Onward’s Cruise Journal 2010
Cruise South to the Bahamas

November 2010

1 Nov 10; Monday; Coinjock to Pungo R.

  • Onward and Lady of Lorien made a departure from Coinjock Marina soon after 0700. it was a bit of a challenge for Onward as the inside boat with 2 powerboats rafted forward and another behind with little space. The owner of the forward outside boat kindly cast off to make clearance. Then, with the wind and current moving from the stern, I took Mike William's advice about a "ferry glide". The owner of the vessel at my bow manned my bow line to keep me from moving forward. The wind and current then swung the stern out and I neatly backed away into the stream.
  • We made good time across Albemarle Sound with the NE wind and reasonably behaved seas. Again the entrance to the Alligator River following the marks and the waypoints I created last year past Long Point Shoal was pleasantly uneventful. The Alligator River - Pungo River Canal was no problem and Onward cleared the Fairfield Bridge and the infamous Wilkerson Bridge without more than flicking the VHF antenna tip.
  • On the approach, I heard radio chatter between Mojo and Encore, two Corinthian boats from the Annapolis Fleet who had departed the Annapolis area a few days before Onward. I was able to talk to Julian Bigden of Mojo and Mike Upton of Encore by VHF who were an hour or two ahead of Onward.
  • Onward anchored for the night in the Pungo R just NW of the canal exit. I later learned that Mojo and Encore had also been anchored there but I hadn't seen them in the twilight.
  • I was pleased to talk to daughter Laura and hear that the family got all moved into their new home in LA today. Now two more children to get settled...

2 Nov 10; Tuesday; Pungo R. to River Dunes on Broad Ck.
  • A leisurely 0730 departure put us ahead of most of the fleet of S bound books; however it was a rather impressive line of boats ahead and astern - more than 25 that I could see stretched out in a line.
  • Just S of the Hoebucken Bridge we were passed by a tug pushing a barge that regularly plies this route. We took the W side of the canal and just after passing the barge, Onward moved back to the center but Lady of Lorien didn't move quite as much but still looked to be well in the channel. All of a sudden I noticed Lady wasn't moving and I slowed and moved to the E. Mike said he'd grounded on something firm but was easily able to back off. Later as we exited the canal, we encountered a Catalina 440, Andiamo that had wandered just off the channel to the W and grounded. He too was able to back off with a bit of effort.
  • The trip across the mouth of the Neuse R / Pamlico Sound was like being in a tumble drier with the winds from the NE and the long shallow fetch of the Sound to build the discomfort level. We turned off into Broad Ck which is just E of Oriental and put into River Dunes Club. This is a place several cruisers had told me about. Last year I intended to stop but couldn't locate it on a chart. As it turns out, it isn't on the charts because it was so recently developed - a 26-acre basin dug out of dry land for this housing and recreational development. This year, I saw their booth at the Annapolis Boat Show and talked to the lovely woman who showed me where it was located. I was then able to find it on Google Maps - but not on NOAA charts. It was disconcerting to sail Onward across a lot of dry land on my Navionics charts and to have it at a pier on dry land!
  • Just as I was pulling up to the T-head, a gust from hell started sailing me forward but with help from folks on the pier I was able to make an "arrival". Four boats from the Chesapeake Bay Catalina Yacht Club followed Onward and Lady of Lorien in. I was also met by other Catalina owners, Connie and her husband, whom I'd met in SailRite's Annapolis store last year - another example of the small world cruising is.
  • River Dunes is a lovely facility, beautifully laid out and built with class and attention to detail. The harbormaster, JC, had spent years in the Chesapeake at Knapps Narrows and Oxford. In the evening, the Club hosts a family-style dinner in the evening where 13 of us had a great dinner and social hour together. Neat.
  • When I got back aboard, my phone rang - it was a call from Jim Hamrick of Just Limin a Catalina that I spent a great time with last Spring in the Bahamas. He called to say he was following Onward's progress and he invited me to stop to see him and Leslie when I got in the Brunswick area. I will definitely try to do this.

3 Nov 10; Wednesday; River Dunes
  • This morning I baked some almond biscotti. I then got an email from Denise Gill, a Corinthian from the Annapolis Fleet, telling me of friends on Silver Girl from the West R that I might encounter. As it turns out, we had encountered each other yesterday morning and chatted on VHF. Again the small loop gets closed.
  • I spent the day doing miscellaneous tasks and then was surprised that it was dinner time. We had another family style dinner at the River Dunes Club and met more interesting people.

4 Nov 10; Thursday;
  • Weather forecasts were for heavy rains that Lady of Lorien finds unpleasant to navigate in so we elected to spend another day. I did boat chores, read and took a walk with Angie. I invited the other cruisers over for cocktails after which we all went up to the clubhouse for another family style dinner. This evening offered chicken and dumpling stew and salad. These dinners have been great fun as they allow the visiting cruisers to socialize.

