat Tire, a beer my son-in-law introduced me to in LA and which we enjoyed many times over lunches there. I also decided to make dough for pepper biscotti and bread.

3 Apr 13; Wednesday; Black Point to Staniel Cay
  • I spent the morning on tasks using my timer technique. I also baked pepper biscotti!
  • Chris Parker and the gribs indicate a good weather window will open up Starting Saturday after the passage of an approaching cold front. For or more days there will be moderate E winds. So, this looks like the weather window I need to go back to America. My pan is to do the central Exumas to Nassau to Grand Banks to Ft. Pierce sprint in 3 long days. The second night on the Grand Banks is predicted to have 10 + kts of E wind so that should be manageable.
  • This would be a perfect time to do a long offshore run of several nights to get will up the US coast by exploiting the good weather and Gulf Stream. Unfortunately my sailing buds are all caught up in their lives and are not available. So I will stick with Plan A.
  • I made a quick run in to shore to dispose of trash then weighted anchor and headed to Staniel Cay. There was a nice ~15 kt SE wind that made for a pleasant reach under genoa alone to Staniel. Once there, I decided to go in and top off fuel and water - even though my calculations show I can get back to the US with a good margin. I had to keep station for 45 min while a sports fisher did its thing but this was no problem with an almost slack current. All topped up, I headed over for my anchorage near the Grotto. Once settled, I called The Abbey which was anchored nearby and Bob invited me over for cocktail hour.
  • I took advantage of the full tanks to take a delicious shower before heading over to The Abbey. What a beautiful ship! I don't often think of a larger boat but one in the range of The Abbey or Zarafa would be my next step up. But there are limits too. So Onward is fine for me.
  • We had a delightful time over rum punches, pepper biscotti from Onward and cheese.

4 Apr 13; Thursday; Staniel Cay
  • Chris Parker again confirmed the coming weather window. I'm planning to put into Cambridge Cay for the passage of the cold front and then head N toward Warderick Wells on Sat and then start the sprint early Sunday morning. It is a bittersweet feeling. I've had a great winter in the Bahamas and I could easily stay another month or two just hangin. But I'm also ready to go back to America. I'm very much looking forward to spending time with my children and grandchildren. But then, I'm not looking forward to the higher intensity / stress environment back in America; but then, again, it will nice to have things more available and that work better. Life is full of tradeoffs.

5 Apr 13; Friday; Emerald Rock Area, Exuma Park
  • Chrs Parker again confirmed the opening weather window so I decided to move N to Cambridge Cay to wait out the front coming through this evening. This morning I found an email from Jenn saying she had had an opening in the N field for today but somehow I'd missed her attempt to get me yesterday on VHF and also missed the email So she had to p[ass on the opportunity.
  • Onward was underway at 1000 with winds 12-15 from the SE. I left The Abbey and Iron Will at anchor as I headed out. Bob Martin called on VHF to say they were going up to Warderick Wells. It was a pleasant sail under genoa alone doing 5 to 6 kts. Once underway, I decided to go up to Emerald Rock where there were moorings available so I could get together with the Martins tonight. I called The Abbey and invited them and their guests over for dinner. In a couple of hours I was cruising about the mooring field trying to decide which mooring would have sufficient depth for Onward at low tide. The Abbey came in and picked up their mooring. The wind picked up and blew Onward away from the ball in the time it took me to move from the helm forward. A cruisers on a catamaran came over in his dinghy to help. On the next approach he miss apprehended my instruction to use the blue line I'd rigged but did manage to get the mooring pennant around my bridle. Unfortuanely as I tried to get the blue line on it, it got away. So we tried it another time but a gust carried Onward away. Then Bob brought his guest Tom over and he climbed aboard and went forward to rig the line through the pennant and we were good. It took me a while to get if rejigged so I can do a quick release if needed.
  • I spent some time relaxing and then rooted around in the freezer to select dinner. Then I got it all prepared and ready to cook before taking an hour nap. Refreshed, I straightened up the boat - one of the reasons to have guests is to motivate me to clean up -- showered. My guests arrived at 1800 and we had a nice cocktail hour with Ginny, Bob, Tom and his Norwegian wife Marun. I found that I had several packages of meatballs in the freezer so I decided to turn one into an appetizer served with pasta sauce. I broiled a beef brisket roast on the grill along with brussels sprouts and rice. I guess everyone enjoyed it because it disappeared fast. After dinner I enrolled them in the Cruising Farklers Club by introducing them to the game.

6 Apr 13; Saturday; Emerald Rock Area, Exuma Park
  • The front came through in the early morning hours and the winds clocked quickly from S to N and there were several rain squalls that went through. The morning brought a beautiful day. I talked to Criss Parker and the crossing still looked good. I almost decided to leave immediately but then changed my mind in order to enjoy one last day as a carefree boat bum in the Bahamas before going back to the stresses of America.
  • I have very mixed emotions about the return. I really miss my children and am looking forward to seeing them. I have had a long and enjoyable time here in the Bahamas so I don't have a strong need to see and do more here. However, I so enjoy the relaxed low-stress atmosphere, I am slightly dreading going back to the intensity of life in America. At least the elections are over. Part of it is knowing that I will have to deal with all the things involved with running ones life that I have been able to put of until "The Return". Ah well, not a bad problem to deal with.
  • Today with the bright sun beating lighting up the shore, I was astounded by how severely the Hutia have denuded the island. There is now just rock where once there was dense scrub foliage. Dead scrub is everywhere with little green. How sad.
  • I visited the office and talked with Jenn. I learned more about the woman who was fatally injured while on a hike. They had been anchored with friends at the S field at Hog Cay and were hiking ashore. The did not take a radio with them and were hiking off the trail when apparently the poor woman fell and struck her head. In spite of the need for the friend to go back to the boat to for a radio, the medic from Bell Island got there within 40 min. The Bell Island folks also had a roll in getting a helicopter to lift her out.

