Onward’s Cruise Journal 2012
Cruise South on the Atlantic ICW to the Bahamas

Updated: 2 Dec 12

November 2012

1 Nov 12; Thursday; Swansboro

  • Onward and Beckoning departed Beaufort at 0700. As we exited around the S tip of Radio Island, I found that the channel had been changed and it was now necessary to make a very sharp turn N, about 180º degrees to round the tip. When we got to the Atlantic Beach Bridge at 0745, I was astonished to find that the height board read 62.75' and the tide was rising. In my previous ten passes, I had never had a problem with the clearance of this bridge so I was a bit astonished. I also sinned by being complacent and not doing due diligence in checking the tide state. I hadn't realized there was a very high moon tide that morning. We ended up anchoring NE of the bridge off the channel to wait until the tide dropped enough. I was a bit bummed because of my failure to check ahead and because I the Beckonings could have spent the morning at the museum in Beaufort.
  • At 1400 the tide had dropped to ~ 64.5' and we safely made the transit. That didn't leave us much time left in the day to get to a good anchorage. But we made good time and were able to anchor at Swansboro about 20 minutes after sunset when there was still sufficient light.

2 Nov 12; Friday; Wrightsville Beach
  • We were off at first light headed for Wrightsville Beach and a day off.
  • One of the skills one learns in traversing the ICW is to be able to adjust boat speed to arrive at an opening bridge just in time for the opening. This avoids the hazards of trying to keep station in narrow and shoaling channels with strong currents. Late in the morning, Beckoning was following Onward and they had picked up another sailboat that was keeping pace. All went well until the first opening bridge where I had to cut speed so as not to creep up on the bridge too much before opening time. Knowing that there was a hanger-on with us, I made a Securite broadcast on VHF 16 to warn this vessel that I was slowing down due to the shoaling narrow channel and the current. As I was within 0.5 miles of the bridge, I looked over the port stern quarter and saw this boat slowing creeping up; having passed Beckoning they were trying to pass me. I got on VHF 16 and asked the captain why he had not heeded my caution but instead was creeping up to make the area congested and hazardous to us both. I got no reply but the boat dropped back. After passing this bridge, we picked up speed and Beckoning again passed the boat.
  • After passing the opening bridge before the Wrigtesville bridge, it looked like we could just make the next opening by moving near the top end of our speed so I accelerated. After traveling for a bit, Beckoning communicated that they were uncomfortable with this so I cut back speed to delay our arrival an hour until the next opening. After a while, the shadowing boat decided to pass us both again. We still got to the bridge too early due to the current. Keeping station was a problem. I had decided to drop anchor to hold in position. In the 30-seconds it took for me to go below to flip on the windlass circuit breakers, a twist of current caused Onward to drift to the starboard edge of the channel and as I was steering back to port, the keel got caught on a sand wave. It was a mighty struggle that ensued to get off the bar. A passing runabout answered my frantic waves and came over to provide a series of wakes that allowed Onward to power off the bar. I was worn out from the physical effort of executing the "Chesapeake ass wiggle" that enabled the wing keel to break loose.
  • As the bridge began to open, I was busy keeping in the channel and away from a big catamaran that was stopped using its dual engines. Then I looked over my left shoulder to see a big >45' powerboat was passing me to port when there was no space ahead! I asked the captain on VHF 16 if he really needed to be through the bridge < 5 min sooner -- but got no response and he kept on coming. So now I had to dodge him as well as the cat. The bridge finally opened and traffic began to move. I saw the boat that had been shadowing us and then passed us turn into the passage to the anchorage. Two other boats which had been at the bridge as we approached then cleared. Then my friend the powerboat in a hurry went through -- and then STOPPED and turned 90º to starboard right in front of me with no warning. So now I had to back down hard to avoid t-boning him. He eventually cleared out of the channel and I crept by. I alerted the trawler on my stern that I was going to make a slow turn into the anchorage channel. There were two large power boats docked at the marina's pier paralleling the anchorage channel so I carefully scanned around & over them to be sure the way was clear as I started the turn. After completing the turn, I looked up to find the shadowing boat was coming back out!. I went as far to port as safe given the two large power boats docked there --- and then I hit the infamous bump in this channel and stopped. The current started slewing Onwards stern around to starboard which would bring my anchors into contact with the docked powerboats. So I put it into full power astern and hit the thruster to spin the bow to starboard. Then I became aware that the shadow boat had somehow moved aside of me and his bow was coming toward my starboard stern seat. The woman aboard went up to fend off and I helped. Then Onward moved back enough that the other boat's bow was agains my fenders. We were moving apart and Onward was moving off the bar, back into the ICW and away from the moored power boats. And then it happened: The shadow boat's CQR caught my forward starboard gage stanchion and hooked us together. I couldn't stop reversing due to the need to clear the docked boats so Onward ended up towing the other boat until clear of the sandbar. The captain of the other boat eventually was able to release his rode so the CQR could be unhooked. However, by this time, my stanchion was destroyed.
  • After getting clear, I headed to the S entrance channel to the anchorage. I tried to raise the other boat on VHF 16 but could not. I didn't want to leave the impression that I was running away so I called the Coast Guard and reported the incident and that I was headed to the anchorage to find the other boat.
  • Once in the anchorage and anchored, I found that the only damage to Onward was the mangled gate stanchion. I found the name of the shadowing boat from Beckoning. Then I learned from Moondance and Silhouette that it was a couple from EYC whom we met at River Dunes - and I had a boat card for.
  • I was physically, and emotionally spent. Polar Pacer was anchored nearby and Tom and Chris came over to talk and see the aftermath. Tom volunteered to come over in the morning to help me cut out and replace the stanchion.