5 Nov 10; Friday; River Dunes to Mile Hammock Bay
  • We decided on an 0630 departure in order to make it to Mile Hammock Bay. I was on the pier at 0600 to fill my water tanks and to store power cord and hose. When I walked by Lady of Lorien on my way to deposit some trash, I didn't see any lights on but figured they liked to cut it close so I went on by. Just before 0630, several of the cruising folks I had met at River Dunes came out to give me a hand getting away from the dock. This made me go to see where Mike and Angie were and I found them still sound asleep! I took the opportunity to invite my would-be helpers aboard for a cup a coffee and we had a nice coffee klatch. Then one of my guests looked out to see Lady of Lorien had departed without a word!. The klatch broke up and Onward was soon on its way.
  • The possibility of rain never realized and we mad good time to Mile Hammock Bay which was fairly crowed. There seems to be more cruisers on the ICW this year than in the past two years. We managed to find a place to anchor and I made it a quite night.

6 Nov 10; Saturday; Mile Hammock Bay to Wrightsville Beach
  • Anchors aweigh at 0700 for the easy day to Wrightsville Beach. It was an uneventful trip until the Wrightsville Beach Bridge which only opens on the hour. We were 40 min early so we had to try to wait with a 3+ kt current running toward the bridge. For a while, I put Onward about and motored the other direction at just enough speed to stay stationary. As a big gaggle of boats approached, I headed back for the bridge at idle speed. That was too fast so I put it in neutral. In spite of the clog of boats ahead of me, one of the leaders of the gaggle just had to push on by me. In the moment it took for me to watch him pass by, the wind pushed me just to the edge of the channel and Onward grounded. I could not power off. Luckily, a Tow BoatUS boat had been called to assist one of the sailboats ahead of me who had grounded so badly it needed to wait for the rising tide to be hauled off. So the tow boat came to Onward and then with a quick tug, Onward was afloat again. I made it through the 1400 bridge opening with the other boats!.
  • At the turn into Motts channel to the anchorage, a boat ahead got turned sideways in the current and pulled its dinghy off the davits. When Onward got to this point there was yet another boat sideways to the current and the entrance was blocked. I went down to G129 and took the Shinn Ck entrance to the anchorage. Once settled, it was time for a nap to recover from the stress of the afternoon. While this ahd been going on, I couldn't quickly put my hands on my Tow BoatUS membership info. I then decided this was enough of a reason to get me to reorganize my files so I worked on this for the evening. I made a lot of headway but there's more to do over the next few days.

7 Nov 10; Sunday; Wrightsville Beach to Little River
  • Eastern Standard Time - a whole new adjustment for getting underway in the morning. We were a bit lazy and decided to leave at 0730 vs the original intention of 0630. As we came down the Cape Fear River, conditions offshore looked good: 15-20 from the NNW and seas < 4' with an 11 sec period. We decided to make an offshore run from Cape Fear Inlet to Little River Inlet thus avoiding Shallot and Lockwoods Folly inlets where shoaling can be a problem. We also avoided the famous Socastee pontoon bridge which is still in operation because the new fixed bridge completion was delayed. The trip offshore was pleasant but it was strange seeing waves come at Onward from the shore. Occasionally there was a 25+ kt gust to live thins up. At Little River Inlet, I followed Lady of Lorien in. The inlet had good water; a minimum of 13' even at low tide. However, it is so convoluted, I never would have made the attempt without an experienced boat to follow. We put into Lightkeepers Marina. Mike again went first because the entrance is shallow and tricky. He validated this by grounding for a bit. With this as guidance, Onward got in cleanly only to encounter a lot of soft silt that had shallowed up the marina and prevented me from getting into the slip as directed. Mike and Bob the manager kept waving me to power ahead though the < 5' of silt and hten make a 90º turn. I told them they were crazy as I could see powering ahead to break loose and then surging into a piling or a boat. Onward ended up rafting to Lady of Lorien.
  • After a wonderful shower, I invited Angie and Mike over for drinks before we took a walk in the cold to meet two of their friends for dinner. I had some Italian comfort food, chicken parmagiana for dinner and got to meet John and Beth - very nice folks.

8 Nov 10; Monday; Little River to S. Santee R
  • We departed the marina at 0630. After passing through N Myrtle Beach, I began to hear VHF 16 traffic as boaters complained about a rogue powerboat that was waking them. This is an all too common event involving a very small number of boaters. I couldn't tell if this was happening ahead of me or behind me. A bit later, I just happened to glance over my left soldier to see a 35' power cruiser surging up on Onward. I looked at his wake, realized he wasn't going to call me or slow down and that it was going to be large. So, I prepared Onward for "managing" it. This involves me taking over steering from the autopilot and, just after the overtaking vessel gets past Onward's bow, steering sharply across its wake and into the calm water behind. Onward gets tossed about a wee bit - but nothing like just sitting there being "waked". I tried to alert Lady of Lorien but they got bounced around quite spectacularly. As the rogue passed, I realized it was the same boat I heard about on the VHF: Aquaman. I then noticed we were approaching a restricted drawbridge and the rogue would have to wait with the rest of us to get a lift. I called ahead to the bridge tender and alerted him that there was a rogue boat approaching and that had waked many boats, some of whom were trying to get his ID to make a damage claim. This transmission resulted in a powerboat, Aquaman's latest victim, just behind him responding back with his hailing port and registration number. Of course the boat was a Searay - a make infamous on the ICW for having so many rogue operators (I guess they have just enough money and time to buy the boat but not to learn how to use it properly); the owner was from NY to boot! The bridge tender confirmed this information to me and I then broadcast it back on a higher power VHF channel to his earlier victims who thanked me. What then transpired was a bit like dialog from a Kafka play. The rogue came on the radio to say he waked people because they didn't automatically slow down for him and he didn't want to loose time so it was their fault. The first power boater responded in a very gentlemanly southern drawl that proper etiquette was to call people on VHF 16. Rogue answered that he doesn't have his radio on that channel! This caused me to respond that by that very statement he had admitted he wasn't qualified to operate his vessel.
  • As I have run into more rogue boats like this usually run by uncaring and or clueless idiots, I have started a mission. I now call the boat asking for their insurance information so as to be able to submit a damage claim. This results in dead silence. Now I don't really expect them to respond and I don't intend to make a claim but I think that if enough other cruisers do this, these idiots will realize that they can be held responsible for the damage they do. I hope other cruisers will help by making these requests for insurance information. I've also decided to start a new section of www.icwcruisersguide.com to publish information on rogue boats. The saga of Aquaman, a photo and his registration information will be the first entry.
  • We had another pleasant traverse of the magical Waccamaw River. Along the way, we learned that the Charleston City Marina could not reserve us a berth. Mike and Angie then decided to skip Charleston and in stead, depart through the Winyah Bay Inlet for one ore more days of overnight sailing to regions S. This is not a possibility for me so we parted just above Georgetown. We will meet again further S, probably at St. Augustine. Onward pressed on to anchor in the S Santee River for the night. A pleasant evening that I celebrated with a steak and salad.

