Onward’s Cruise Journal 2014
New England to the Chesapeake Cruise

20 December 2014

November 2014

1 Nov 14; Saturday; Wrightsville Beach to Grande Dunes

  • At 0530, my review of the weather showed that the forecast Low was on its way to pass S o6f Wrightsville Beach and that high winds would move into the area with gusts to 40 kts about 1700. It looked to me that we would be able to travel S on the ICW and avoid most of the strong winds and heaviest rains and be in Myrtle Beach when the worst arrived. At 0630 we had a VHF radio conference with the Beckonings and agreed to get underway at 0700. Just before departure time, the farthest outlying rain band of the Low rotated over Wrightsville Beach with heavy rains. I got a call from Beckoning and I assumed that, like me, they wanted to wait for the rain band to rotate past. However, Don and Mary Kay had decided that since they only planned to travel to about STM 520, they didn't want to rush but stay buttoned up at Wrightsville. I told them I understood and Peg and I would reexamine our plans. At this time, we were hit by wind gusts and I ran up to check out how the anchor was holding. Onward was being swung around on the anchor by clocking winds with gusts to 38 kts. I started the engine in case the anchor began to drag. After about 5 min of these winds I noticed that Beckoning was slowly getting closer so I prepared to power away. Don was on watch and he began to power upswing to ease the load on the anchor. Great excitement. Radar showed the rain band to be almost gone and in the growing calm, I decided we should use the opportunity to get to Myrtle Beach and hopefully dodge even worse winds and rain.
  • So we bid each other an emotional farewell and Onward headed to the S exit to the ICW. I found I could not get the anchor to come over the bow roller so I went up to investigate. I found a > 20' + length of lightweight chain wrapped over the anchor. I used the boathook to prod it off and the anchor stowed aboard in the normal way.
  • The trip down the ICW to Snows Cut and the Carolina Beach Bridge was easy with calm winds and only a few minutes of misty rain. By the time we got into the Cape Fear River, it was sunny and we were able to do > 8 kts SOG motorsailing S with the outgoing tide. When we reached Southport we could see visually and on the radar a thunder head SE of us off shore. But we just had a light overcast until we were about halfway to Lockwood Folly. Here the rain caught up with us and the only difficulty was seen both temporary red buoys as we entered the inlet. But the transit was easy with depths > 12'. The rain got heavier as we got to Shallot Inlet where conditions were similar to Lockwood. As we moved on, the rain tapered off a bit. However the temperature dropped > 10º. At Little River Inlet, Sea Smoke became a problem making it hard to see more that ~200 yes ahead.
  • The swing bridge operators were cooperative and the transits were easy. There was almost no wind or rain but it was COLD. We could see snow on the weather radar to the NW of us. We pulled into Grande Dunes about 1645 and were soon nestled on a face dock.
  • I first got the heat pump running and then took a hot shower. Feeling good, I joined Peg for a walk to Ruth's Chris Steakhouse where we enjoyed great steaks.

2 Nov 14; Sunday; Grande Dunes to Georgetown.
  • We had to delay departure until the office opened at 0900 and at 0915 we were underway. It was a clear and sunny day with N winds @ 15+ kts. The transit of the Wacamaw was, as always, beautiful. We anchored at Georgetown before dark but it was too cold to go ashore and then come back in the dark. So we had a cozy evening aboard.

3 Nov 14; Monday; Georgetown to Harbor R
  • At 0830, we headed ashore and found the diner / town meeting spot and joined the locals for breakfast. Delish. Peg and I then did a walking tour of the town which was very quiet. The sun felt great. We visited the Kudzu deli/bakery where I found the cheese that I had stumbled upon several years ago. It was so delicious, I had to limit my friends in their consumption to save some for me. I have been looking for this cheese ever since all along my travel path on both coasts. Of course, the fact that I didn't know its name didn't make it very easy. But now I found it again and bought two chunks!
  • We bought more good food to eat then finished out walking tour before heading back to Onward. We were underway at 1215 on a sunny afternoon. We found that the mouth of the entrance to the Minim Creek Canal has shoaled as had areas along the first section as Onward had to plow its way through twice. Having made the switch back to EST, the traveling day seems to end much earlier. We didn't have enough light to reach any of the anchorages I've used approaching Isle of Palms but we found a very nice anchorage at Harbor River. We found 4 other boats anchored in the river between the ICW and the sand shoals at the ocean end. There was a lot of room and depth so Onward anchored just off to the G side of the ICW. Just after anchoring two more trawlers passed by to anchor further along the river. We spent a very quiet night.