3 Nov 12; Saturday; Wrightsville Beach
  • As I was about to call the shadow boat, I received a VHF call saying they were anchored nearby and would come over at 0900. Apparently the lid of their anchor locker had gotten some damage from their chain when getting free from Onward. I had spent some time trying to contact the NC Department of Wildlife about the need to make an incident report. Their website is abominable in this regard. After a couple of hours of searching I'd determined that they followed USCG regs in that only incidents where there was personal injuries or death or damage to the vessels of over $2000. required a report to be filed. When Dennis and Vivian came over, I explained this and we agreed to take care of our own vessel's damage.
  • I spent the rest of the morning recovering. I got out my spare gate stanchion and then completed the wiring of the Maxwell AA150 rode counter. Then Tom and Chris came to get me and we headed over to the beach for a picnic. We were joined by the Beckonings and a relaxing afternoon ensued.
  • Tom came over with his electric cutoff saw and in < 5 min we had cut apart the mangled gate stanchion and I had the spare I carry ready to go in. Feeling a bit more normal, I went ashore with the Beckonings to have dinner at the Mexican restaurant. There we met up with the Moondances and the Silhouettes who had arrived in the afternoon.
  • Bob Jones asked me about my experiences at the Carolina Beach Bridge and that along with my experience at the Atlantic Beach Bridge got me checking because I had come to regard this bridge as one that provided no problems. I found we had another very high tide coming up in that morning so the decision was made to depart as close to 0600 as we could to get through before the tide was up too much.
  • Before going to bed, I had to drop the overhead panel over my berth to get to the terminal strip located under the deck on the starboard side there so I could complete the power connection the the rode counter -- a task I'd attempted to do from inside the stern locker but failed. That done, a well-needed sleep ensued.

4 Nov 12; Sunday; Grande Dunes, Myrtle Beach
  • We were underway by 0605. I found that the new rode counter was working! Neat!
  • At Carolina Beach we found the tide approaching high but had no problem clearing the bridge. We had the current with us most of the trip to Southport. Don, Mary-Kay and I had decided to take a look at going outside from Southport to the Little River Inlet. When we got to Southport I was able to get sea conditions from two boats offshore who confirmed the NOAA predictions of wind SE at 15 kts and ~3.5' of wind chop. Given this and the fact we would have high tides in the ICW, there was no benefit to us going offshore. We found no problems at either the Lockwoods Folly or Shallot inlets so the transit of this part of the ICW was easy.
  • We pulled into the Marina at Grande Dunes at 1515 and were quickly settled at our berths. After freshening up we declared cocktail hour and then set off to the Ruths Chris Steakhouse for a wonderful dinner. I got to personally thank the manager who had gotten my Ray-Ban sunglasses mailed back to me after leaving them in the Bar last May.

5 Nov 12; Monday; Grande Dunes, Myrtle Beach
  • The Beckonings and I had a competition for the laundry machines and I had failed to remember that Mary Kay is an early riser so I lost the "contest". Don and I worked together to move our boats over to the fuel pier to fill up and then back to our berths. With laundry done and fueling complete, we decided to go into Barefoot Landing for the afternoon.
  • As I walked over to Beckoning to gather up Mary Kay and Don for the afternoon'n excursion, something seemed amiss -- nothing that I could articulate. When I approached the cockpit I saw Don sitting with his head down. Mary Kay came over and told me he'd just received a phone call that his brother, Bob, had died last night in his sleep. They were very close and Don had talked about how he was looking forward to Bob visiting in the Bahamas. I was stunned. After a bit, Don decided he would feel better if we took a walk. So we walked over to the plaza across the highway and decided to have lunch at the Italian restaurant. There we tried their "wedges" -- these are small loaves of bread that are filled with good things. I had a veal parmigiana and Don had a sausage and peppers. While waiting and eating, I remembered that the thing that had helped me most when I lost my brother was to talk about it. So we had a quiet interlude where we both talked about our brothers. Talking about my brother to Don brought back all the memories and the tears but talking was good for him and for me.
  • To try to get back to a normal life, we did what cruisers do when the encounter a good grocery -- we shop for thing we didn't know we needed. The marina fetched us back with our groceries and a quiet afternoon ensued. The Silhouettes and Moondances came in and spent some time talking with Don.
  • As my last task before calling it a night, I went over to Silhouette and reconnected the actuator arm of the autopilot linear drive to the rudder quadrant arm. Somehow the pin that holds the arm to the pivot pin in the quadrant had fallen out and disappeared. I climbed down into the locker which proved to be a challenge and reinstalled one of the spares I carry. I used a wire tie to hold the ends of the split-pin together so that it could not easily slip off again. This same problem had occurred to Onward in September 2007 as I departed Sandy Hook with Ed Burke aboard. When it happened it came close to steering Onward onto the sandbar but Ed and I managed to get control quickly and once offshore I was able to reconnect the arm without going down in the locker. My good deed for the evening done, I quickly fell asleep once aboard.