9 Nov 10; Tuesday; S. Santee R to S Edisto R
  • Onward was underway at 0630. The day was clear and sunny. After a while, it was so warm that I was back in T-shirt and shorts - just like cruising should be! I carefully worked speed and monitored the tides and current to be able to make the 1200 opening of the Ben Sawyer swing bridge. This worked out well only to fine only to encounter a tug pulling a string of dredge pipe that had to be allowed through the bridge going N before we could go through S. I was calmly waiting behind another sailboat when I saw a sailboat coming up fast from behind. I called him and told him to leave room because we were dead in the water waiting for the barge and tow. The captain acknowledged and said he would not crowd. A minute later I look to my starboard to find him 30' away! Then the boat in front starts backing up. Oh joy!
  • Porpoises were everywhere on the Stono River feeding. One big problem heading SW on a clear day in the fall is the glare from the low sun makes navigation a real challenge. The Dawho River S of White Pt was its usual challenge. I hit it just at low tide and had to plow thru soft siult in te middle of the channel to get through. This whole area including the Wood Canal has really been silting up. I continued on until just after sunset when I reached the S Edisto River where I anchored for the night. The last hour was beautiful with a brilliant orange-red sunset and a sail down a purple-hued canal to the anchorage. Unfortunately I was too busy staying in the channel to get photographs.

10 Nov 10; Wednesday; S Edisto R to Herb R.
  • Onward weighed anchor at 0630. The Ladies Island bridge has a new reduced schedule opening only on the hour. Of course I missed the 1000 opening by less than 5 minutes - but made the1100. I took the opportunity of swinging my electronic compass to recalibrate its deviation while I waited.
  • I took the opportunity on some long passages where the autopilot could navigate for ten minutes or so to begin organizing my nautical information on my iPad. Using the GoodReader ap, I loaded: USCG Local Notices to Mariners which I can update as they are issued for the region I'm in. I also loaded: US Costal Pilot for the area, NOAA Chart 1, and USCG Rules of the Road. I also have the Navionics navigation ap, and links to several NOAA weather sites as well as others for tides, currents, and winds websites. I now have a complete navigation and reference tool on the iPad. This has given me access to information that always could be gotten but now it is at my fingertips. With the iPad Google Maps ap I also have information about the local areas, too. I could see buying a separate, less expensive 16GB iPad just to use for navigation.
  • I approached infamous Fields Cut at 1600 with a tide of 1.9' above MLLW. Just after I passed the derelict pier on the E side of the S end of the cut. Onward grounded on a shoal in the center of the channel. I easily backed off and moved about 50' E and found barely enough water to get through. What a pain!
  • I had to wait until 1730 to get an opening of the Clausten Bluff Bridge which was 7 minutes after sunset. I did get to watch another beautiful sunset with cirrus clouds under lit with colors across the red spectrum. Once through the bridge, I made tracks to get to the anchorage at the Herb River before twilight ended. I anchored with just enough light to see at 1755. There were 2 other sailboats anchored in this nice anchorage with plenty of space and water. Cocktail Hour was held to help relieve the tension from the grounding at Fields Cut and the delay at the Clausten bridge. It was followed by a dinner of lightly browned breaded chicken cutlets with a penne pasta side. It was a nice, quiet night.

