Onward’s Cruise Journal 2009
Cruise S to the Bahamas

November 2009

1-2 Nov 2009; Charleston

  • I weighed anchor at what I thought was 0900 but I had forgotten to change my watch for the change back to EST so it was 0800. I had a leisurely cruise up to the Ben Sawyer bridge for the 0900 opening. This is the bridge that is going to force the closure of the ICW for a week while they replace the current 2-lane pivot bridge with a new 4-lane pivot. I had rushed S to make sure I got through before its original closing date of 11 Nov; however difficulties have now postponed it until early December - but it was worth it because I’m closer to the warm!
  • I had called ahead for several days to be sure they saved a slot on the inside of the Megadock for Onward. The current was light and I docked without a problem - much better than in the spring when I had the current and wind against me.
  • At 1700 I went into town with Skip & Harriet for a good dinner at Basile, a Thai restaurant. Harriet introduced me to a Thai noodles dish - delish. We then walked back to the marina on a beautiful night.
  • Monday dawned overcast and cold. After doing some laundry, I went into town to get prescriptions filled. I then took a wandering walking tour of Charleston where I discovered many neat areas down alleys as I wandered about. I did some shopping along the way and then met Skip and Harriet for lunch at 82 Queen Street before waking back to the marina.

3 Nov 2009; Charleston to Beaufort SC
  • I was up at 0500 and as I am energetic in the morning, I decided to work on the generator fuel solenoid. I disassembled and cleaned the solenoid and it appeared to be working normally so I put it back together. In this process, the feed fuel line to the valve had to be disturbed and it began to leak when I reconnected it. Typical: fix one thing and break another in the process - sailboat work.
  • Onward departed the city marina at 0820 to catch the slack tide and make the Wapoo Ck bridge opening at 0900. With an audience on the pier, somehow everything went right and Onward was able to rotate out of the tight quarters into the fairway and then back out to open water.
  • Now, the fates must maintain balance so as I was slowly motoring toward the bridge, the engine stalled at low rpm. I had never had the engine stall before! Then it would run only at about 2000 rpm with the throttle full open while in neutral. To top it all, it began to have smoky exhaust - something that I’ve never had before. While trying to figure this out, I allowed all the boats behind me to pass as I drifted with the current toward the bridge. Then I had an ah-ha: I had worked on the generator - removing and cleaning the fuel stop solenoid valve - and had encountered a fuel supply line at the valve that I hadn’t been able to fix - so I decided to put that off until I reached Beaufort in order to catch slack tide and the bridge. My ah-ha was that since the genset is fed off the fuel supply line that also feeds the engine, a fuel leak at the genset could end up as an airleak for the engine because it is before the engine fuel pump. I quickly went below and closed the valves in the feed and return lines to the genset and like magic the problem was fixed!
  • It was a beautiful sparkling day and the tide was with me most of the day and Onward made over 9 kts for much of the day. It looked like I would make the Ladies Island Bridge before it closed for rush hour at 1600-1800. However in the last hour the tide turned against me and I had to drift the last 2 miles to wait for the 1800 opening - after sunset. The moonrise was fantastic - especially with the lights of a passing tugboat to add interest. Unfortunately, I was too busy driving the boat through the bridge to get a photo.
  • I encountered Mahalo again at the bridge and I advised them on the Beaufort anchorage. It was not fun anchoring in the dark but I did it without incident.
4- 5 Nov 2009; Beaufort SC
  • Wednesday. I decided to spend 2 days here because the new hot water heater will not be delivered to Isle of Hope until Monday. I spend the morning cleaning up after all the projects I had been working on. I then took the dinghy to shore for to run errands and walk. I mailed packages - it’s nice that the Post Office is within easy walking distance. I also visited the the bagel store which is the only one on the east coast from Nantucket to here where they have rye bagels! I bought them out and ordered more for tomorrow. I had a good late lunch and returned to Onward before sunset.
  • Thursday. I was hailed by Moondance as they passed by. I again spent the morning organizing things and went into town after a light lunch. I picked up more rye bagels plus some sesame bagels for Moondance. I then visited all the art galleries before settling in on the deck at Kathleen’s to read in the sunshine, have a couple of beers and then enjoy a great ribeye steak with pancetta grits for dinner. At one of the galleries, I came across a local artist who does a series of really neat paintings of the local bars - something for me to pass on to Ron Draper.
  • http://www.ipinckneysimonsgallery.com/paintings/weeks/artist.html