7 Apr 13; Sunday; Warderick Wells to West Bay, New Providence
  • I was up before 0500 for an 0600 departure. After turning on all boat electronics and lights, I started the engine and then was astounded to look at the chartplotter and see that there was no gps fix. I waited for a while and checked the gps status page and it showed no data being put on the SeaTalk network by the gps unit. I powered all down and turned it on again -- still no gps data! I needed to get underway and since I have something like 9 levels of backup for gps data, I decided to use one of them until I could troubleshoot the main system. I hooked up the A90 standalone chartplotter and once it was working I dropped the mooring and was underway by 0630.
  • Bob and Ginny Martin had told me of their use of West Bay at the the W tip of New Providence for their stopovers. They prefer it to Nassau harbor. I had planned to give it a try but now with my main chartplotter not able to run a course to a waypoint, I decided to fall back to my original plan and use Nassau Harbor because I was familiar with it. I had a few hours to reconsider if I got the main gps working.
  • I checked the unit on the backstay and the cable. I found a chafed part on the cable but it looked like only the covering was affected and when I peeled a section back the wires all looked to be fine. No easy fix there, drat. I eventually gave up on the idea of fixing the original and decided to replace it in the system with the backup SeaTalk gps unit I carry. Actually this was the original unit I used with the RL80C chartplotter and I'd replaced it when I installed the E120 unit. I removed the SeaTalk connector from my R600 wired autopilot remote and connected the backup gps unit to it. Then I plugged the gps into the Autopilot remote's connector to the SeaTalk network and viola -- I again had gps data. I took a while for it to get a fix as it hadn't been used in years and the gps constellation had changed make it necessary to "learn" the new configuration.
  • Once I got the gps working, I tried to raise Gratitude on VHF. I got a call back from Ken on One-Eyed Parrots and learned they were headed directly from Normans Stake to West Bay. I then had a relay from a friend and then managed to talk to Gratitude which was on the way from Highbourne Cay to West Bay. I also talked with Summer of 42 a powerboat that came over to say hello yesterday as they found we were headed toward New Providence at the same time. I gave them the waypoints I use to avoid the coral heads on the Yellow Bank on the route to Nassau Harbor.
  • After all the chatting with friends and having the gps / chartplotter back working normally, I decided to change course and head for West Bay to meet up with Gratitude and One-Eyed Parrots. After chaining heading to a direct route to the Coral Harbour waypoint from Onward's current position, I inspected the route at closeup and discovered it went to close to some coral heads on the White Bank shoal area that juts E from the center of New Providence. I then adjusted course to take me SE of this and then to Coral Harbour. The Normans Stake to West Bay route avoids this issue and is the one I will use in the future if I go between the Exumas West Bay.
  • Along the way, now that I was in the midst of Onward's "retrograde", I began to think about the coming months once I was back in America. I realized that if I went through with my plans to leave Onward in Fernandina while I was in CA for May and June, that it would take be about 4 wks to move it up the coat to New England. So I'd arrive there the last week of July and then have to turn around and move it south to the Chesapeake for niece Kristen's wedding on 24 August! Not much time in NE! As a result I began looking at the idea of moving Onward quickly up the ICW to the Chesapeake before heading to LA. From my records, I had been able to do this in 15 to 18 days in previous years. Since this early weather window would get me back in America before the 10th, I should have plenty of time to move Onward N and get it settled before the end of April. This looked tempting but I would make the decision only when finally back in America.
  • The day was pleasant and sunny with broken clouds and the wind ESE at ~ 10 kts. I motorsailed and by the time I reached the Coral Harbour waypoint both Gratitude and One-Eyed Parrots were in sight. They decided to use the E entrance to the harbour which required negotiating an unmarked path through the reef. Thankfully, Gratitude had its AIS on and with Lauren on the foredeck, Van was able to pilot in with ease and saw a minimum depth of 9.8' at a tide of about 2.5'. I placed waypoints at Gratitude's AIS position so I now had a path to follow over strange ground. Both of the other vessels went into the harbour before Onward. I was easily able to negotiate the entrance and could clearly see the wide path through the reef.
  • We all anchored in the NE corner of West Bay. After getting settled, I launched Venture, picked up the Parrots and headed over to Gratitude for cocktail hour. Van had caught a fish on the way over so we were rested to a sevche. We discussed plans for the next leg of the trip. The other two boats were going to go by way of Bimini while I wanted a straight shot to Ft. Pierce.

8 Apr 13; Monday; West Bay, New Providence to Great Issac on the Grand Banks
  • Onward and Gratitude weighed anchor at 0630 and headed out of the W entrance to the harbor. It was a bit disconcerting to go out of an unfamiliar exit through a reef in the pre-dawn light. However based on local knowledge from friends who have used it and watching a big motor yacht come in last evening I did it with only a bit of apprehension. It was easy with only one 9.5' sounding. Once outside, I set a direct course for the NW Light waypoint and sat back and relaxed. One-Eyed Parrots departed about an hour after Onward and Gratitude. Once past the NW Shoal waypoint, Onward headed for the Hen & Chickens waypoint while Gratitude headed for the Macky Shoal waypoint where they planned to tuck in behind the shoal for the night and where One-Eyed Parrots would meet them. We kept in VHF contact until just before sunset.
  • At 2000, about 25 minutes after sunset, I pulled off the rhumb line by 0.5 nm and anchored for the night.
  • I quickly organized a brief cocktail hour and then warmed up a frozen meal before crawling into bed. The wind had been ~ 10 kts all day which gave a small boost while motorsailing. It picked up a few kts toward the end of the day and remained there through the night. As a result, the chop picked up. It would be fairly calm for 2-3 minutes and then two bigger swells would bound Onward about slightly. I was able to sleep but soundly for only a few hours.