11 Nov 10; Thursday; Herb R to Frederica R
  • Onward was underway at 0630. There was so much dew on the windows it took 15 min. to be able to see through them. I got to watch a beautiful sunrise as I approached Isle of Hope GA. As I went past, I gave the Wrights a call to say hello. They were busy getting ready for the art show this coming weekend and invited me to stay. They are also planning a big celebration in October 2010 for their bicentenary.
  • I had talked earlier in the summer with Gwen and Victor Payton about the possibility of meeting them as I traversed Isle of Hope. But Laura and Kurlen's new home cropped up and Gwen has been in LA helping them move. something Laura has really appreciated. Of course Gwen gets to spoil granddaughter Elena, too.
  • As I approached the Skidaway Narrows Bridge, I got a Veterans Day benefit. The bridge tender had told me I'd have to wait for an 0730 opening then he called me back when he remembered it was the holiday. They are starting construction of a replacement high rise fixed bridge. At the infamous Hellgage cut I saw a minimum of 10.6' at tide of 3.4' above MLLW.
  • The cruise S was nicely uneventful. At the Little Mud River, another infamous GA shallow stretch. I hit it at a tide of ' AMLLW and saw a minimum of 10.6'
  • I called Jim Hamrick to talk about putting into Brunswick to see him and Cheryl. It turned out my timing was off as Cheryl was scheduled for a colonoscopy tomorrow. As it turned out the gods of tides and currents wouldn't let me get there before dark so we agreed to reschedule for my return trip.
  • I put into the mouth of Frederica R where I'd anchored in 2008 with Merln and Moondance. There was an hour of sunlight left to relax, read, and have a cocktail. It was a nice quiet night.

12 Nov 10; Friday; Frederica R to Amelia I
  • I weight anchor at 0630 only to find that the mouth of the Frederica R has shoaled so much that I needed to wait until 0800 to get clear. I then found another shoal just a boat-length from the ICW. This demonstrates that there has been no funding for years to dredge the GA ICW due to low commercial use. I was merrily on my way S at 0820.
  • I passed through Jekyl Creek and saw a minimum of 10' in stretches where I'd plowed the soft silty bottom in the past at low tide. As I approached the N end of St. Andrews Sound, The engine stalled - and I realized that I'd run through the port tank. In my haste to switch tanks, I turned the wrong 2 of 6 valves and inadvertently switched Raycor filters instead. I quickly fixed this. It was fortunate that this happened in a stretch of wide, deep, and calm water. The St. Andrews Sound passage is one of the more difficult on the ICW as you must essentially go almost out of the inlet and then back in skirting shoals on each side. When the wind and waves are up this becomes an "interesting" passage. Before undertaking it, I would have checked my fuel disposition just to be sure a tank did not run dry in such a dicy spot. Good fortune took care of that earlier and the passage while rolly with 15+ kts from the NE wasn't bad.
  • I arrived at the Amelia I Yacht Basin, just before the twin fixed bridges at 1345, local high tide. A good thing too as they had alerted me that there was a shoal at the entry to the canal into their basin with only 4.5' at low tide; however I found only 8' at high tide (+5.9')! I will have to carefully mange my exit tomorrow: a high enough tide to get over this shoal but not so high I can't get under the twin bridges.
  • Wally Savory drove over and picked me up in his convertible and took me on a quick tour of Amelia I. I had landed by Dinghy at Fernandina Beach in Dec 2007 and walked around downtown. This time I got to see the rest of the island including the Ritz Carlton and upscale settlements. Wally and I returned to Onward for cocktails and were joined by Sally. After drinks, we retired to Wally's home. Now he told me it was a "fixer upper" that he was working on. When I got there, I realized we had vastly different ideas of what this meant. In his case it was a fantastic 3-BR home overlooking a private lake that he rows about for exercise. His New England traditional furniture looks perfect in the contemporary environment. Neat! We had a great dinner for which I played sous chef to Sally. We spent a number of hours past my normal "cruisers midnight" talking. It was neat seeing Wally reveling in his fairly recent full retirement. Meeting such great people like Wally and Sally (in Maine on the Corinthians Cruise) and then visiting them along Onward's cruise S is one of the magical things I get to do and makes me realize how fortunate I am.

13Nov 10; Saturday; Amelia I to Pablo Ck
  • I was decadent this morning and slept to 0630 as I planned to leave on the rising tide between 1300 and 1400. The problem with having to "laze around" here is that it means I've no excuse for getting some of my many pending tasks competed. I fixed that by calling Wally and asking him if he wanted to come out to "play". He, of course, said yes and in half an hour he was picking me uyp in his convertible to go to the weekly farmers market at Fernandina Beach. I went there to just get a few fresh vegetables but before fI know it I was spending > $70 on fresh vegetables and other foods offered - what fun. I even bought a Christmas Cactus for Onward with Wally's encouragement He and the vendor assured me even I should be able to keep it alive. Now that I'm in Florida, the land of Publix, Wally stopped by the local store fore me to pick up one or two items. A couple of hundred $ later, I had made a start on provisioning for the Bahamas leg. I've discovered a problem: I can shop and buy food much faster than I eat it here in the U.S. So many good choices! And me trying to lose the weight I put on enjoying dining with family and friends in Maine and RI.
  • After returning to Onward with my swag, I got it partially stowed away and then filled the water tanks. I hoped to depart on a rising tide that was high enough to get Onward over the bump at he entrance but not so high that I couldn't get under the twin fixed bridges immediately S of the marina. Onward was underway at 1245 and the timing was great. The only glitch was waiting 10 min. for the railroad swing bridge to open.
  • I made my way S remembering that I had to call and get my boat insurance policy changed to include the Bahamas and S Florida before I got below Jacksonville. That accomplished, I pressed on to the last anchorage I could reach before dark. This was at Three Islands on Pablo Ck just N of the Atlantic Boulevard Bridge. I took a little nap and then enjoyed cocktail hour.