6-7 Nov 2009; Broad Ck, Hilton Head I
  • Friday. Onward departed Beaufort at 0700 on another beautiful brisk, sunny and clear morning. It was an easy transit to Hilton Head I where I decided to explore Broad Ck which almost divides the island in half. I set anchor at noon just N of Opossum Pt. on the S edge of the channel in 25’ at the top of a 9’ tide. The holding is good and the Ck is broad here just SW of the Palmetto Bay Marina. I took time off for lunch, reading and a short nap in the sunshine. On the trip from Beaufort I called to locate a replacement fuel hose for the generator and the helpful woman at Fischer-Panda told me to just cut the old hose off the banjo fittings at each end and replace the hose with standard fuel hose and hose clamps. At 1530 I went to work to fix this problem. However even after repairing the hose which ended the leak and bleeding the fuel line, I still could not get the genset to start - BAAAH! I’m running out of ideas.
  • To compensate, I made pizza - it was a great way to end a frustrating afternoon.
  • Saturday. I spent some time trying to get the generator started - still no joy. In the afternoon, I took the dinghy into the Palmetto Bay Marina and as I did, I passed by Avalon, a Catalina 42 I has seen in a couple of anchoraghes and stopped to say hello. David and Ginger told me that there was going to be a benefit oyster roast at one of the marina restaurants at 1600. I took a walk around, enjoyed a beer and read a book in the sun and then enjoyed the oyster roast.

8-10 Nov 2009; Isle of Hope GA
  • Sunday. It was an easy morning move to Isle of Hope Marina that I found to be home to several large motor yachts and a sailing yacht now. Not much room for transients and they weren’t sure if I was going to be able to stay a second night as I had planned. After cleaning up, I borrowed a bike and rode up the street to visit Noel and Ruthy Wright. We had a nice visit out on the pier where Onward tied up in Nov 07 and I got to meet their daughter and her husband. I then took advantage of the courtesy car to do some shopping and stop for a mexican dinner on the way back.
  • Monday. I was up early to remove the old water heater. Thankfully this was easier than I expected. I then took the courtesy car to do some shopping at West and Lowes in preparation for the new installation. In early afternoon the new water heater arrived by FedEx ground. Of course I found out I bought the wrong size pipe adapters this morning so I had to make another run to the hardware store before completing the installation. I tested the new water heater and then celebrated it by taking a long hot shower before turning in.
  • Tuesday. I spent most of the day cleaning up from the water heater job. Noel stopped by and he told me of his exploits as a shrimp boat owner in the early 70’s. At slack tide I moved Onward to the fuel pier to take on diesel and pump out the holding tank. The rain from the remnants of Hurricane Ida began to appear as I finished fueling. I moved Onward up river to the Wright’s pier and just as I finished tying up, the deluge began.

11 Nov 2009; Isle of Hope to
  • The remnants of Ida blew and rained past last night and early this morning. Noel Wright called to say he contacted a local diesel mechanic who will try to come by and look at my genset’s Kubota. My plan was to leave later this morning so that I would have a good tide to get through Hell Gate, about 7 nm S of here.
  • Noel went off to photograph a visiting alligator and later provided this photo. He tried to get it to go back to the marsh and hide but it wouldn’t cooperate so the DNR hauled it off to become alligator shoes as there are too many children around.
  • Noel’s friend stopped by to look at the diesel. We got it started - a problem with air in the high pressure pump that took two pairs of hands to fix. I now have a back-flow valve to install in the fuel line to see if that will prevent the problem.
  • The day got colder as the front stalled and did not move rapidly through. I anchored just after sunset in the Crescent R just off the ICW above Doboy Sound. A cold and windy night that I made better by cooking up a beef and vegetable curry with Tikka Masala Curry sauce- thanks to my training from Carolyn and Andrew Fowley. Delish!