9 Apr 13; Tuesday; Great Issac to Vero Beach
  • I was up at 0400 and underway at 0430. Onward crossed through the gap between Hen & Chickens and Great Issac ago about 0530 then set a direct course for Ft. Pierce. As soon as there was enough pre-dawn light< i set the genoa and motorsailed for the rest of the crossing. Winds were still ~ 12 -15 from the E to ESE and the seas in the Straight of FL were similar in form to those on the Grand Banks. I kept staring at the seas which were hitting Onward on the starboard stern quarter to figure out what was causing her to be thrown about a bit every few minutes. There were no true lines of swells just mostly benign broken chop of 2 - 3'. But every few minutes a "peak" or two would appear out of nowhere push Onward's tush to port. Not really uncomfortable just a bit of a bother to remember the need to ALWAYS HOLD ON so as not to be thrown about -- the long comfortable intervals tended to lull one to complacency.
  • At 1530 Onward was abreast of the Lake Worth inlet. I started to get Verizon cell service from ~ 20 nm off shore but it was too weak to use until within ~ 7 nm. Then I discovered my phones were not turned on. I called *611 and was told I owed them > $400 and there was a past due balance. Now this was hard to take as I'd suspended service on 11 December and should not have been accruing charges. Also, my bank had sent an automatic payment that I didn't owe so I had a credit balance the last time I looked. Verizon has made it almost impossible to get to a human but I finally got to a young woman who could only discuss how I was going to pay them the money I didn't owe. After asking for her supervisor, she finally "realized" I need to talk to a different department and transferred me. I now lucked out and got a young man who actually listened to me, checked, found out a mistake was made, turned on my service (cut off for non-payment it seems), got me a credit for most of the charges (I'd forgotten to renew the suspension after 90 days) and all was good. I asked to speak to his supervisor and praised them both for a job well done in fixing the problem. I'll try to figure out why it happened in the first place later.
  • I had been apprehensive about returning to the US in part because being a carefree cruiser in the Bahamas is so pleasant and partly because I wasn't prepared to go back to the higher intensity and high "hassle-factors" awaiting me in the US. The phone incident as a fist example and had me highly on edge.
  • With my now functional phone I immediately called Vero Beach City Marina and made a reservation for the evening. I called Bob Jones who still had Silhouette at the VBCM and asked him to get a mooring assignment for Onward if I didn't get there by 1900. Very convenient to have a good friend on site. The balance of the crossing went very well and Onward split the breakwaters into Ft. Pierce at 1730.
  • The entrance passage was easy and I started to relax. As I approached the turn onto the ICW N, I called the Ft. Pierce N bridge and arranged for an opening. I got around the turn and lined up for the span when I heard an "boop, boop, boop" and I immediately knew what it was: Onward was about to get a personal "Welcome Home" from the US Coast Guard. I peeked around the sun shade I had rigged and sure enough there was one of the big USCG ribs off my port stern quarter. Then, I realized I was still dressed in the skinsuit I'd worn on the crossing. I had brought up fresh shorts and Tee to put on before I got to the bridge but hadn't quite got to that. So I quickly put on some beat up shorts that were nearby and thus was dressed after a fashion when the rib got close enough to say they wanted to board. I told them I'd had a "courtesy inspection" less than a year ago (which was supposed to make Onward "immune" for a year) but they simply said "We are going to board your vessel" -- one of the things they can now do at will due to the "Patriot Act". So I said fine and a young man and woman came aboard. I told them I was single handing and was about to go through the bridge and they said that was fine. Things went south when I made the mistake of letting them interfere with my normal routine as I approached the bridge. The two aboard started asking questions while the rib hovered just off the stern. Then I realized that I had switched my handheld back to 16 from 9 to talk to the rib and I became aware that the CG on the rib had interfered with my bridge opening by talking to the bridge tender without my knowledge and then re-requested an opening so the opening wasn't as far along as I expected it to be. I was so distracted that I didn't realize the speed at which the current was moving Onward toward the bridge. Then I realized the opening wasn't going to happen as soon as expected. This bridge tender is one of the good ones who times the opening so boats don't have to stop and wait so the opening goes quickly. So I had to go into almost full power reverse (wondering where that rib was at my stern) to stop forward motion and this carried the bow just inside the fenders. As I backed out the current started slewing the bow toward the W fenders. By this time, the bridge was coming up so, to avoid the fender, I started forward slowly to have command authority with the rudder to steer away from the fender and then proceeded through when the bridge was open.
  • The rest of the bridge passage went smoothly and I was just relaxing on the N side when the rib pulls up abreast of the helm and one of the more senior CG aboard starts berating me for going too fast, not adhering to the bridge tender's instructions to stay outside of the fenders and that I could have caused damage. Well, I just about lost it. I always treat USCG folks with respect and understanding for the job they do. So this made me tone it down and start with "Sir" . I then proceeded to tell him that I'd piloted this vessel through > 500 bridge passages and that I was quite well aware of how to do it properly and safely. And that, yes, I would have hit the bridge if I had not acted promptly and properly in the situation, and that I'd never before had to do a passage with two USCG in the cockpit asking me questions during the transit and a USCG rib crowding my stern. So, thank you very much. Well, that simply shut him up. The rest of the "inspection" went fine. What a welcome home.
  • In the end, the fault was mine. It is a lesson I will apply in the future. When boarded by the USCG, the captain should establish quickly that he is in charge of the vessel and its safety is paramount -- the CG will agree and do as asked - they are very courteous and accommodating in this regard. I should have asked the folks who boarded to simply take a seat and be quiet while I negotiated the bridge transit so I could give it the full attention in needed. Then when that was over, the inspection could have proceeded. In attempting to be accommodating, I had slipped into the error of trying to answer questions and conduct the bridge transit. Bridge passage while "multitasking" is a bad idea.
  • I was pretty stressed out from the encounters with Verizon, the USCG, and the bridge, but thankfully the rest of the journey to Vero Beach went easily. On arrival, I was greeted on the fuel pier at the Vero Beach City Marina by Bob and Pam who took my lines and then gave me a gin and tonic! Wow, beat that for service! Nice to have friends… Bob arranged for me to stay on the fuel pier for the night. Once Onward as settled and we'd said hello, I got an invitation to dinner aboard Silhouette. So I immediately went below and into the shower to get rid of the goat who'd crept aboard during the day.
  • Bob prepared an amazing dinner with fresh sautéed grouper and he and Pam kept me plied with G&T's. As a result of the friendship (principally) and the G&T's, I soon lost all the stress and bad feeling I'd developed since the encounter with Verizon and the USCG. We had a great time catching up on our activity since December. Bob and Pam also really like Vero Beach and are thinking of buying a home there now -- joining Skip and Harriet who are driving S now that they sold their home in MD.