14 Nov 10; Sunday; Pablo Ck to Daytona
  • Onward was underway by 0630 and it was nice not to have to worry about clearing a sandbar to do it. As I approached St. Augustine, I heard Moondance on the VHF and found that they were just a few hours ahead of me. I also talked to Mike and Angie on the phone as Onward went past the marina where they are doing some prep work for the Bahamas and their return to the UK.
  • Just above Daytona, I heard another boat on VHF asking the USCG for guidance about the Seabreeze Bridge whose height boards were showing 63' clearance at the center.
  • Of course, the USCG knew nothing and could give no good information. In fact they said the clearance numbers were relevant to MLW! It has been sad for me to observe the decrease in competence of the USCG over the last several years. I believe it is a case of too many missions, too many tasks, too few $ and people. Sad.
  • This got me revved up as it meant that all the spadework I'd done last Fall that had gotten a firm promise to fix the height board problem had actually gotten nowhere. I called the concerned boat and told them the story: that the state of Florida had had its bridge maintenance contractors change the height boards to show less clearance than is actually there -- this apparently the result of a law suit from a boater who hit a light suspended below the bridge. [I''ve noted that they have shortened many of the lights so they no longer hang below the bridge. So, I will start taking pictures of these bridges and publishing them on my website: www.icwcruisersguide.com. Last Spring, on my trip N, I went offshore for this section of the ICW so I couldn't check to see if the bridges were "fixed".
  • I anchored for the night at the anchorage just S of the Memorial drawbridge. I cooked a couple of the egg rolls that I bought at the farmers market along with a couple of breaded chicken breasts. With a nice salad - Delish! After dinner I worked to add the photos I'd take of the problematic bridges to the website.

15 Nov 10; Monday; Daytona to Cocoa Beach
  • Onward weighed anchor at 0630 to be at the fuel pier when it opened at 0700. As I came out of the anchorage, I started chatting with another sailboat I'd helped last night when he was looking for a place to anchor. In doing this, I turned into the wrong channel and visited the city marina before exiting and going to the right place. In spite of this, Onward took on 112 gal of diesel and was underway by 0730. Over the trip from ME to FL, Onward has consumed about 1.05 gal of diesel an hour -- purty good! Shortly ofter this, I was contacted by friends from English Rose whom I met in the Bahamas and it looks like we will meet up in Cocoa where I also expect to catch up with Moondance.
  • This trip down the ICW, I've seen many many more porpoises than on all the other trips combined. Any river that has had some connection to the ocean within 15 to 25 mi. seems to have had groups of porpoises feeding, usually in groups of two although there are sometimes groups of ten or more. While this is remarkable, it has nothing on my transit of the Ponce de Leon inlet bypass today. I had heard stories of how porpoises like to ride in the bow wave or stern wave of sailboats. In over 20000 nm of sailing I hadn't observed this. Then today, I look down to find two porpoises riding in my port stern wave - right alongside the helm. They would mostly glide along just beneath the water. But, occasionally they would do a little porpoise jump out of the water. In spite of having to pay attention to my course in the confined and shallow area, I managed to get a number of still photos and a short video of them They rode along with me for over a nm. NEAT!
  • The trip S toward Cape Canaveral was without incident. At the Haulover Canal, I caught up with Wind Dust and English Rose who I had been talking with by VHF. The new fixed bridge to replace the Titusville swing bridge is almost complete - and has substantially better clearance. At the NASA Causeway bridge we got held up for 30 min while they did some electrical work on the span. I arrived at Cocoa at 1600 and anchored. After organizing Onward and taking a shower, I took the dinghy in to see the Moondancers at the marina. One of the great parts of cruising is reuniting with people you really like. We visited for a while and then walked into town for a pint of beer at the Dog and Bone pub which we followed up on with a great meal at Thai Thai, a restaurant where we shared, sushi, sushimi, and Pad Thai. Delish!
16 Nov 10; Tuesday; Cocoa
  • Our visits to Cocoa have developed traditions and today we executed them. Part of the tradition is we forget it opens at 0800! After breakfast we wandered over to the used book store which wasn't open yet. Then we shopped for kitchen gadgets at a restaurant supply store. By the time we were done the bookstore was open so we went in to get books. The lovely woman who runs it remembers us from pervious years. We dropped our booty back at Moondance and went for our annual visit to SF Travis hardware store. It is always amazing how I managed to find unique stuff here I didn't know I needed. By the time were were done it was time for lunch so we went on to the part of the tradition where we went to the General Store for one of their great pulled pork sandwiches.
  • I spent some time with Skip so he could show me the toys and improvements now gracing Moondance. All this tradition following is tiring so I then returned to Onward and did some planning and preparation for the coming season in the Bahamas. At 1800 we got together again for a great pizza dinner at the Village Pizza shop. A fitting end to a busy cruising life day.

17 Nov 10; Wednesday; Cocoa to Vero Beach
  • Moondance and Onward were underway at 0730. The trip S to Vero Beach was easy other that a bridge or two with erroneous height boards. Onward and Moondance rafted together on a mooring at 1430 at the Vero Beach City Marina where we will spend the next week or so (depending on the weather) provisioning and doing maintenance so we will be ready for a good weather window for crossing to the Bahamas.
  • We picked up a rental car and started our round of shopping and provisioning.