6 Nov 12; Tuesday; Georgetown SC
  • Don and Mary Kay decided that it would be better for them to continue on toward Charleston while they worked out whether they would be going to Phoenix.
  • We departed Grande Dunes at 0700 and headed for the Wacamaw River, one of my favorite passages on the ICW. We saw little traffic on the trip and lucked out with no wait when we got to the Sawcaste Bridge.
  • Along the way, Don talked to his nephew and nieces in Phoenix and the decision was that they would come to the Chesapeake in the summer so that they could scatter the ashes in the Bay and have a family memorial. This was in recognition of the wonderful time Bob had experienced with Don aboard his previous boat in the Bay. So the Beckonings decided to continue on with the trip S to the Bahamas for the winter.
  • The trip down the Wacamaw was magical as usual even though we were traveling through the W rain band of the noreaster on its way to wreck more havoc on NY, NJ and New England. At the Layfaette Bridge, another bridge I've never had problems with in the past, we found we'd arrived close to another high tide. I didn't slow down and went though with just about 1 to 1.25' of the VHF hitting the bridge while everything else cleared. When Beckoning went through, its wind speed/direction wand got knocked over as did one of the small antennas on the mast. Bummer.
  • We anchored at Georgetown about 1400 and I splashed the dinghy to take the Beckonings into town. After taking a walking tour of the town, we went into the Rice Museum and started a delightful tour. The docent interrupted Don & Mary Kay so they could go off to a tour of the Kaminsky House. While they toured, I walked around. I got some chicken salad at the Kudzu Bakery for the lunch I'd not had time to eat. I walked outside to eat my salad and had a delightful conversation with a couple who had exited the bakery just before me.
  • Don and Mary Kay finished their tour and then we went back and completed the delightful Rice Museum tour. Then we had dinner at the Krazy Fish a nice restaurant that is in the
  • Once back aboard, I climbed into bed. I didn't have the energy to get the TV on so I could watch the election returns. I followed the results as they came in until ~2230 when I went to sleep. By that time, while the results were partial, it was clear that the potential for reverting to the people and policies of the 2000-2008 era was unlikely. I woke up about 2330 and checked in. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that the election had been called for President Obama. I slept the rest of the night in peace.

7 Nov 12; Wednesday; Charleston
  • We weighed anchor at 0700 and headed S. The tide and currents remained in our favor all the way. We arrived at the Isle of Palms bridge at 1230 almost at high tide and again had a clearance challenge. The height boars read just nearly 64'. Onward crept through and the VHF verified the clearance as > 1' of it got bent over by the bridge. We had plenty of water approaching the infamous Ben Sawyer bridge - an unusual occurrence but the depths show that an approach at low tide will be problematic.
  • The Charleston City Marina had been full when I called for reservations on Monday so we decided to go into the Charleston Harbor Marina & Resort across the Revell Bridge from the city. This was my first transit of the E channel to the Cooper River. A big container ship that I'd though was at the pier turned out to have just gotten underway so I cut speed to allow it to exit the narrow channel before I attempted to proceed. There was a fairly strong outflowing current but the marina arranged for us to go into slips so our bows would be into the flow. I found the docking and managing of the current much easier than at the Megadock.
  • I've again started being plagued with chest congestion / bronchitis. My body simply does not like temperatures < 75º !
  • We settled in then checked in and finally cocktailed in. Then we went up to the resort hotel restaurant where we had a very nice dinner. The only issue was the cold -- I really don't need that anymore. With the salon HVAC needing a refrigerant recharge, it promised to be a cold night -- so I hopped into bed immediately after getting aboard and was nice and toasty.

8 Nov 12; Thursday; Charleston
  • I got up late: 0700. I found the salon to be cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey (a reference to cannon balls here folks). I decided to try to switch the working water circulation pump from the non-working HVAC to the one in the aft cabin whose circulation pump has died. It was too cold to get the hoses off the fittings and I couldn't remember where I'd put the hose splicing fittings. So I gave up and wrapped up.
  • A look at the top of Beckoning's mast with binoculars indicated that part of the wind transducer had been destroyed when the wand was knocked aside. Don ordered a new unit which is to be delivered on Friday.
  • We took the trolly from the resort into downtown. A very nice service! We took a 2-hr Gray Line sightseeing tour and then did a house tour. Living life as a wealthy cotton / rice planter was quite nice -- but built on the backs of slaves, it collapsed after the Civil War. Then it was off to lunch at Justine's Kitchen where we had some southern comfort food. A walking tour of the market and then the waterfront areas followed. I found some neat things to buy for Elena. As we waited for the trolly back, they left me to wait in front of "The Peanut Store" needless to say, I was soon drawn in and purchasing more nuts. Delish.
  • A long day with lots of walking and the lack of a working HVAC system let me to an early bedtime to stay warm.

9 Nov 12; Friday; Charleston
  • As soon as I'd eaten breakfast, I found the hose spacers; then I rerouted the water hoses and rewired the HVAC water circulation pump to service the MSR unit. Heat! Blissful heat! Now I was warm enough to try to update this journal.
  • In late morning we took a cab to the West Marine store W of the Ashley. There, Don was disappointed to learn that the replacement for the wind transducer would not be in today as he expected so he arranged for it to be sent on to Isle of Hope. We then did some grocery shopping at the Harris Teeter before heading back to the Marina. The afternoon turned cold and our driver warned us of the Friday night crowds that we should expect in Charleston if we went there for dinner. So, we whimper out and went back to the resort dining room where we had another delightful dinner.

10 Nov 12; Saturday; Charleston to Beaufort
  • The sun was out and it was a bit warmer as we departed the marina at 0815. I did not have much familiarity with the Cooper River and its intersection with the Ashley at the "Battery" at tip of Charleston so I'd had some dreams about this. I find that when I am about to take Onward somewhere that I've not done a lot of homework on I tend to have dreams about it the night before as my brain sorts out what the important things are I should look out for and plan around. Well, when I got up this AM and looked at the Navionics charts on the iPad, it was clear my apprehension was unfounded as the transit was easy -- but a bit of apprehension is good to keep the navigator on his toes.
  • We made the 0930 opening of the Wahoo bridge and had good tide and current with us all day. We passed through the Ladies Island pivot bridge just a few minutes after sunset. We anchored off the town pier and settled in. Don wanted to change the engine fuel filter so we each had a quite night aboard.