10 Apr 13; Wednesday; Vero Beach to Titusville
  • During the night, the decision to move Onward to the Chesapeake became the thing to do. When I left Silhouette last night, it was my intention to spend today at Vero to recover from my sprint back from the Bahamas and my "welcome" to the US. However, I woke up relaxed, rested, and energized thanks to Bob and Pam. Before the marina opened at 0700, I had decided to move on and have a day in my pocket so that I would be sure to be able to get Onward settled in the Chesapeake and still get to LA by 1 May. So I topped up diesel and water, did a pump out and offloaded trash. I walked over to Bob and Pam to say thank you and adieu and talk about getting together when they return to the Bay.
  • Onward was underway by 0830. It was a good traveling day with no issues. As I went past Cocoa, I remembered that I'd been able to stop and had dinner with my nephew Michael on the previous two trips N and I was a bit sad to break the "tradition". I was able to push on, making use of daylight to anchor for the night at Titusville.

11 Apr 13; Thursday; Titusville to ? St. Augustine

  • Onward was underway in the pre-dawn light at 0630. There was a >10 kt wind from the SE so I was able to motorsail all the way to Daytona. The infamous Carlton Black bridge still posts a clearance of 62' while having a center clearance of ~ 66'. I lucked out and just caught the restricted opening of the George Munson bridge due to a waiting trawler. The wind continued to increase with periodic intervals of >25 kts. At the draw bridge S of St Augustine, they were doing repair work and could only open the W span. The operator got it open well before I got there to make it safer for Onward to transit the narrow gap with the strong wind and current. It was "exciting".
  • Onward reached the Bridge of Lions at 1830 and the bridge tender immediately started the opening so I could get through safely with the strong following wind. It was a challenge between current and wind but I made the passage and breathed a deep sigh of relief. I said my thanks to the bridge tender. Then I got a "Welcome to St. Augustine". I thought it was the bridge tender and said thanks. He asked if I was going to stay and I said no, just passing through. To my surprise the voice said "That's too bad." Now I was really puzzled to have such a talkative bridge tender who was talking up the area. I said I'd stopped in the Fall but it was't warm enough tonight. The voice said to watch out because it was going to get really hot soon. Never before had I encountered such a chatty bridge tender and I was flummoxed -- a lot due to how tired and stressed I was at the time. Then the voice said "Joe, you sure you can't stop?" - and I realized it was Miles Cherkasky! Ariel was on a mooring just to port as I headed down the river. When I said I was too tired and stressed to try to pick up a mooring under these conditions, he volunteered to come aboard and help. I was so beat, I didn't want to take on the challenge and so I very reluctantly turned him down and we talked about meeting up in the Chesapeake.
  • I continued N and looked for an anchorage N of the Usina bridge. A very tempting place on the chart, just SW of nun R2 turned out to be a bad place as the shoal had moved far S and Onward touched the edge of it. I eventually anchored on the E shore. After anchoring and relaxing a bit, I was a bit bummed that I hadn't taken Miles up on his offer and had spent the night at St. Augustine where we could have enjoyed each other's company. We got to spend too little time together this year in the Bahamas.

12 Apr 13; Friday; St Augustine to Jekyll Island
  • I gave myself a bit of a break and waited for dawn at 0700 before weighing anchor. I used the delay to clean up the galley and make a batch of dough for pizza, rolls, and a calzone. The day was overcast and the wind which had been non extant during the night was 15 kts from the S with periods of 20-25 kts. The front that had spawned damaging storms further W was approaching.
  • I got a call from Harriet as she and Skip had just driven S of my location on their way to become homeowners in FL. I'm very happy for them but I really missed cruising with them this winter in the Bahamas. They plan to haul Moondance for the hurricane season. Perhaps they'll come cruising in NE with me for a bit.
  • As I crossed the St. Johns River, I remembered to call BoatUS insurance to have my policy changed; this saved a nice chunk of change. In the past I've always made the mistake of forgetting to call until sometimes weeks later - an expensive lapse.
  • The bridge tender for the Sisters Creek bridge was very accommodating and perfectly timed his opening so Onward wouldn't have a problem with the following wind and current.
  • The section of the ICW between Fernandina and the St. Johns River has become one of the most challenging on the ICW due to shoaling. Onward had a couple of feet of tide and still saw thin spots, especially nearer to Fernandina.
  • As I approached Amelia Island, I called Wally Savory and told him to pack a bag and hitch a ride to Hilton Head. He however has a social life and engagements and other things to tie him down. He reported that the garlic cloves I gave him in November are still doing their duty as kitchen decoration. I hope to see him in Maine.
  • As Onward passed the Kings Bay naval base, I noticed a patrol boat hanging near the channel as it ran past the degaussing facility. Sure enough there was a small nuclear sub tethered in the structure being "treated". A bit further on there was another - a bit smaller with a Seal deployment structure on its back -- alongside a pier. This is the first time I'd ever actually seen subs at this sub facility.
  • Because of the coming cold front passage, I thought it would be good to get past one of my least favorite places on the ICW: the transit of St. Andrew Sound at the N tip of Cumberland I. Here the route take you E of the tip of Cumberland I and actually into the ocean. There are usually waves breaking on the shoal just outside the channel to the E and the channel itself is shallow, narrow, and the buoys marking it are small, hard to see and frequently moved; other than that, it's fine. I checked the weather radar and saw some rain to the W that I thought I would outrun. Wrong. A heavy rain squall hit while I was a mile from the bad spot. The rain was being blown into the cockpit from the stern as I had the enclosure panels off. Visibility went way down -- not far past the bow. Luckily (or was it due to prudence) I had marked the new position of the S red turning buoy when I passed S last Fall. So, while the autopilot steered, I walked forward to where it was dry to look for the buoy. Just 0.4nm away, the rain squall passed and I could see it. I looked back and saw golden sunlight -- Mom must have been on the case. The channel at the tip had only 10' at the seaward end. Not a lot of comfort there with ~ 2' of tide. The rest of the transit was uneventful even if decorated with two more rain squalls.
  • Onward anchored for the nigh off Jekyll I S of the marina at 1915. I went below and started to make pizza for dinner. While I worked I had a Fat Tire beer that my son-in-law, Kurlen, turned me onto. Great! What a nice way to relax after a long day with a "challenge" at the end. As I worked, I realized that making pizza was therapy for me because it helped me to relax and feel good. Perhaps because it has become associated in my unconscious mind with a lot of great times with friends at "Onward Pizza Parties"? After the pizza was prepared, I used the other half of the dough to make a calzone (spinach, garlic, provolone, prosciutto) and 5 bread rolls. 40 minutes later I got to enjoy a second beer with fresh pizza. Life is good. By this time, my internal battery was run down and I quickly fell asleep.