18 Nov 10; Thursday; Vero Beadh
  • A diesel mechanic came to the marina and I brought him out to Onward where he adjusted the clearances on the valve lifters. I asked him to check the engine alignment with the prop shaft and it was a good thing I did. We found one of the coupling bolts had come loose and fallen out! The engine alignment which had been perfect the last time I had it checked was off. We got this taken care of and the engine sounded much quieter and had less vibration.
  • I spent the evening updating my food inventory and reorganizing its storage.
19 Nov 10; Friday;
  • Today was a major shopping expedition. We filled two dinghies. In the evening, Skip & Harriet invited me to come along with them to W St. Lucie where they were several couples they know were getting together at the home of the woman who had housesat for them last year. The home was in a beautiful gated development of single family homes for over 55 people. The homes were quite nice and surprisingly reasonable in price. It made me thing that I need to put more effort into considering what life will be like post-Onward (sometime in the hazy future). In any case, I had a delightful time with a great group of people who were all sailors from the Annapolis area, had known each other for years, and had all bought second / retirement homes in the greater St. Lucie area.
20 Nov 10; Saturday;
  • We were off at 0730 to drive to the farmers market at Ft. Pierce. As we got there it began to pour - the first substantial rain they have had here in weeks. We dropped our plans to have breakfast at the market and opted for the dry of a diner. The squall blew over and we got to go to the market where I got some fresh vegetables. I also found a wonderful Christmas gift for Elena as well as some neat jewelry for my daughters.
  • We spent the rest of the day filling the rental car with provisions. While shopping at West Marine (last fix for several months) I decided to buy a waterproof / immersible / floating handheld VHF - and ICOM IC-M34 to protect me from myself. I also bought a number of Dr. LED bulbs. I had bought 2 at the Annapolis Boat Show and liked them so much I have been looking to buy more. I found the right bulbs for my 2 MR16 reading lamps (nav station, bedside) as well as the G4-based bulbs to replace the halogens in my overhead spotlights. Before turning in, I installed all the bulbs. I then ran an experiment and turned all 7 of them on at the same time and found out they took less current that the single MR16 halogen that had been at the chart table! I love these bulbs - even if they are still pricy at ~$25 ea. I now find that I can leave lights on so I don't have to live in a cave at night - and there is minimal battery drain. Neat!
21 Nov 10; Sunday;
  • Skip and Harriet discovered that Moondance's water heater had sprung an internal leak and needed to be replaced. I worked with Skip to locate a new one from West Marine and Skip drove off to Ft. Lauderdale to pick it up.
  • Harriet put some good sense in my head about the 1.25" SS davit arm that I had been carrying this aboard since July. It had been replaced by the manufacturer because of a small bend. At her suggestion we put it in the marina lounge with a "free to a good yacht" sign. It was good to have it gone.
  • Today was the day for me to do a lot of engine maintenance: change the raw water impeller, change the engine coolant, change the fan belt, change the transmission oil, check all engine mount bolts, reseat the pipe fitting that supply coolant to the hot water heater heat exchanger. At one point I got so frustrated at not being able to get the o-ring for the raw water pump seated I was beside myself. Harriet came over and with her deft fingers was able to get it seated! What a woman!
  • At the end of the day I was fully exhausted, tools and stuff were everywhere and it was beyond me to clean up so I took ibuprofen and went to sleep early.
22 Nov 10; Monday
  • I got up at the normal time 0500, and set about cleaning up. This included cleaning each tool to remove grease before it was put away. After a much needed shower, it was laundry morning! It felt good to have Onward ready to go. In the afternoon, Harriet and I did our last round of food shopping while skip worked on the water heater. This was followed by me updating the inventory and getting everything stowed.
  • In the late afternoon, I heard someone hailing Onward from a dinghy. I went out and didn't recognize the person. It turned out it was the person who picked up the davit arm. He came over to express his thanks. Neat! I suggested that he just "pass it forward".
  • Skip got the new water heater installed so Moondance is good to go. In the evening we dinghied over to the local waterfront restaurant where Skip & Harriet's friends John & Judy met us for a nice dinner. Judy who is a good watercolorist, heard me talk about my great intentions and encouraged me to take a sketchbook everywhere and sketch daily. Harriet and I then agreed to help each other sketch and spend time on art during this sojourn.

23 Nov 10; Tuesday; Vero Beach to Hobe Sound
  • We topped off Onward's propane tank, returned the rental car, then headed back to the Marina. After dropping the mooring Onward and Moondance put in to the pier to take on fuel and water before checking out. At 1100 we were headed S on a beautiful sunny day. We got as far as Hobe Sound where we found the anchorage spacious with good water and pleasant surroundings. It was an early night to make up for the last week's activities.

24 Nov 10; Wednesday; Hobe Sound to Lake Worth
  • Onward and Moondance were underway by 0700. I made pepper biscotti dough yesterday and put the biscotti in the oven this morning. That made navigating the ICW and several drawbridges a bit of a challenge while also trying to time the baking / turning etc. of the biscotti. We moved well and anchored in Lake Worth just S of the inlet at 1115. The weather looked good for an early morning departure for West End on Grand Bahama Island. This gave me the afternoon and evening to get Onward organized and ready for the crossing.
  • In late afternoon, we looked at the weather and decided that while Thursday was doable, Friday offered better conditions with the winds shifting more to the S. So, now I have an extra day to get organized.