4 Nov 14; Tuesday; Harbor R to Charleston
  • When I went up to remove the anchor bridle at 0600, I found 3 dolphins playing in the water around the bow. I ran back to get my iPhone to take videos. I got so caught up in watching them, I forgot to remove he bridle an only remember it when the anchor windless couldn't bring the anchor up.
  • We reached the Isle of Palms fixed bridge at 0930 and with just ~1.1' of tide, had no trouble with the transit. However, the entire street between the bridges has shoaled badly and there were several sections where Onward was plowing mud to get through.
  • We got a lift at the Ben Sawyer bridge at ~1000 and headed to the Charleston Harbor Marina. At 1100, we put into slip C 29 and pointed the bow into the current and favored the up current / stream side of the fairway, traveling crabwise. But this tine the fairway was one of the larger ones and I had no problem gently nosing into the slip.
  • By 1200 we had checked into the office and were on our way by the resort shuttle to Charleston and my appointment at the Genius Bar of the Apple Store. We were early so we lunched at a Greek restaurant nearby to eat something lighter and to try a cuisine we were not that familiar with. Delish. Peg took the opportunity to do some Christmas shopping also.
  • At the appointed time, 1530, I showed up at the Genius Bar and was promptly greeted by Mateo. I told him that the failed system software update had turned the MacBook into a brick. He did a quick diagnostic and then started a clean reinstall. That failed. He did more diagnostics and concluded the solid state drive was the problem and he would replace it. Since I have the largest SSD available, they didn't have it in stock and it would take 24 to 48 hrs to get one. I explained how this was a real problem because of our need to move S and the difficulty of reaching another Apple Store along our route. He then tried to find a SSD from a local Apple licensed repair center but they didn't have one either. As we sat there trying to come up with alternatives, I related to him that all my experience personally, and at the lab was that once a solid state device was working after burn-in, it was fairly bulletproof. That started him thinking and realized that part of the system software update was reprogramming of the SSD firmware. He then did a SSD firmware rebuild and then the operating system reinstall went quickly and it was back to normal. While waiting, I took advantage of their free high speed wifi to download a number of TV series episodes to watch in the future. Peg took the opportunity to get her iPad software updated and to have the cover replaced under warrantee.
  • We celebrated the return to healthy electronics by heading off to dinner at The Low Country restaurant. Peg had their chicken and waffles. Now this seemed weird to me but the fried boneless chicken was amazing. As we waited for the shuttle to take us back, I got to visit one of my favorite places, the Peanut Store where I bought some great crunchy peanuts.

5 Nov 14; Wednesday; Charleston
  • We had a lazy morning but finally stirred to take the 1100 water taxi over to Charleston. We debarked at the S terminal and took a self-guided walking tour of the beautiful homes in the district below Broad. We walked all along the waterfront front to the S tip of King Street. Then we wove our way between King and Meeting Streets up to Broad. Every block on the main and side streets presented beautiful homes with their gorgeous garden courtyards. Beautiful.
  • By this time, we'd worked up an appetite for lunch but wanted something light. We decided to stop at a Lebanese restaurant we'd seen yesterday on King across from the Apple Store. I to the owner who seated us that neither of us knew anything of the cuisine. He made some suggestions and then we put together a sampling of hot and cold appetizers along with a Lebanese beer served with lemon juice. It turned out to be delightful fun and delicious. The hit was the ground beef filled mini dumplings. Delish.
  • We visited the Museum of Charleston for a few hours and then ended our tour with a visit to Harris Teeter before grabbing the water taxi from the Charleston Maritime Center back to the CHM. While waiting, I discovered a C470, Jean Ann from Cleveland OH. We also met a couple from Rock Hall MD who clued us in on how to get a berth at the CMC.
  • While we were on our walking tour, Beckoning had managed to plow its way to the Ben Sawyer bridge to catch the last opening before the evening commuter traffic lockdown. After depositing the shopping (that we weren't aware we needed) aboard, we met Don and Mary Kay and walked off to have dinner at the Fish House.