13 Apr 13; Saturday; Jekyll I to Redbird Ck GA
  • Today was a really lazy start: anchor aweigh at 0715. I delayed a bit to give time to clean the galley and the steward up for the day and to allow the tide to rise enough to get through Jekyll Creek. Even so just N of the Jekyll ward where a stream comes in from the W, I saw 5.8' as Onward plowed its way through the soft muck for a bit. The day turned into a beautiful sunny, crisp, dry jewell. Onward made easy progress N on a good tide. The only minor hitch was touching the edge of the shoal where it has moved well downstream and now encroaches on the ICW route centerline at G131A in Johnson Creek.
  • Onward arrived at Hell Gate just at low tide. I managed to download and check the latest Notice To Mariners on my iPad and found no cautions about shoaling there. But, as I approached, I reconsidered and went about to anchor in Redbird Ck at ~ 1730. There was another boat already there and I anchored just inside the mouth of the creek. As I prepared dinner, Horizon, a sloop from Annapolis came by to anchor and I said hello to a fellow Annapolitan by VHF. I had a relaxing cocktail hour and then grilled a couple of hamburgers to eat on the rolls I baked yesterday -- delish! Noseeums became a problems so I closed up the hatches and went to bed and immediately fell asleep.

14 Apr 13; Sunday; Redbird Ck to Skull Creek, Hilton Head SC
  • I decided to delay departure until 0800 to have > 2' of a rising tide to go through Hell Gate. Onward made it through Hell Gate seeing a minimum of 10.9' with 3.6' of tide.
  • At Fields Cut, even with 6.3' of tide, I saw the "bump" which is growing off the W shore at the NW corner of the cut. It was 10.6' now so no wonder I touched on the way down at lower tide; the E shore is the place to go.
  • Onward passed through Isle of Hope shortly after 1000. I called Noel Wright to say hello. We had a nice chat for ~ 15 min before Ruthie reminded him he needed to dress for church. We talked about navigate in the days before GPS and I learned he had been a private pilot as well as a sailor. I again thanked him for his kindness in 2007 on my first trip S when he had allowed Onward to stay at his pier as there was no room at the marina. These kind of encounters and reencounters with friends made along the way make transiting the ICW special.
  • I also called to say hello to Donna Martino who I had visited with on the way S. She will be leaving for Nantucket soon so I may get to say hello again there.
  • Onward was again trying to outrun another storm system coming from the FL panhandle. I decided to put into Skull Creek Marina to await the arrival of Ron Draper. I got Onward settled next to "Magic" a 150+" motor yacht I'd seen in the Bahamas. I met and talked with Adam its very pleasant young Captain and talked about how the Bahamas Cruisers Guide could be useful to charter captains like himself.
  • Ron and Jack soon arrived and while they enjoyed a beer in the cockpit I showers and changed to go out to dinner. I first met Jack and his wife Maryann in 2007 when Onward was at Isle of Hope and Ron took me on a day trip before he headed back to MD and I continued on alone. We had a great time then as Jack took us on a tour of Hilton Head's marinas and bars -- for future reference.
  • We went to Jack's home to pick up Maryann and then headed off to the Boathouse for dinner. Jack is an avid golfer and yet he gave up watching the Masters to schlep Ron and I around. He did get to watch the finish and then the playoff as we ate dinner. Maryann is an avid bride player and gave me a number of pointers as I begin getting into it again. We had a delightful meal and good fellowship. Again another visit with new-made (through my bud Ron) friends that makes this journey special. The heavy rain moved on as we finished dinner and accompanied us back to the marina. Once aboard, I quickly climbed in bed with my laptop to finish my income taxes. That done, I was off to dream land - without any nightmares.

15 Apr 13; Monday; Hilton Head SC to Beaufort SC
  • I was up before 0530 and after the first coffee, I went to work on my income taxes again. I was just about done when Jack Schrader arrived on the pier at 0830 when we set off to do some shopping. While searching for a place to have some breakfast, I spied a Harris Teeter supermarket. So we stopped there to shop and maybe buy something that would serve for breakfast. What was I thinking? Of course their deli was open and taking custom orders for breakfast sandwiches although the woman helping us apologized that while they had bagels and croissants, they were out of biscuits. So sad -- but we made due with the bagels and then a complementary cup of coffee. While I esthetically shopped, Ron and Jack followed behind laughing and making jokes at my antics. Then folks in the stores started laughing and smiling because of them. I guess I'm destined to bring joy to all. Well I got my fix of fresh things -- probably more than Ron & I will be able to eat on the trip.
  • Shopping done, we returned to Onward to load it all aboard then topped off the fuel tanks and water tank. At 1100, we bid farewell to Jack and then headed out toward Beaufort SC. Beaufort is one of Ron's favorite ICW places to stop so we decided to make it a short day due to our late start.
  • While Ron had the con, I reviewed my income tax statement and electronically filed it. Neat that I could do this "at sea". I suddenly felt relaxed and 20 lbs lighter.
  • Along the way to Beaufort it appeared that the original gps unit had come back to life and was dueling with the backup unit. I confirmed this after getting anchored as I noticed Onward's position on the chartplotter was bouncing back and forth between two locations a few feet apart. I unplugged the backup gps and only one location was displayed. We'll see tomorrow.
  • Ron and I Ventured ashore and walked through the beautiful town of Beaufort. They have done an amazing job of turning the waterfront into a beautiful promenade and park. The number of art galleries seems to have increased substantially. We walked about and then settled for dinner at one of our favorite restaurants. After a delicious meal, we returned to Onward where my personal DJ continued his efforts to acquaint me with new music he'd discovered since our last trip N. Needless to say good food, good beers, good music, good fellowship and a long day conspired to put me to sleep before 2100.