25 Nov 10; Thursday; Lake Worth
  • Chris Parker and the more recent GRIBS confirmed that Friday should be a good day for a crossing as the were to shift from the E to the SSE. I used the extra time to clean, organized, check preparations for offshore, and rest.
  • Last year, I had left St. Lucie in the morning and arrived in Lake Worth in mid afternoon expecting to have a relaxing evening before crossing in the morning. I arrived to an announcement from Mike Williams that the weather window was narrowing and we had to leave at 1900! Having been up since 0500, I was already tired and was only able to get a fitful catnap before we had to leave. Thinking back how tired and wrung-out I was from the stress of preparing to go offshore, it is hard to believe now that I did it. But at the time, the reserve of energy I learned I had during my military service kicked in and I did what needed to be done. But now I've been there, done that, don't want to do it again!
  • Harriet grilled turkey and we will celebrated Thanksgiving at Lake Worth. I got to talk to my loved ones and that helped deal with being apart. I made it an early night and was actually able to get sound sleep. On the nights before most offshore passages, I get very fitful sleep as my mind plays what-if games with preparations. I guess the day and a half rest made a difference.

26 Nov 10; Friday; Lake Worth to Mangrove Cay
  • During the night, the winds increased to 15 - 20 kts. I can tell when this happens because of the frequency change in my wind generator's blade noise. It always makes it sound that conditions are worse than they are. I was up at 0345 preparing to leave at 0430 and I checked all my weather sources. They still indicated wave heights in the Gulf Stream of < 4' and the winds shifting toward the S as the morning progressed. Skip saw Onwards lights and called with concerns about the conditions. After we talked they decided to give it a go.
  • We weighed anchor at 0430. It is always a challenge to pilot Onward through the dark anchorage and channel here because the glare of background lights makes seeing through the enclosure windows difficult. i have to be at the nav-seat to pilot using radar and then frequently stick my head out of the doors to look ahead. I found my new Fenix TK20 LED flashlight great for this as I throws a bright focused beam > 150 yds without a lot of additional glare off the bow like my big handheld spotlight gives.
  • This Spring when I was in CA with my daughter Laura and new granddaughter, we visited her aunt & uncle who live W of San Diego. My brother-in-law Craig Georgi is an LED light buff so I asked his advice about a good, bright, LED flashlight for me to carry on the dinghy when I'm navigating dark anchorages in the Bahamas. He grabbed a bunch of his toys and we tried them out by standing on one of his patios and shining him on his neighbors' palm trees across an arroyo. The one that gave the brightest and most collimated beam at a long distance was a Fenix TK 20 with a bright single LED manufactured by CREE. This was interesting because the lab I worked for had a joint research arrangement with them related to this technology. When I asked Craig where to get one of these lights, he handed it to me and said: "It's yours." A very nice gift that has become one of my prized possessions having proved its usefulness over this summer's cruise on nights like tonight. (See Neat Boat Products for info.)
  • Two other sailboats were leaving at the same time and it was a challenge to maintain safe separation as we went out of the inlet. The seas at the mouth of the inlet were challenging but they damped down as soon as we were about a half-mile out. Our plan had been to sail to West End on Grand Bahama and do Customs & Immigration check in at the Old Bahama Bay Marina. However the winds were still blowing 15 to 20 with too much E to make holding the necessary course comfortable for Moondance. We changed our plan and headed for the Memory Rock passage onto the Little Bahamas Banks. We were hit with a N current as soon as we left the inlet and it ramped up to 4 kts by 4 nm out. It began to decrease once we were 20 mi out and was down to 1 kt by the time we were 3 nm from Memory Rock.
  • I've read a bit about techniques for crossing the Gulf Stream. I've also built my own model in Excel where I feed in data on the position of the GS and the velocity profile as I find it on the web before departure. It calculates the heading I need to steer to end up at my desired waypoint. The technique I've developed for piloting Onward is to set the E120 to go to the desired waypoint so I can track my position relative to the rhumb line. I then give the autopilot a magnetic heading to steer to. I watch the cross track error and this shows Onward initially being swept N of the rhumb line and then working its way S toward the rhumb line as the waypoint approaches and the current diminishes.
  • Conditions for the crossing were winds ESE @ 15 - 20 and seas 2-4'. Not ideal but not unpleasant. The failure of the wind to go more S earlier turned out to be a good thing as our new plan of going to Mangrove Cay Friday would allow us to put on to Green Turtle Cay of its environs on Saturday. The crossing went well. At the Memory Rock passage I found a minimum of 14' in contrast to the 6' shown on the Navionics charts. This is always disconcerting. However, just getting safely across the Stream and onto the banks caused a great wave of peacefulness to wash over me. It was great to be back in the Bahamas again!
  • We anchored for the night NE of Mangrove Cay to be in its lee from the light S winds. It was a quite night and I got good rest.