6 1Nov 14; Thursday; Charleston to Ashepoo - Coosaw Cutoff
  • High slack current was about 0700 and Onward easily departed from the slip and headed out. The Wapoo Bridge lockdown for computer traffic was on until 0900, so we leisurely moved the 2-3 miles so as not to get caught up in the pack waiting for the opening. As usual there was an easy pass of the Mark Clark Expressway bridge and we fell in line behind 4 sailboats and a powerboat. It took a while for the parade to get moving through the bridge. A late arriving trawler, In the Mood from Annapolis, had to make things more difficult by crowding us as we fell in line. Once through the bridge, I powered up to normal cruising rpm and began to follow KoKoMo, the powerboat that was in front of me. As the line got to the Cut, it slowed down as the lead vessels had to deal with almost 3 kts of adverse current. Everyone adjusted but In the Mood who proceeded to crowd out Onward and Sheila the sailboat behind KoKoMo. The AH* didn't answer the VHF and created quite a hazardous situation as it crowded KoKoMo. I decided to do a couple of 180's and let the parade move on before taking Onward through that narrow cut.
  • The trip from there to the Dawoe River was a sleigh ride as we rode the tied to speed up to 8,8 kts SOG. The downside was that this notoriously shoaling river mouth lived up to expectations and I saw depths down to 5.7' in the chicane section. There was a good deal of shoaling in Moss Cut and we plowed mud with depth readings of 5.2' in places. The first section of the Ashapoo - Coosaw Cutoff had plenty of water; ~ 15+' at near low tide. At the midpoint, before entering the S section, we found 2 sailboats anchored waiting for the tide to rise. KoKoMo waited with them and I decided to anchor N of the cut for the night as we would get to Beaufort too late to make the Ladies Island Bridge before lockdown. With an early morning start, we would have a near high tide and get to the bridge just as the morning lockdown ended. We anchored at 1600 and about 1630 the waiting boats made it through.

7 Nov 14; Friday; A-C Cutoff to Dafuskie I
  • The wind picked up with gusts > 20 kts during the night as a High moved in. The skies were clear and moonlit. We hadn't tightened down all the control lines on the bridge deck and with the wind and the boat sailing forward on the rode in the strong current, there were a lot of strange boat noises. As a result apparently of my sleeping brain trying to work out what the unusual noises were, I had a couple of fighting nightmares -- very unusual. I finally got up and tightened the lines and the noises went away; I slept peacefully.
  • We weighed anchor at 0600 and it took quite a bit of effort to get the anchor up out of the mud. I guess my getting up to check several times was unnecessary. We had no problem getting through the W leg of the Cutoff. There were two shallow spots: 10.7' about 0.25 nm from the W end and one ~ 100 yds E of the nun that marks the W end.
  • We made the 0900 opening of the Ladies Island Bridge and then anchored S of the marina. There are now quite a few moorings available. I enjoyed a quick shower before heading into town. We took a carriage ride tour of town that was quite enjoyable. We then walked about and did a bit of shopping. I found more little yellow duckies for Kian and Elena. We then toured the waterfront promenade looking at menus. We settled on Luthers -- mostly because there was an outside table in the sun as it was quite chilly in the shade.
  • Onward was underway at 1310, speeding with the outgoing tide down the river. As we approached Hilton Head, I got to take a short nap in the sun while Peg navigated. What a luxury! We anchored for the night N of G37 in the Cooper R N of Daufuskie Island. The sunset was spectacular in the clear skies.