12 Nov 2009; Crescent Ck to St. Marys
  • Onward set off just before sunrise on a day that was heavily overcast and with cold N winds of ~20kts blowing all day. At the Little Mud River, I saw 7.6’ minimum depth at ~3’ above MLW. Later in the day I talked to a Corps of Engineers survey boat who told me the area was dredged 5 years ago. Now there is a problem as it is in an environmentally sensitive area and there is no place to put the dredged material - and no money for the dredging. So it looks like it will need to be above mid tide to get through the area in the future. Jekkyl Ck is still very shallow above the bridge; I saw 6.8’ minimum at ~1.5’ above MLW - another place to avoid at low tide. Further down, where Brickhouse Ck joins the Cumberland River about STM 673, all the marks 60- 64 are not located where the chart says they should be. In any case, I learned my lesson from 2007 and slowly followed the marks. I saw a minimum of 11.5’ at ~ 2’ above MLW just N of the mouth of Brickhouse Ck. This stretch of the ICW is one of the more challenging because of these areas. I anchored at St. Marys about an hour before sunset. After getting the boat settled at anchor, I climbed fully clothed into bed because I had gotten badly chilled. About 3 hrs of a warm nap energized me enough to have dinner. I plan to hang out here tomorrow to recuperate and wait for warmer weather.

13 Nov 2009; St. Marys
  • The day was clear and sunny. After catching up on some computer chores, I took a break and went out into the sunny cockpit to read. Well, I turned into a lizard and just spent the rest of the day soaking up the sun and reading Jeff Shaara’s book on the Revolutionary War, The Glorious Cause.

14 Nov 2009; St. Marys to Cumberland Island
  • Well, I discovered that I still have work to do on my water heater and generator repairs. The plastic 1/2” npt pipe nipples I used have problems with the expansion characteristics of the Aluminum tank so they tend to leak at the threads; I will have to replace them with brass nipples when I next get to a hardware store. The fuel line I replaced on the genset is getting pinched when I close the sound cover so I will have to rerun it when I install the back flow valve. No chance of boredom here.
  • I went ashore and took a nice walk around in the sun, visited the used book store to get some new books, shopped at the farmers market, and had lunch at Seagles. Unfortunately, the famous Cindy was not on duty.
  • I decided to move to Cumberland Island where Moondance was planning to anchor. I arrived to find them at anchor and immediately got an invitation to dinner where I got to meet an adventurous Canadian couple who are on their way to the Bahamas and beyond in a 25’ sailboat. I also got a call from Minden a ketch that was at the Anchorage Marina with me in Baltimore so I stopped by to say hello to Tom and Diane who are also on their way to the Bahamas.

16 Nov 2009; Cumberland I to Pine I
  • I had to anchor just N of the Twin Bridges at Fernandina to wait for the tide to go down enough for me to clear them. The rest of the day was uneventful and I found Moondance at anchor at Pine I. This brought back memories of Dec 2007 when I had also anchored before sunset and the was startled to see Jubilee come in almost at dark and anchor nearby. This was the start of the great cruise we shared in the Bahamas.

17-19 Nov 2009; St. Augustine
  • I was awake early so I took off and traveled slowly so the tide would go down enough for me to clear the fixed bridge above St. Augustine. Moondance had made reservations at the Camache Cove Marina so I decided to anchor nearby so I could try to find bronze pipe fittings for the water heater. The plastic pipe nipples I used for the new installation had too low thermal expansion for the aluminum tank so they would leak a day or so after I would tighten then (this happened 2 times). I found a nice anchorage on the E shore of the river across from the Marina. After a shower, I took the dinghy over to visit Moondance. I found he parts I needed at the marina’s ships store. I then had one of the best lunches I’ve had: blackened Mahi Mahi sandwich with sauteed baby spinich side - Delish!
  • I took the time to work on boat projects and organize stuff. I installed the new bronze pipe fittings - no more leaks. I then installed a back-flow valve on the generator fuel supply line at the generator. I also rerouted the new fuel line I had installed so it cannot get pinched by the enclosure. The result is that the generator now starts quickly as it always had until the beginning of this summer - go figure!