11 Nov 12; Sunday; Beaufort to Isle of Hope
  • The decision of the morning was to press on to Isle of Hope and save a visit to Beaufort for the return trip N. It was an uneventful trip until we were within 4 miles of Elliot cut. At G39, the channel narrowed with a sand bar building to starboard. Beckoning wandered off course to starboard and grounded hard. I had been unaware of this until I got a VHF call. I turned around and started back while Don attempted to back off. Well, that didn't happen so I anchored Onward and launched my tug, Venture, to go help. Even with Venture pushing, we couldn't get free of the sand bar. I flagged down a large powerboat heading S to ask them to make a big wake as they passed. The owner and crew were German who spoke a little English and I spoke a (very) little German so we managed to communicate. I warned them of the sand bar and the need to go close to G39. They came by and threw up a good wake -- but it still wasn't enough to break Beckoning free in the falling tide.
  • Then, I became aware that Bella Dona was not moving so I went over to check this out and found out they had slowed down to observe the effect of their wake and had gotten the stern caught on the sand bar. I tried pushing them off with Venture but to no avail. I then took their bow anchor and carried it out across the channel and set it. They were able to use it to bring the bow about. Then with a little help from Venture pushing on the stern, their prop got free enough that they could use the engines. I felt very relieved to see them move on their way.
  • A couple came by in a ~30' SeaRay and volunteered to tow Beckoning off. It took a good number of tries but the captain was persistent and finally with them pulling, Beckoning's engine, and Venture pushing it broke free. I returned and put up Venture and started again on our way. We arrived at Elliot Cut just after low tide and at the N end the shoal has moved E so it is necessary to hug E side. I didn't and grounded. I was able to back off only to ground for a brief moment a but further on. At the entrance to the Savannah River, I hugged the W shore and had no problem with the shoal I'd previously encountered off the pier on the E shore.
  • The rest of the transit was uneventful and we arrived at the Isle of Hope Marina about 1530 and easily docked by doing a 180º into the current. Once we were settled, I had a much needed cocktail and then, a bit more relaxed and mellowed, I had a great shower. Donna Marino, a women who I met through Nancy and Ed because she has a cottage on Nantucket, also has a home in Isle of Hope. She invited us over for cocktails and light fare and came over to pick us up and took us to her nearby home. We had a delightful evening. We had a light dinner she whipped up and which I am going to steal for use aboard Onward: chances of potato, yam, onions, and chicken baked together on a cookie sheet with spices. Yum!

12 Nov 12; Monday; Isle of Hope
  • We picked up an Enterprise rental car and headed into Savannah for the day. We first drove around a bit and saw a number of the lovely squares. Then we headed over to the Visitors Center to park and get some suggestions. We then walked over to Russell Square to take a walking tour. Along the way we had a bit of lunch. As the tour started, I suddenly realized the tour guide was the same one I'd take a tour from on a previous visit. We had subsequently corresponded about Nathaniel Greene. We both enjoyed seeing each other again. As before, the walk though a number of Savannah's lovely squares was wonderful. Perhaps the next time I come I will just plan to walk them all.
  • When the tour was done, Don and Mary Kay dragged me to the infamous Leopold's Ice Cream Parlor where a chocolate sundae jumped out of the cooler and forced me to eat it. This was my first substantial amount of ice cream in more than 15 months. It was a superb experience.
  • We headed back to Isle of Hope and stopped to do some shopping at the Sams Club. That done, we stopped at the local Sandfly Barbecue and had beef brisket and pulled pork. Delish.

13 Nov 12; Tuesday; Isle of Hope
  • We drove to West Marine where Don picked up his new wind transducer and made arrangements for a rigger to come tomorrow morning to install it. Next, I did my grandfatherly duty and went to the Post Office to mail Christmas presents to Elena. Include was the original art work I purchased in Oriental to start her art collection.
  • In Savannah, we visited the Heritage Museum at Mercer Academy. This old school building is still owned by Savannah's Department of Education and it is used to teach local students about their heritage. A scale model of the historical district is used with a laser light show to review the founding and development of the area. The museum also has one of the best presentations I've seen on the various styles of architecture with many examples of each that can be seen in the historic district.
  • Then it was on to the new art museum of SCAD. This renown art school had a central role in the revitalization of the Savannah historic district. Everything that I have seen associated with SCAD is impressive for quality of work and attention to detail. The new museum, recreated from the ruins of an old railroad freight warehouse was wonderful. One of the exhibits was "The Little Black Dress" where examples of the work of many world renown designers were shown -- a very impressive display. It was interesting that Mary Kay and I came up with a similar list of our favorites. Although I must admit that one dress whose top was only a very sheer mesh I found to be much more "interesting" than Mary Kay did -- it's a guy thing.
  • We returned to the visitors center just before it closed and were given a free viewing of the historical video and a quick look at the museum. A stop at The Distillery allowed us to rest for a bit and enjoy a beer while we waited for the traffic to thin.
  • We returned to Isle of Hope and picked up Donna before driving out to Tybee Island for a seafood dinner. The trip in the dark and rain deprived us of what must be a very interesting drive as Rt 80 makes its way over many bridges to the seaside colony. In the dark, the area looked like an American Standard