27 Nov 10; Saturday; Mangrove Cay to Spanish Cay
  • A leisurely morning, we weighed anchor at 0550 and headed off toward Great Sale Cay with the plan of going on to Green Turtle Cay before the next cold front came through on Sunday. It was a lot easier leaving this anchorage than Lake Worth! The sun dawned a beautiful orange with only a few cirrus clouds. As the morning wore on, more cumulus arrived to make it a partly cloudy day. The winds were SW at <10 so I motorsailed under genoa.
  • I checked out my Globalstar satphone and was immediately able to call several of my family. They have 6 new satellites in LEO orbit that should begin improving coverage. It appears I must have picked up one of these and it was great until it disappeared. However there are still gaps with no coverage that will remain until all the old satellites are replaced.
  • For lunch, I had one of the British meat pies I had bought at the farmers market in Fernadina that Wally Savory took me to. Made by a young ex-pat with a cockney accent, It was steak in a creamy black and green peppercorn source. I preheated the oven and baked the pie for 20 min at 375º. It was fantastic! The best I've ever eaten with a great crust and tender and tasty filling. I started kicking myself for only buying and freezing 2. [Source: The Proper Pie Company LLC; 863-286-9170; delgibson@msn.com]
  • We changed our plans and made for Spanish Cay because the Customs & Immigration there would be closed by the time we arrived and because it would be low tide. In 2009, Onward bumped at the entrance to White Sound channel at below half-tide so I didn't want to do that again. We put into Spanish Cay Marina where we found only one other sailboat that had put in just before us. Onward tied up at a T-head just behind Moondance and quickly prepared to go ashore to clear customs & immigration. When I walked in, I found the same C&I officer who checked us in last year. I greeted her and we had a nice chat about her new baby and my granddaughter. I showed her my 2009 papers that she had prepared and the checking went quickly and I got a visa for130 days.
  • After checking in at the marina office, we went off to make our arrival in the Bahamas official by having our first Goombay Smashes and trying the hot or rather warm tub. Harriet new the captain of the other boat from Facebook and John and Kathy invited us over for drinks. We had a great time talking before we departed to the restaurant for dinner where we had fantastic meal with conch fritter appetizers and grouper entre topped off by key lime pie. Delish. Our server, bartender, cook was charming and got a big kick when I started applauding her for her cooking.

28 Nov 10; Sunday; Spanish Cay to Green Turtle Cay
  • Onward and Moondance departed the marina at 0815 for the short trip to Green Turtle Cay. We got there at about 2.7' of tide - on the rise. Onward needs >1.5' of tide to make it over the shallows in the entrance channel to White Sound so the passage was uneventful - unlike my first visit in April 2009 when I bounced off the bottom between the channel entrance markers. We took slips at Bluff House Marina and took advantage of their winter deal: $1.25 / ft. for the slip, but anything we spend at the restaurant, bar, laundry or store up to the cost of the slip is comped. We immediately went ashore for lunch and then I spent the afternoon sitting by the pool reading.
  • It was time to use up the fresh vegetables and stew meat I bought at Vero Beach so I whipped up a big pot of stew and invited the Moondancers over for dinner. It was a very nice way to celebrate being truly in the "Bahamas Mode".

29 Nov 10; Monday; Green Turtle Cay
  • During the night, the wind picked up 15+ kts on Onward's stern in the slip. The the rains started with short squalls. I was pleased to hear this because Onward really needed a good wash-down to get off all the salt from the crossing. At 0300 I woke to a real deluge and realized I should have put in the stern center section of the enclosure so the cockpit wouldn't get drenched by blowing rain; so I got up and put it in.
  • Skip rented a golf cart and just before noon we set off to explore the island and visit the settlement on Black Sound. The overnight deluge left the gravel roads full of wet potholes that made the journey a challenge. Along the way we stopped at the Leward Marina and had lunch at the Lizard Bar.

The Lizard Bar & Grill
  • We had a great lunch of a fresh grouper sandwich and onion rings made on the spot using a light tempura-like batter that gave the best onion rings I've had in memory! A couple of Klick Golds helped it go down even better.
  • The marina is developing Key West style homes ($800K to $1M) on the property and they've done a beautiful job with landscaping. The Lizard Bar is part of the pool complex.
  • We rode into town and walked around. Christmas decorations were all around. The town has many quaint alleys to wander. We met Vernon a neat octogenarian who carves boat models.

Vert & His Model Shop
  • It was really quiet and the locals are clearly waiting for an influx of visitors to pick up business. We stopped at the original home of the Goombay Smash and, of course, sampled the wares. Wow! Great and what a kick for a small glass.

Miss Emily's Daughter Serves Up Goombay Smashes

Enjoying a Goombay Smash at Miss Emily's Blue Bee Bar
  • We departed town as a squall line came through. I was sitting in the back seat of the cart with no roof overhead. We hopped out of the cart at the Lizard Bar to get out of one of the worst downpours then headed back to the marina. I was soaked by this time so I left my clothes to dry in the cockpit, toweled off, and climbed into bed for a nap.
  • We went to the restaurant for dinner where we met the couple from Margarita, an IP that we've seen before and who are now in the slip ahead of Onward. We also had a great time chatting with a young couple from London who were enjoying a short vacation at Bluff House.

30 Nov 10; Tuesday; Green Turtle Cay
  • Wow, already it's the end of the month! The squalls continued overnight and I was woken up at one point to winds over 30 kts. The day was mostly sunny so we took a walk to Green Turtle Club and had lunch. We then walked to the beach and then back to Bluff House where I spent the rest of the afternoon at the pool reading and enjoying a Goombay smash. I whipped up a batch of shepherds pie for dinner and invited the Moondancers over for dinner. I then introduced them to Dr. Who as we watched a TV show segment on my iPad.

Skip Enjoying the Ambiance of the Green Turtle Club's Bar