8 Nov 14; Saturday; Cooper R to Tea Kettle Creek
  • A quiet night but the temperature dropped. We weighed anchor at 0615 to ride the rising tide through Fields Cut and Hell Gate. At the E end of Fields Cut I was pleased to see the USCG installed a new lighted nun, R48A, to mark the shoal that has now extended S from the N shore beyond the centerline of the cut. The deep water is within a boat length of the S / G shore as we discovered last year when Merlin grounded on the shoal. A near high tide made the transit of Hell Gate easy.
  • Onward is in the midst of its 15th transit of the ICW. Over the years since 2007, I've amassed a great deal of information and experience. Unfortunately it's not all fresh in my memory -- but it is in my logs and notes. The problem with this is access: finding it when I need it. Some years ago when I first ran into problems with the highway department in FL playing games with the height boards, I started a website to alert other cruisers to the problem: www.icwcruisersguide.com I had organized it so that it could be a depository of information on problematic spots along the ICW. As it turned out, I became so familiar with the ICW, I wasn't motivated to be diligent in publishing my experience. I've now come to realize that with my iPad always at hand in the cockpit, this website is the easiest way for me to have access to my notes about problematic places. So, with that realization, I am working to capture my experience.
  • We didn't see any other vessels until late in the day when R & R, a motor yacht from NJ came by. We chatted a bit on VHF as they passed by. About 20 mins later we found them caught on the edge of a shoal. But the tide was rising fast so they got off shortly. I told them we were going to anchor in Tea Kettle Creek and they came in and joined us not long after we were settled at anchor. R & R invited us over for cocktails. Unfortunately, I'd gotten quite chilled as the temperature dropped in late afternoon and all I wanted to do was wrap up in a fleece. Peg felt the same way so we had to take a raincheck. I eventually revived enough to make some rice to mix with a portion of the spicy chili stew from he freezer. It hit the spot. We celebrated by watching episode 2 of The Roosevelts.

9 Nov 14; Sunday; Tea Kettle Creek to Cumberland Dividings
  • Well, let's just say I've had better days -- many, many, much better days!
  • Onward was underway in the pre-dawn dark; the idea being to use the rising tide to get through the infamous Little Mud River but get to the Lanier Island bridge before the tide was too high.
  • The strategy worked for the Little Mud River but when we got to the bridge, we found the height boards on the N side were still missing (going on 2 + years). Luckily, R&R whom we'd left at anchor, caught up with us and radioed back that the height boards on the S side read ~ 62.5' with the tide rising. So, as seems to be coming a habit here, I had to anchor to wait for the water level to fall.
  • I got the phone number for USCG Sector South Carolina and phoned in a report of the missing height boards.
  • Several boats were kind enough to answer my request and radio back height board reading as the passed under the bridge. One sports fisherman actually did this both on the way down and back. Unfortunately, we learned (as I had begun to suspect) that this captain was unused to the vagaries of how height boards are configured (no standard way) and had miss-read the numbers to be 1' less than actual. By 1230, my tide data indicated the water level should have dropped enough for a safe passage. I could also see that the water had dropped by looking at the marks on the bridge fenders. So we weighed anchor and headed S.
  • My plan was to do this very slowly, and approach from the W side. I would go up on the bow to look diagonally across the opening so I could get a glimpse of the height boards. Unfortunately, as I was planning all this, I did not comprehend how fast the ebb current was running. As I stepped out of the cockpit and started to walk forward, the current started slewing the boat to port and toward the fenders. Peg, as I had asked, was prepared to go rapidly into reverse to get us out of there. Thank God she quickly realized that wasn't going to work and yelled to me. I was able to run back and using all 3800 rpm in forward gear get the boat to turn N and back up the river instead of being swept backwards into the side span of the bridge. Needless to say, I was not pleased with my plan or the GA bridge department for not fixing the missing height boards.
  • When back in control, Onward was able to safely transit the bridge with only the tip of the VHF touching. We found the height boards on the S side reading about 65. 5'; with the water level at the top of the 4th fender board. Local tide was +5.4' at St. Simons Light.
  • At Jekyll Creek, we had no problem making the transit at a local tide of 2.3' at Jekyll Point. However we saw 6.9' near G37.
  • The Jekyll Creek bridge gave us plenty of clearance with the height boards reading > 66.5'.
  • At the infamous transit of St. Andrews Sound it is necessary to go out past the N & S island headlands to get around the S tip of the central sandbar. As we got to the N R32 at the S side, we went over a bump of 8.3' at a falling local tide of 1.1' at Jekyll Point. Not a lot of clearance.
  • As we headed around Cumberland Island, it became apparent that we wouldn't make it to Oyster Bay Yacht Club before dark. So I called Wally Savory and made plans to arrive in the morning.
  • At the infamous Cumberland Dividings chicane, we found Dark Star, a sailing vessel that had passed us while we were anchored and who had given us a height board report. They were on the R side of the channel and on the sand bar. Perhaps they had done what I'd done in 2007 and believed the chart instead of the marks. The captain was attempting to heel the boat over by using his dink to pull on a halyard.
  • Onward slowly passed by with plenty of water by following the marks -- even though the chart plotter said we were going across land. As it was too late to make it to Cumberland Island anchorage before dark, I decided to anchor in the wide spot shown on the charts just S of the chicane and W of DM G63A.
  • Shortly after we got settled, Dark Star came by. Great!
  • Well there was a lot to write up for www.icwcruisersguide.com today. I have been trying to take photos of all the ICW fixed bridges as Onward transits them an publishing them along with notes on the transit conditions. One thing I realized is that analyzing the photos, I can determine the clearance height associated with each of the fender boards -- by carefully cross comparing the height board readings with the top and bottom of the fender boards. I only wish I had this information at hand when Onward approached the Lanier Island fixed bridge!
  • We have so many prepared meals in the freezer we need to create room -- a very delicious problem. After a long and rather psychologically trying day, I needed comfort food and Peg served up some of the chicken with pasta she'd frozen. With a glass of Malbec, Delish!. We ate a relaxing meal and watched an episode of "Inspector Lewis".