14 Nov 12; Wednesday; Isle of Hope
  • A passing boat's wake during the night must have pulled Onward's power cable out of the dock pylon just enough to knock out the AC. Thus I awoke to a cold boat as the temperature dropped last night while we were at dinner and it was heavily overcast and bitter cold this morning.
  • The riggers arrived to work on Beckoning's masthead. He is the father of one of the young men working at the local West Marine who also came along to assist for awhile. It was cold with the N wind blowing and the rigger was up at the top of the mast for a couple of hours installing the new wind transducer wand and remounting the antenna that had gotten knocked over. It turns out the two antennas mounted up there are 18" high. This gives a "hard" air draft of 64.5' and accounts for why Onward made it under the Layfaette Bridge unscathed.
  • While the masthead work was going on, I was McGyvering. Just before I was able to use it in Baltimore, the dock water inlet (Jabsco) blew apart -- the third of this model to fail in this way. In Charleston I'd bought a different model but as it required enlarging the through-put hole from 3" to 3.25" diameter, I was loath to install it. Here in Savannah, I'd found an all-metal unit and decided to use it. It had a flange diameter or 2" so I needed to make a mounting plate to hold it and cover the existing 3" diameter hole. I went into my McGyver stores and found a sheet of 3/32" polished stainless steel and set about cutting a 4" square mounting plate with my dremmel metal saw. This worked well but it went slowly.
  • We spent the early afternoon touring Wormsloe, the plantation estate that forms the S half of Isle of Hope. In the many times I'd visited here, I had driven by the gateway of the estate, now a Georgia historical park, and had not realized what it was. Thanks in part to our historical tours in Savannah, we learned of Nobel Jones a member of the first group of settlers of Savannah who had begun the establishment of a plantation here. The property remained in the hands of descendants until the 1970s when all but some land around the manor house were donated to Georgia to create the historical park. The avenue of live oaks is the longest in existence. Even without the sun it was a pleasant experience.
  • Then it was off to Walmart to do some major shopping. Once all the food was loaded aboard, I was beat.

15 Nov 12; Thursday; Isle of Hope
  • I called Donna who had invited us to dinner this evening at her house and asked her to come to dinner aboard Onward instead so she could see the boat and get a better idea of life while cruising. She had been joining that since she had not seen Onward and Beckoning she was beginning to think we had arrived at Isle of Hope on Harleys. I then received an email from Bill Kimbell saying he and Kiran were driving S to their new winter home in FL and might be nearby in the evening. So I invited them to try to come to dinner. Later I realized they needed a place to stay and had been guests aboard Onward in the past so I invited them to stay aboard.
  • We did the obligatory stop at the local hardware store and then turned in the rental car -- a Chrysler 300 that I really enjoyed driving. Once back at the boat I continued with the fabrication of the mounting plate for the new dock water inlet. I needed to cut a 1" diameter hole in the SS mounting sheet I'd cut out yesterday. Since I didn't have a suitable punch or drill bit and was not able to find one at the hardware store, I used the dremmel metal saw to cut a square hole which proved to be just fine. I then installed the new unit. Very nice to have a robust water inlet.
  • Donna came and fetched me so I could put her bike basket back in operation so she could again take her small dog for bike rides. We then returned to Onward in time for me to start making pasta sauce based on my sister's recipe. Don and Mary Kay soon joined us for cocktails. Not long thereafter, Kiran and Bill arrived. A rousing good cocktail hour ensued where I got lots of supervision as I completed making the past dinner. Mary Kay added a fresh salad and I baked a loaf of fresh bread that she had made. Needless to say, Donna got good insights into the good social life that cruising can offer. Bill pointed out that one "problem" was that these great times sometimes occurred nightly! Donna had plans to head N to NY to spend Thanksgiving with family. I thanked her for her hospitality and promised to plan to visit her on Nantucket.

16 Nov 12; Friday; Isle of Hope to North River
  • Kiran and Bill wanted to get an early start on the final leg of their journey to Florida so they were up not long after I got going. I fixed them an "Onward Omelet" breakfast and helped them on their way to their new winter home on Longboat Key. Then I got the Steward roused to complete the cleanup from last night's affair.
  • The missing day: When we came in the marina informed us that if we were to stay 3 nights instead of our originally intended 2, the 4th night would be free. So when the masthead work on Beckoning had to be scheduled for Thursday, we figured we'd do the 4-day stay. Then this morning as we prepared to depart, the marina reminded us we had actually been here 5 nights. Somehow neither Mary Kay, Don, or I could recall spending the 5 nights so it must have slipped in from a parallel universe -- something that happens regularly to cruisers.
  • We were underway at 0900 with a high but still rising tide. The new fixed bridge at Skidaway Narrows is almost complete: final decking of the main span is in progress so it should be open next year. The drawbridge operator told me he expects to still be there when I return in the Spring.
  • I received an email from Jim Hamrick who I spent time in the Bahamas with in 2010. He had checked the website and saw Onward was heading toward Brunswick and he invited us get together when we go to the area. I agreed to try to do that as our previous attempts at a reunion had been foiled by various problems -- last year it was my need to get to Amelia I to replace my damaged windlass.
  • The appearance of the sun as we departed proved to be short lived. So we traveled the rest of the day in overcast with occasional drizzle. We had plenty of water to get through Hell Gate. I got to enjoy again some of the pasta I'd made for dinner last night. The day was uneventful but chilly. We anchored for the night in the North River just off the ICW. The new rode counter is great as there is no more guess work in setting or retrieving the anchor. The wind had been picking up from the N all day and was blowing steadily at > 15 kts. Mary Kay and I agreed that it would be very hard to convince an inexperienced person of the charms of the cruising lifestyle with a day like today as an early experience.
  • Once settled, I warmed up some of the most recent beef stew I'd made and had a nice comfort meal. Not long after, I climbed into the nice warm bed and read for a bit before sleep.