16 Apr 13; Tuesday; Beaufort to Dews Creek
  • First job of the morning was to change the Yanmar's oil and filter. As happens at least 1 of 3 times, the ziplock bag I use to catch the filter and the oil it contains managed to slip off the base just enough to spill a little oil most of which I caught on an absorbent pad. Somehow in the process, I took the cap off of a 1-gal oil bottle and it went into the ether.
  • I finished the oil change and cleanup in time to take a shower and then weigh anchor for the 0900 Ladies Island bridge opening. We had a pleasant and uneventful day of travel. We went through Elliot Cut just S of Charleston and timed our approach to make the 1730 opening of the Wapoo Creek bridge -- only to learn it now wasn't going to open until 1830. The restricted hours of this bridge are now 0600-0900 and 1600 to 1830 -- this is a real pain when moving N. We anchored for a while just S of the bridge while I tried to work out the options as there are no good anchorages between this bridge and N of the Ben Sawyer bridge. I finally decided with Ron's concurrence to take the 1830 opening and head for the anchorage N of Ben Sawyer. We got there just at sunset and proceeded to the anchorage in the dusk. Cocktail hour was very welcome after we anchored about 2015. I cooked a variation on a beef stew and then listened to Ron's jazz. A peaceful night.

17 Apr 13; Wednesday; Dews Creek to Grand Dunes
  • Anchor aweigh at 0645 with a beautiful and tranquil sunrise. The trip N was very pleasant -- sunny with crisp air. We managed to have the tide and the current with us all day. Onward passed Georgetown at ~ 1330 and pressed on up the Wacamaw River. I find this section of the ICW to be most beautiful with the cypress forest coming down to the waters edge and the vestiges of the vast rice fields from the plantation era along the shores of the lower stretch. It looks so wild and remote but an inspection using satellite photos on the iPad map app show how close development of retirement communities have come -- but well integrated into the environment so as to almost be invisible.
  • I took the opportunity of Ron at the helm to look into plantations along the ICW that are open for visitation. There are quite a number and on a future trip I will stop somewhere and rent a car to go off and explore some of them. There are four within a short drive of Charleston so that may be the best place to do this. (See: www.south-carolina-plantations.com)
  • Well, traveling the ICW at Myrtle Beach again revealed some of its glorious orbs. On a trip N several years ago, Onward passed through on a warm Sunday afternoon when the ICW was replete with runabouts whose crews had been partying for a while. One of these had a young woman aboard who had shed the top of her bikini and was chest-out flashing her orbs for the enjoyment of all. Very thoughtful of her. Well today, there was a repeat. An open runabout with two guys (with beer guts hanging over their belts) was passing to port when the woman who was a bit more svelte sitting between them stood up and pulled down her top to reveal her braless condition and allow us a close inspection of her substantial endowments -- untanned as they were -- while the 2 guys laughed. It's nice to know Onward brings out the best in some women.
  • We put in for the night at Grand Dunes marina. The folks here have gotten to know me so we handled the transaction over the phone and I told them they didn't need to stay late to greet me. Once tied up and done with refreshing showers, Ron and I headed over to Anchor Cafe bar where we enjoyed beers and great buffalo shrimp.

18 Apr 13; Thursday; Grand Dunes to Wrightsville Beach
  • Onward was underway at 0645. Just N of the Little River inlet we managed to find the soft mud at the edge of the channel but managed to plow through. This area has continued to shoal and it is necessary to take a "hydrological route" through the area. We again met up with Horizon another sailing vessel from Annapolis that I'd met a few days ago just N of Hell Gate in GA.
  • The trip N was easy until Snows Cut. There we found the Carolina Beach Bridge was being painted. There were no height boards posted. I could see they had closed off the steel just below the beams. This bridge has had plenty of clearance in the past so we approached it dead slow. I took a path through the higher side (S) and went slowly to avoid any visible obstruction. We were about a third through when something grabbed the arrow on the Windex and broke it off. Then it was OK. WE continued on and stopped for the night at Wrightsville Beach because the next anchorage was too far away for the remaining day. Onward anchored bout 1630 and the Captain declared cocktail hour. While I was bellow getting libations, Ron walked out on the deck and looked up. When I came up with beers he told me to take a deep breath as the bridge had carried away the wind direction "feather" of the anemometer. Nice.
  • I grilled steak for our dinner and listened to Ron's music. In the dark it was clear the LED masthead light was still working -- much to my relief.

19 Apr 13; Friday; Wrightsville Beach to Adams Creek
  • Onward weighed anchor at 0600 and slowly made its way out of the anchorage toward the bridge. With two feet of tide, we touched bottom 3 times just before the G day marker at the junction with the ICW. Ron had phoned a local marine business and had gotten advice that the deeper water was on the G - S side of the channel. We got through the bridge at 0620 and were able to make the next bridge opening at 0700. Unfortunately, the tide slowed us down enough so we missed the 0900 opening of the next bridge by a couple of minutes and had to wait for an opening at 1000. Cold winds and rain moved in and I reinstalled the stern enclosure panels.
  • Along the way we listened to NPR as the hunt for the Boston Marathon terrorists went on. We anchored at the first place that looked good just off the channel in Adams Creek. It became quickly apparent that the initial place I'd chosen had too soft a bottom to provide good holding with the coming storm front. I picked up the anchor and moved about 0.1 nm to windward closer to the edge of the channel and re-anchored and got an excellent set. We had a quiet and warm evening below as the front passed over us. It didn't have much in the way of strong winds (Good!) but there was a lot of rain.