10 Nov 14; Monday; Cumberland Dividings to
  • It was an easy morning with Onward underway by 0715 after a very peaceful night. I try to use anchorages which are well off the ICW for safety. However there are times like last night and at Harbor River where the available anchorage is just off the side of the ICW channel. I have started to leave the stern LED flood light on in these areas along with the anchor light just to be sure Onward is visible to any vessels moving at night.
  • It was a quiet night. At 0630, we headed out as the sun began to appear. The transit to Fernandina was quick and easy. The seas were calm and while it was clear overhead, we could see a front offshore. As we turned toward Lanceford Creek and the Oyster Bay Yacht Club, I heard Bob on Bare Footin' and Michael on Pagan Chant so we chatted a bit on VHF and made plans to lift a glass or two to celebrate the event in the Bahamas.
  • As we turned into the channel for OBYC, I told Peg to rig for a starborad side tie -- because I'd tied up that way in my two previous visits. We were on the incoming tide and as we approached the face docks the current became apparent. I was bound and determined to make a starboard side approach -- which was going to be a real challenge. Then Peg asked why I wasn't going to come about into the current for a port tie. Doh! Of course, that is what I should have planned to do but sometimes I get fixated. Good to have a rational adult aboard. The approach into the current was very easy inspire of the strong current and wind and Onward landed like a feather with no forward motion to slip on the midship line. Nice! Thanks to Peg!
  • Wally soon showed up and Peg got to tour his lobster boat, Firefly, while i showered. Then we were off to visit Wally's house on our way for a walking tour of Fernandina. Our exercise fulfilled, we had lunch at a great new Mexican restaurant, Pepper. Here I expanded Peg's experience with Mexican food by getting her to try Chimcangas.
  • We rounded out the afternoon with a visit to Fort Clinch before returning to Wally's home where I snuck in a nap. Sally Buck joined us. She is looking forward to becoming a grandmother in the new year. Peg and I helped Wally with his scotch volume reduction program and then enjoyed a delightful light dinner prepared by Wally with supervision by Sally. I'm sad to report to Mary Kay Noren that our efforts to get Wally to start cooking with garlic have come to naught -- too much New England conservatism to overcome! Sally schlepped us back to OBYC at the end of a delightful day and evening.