17 Nov 12; Saturday; North River to Jekyll Island
  • The GWF was off at 0715. With the rising tide, we had no problem transiting the infamous Little Mud River. As we approached the Lanier Island bridge near Brunswick, it became apparent we might have problems with the bridge clearance. In spite of the still-rising tide, there was a strong outflowing current. As Onward approached at ~ 1000, a sailing vessel came down out of the Frederica River. They called on VHF and asked if I wanted to go through the bridge first but I declined. There were no height boards visible on the N side of the bridge and the water level covered all but 2 fender boards. My notes said 4 fender boards should be visible for a good clearance. So I stopped and turned around as the other vessel went through. They later called back to report that the height boards on the S side red 62'. I thanked Ciao for their kindness in calling back as I moved up into the mouth of the Frederica River and anchored.
  • At about 1400, a southbound power vessel responded to my request and reported the height board read over 64'. Due to the amount of water flow, I guess, the water level where we were anchored hadn't dropped that much. We weighed anchor and had >65.25' clearance. The bridge behind us it was then a sprint to get through Jekyll Creek before the tide dropped too much. In running to catch up with Onward, Beckoning experienced some high cooling temperature alarms. Don later found that his coolant level was too low. Mary Kay had made reservations for us at the Jekyll Harbor Marina. The nicely put Onward at the very S end of the finger pier but then Beckoning had to slip in between two other vessels and just fit. I was able to get up there and aboard Beckoning to help fend off the stern to make the landing.
  • I spoke with Jim Hamrick and he and Leslie said they would make dinner reservations at the Lattitude 31 restaurant before driving over for cocktail hour aboard Onward. This gave me a bit of time to straighten up Onward and clean up the Captain.
  • Jim & Leslie arrived along with Don & Mary Kay. A great cocktail hour ensued. I got to catch up on things with the Hamricks since we were last together just before departing the Bahamas together in March 2010. Too soon it was time to head for the restaurant located on the pier at the Jekyll Island Club. There I encountered an amazing menu -- I couldn't find one item that I wouldn't enjoy trying! After a good deal of decision making struggle, I opted for the blackened red fish -- Norleans style -- in memory of great dinners there with this dish. The shrimp and grits was recommended by Jim but I decided that my son-in-law makes the best so no use trying to compare. I was rewarded in my choice and we all enjoyed a wonderful dinner. We took a walking tour through the public rooms of the Jekyll Island Club and then retired to the Pub for an after-dinner drink. There we found two women friends who had brought along their guitar and mandolin for a musical reunion so we got to be entertained as well. Jim & Leslie deposited us back at the marina before heading home. Having basked in the sunshine and pleasure of cruising friendships I enjoyed a sound night's sleep.

18 Nov 12; Sunday; Jekyll Island to Cumberland Island
  • There was a peek-through of the sun in the morning so we decided to go to the Jekyll Island Club for breakfast. We checked out bikes from the marina office and headed N. Along the way the sun began to appear a bit more. At the Club we had a great breakfast in the beautifully decorated grand dining room. It was easy to be able to envision what it was like in the late 1800's when 40% of Americas wealth was often in attendance here.
  • By the end of breakfast, the sun was out and we were able to take a very pleasant bike tour of the Historic District. The state of Georgia bought the entire island in the 1970s and has been restoring the historic "cottages" to the point where there is now an outstanding exhibit in an amazing environment of lawns and live oaks. Beautiful.
  • We departed the marina at 1200 and were on our way S. The sky had cleared and the sun made the rolly traverse out into St. Andrews Sound less formidable. Luckily, the pesky low that had been plaguing us decided to move NE enough that the wind was down to ~ 10 kts. It was still rolly though. Just after making the turn back in to start the traverse around Cumberland Island, a large go-fast motor yacht just had to come tearing by. I just happened to glance over my shoulder to see the huge wake it through up on top of the large rollers so I was able to mitigate the effects -- but there was still a lot of stuff bouncing around below. The rest of the journey was easy and uneventful. It was also blessed by the sun which soon warmed up the cockpit to the point where I was at last able to sail in shorts and T again.
  • By the time Onward was passing the Kings Bay sub base, I was so tired that I almost fell asleep. A short time later Onward headed N up the W coast of Cumberland Island to anchor N of the park wharf. Once settled, I immediately lay down and fell asleep in the waning sunshine. I have still not been able to shake my chest congestion and today felt very tired so it was an early night.

19 Nov 12; Monday; Cumberland Island to Amelia Island
  • The wind picked up during the night -- not a good omen for the coming day's weather. Dawn proved this true with the beautiful crystal clear skies of yesterday afternoon being replaced by heavy overcast and continued wind. A look at the synoptic weather charts showed our nemesis, that pesky low pressure system that had been hanging off the coast of GA, moved NE yesterday allowing the clear sunny skies to move in. During the night it retrograded to the SW bringing back the overcast and cold. BAAAAH!
  • Our plans to go ashore at 1000 to visit the historical ruins were trashed when we looked at the way the cold wind was whipping up the chop and the promise of rain. So we decided to just move on at 1200 to Amelia Island where Wally Savory has invited us to dinner this evening.
  • We arrived at the Oyster Bay Yacht Club at 1315 at the end of the rising tide. There was a strong current running in toward the T-head backed by the wind which had piped up to over 10 kts. That made docking a challenge but we managed to get both boats settled after only a bit of trauma.
  • Wally came out to fetch us and whisked us off on a short tour of Fernandina before heading back to the Southern Savory Estate where we had a fine evening sipping drinks, cooking dinner, eating a delicious steak dinner, and sipping wine. A very comfortable and pleasant evening of camaraderie.