20 Apr 13; Saturday; Adams Creek to Alligator River
  • The good news was that the fugitive terrorist was caught as learned as I checked the news on arising!
  • Onward was underway at 0600. The day was mostly overcast as the remnants of the front went past. Somehow this front had formed a dogleg around Onward, keeping a patch of poor weather over us as we headed N. It was a pleasantly uneventful day. Upon exiting the Alligator-Pungo canal, we decided to go as far as possible before we lost light and anchor along the channel to the bridge. We would have got to the bridge just as we lost twilight so I checked the weather and as the forecast called for winds ~ 10 kts in the morning I decided to do the bridge passage with better light. As Onward pulled to the W side of the channel, I got a call from the bridge operator asking if everything was OK. I told him I was going to wait overnight for the passage. He said he would light it up for me if I wanted to do it tonight but I declined the offer.

21 Apr 13; Sunday; Alligator River to Coinjock NC
  • About 0400, I became aware of the wind picking up. When I got up at 0500, I found the wind blowing at > 15 kts from the NE and building -- not what the forecast had called for last night! I called the bridge and the operator said he was about to call me to say that there was a short window where he might be able to give Onward an opening as the winds were forecast to build. I immediately got Onward underway for the bridge. By the time we got there at about 0700 wind gusts were exceeding 24 kts. The operator had us come close and in a bit of a lull gave us an opening to sprint through. Right after that the USCG announced the bridge was closed due to high winds. Whew!
  • The passage down the Alligator and across the shoal at Long Point was uneventful. However as we got out into Albemarle Sound, the waves became steeper and the next 3 hours ware uncomfortable with a lot of water coming over the bow and spray hitting the dodger. Onward and crew toughed it out and conditions got better within a few miles of the N shore. I called Miles who was still at Coinjock and told him we were on the way in for the night. I was a bit concerned at docking with the wind continuing to gust to ~ 35 kts. At Coinjock Marina, we found the wind to be on the nose and < 15 kts. While there was > 3.5 ks of current against us, docking went smoothly. It was good to have Miles and his crew Adrian there along with the guy from the marina to handle lines ashore.
  • As soon as Onward was settled, we headed off to the restaurant to have lunch with Miles and Adrian. A couple of beers and a good lunch relaxed us enough that as soon as we were back aboard Onward both Ron and I were off to the Land of Nod. We managed to arouse ourselves to go aboard Ariel at 1900 where I did my best to help Miles drain his red wind and Ron Zacapa rum and eat a great Wisconsin cheddar cheese.

22 Apr 13; Monday; Coinjock to Hampton VA
  • At 0530, I checked the weather. Conditions at Coinjock were forecast to further deteriorate during the day as a Low formed offshore and would her no better tomorrow. So I decided to brave the crossing of Currituck Sound figuring it would be a lot better than our experience on the Albemarle Sound. We took off at 0715 and found the Currituck to be gentle by comparison with our experience yesterday. Once across and in the narrower cuts, it was an easy day. Only the usual hassles with bridges in this section of the ICW greeted us.
  • It was only 1430 when we got to Hospital Point and the winds were < 20 kts so we decided to make use of the daylight and position Onward closer to the bridge-tunnel. Travel N wasn't bad until Onward reached the naval base where there was a clear shot from the opening to the Bay and the NNE winds. I had originally thought of going into Hampton but as the winds picked up with gusts to ~ 35 kts, I was concerned about trying to maneuver into a slip. So I changed plans and decided to go into Willougby Bay where I'd anchored on the way S. However when we got to the channel for the anchorage, there were 3-4' whitecaps traveling across the channel and inside we could see no area without whitecaps. I immediately put about and headed toward Hampton where at worst, Onward could anchor in the lee of Ft. Monroe and the bridge tunnel island. The 1.5 nm across the open mouth of the harbor was tough slogging and it was with great relief that we finally got into the lee of Point Comfort. We decided to go into Hampton and check out conditions and come back out to anchor off the channel where I found a nice spot in ~ 13' just S of the channel. The conditions in the Hampton harbor were mild. It was hard to believe considering what we had been through outside. We went up to Hampton Downtown Marina and found all the slips empty. I put Onward into a slip and let the wind carry her down to nestle agains the floating pier and pilings to port. The Ron and I breathed a deep sigh of relief.
  • Once Onward was settled, I took a reviving hot shower and then we headed off to one of our favorite bars: The Taphouse. There we had our choice of > 40 beers on tap. One of the owners is a gourmet chef and the food is great. I had a wonderful grilled salmon with an ale-dijon sauce. Delish. As always: too many beers, too little time. We managed to get back aboard through the frigid winds and slept a sound sleep.

23 Apr 13; Tuesday; Hampton to Fishing Bay
  • Winds are still forecast to be 15 to 20 from the N so I decided to spend the day here and fuel up in late afternoon then go out and anchor where we could make an early morning start when the winds were forecast to die down. About 1100 we headed over to the Hampton Air & Space Museum. About 1230 we took a break for lunch at the Taphouse before returning to the museum for a while. When we left the museum at ~ 1430, the wind was almost gone.
  • Onward immediately left the slip and headed over to Bluewater Yacht Center where I took on 50 gal of diesel for the trip N. The plan had been to anchor off the entrance to Hampton harbor so we could make a quick getaway N in the morning when S winds were to set in. However once out of the harbor we found wind and wave conditions to be so benign we decide to head N and get as far as we could before dark so as to have an easy day tomorrow. About an hour N of Hampton, the wind again picked up from the NE to 15 to 25 kts and the seas increased. It was no where as uncomfortable as the Albemarle or Cuirrituck crossings though. About 1800 the winds started to subside as we passed Wolf Trap light.
  • We had the assistance of a full moon to light the way as we took the channel into Fishing Bay. Instead of going all the way inside as I'd done previously, I decided to tuck Onward into the NW corner of the outer harbor near the back door channel to Deltaville. There we anchored about 2020 in the lee of the neck of land. With the wind continuing to diminish during the night and then slowly build from the S this was adequate protection.