11 Nov 14; Tuesday; Veterans Day
  • We had a lazy morning. Wally arrived to pick us up at 1000 and we headed back to his place. It seems that last night after Sally drove us back to OBYC, Wally decided to do some research on the sailboat he just bought to keep on the St. John's River. He managed to get another deal on a boat in brokerage. It is a Bill Tripp design and he found a website where they listed the specs for the boat along with drawings. He printed these out and then got a notice on his Internet Explorer webpage that he was being held hostage by the NSA and needed to pay a $300 ransom.
  • Wally wanted me to take a look at the computer problem and I found he had just got infected by a notorious ransom virus lurking on the website he'd visited. This malware locks up IE using a java script and will not allow one to get off the page or close IE. I was able to launch Firefox and research how to deal with it. He is running Windows 8 which I have successfully avoided having anything to do with. All the cleanup procedures were very involved and not something I wanted to take on. So we left it so he could still use his computer using Firefox but with the danger he would further disseminate the virus. He planned to take it to a local shop and have then clean it up.
  • With our frustrations raised, it was time to chill by heading out for a visit to Kingsley Plantation on Ft. George Island to the S of Amelia I. This island had been a plantation from Spanish rule to after the civil war. It then had been a resort island until the state and federal governments established parks. Kingsley Plantation is operated by the NPS. There is quite a substantial pier on the creek that connects to the ICW and we found several cruising boats at anchor there. Compared to NPS sites, this has limited improvements with the house slowly being restored.
  • After our plantation visit, we drove to the St. John River ferry and were just in time for a crossing to the S side where we went to Singletons, a well-known local fish shack where we had a delightful dinner. During our drive and lunch, the topic had gotten around to the the computer virus problem. I outlined several ways that Wally could get well. So after lunch we headed over to a nearby gigantic shopping mall where there was an apple store. Wally had recently switched to an iPhone and liked the experience. So we checked out MacBook laptops and the new iPad Air 2. He decided to buy that because it would allow him to do everything he normally did on his desktop and he would also be able to move it between his 3 boats to provide a navigation system. He would haul his desktop in to be cleaned in a few days. The purchase done, we headed back to OBYC and Onward.
  • As we returned to OBYC, we got to say hello to Benny Waldo, the dock master who was checking out a boat even though it was his day off. Firefly had been having some issues with its bilge pump, so we decided to check that out. As soon as we stepped aboard it came to life and an inspection indicated it had been working fine. There were a number of hose clamps that needed replacement on the connector to the stuffing gland and a good dose of bilge cleaner looked in order which Wally promptly added. We then settled down for cocktails while I set up Wallys new iPad and got it talking to his iPhone. This was important to me because now it assure I would have two new ways to electronically harass him in the future. Wally headed home after we thanked him for a sterling job of showing us around. Then Peg and I called it an early night.