20 Nov 2009; St. Augustine to Rockhouse Ck
  • I weighed anchor at 0615 to make the 0700 opening of the Bridge of Lions. The new bridge should be open when I come through in the Spring. It was a easy journey until I got to Daytona. As I approached the N fixed bridge, I checked my passage notes that showed little tide, height boards of 65', and uneventful clearance on my 2 previous passages.   I was about to go under when I took a closer look at the height board and it said 62'!    I did a quick 180.   I then checked the tide at Ponce de Leon and found it was almost low tide there with the max being <3'.   I was now suffering cognitive dissonance - facts didn't match up as the water marks on structures seemed normal.
  • I called the bridge tender for Main St. Bridge.   She told me that FL had "monkied" with the height boards due to a liability issue but she still sees boats like Onward go through following the centerline arch.
  • Sooo,   I went through at idle forward speed and was careful to follow the centerline of the arches - which is almost 45º to the channel.   The top of my VHF antenna that is about 65.25' cleared without touching!
  • Essentially the same for the next 2 fixed bridges.   All of these are curving cement arches.   The fenders are under the lower parts of the arches and it looks like they now read the clearance at those locations - not the center.
  • What a joy!   On my 2nd bridge, as I threaded Onward through the snaking path to line up with the arches of the two different spans, I was startled to hear a bunch of guys cheering as I cleared the second span.  I turned around and found a large open-cockpit powerboat with 5 guys watching me.   They had quietly stayed on my stern to watch the show and gave me a thumbs-up for entertainment.
  • With some trepidation, I approached the Ponce de Leon inlet where I’ve had problems with shoaling in the past. It is apparent that they have done much dredging as I saw a minimum of 14’ at low tide. I anchored at the mouth of Rockhouse Ck as it was already full of boats and the wind-current was making them pull forward on their anchors. I invited the Moondancers over for dinner to enjoy the grilled sausage they had encouraged me to buy at Bucksport; good advice it was Delish!

21-23 Nov 2009; Rockhouse Ck to Cocoa
  • After dinner last night, we neglected to discuss departure time and I made the assumption that Moondance would not be ready to leave before 0730 - wrong. About 0710, I stuck my head out only to see Moondance gliding by. Well it was a bit of a firedrill but the anchor was up and Onward was underway in < 5 min. I caught up at the bascule bridge. Things went well until we got to Cocoa where I went under the City Point Bridge without much trauma. I had intended to anchor S of the Cocoa Bridge because Moondance was putting into the marina just N of it. I was merrily heading for the center span and I pulled out the binocs to check the height boards. I was startled to see them reading something over 62’. I did an immediate U turn to decide what to do. It was then that I noticed a sailboat anchored just NE of the bridge, Tootsie. I contacted them and found out they too had stopped because of the low bridge clearance readings. I decided to anchor for the night and check into what was going on.
  • I went ashore and joined the Moondancers in a foray to the Dog n Bone Pub where we enjoyed their local version of a Black & Tan.
22 Nov 09; Sunday
  • We spent a nice day wandering around town and finished up with dinner at the Thai restaurant.
23 Nov 09, Monday
  • Toyshop day. After an early breakfast ashore, we were off for a visit to SF Travis Hardware. This is a fantastic place to find arcane and unique tools and hardware. It is great fun to wander its many aisles and building never knowing what gem will show up for Onward’s toy box. I spent time in 2 used books stores and stocked up. We finished the evening with dinner at the local Brazilian steak house which was quite good.
  • I heard from Ron and Ingred that they had also encountered the height boards reporting low clearances when the came through this area earlier this month on High Priority. They safely made the transits so that gave me courage to do so tomorrow.
  • I began to call state and federal offices to see if anyone knew about the problem. None of the USCG stations in the area or USCG district headquarters in Miami were aware of it. Neither was the local US Army Corps of Engineers offices or their PAO in Jacksonville. I finally did get to the local Florida DOT bridge maintenance office where I learned that they had a contractor who maintained the height boards and that there was some vague information that the boards were now reading minimal clearance over the fenders as a result of a lawsuit - but no hard evidence.