24 Apr 13; Wednesday; Fishing Bay to Herring Bay
  • I was up at 0500 and had Onward underway before 0600. The wind was minimal during the night and sometime after 0200 it shifted to the S and started to build. So as Onward cleared the channel and turned N it was possible to motorsail under genoa. The wind picked up a bit so that we could see whitecaps but behind us for a change as we surfed for extended periods of time at at 9 to 10 kts up the Bay.
  • At 1500 we attempted to put into Ron's Marina at Chesapeake Beach. The big waves were running across the channel and a dredge was parked in the center of it so I didn't want to attempt the entrance under those conditions. We went into Herrington Harbour S where I was going to take a slip for a couple of nights. No one was on the pier to take a line an a gust from hell blew Onward off at the critical moment. I attempted to do a 180 and ended up doing a 270 and narrowly avoided a couple of boats in their slips before nestling up to 3 pilings on the W side of the marina for the night until winds diminish.
  • I have always integrated watching the anemometer display for speed and direction into my docking process. Not having the wind direction caused me to be unprepared for the gust from hell. Ah, well, a new learning experience.
  • Linda came to collect Ron and I stayed aboard and attempted to lower my blood pressure and pulse rate. Whew! What a way to end the trip.
  • Onward departed the Exumas on Sunday 7 April and retuned to the US on Tuesday 9 April; Exumas to Annapolis in 18 days.
  • It is hard to believe that Onward and its Captain (as well as the Steward, Chef, and Boat Boy) have now done the Annapolis to New England to Bahamas to Annapolis cycle 6 times in the last 6 years.

25 Apr 13; Thursday; Herrington Harbor S
  • I spent the morning starting the preparation for me and Onward as I segue to the W coast. I now have a direct flight scheduled to LA on 1 May.
  • I got an email from Mary Kay. I must have flitted past Beckoning while they were stopping at Bellhaven. I also heard from Bob Jones as he started moving Silhouette N along the FL ICW due to bad weather offshore. Ariel left Coinjock yesterday morning and anchored at Solomons last night. Soon the "Gang" will all be here!

26 Apr 13; Friday; Annapolis
  • At 1000, Onward departed for Annapolis. Bob Jones made arrangements for use of his slip at Horn Point. When I arrived at 1300, Pam was there to grab a line as I backed Onward into Bob's slip. Once Onward was settled, I headed off with Pam to help her jump start their BMW whose battery had died while they were in Vero. We found the battery so dead, a quick jump start wouldn't work. I had to search the web to find out where they had hidden it as I was thinking of disconnecting it to make the jump start work. The wiring had so many connections it needed a major tool kit to disconnect so that idea died. A worker on the home next door came over and used a capacitor jump start kit which combined with the jumper cables finally got it going. We then headed out to get the new battery installed which was a saga in itself. Such complexity.
  • I walked to the Eastport Yacht Club with Pam to meet up with the Burkes and the Drapers for dinner. Pam knew everyone along the way and it emphasized how Eastport is a small village. We enjoyed our dinner in the new dining room. As I was leaving the table, Richard Ewing and Idarae Prothero came over. Somehow I thought they were still in Puerto Rico but are back in Annapolis where Richard is upgrading the galley on Molto Bene. It was like old home week as Richard, Idarae, Ed, and Tina had been part of the gang that finally pried me out of slip B18 at Jabin's back in June 2007 to start my wandering life. When Onward had sailed into Block Island for the first time, we found Molto Bene there after Richard and Idarae had completed the Annapolis to Newport race.

27 Apr 13; Saturday; Annapolis
  • In mid morning, Jim Wohlleber called to say he was aboard Comfortably Numb and they were headed to Annapolis for lunch. He talked to Pam and arranged for a tie up at Horn Point. They arrived about 1200 and we walked off to have lunch at Davis' Pub. This was good as my return to Annapolis is only official once I've had lunch and a beer at Davis'.

28 Apr 13; Sunday; Annapolis
  • More preparation and packing.
  • At 1700 I walked over to get Pam and then we walked to EYC for taco night. While there I got to catch up with a couple of fellow Corinthians.

29 Apt 13; Monday; Annapolis
  • The morning was spent in more preparation and packing. At 1500, I moved Onward from Horn Point over to the haul out slip at Jabin's. Greg was there so I could do a pump out. I then settled in for a quiet night at the pier to complete the final packing. Somehow, planning to be gone for 2 months and also packing to attend a wedding really complicated and slowed me down. I finally realized I needed to pack a separate small bag just for my wedding togs.

30 Apr 13; Tuesday; Annapolis
  • At 0800, Onward was moved into the 50-ton travel lift. It was a bit of the reunion as she was handled all the crew who I saw daily when Onward was in Slip B18 before I retired. By 0930 Onward was ensconced on the hard and the Captain was engaged in the final stages of packing.
  • Ed Burke fetched me at mid-day and we headed off to Grumps Cafe for lunch. It was nice to see that this great local place had faired well and now had expanded to quite a broad menu.
  • Bob Jones stopped by having just driven in from Charleston where he left Silhouette for a while until the weather gets better for a trip N.
  • It was back to prepping and packing until ~1730 when Richard Ewing came and fetched me for dinner. I got to see the new galley he is installing on Molto Bene. I also got to see Tracy Leonard and her two children on their new boat. They traded in their racing sled for a cruising boat and are about to head out for an extended cruise. Tracey, Greg and the children had been aboard Heron at Block Island when Onward sailed in in 2007.
  • I had a great dinner and a wonderful time catching up with friends. To top it all, Idarae plied me with the chocolate brandy balls she had made and it was an instant addiction. A nice way to say good by to Onward and the East Coast for a bit.