20 Nov 12; Tuesday; Amelia Island
  • Our plan was to head S to St. Augustine at 0900. However Sally Buck who we had been engaged with family last night which prevented her joining us for dinner called to invite us to her house for dinner. This proved to be an offer too good to pass up so we decided to stay another day.
  • Don and I managed to do a bit of engine service by toping up oil and coolant levels. At 1130, Wally fetched us and turned his nice brand-new Accord over to us at his house so we could sightsee and run errands. We went into Fernandina Beach and parked. A short walking tour led us to a good lunch. Then we ended up doing some shopping on the way back to the car. I found a Christmas store and went in and found an owl Christmas tree ornament for Elena. I established a new tradition of buying a Christmas tree ornament for Elena each year so they will have a set to grow up with. A bit farther on, I stopped in a book store -- ebooks haven't made these any less attractive to me. As I walked in the door I saw a book that I had just read a review of and decided I wanted: Cook's The Science of Good Cooking -- by the folks from Cook's Illustrated magazine. It covers 50 basic concepts / practices in cooking and delves into the chemistry of each to explain why & how they work. So, I had to have it. Mary Kay found a book on owls that I had to buy to send to Elena too. I found yet another owl tree ornament and added it to the pile that I took to the Post Office. There I had to wait for the single operator to finish lunch hour before I could priority mail my gifts to LA.
  • We then drove S to get a look at the more upscale end of Amelia Island. On the way back we stopped at a Harris-Teeter to do some food shopping. Once the groceries were back at the boats and the crews were cleaned up, we fetched Wally and headed off to Sally's home. This is in a "neighborhood" development where everyone has a front porch overlooking the sidewalk. Once in side, the house was huge it just kept going on and on. We found Sally and her daughter Emily in the kitchen Wally had been extolling. We also met Sally's brother Paul and his wife who were visiting from Ohio. Emily had spent the afternoon baking an amazing apple tart and I got to see the final stages of preparation.
  • An fantastic cocktail hour morphed into a more fantastic dinner that was capped by the apple tart. Delish! After dinner, there was a small presentation ceremony where I gave Wally some fresh garlic cloves and a bottle of garlic powder for his kitchen. Now, his kitchen is no longer unique in my experience: garlicless! I showed Sally my new cookbook and she showed me a new cookbook that she and Emily have found so delightful that they are cooking their way from cover to cover. After a comfortable period of after dinner talk, Cruisers Midnight began to take its toll so Wally was able to deposit us back at the Yacht Club.

21 Nov 12; Wednesday; Amelia Island to St. Augustine
  • We were greeted with a sunny morning. After taking on water we departed OBYC at 0800 and headed S. The tide was low so the passage by the twin bridges was uneventful. This stretch S to Nassau Sound had been a trial in the spring as Onward hit it on a low falling tide. The rising tide and insights gained on the trip N resulted in a painless transit. We made excellent time and arrived at the Bridge of Lions in time for the 1600 opening. At the Usina Bridge, the rising tide left us with just 64.5' on the height boards and we transited with just the VHF flexing over. We picked up moorings from the Municipal Marina. It was a long day so a quiet evening aboard was in order.

22 Nov 12; Thursday; Thanksgiving Day; St. Augustine
  • Another sunny morning! Wonderful - even if it is a bit cool and windy. Mary Kay did some research and made Thanksgiving dinner reservations at 95 Cordova, a restaurant in on of the period hotels just off the waterfront. As the morning progressed and so did the wind. Soon it was blowing a steady 25 kts from the NE -- not good weather to dinghy ashore. So we took the marina shuttle in at noon and did a bit of walking and exploring before going to our 1300 dinner reservation.
  • 95 Cordova put on an amazing Thanksgiving buffet in a room that was close to 100' on a side -- which held only the buffet tables. These included tables for: antipasto and salads; lox, snow crabs, shrimp, oysters; fruits; crepes and pancakes; omelets; pumping crab bisque; vegetables, turkey, roast beef, and traditional thanksgiving sides; and, at the center, a huge desert table. There are not many buffets that can best me -- in fact, I can't think of another -- but this one did and I never visited the two breakfast / brunch tables. A tremendous variety with excellent quality and taste -- all topped off with champagne. Needless to say, a good time was had by the three of us.
  • After dinner, we walked around. One of the first stops was Flagler College which occupies the Ponce de Leon hotel that Henry Flagler built in the 1880s at the start of his hotel & railroad building enterprise (having already helped build Standard Oil with Rockefeller). They were hosting Thanksgiving dinner for faculty, staff and guests so the amazing dining room was not open to tourists. Mary Kay did manage to find a side door that allowed us to peek in and see the splendor. Even with only the limited view I was able to see, I decided this was the most beautiful grand room I had ever seen in my travels. Neat!
  • We did a bit more walking to see several more of the spanish-style poured concrete buildings in the area. The building technique was resurrected (having been used in the Roman and US colonial eras) by a wealthy Boston businessman who was an amateur architect. Flagler, his NY architects, and his St. Augustine contractors then used it to build several hotels and churches.
  • We caught the 1730 shuttle back to the boats. I spent the rest of the evening reading an iBooks mystery that I'd bought for $3 and found to be very good.