24-Nov 2009; Tuesday; Cocoa to Vero Beach
  • Onward and Moondance were underway at 0700. I cleared the bridge safely and took photographs of the height boards and fender boards at both the N & S sides for my records. I did this for all the other fixed bridges I encountered and safely transited today. I now intend to do this for all future fixed bridge transit.
  • At Vero Beach City Marina I was assigned a mooring with a Catalina 42.
  • I spent a lot of time on the phone trying to chase down the bridge height board problem.
  • I also decided to start developing a new website: www.icwcruisersguide.com. I had bought this domain last spring when I bought the www.bahamascruisersguide.com domain. I posted report of Onward’s transits of the fixed bridges from Daytona S.
25 Nov; Wednesday
  • I spent additional time on the phone chasing down the appropriate office to look into the bridge clearance issue. I actually found the USCG office in charge of permitting fixed bridge construction. When I told the man in charge of what I had encountered his response was to agree it was confusing and potentially hazardous and he agreed to start an investigation.
  • I took the bus into town with Skip and Harriet to shop for Thanksgiving. As we were leaving the Publix, a woman who was a cruiser and now lives in Vero Beach, gave us a ride back to the marina. After getting my purchases aboard Onward, I contacted the Enterprise Car Rental office and found they had a special on a car that I could have until Monday - cheaper than just 2 day normally. So I went and picked up the rental car. On my way back to the marina, I decided to swing through the Publix to see if there were any cruisers needing a ride back - only to find Elaine and Rick from Movin’ On, the mooring field hosts at Cambridge last spring. It was great to talk with them and help out at the same time.
  • At Harriet’s suggestion, I put a message out on the SSCA discussion board.
26 Nov; Thursday - Thanksgiving
  • The clouds cleared up in the afternoon to provide a beautiful afternoon for a Thanksgiving dinner. Two admirals from cruising boats organized the event that was held in a city owned recreation and entertainment building nearby the marina. The city provides the large room free - nice. I made Onward Thanksgiving Cranberry Chutney and took Harriet and Skip in via dinghy. As always, the amount and variety of food was amazing. More than a hundred cruisers participated. I particularly enjoyed taking small portions from several variations on a theme - Delish. Needless to say, I did not feel hungry for the rest of the day. A local singer / guitar players provided entertainment on the patio after dinner. It was good to see a number of people I’ve met along the way. However, while everyone was enjoying the entertainment, the impact of being a lone sailor vs part of a pair struck me and with a bit of sadness so I returned to Onward. Tomorrow is another day...
27 Nov; Friday
  • I was able to track down USGS data for water level gages in the Indian River Lagoon. The data confirmed what I expected: water levels are up by about 0.5’ but the reported bridge clearances from the height boards is 1.5’ to 2’ more.
  • It was a beautiful day so Skip and Harriet joined me in the car to explore the area around Vero Beach. We first drove N up to the Wabasso bridge. The area is beautiful and marked by large developments of gated communities and private golf courses. We then went S to the bridge at Ft. Pierce where we crossed to the W shore and went further S for a nice dinner at Conch Joe’s waterside restaurant. Along the way we encountered the Navy Seal Museum and stopped in. It was interesting for me to see how technology has changed so much since WW II - and of course the latest technology we were working on at the lab has not shown up yet - it is still being quietly used.
28 Nov; Saturday
  • Moondance set off to a marina at Ft. Pierce where Skip and Harriet will leave it for a bit to attend Skip’s mom’s birthday.
  • After spending the morning organizing the food I still had aboard and updating my inventory, I made the first big shopping foray and then returned to schlep it out to Onward by dinghy - great fun.
29 Nov; Sunday
  • I spent the morning cleaning and defrosting the frig / freezer and then updating my frozen food inventory. Then it was time for shopping foray 2 and I filled up the car trunk again.
30 Nov; Monday
  • This was the last day for the rental car so it was out early picking up spare parts for the engine and generator, prescriptions, final food items and wine and beer. Of course there was no dock cart available for my largest load yet! I began thinking that it was more fun last year when I did this with Ed and Tina. Just then my phone rang and it was Ed calling to say hello. Neat. I got it all aboard and collapsed for the evening.