23 Nov 12; Friday; St Augustine
  • I slept very late for me: 0815. The morning was clear and sunny but temperatures in the salon were only mid 50s. Around 0930 Don called to say the good times yesterday had caught up with Mary Kay in the form of a migraine. I remember well how my mother had been periodically debilitated with these. That woke me up and I remembered I needed to change my boat insurance coverage to include S Florida and the Bahamas; I got that done immediately. I spoke with Bob Jones who was underway from Jekyll I to Amelia I and plans to catch up with us tomorrow. I also talked with Skip Hardy again and learned that the infection in his hand was still not under control yet.

24 Nov 12; Saturday; St Augustine
  • I was up early and ashore at 0830 to be able to do laundry. While the clothes were drying I took a short walk back to near where we at dinner on Thursday and found a barbershop. With a new haircut, I returned to fold nice clean dry clothes and head back to Onward. Once aboard, I was done in. I went to bed and slept almost straight through to 6 AM.

25 Nov 12; Sunday; St Augustine
  • I was feeling well enough to go ashore at noon to take a tour of Flager College in the former Ponce de Leon hotel. What a beautiful building. The college has done a good job of refurbishing it and maintaining it. Built it less than 2 years in the 1880s, it is an amazing structure. LC Tiffany did the interior design and his stained glass is everywhere - a treasure. We got to do a close-up tour of the gorgeous dining room. Neat.
  • By late afternoon I was fading again. We stopped by Silhouette at its slip in the city marina and then I went back to Onward to rest a bit. Ed Burke and his friend Joe Devirgilio arrived at 1930 and I went in to get them. We stopped for a light dinner at the brew pub at the corner where I'd watched Don & Mary Kay eat a couple of hours earlier. Sated we headed back to Onward where I got Ed settled in the guest berth and Joe in the salon. Then I again crashed.

26 Nov 12; Monday; St Augustine to Daytona
  • The plan was to head S at 0800. I cooked Ed and Joe Onward omelets and then Ed took Joe ashore to continue his drive to Venice FL. The Great White Fleet got moving at 0815.
  • Onward and Silhouette continued on down the ICW and had the usual tight fits under the bridges. We anchored off the E shore just S of Memorial Bridge.
  • Just before sunset Beckoning arrived and rafted to Onward. In spite of their travails with the bridges, Don and Mary Kay had managed to cook a pork roast and vegetables for dinner. So we all gathered aboard Beckoning to drink away our bridge sorrows and partake of a delicious meal. Then I crashed.

27 Nov 12; Tuesday; Daytona to Cocoa
  • Anchors aweigh at 0700. As we departed the anchorage by the way we came in, Beckoning wandered a bit closer to the bridge than Onward and grounded. Don couldn't back off but was able to power forward and get free. What a nice way to start the morning!

28 Nov 12; Wednesday; Cocoa to Vero Beach
  • The GWF decided not to go ashore this morning so anchors aweigh at 0800. This area of the ICW is often called a lagoon because it is a minimally tidal area because ocean inlets are far away (Ponce de Leon to the N and Sebastian to the S). Somehow the US Army Corps of Engineers allowed the State of Florida to build the fixed bridges from Daytona to Wabasso to a low vertical clearance standard. On top of that
  • I talked to Skip today in the hospital and found him in good spirits with his hand responding well to the intravenous antibiotics.

29 Nov 12; Thursday; Vero Beach
  • Ed and I went to pick up a rental car at Enterprise and I ended up with a Dodge SUV due to the need to carry 6 people - a nice car. I immediately went to the CVS to pick up the antihistamines and decongestant the doctor had suggested. Then I headed back to Onward to get some internet purchases made and to nap.
  • At 1300 the crews of the Great White Fleet went off to my favorite deli in the area: Two J's. I had a cup of penicillin and a great sandwich.

30 Nov 12; Friday; Vero Beach

  • A warm and sunny day. Nice!
  • One of the first tasks after breakfast was to get to the generator and start it with power from the forward battery bank. On the trip down the ICW, the alternator provides more than enough power. If I forget to start the generator every 2-3 day, an air bubble or such seems to develop in the fuel supply line in spite of a back flow valve and makes it hard to start. I had worn down the small dedicated starting battery trying to start it the last few days.
  • The generator started immediately -- without having to bleed the injectors! Then I noticed a whiff of exhaust and saw some water appear under the exhaust manifold. I looked closely at the exhaust elbow and found it had eroded a small hole at just the same place it had in Dec 2008! I had been getting whiffs of exhaust the last few times I'd run the genset so I had planned to purchase a spare exhaust elbow before crossing to the Bahamas. I immediately called Ace Marine Diesel and asked them to order in a replacement. As both Beckoning and Silhouette have the same Fischer-Panda Mini 8 generators, Bob and Don asked me to order a spare for them also.
  • In the afternoon the GWF crews headed S to Ft. Pierce to pick up a new pump for Silhouette. We stopped to have a nice lunch at a waterfront restaurant. Then headed off to the Roy's Liquors to stock up and get more of the plastic net bottle protectors that are so nice for storing wine and booze onboard. Then it was off to West to get Bob's pump and a lot of other stuff. Next it was time to introduce folks to the Marine Connection - the huge source of marine equipment from salvage and buy-outs. The draw here is the huge selection and wide variety of components that are hard to find anywhere else. That done, we stopped at a auto parts store for a new diesel fuel pump for Beckoning's genset.
  • By the time we were onboard Onward, I was a bit beat. But we warmed up some rotisserie chicken and wild rice. Simple but good! Then I crashed.