12 Nov 14; Wednesday; OBYC to Pine Island
  • After filling the water tanks and washing down the foredeck, we made an easy departure from OBYC on the incoming tide. We found plenty of clearance at the Twin Bridges and were pleased to find that, as Wally had told us, the Sisters Creek ICW shoals seem to have been dredged. After crossing the St. John R, we arrived at the Atlantic Boulevard Bridge near the top of the rising tide and found there was only 63.5' clearance, the point where important and valuable things start getting damaged. So we anchored and caught up on this and thats.
  • It took until 1520 for the tide to fall enough to give 64.0' clearance. As Onward went under the bridge, the tip of the windex scrapped across a couple of the bridge beams. This indicated 63' 11" of clearance. The Pablo Creek and Palm Valley bridges were tight but passable. The wait had eliminated out ability to get to St. Augustine so I called the Municipal Marina to alert them. They would be able to honor my reservation for Thursday but not for a second night. Ah well, we would just have to do a lot of partying Thursday to make up for the lost day.
  • We transited the Palm Valley bridge just at sunset and we had to continue in the twilight to make to the only useful anchorage in the area at Pine Island. We were trailed at this time by a trawler Quimby. The low light navigation planning we put together after Atlantic City came into use. We removed the LED sidelights to get rid of glare. The newly repaired running lights worked fine. The two new LED spot lights proved to be great. We found 3 sailboats and a trawler at anchor in the S anchorage and went in to anchor using radar. When I had talked to Quimby on VHF, they had told us they were going to anchor in the N anchorage and I told them that while it looked good on the chart, I had no personal knowledge of it. Just as we anchored Quimby called to say they had found the N anchorage to be to shallow and asked if there was room in the S anchorage. They soon came in and settled nearby.
  • Peg was in a chafing mood and soon had breaded chicken cutlets made. I helped prepare some Brussels sprouts for oven roasting. Peg topped it off by making a roux. We enjoyed a delicious meal while I introduced her to Dr. Who.

13 Nov 14; Thursday; Pine Island to St. Augustine
  • We were underway by 0630 in the predawn light with Quimby just ahead of us. The Usina bridge provided plenty of clearance and we were soon settled on mooring #5 by 0815.
  • By 0900 we were freshly showered and headed in to the marina office. They are still issuing those stickers for dinghies to indicate the fee has been paid. These stickers make great emergency patches for the RIBs.
  • Peg and I went on a walking tour of Castelo San Marco. I discovered that the NPS wants to see the physical Seniors Pass; my electronic scan version on my iPhone app won't do. The NPS has done a nice job of improving the exhibits and historical information.
  • We walked through Old Town until we came to Harry's where we had a delightful lunch which was made more delightful by sampling fried pickles. This was a first for us: crisp dill pickles dipped in a light batter and fried light and crisp. delish. A couple of drafts rounded dinner of Jambalaya for Peg and blacked redfish for me out nicely.
  • We next walked to Flagler College where we enjoyed the wonderful design work of Louis Comfort Tiffany. We continued our walking tour of the original St. Augustine settlement and went into the museum of the Sisters of St. Joseph who stemmed from a French order that came to St. Augustine to educate freed slaves.
  • We then spent a few hours walking Old Town and doing some shopping. At one store we met a woman from Jamestown who knew Dave Siwicki (her last name was Ricci Schneider). At 1830 we headed over to Scarlet O'Hara's where the local Cruisers Net were holding a gam & cocktail hour. We got to meet many new cruisers. A good number of them were spending the winter in St. Augustine although a good number were headed S to the Bahamas. Peg met two couples who keep their boats in the Saltponds area of Hampton and know her son Gene. Small world.

14 Nov 14; Friday; St. Augustine to Rockhouse Creek
  • We dropped the mooring at 0615 to make the 0630 bridge opening per advice of friends we met last night only to find it was on request until 0700. It was nice to find 66' clearance awaiting us at McCormick Bridge. Sunrise revealed overcast clouds and temperatures below 50º.
  • When we reached the fixed bridges in the Daytona area, this begins the area where the State of FL has moniker around with the height boards and they no longer reflect the height of the bridge above MHW at the highest point of the span like the center of an arch. Instead they reflect another value known only to the bridge department and they are not telling! When I discovered this in 2009, I began the process of photographing the fixed bridges and their fenders and height boards as Onward transited them. I created the website: www.icwcruisersguide.com to house this info. A great idea but when I ran into a number of easy transit years, I didn't complete the process although I still have notes and photos of almost every transit. After running into the problem at the Atlantic Beach Bridge in NC, I realized that all the great data in the world isn't worth much if I can't access it quickly when I need it. So, I've been working on updating and adding information as I move S.
  • Today, I found the data I'd posted in 2009 and 2010 to be vert useful and the transit of the fixed bridges in this area while still a pain were only a small pain.
  • Onward put into the Halifax Marina to take on fuel and it was nice to find my bill smaller than usual. We took on 114 gal: 34 port; 25 starboard; 55 mid.
  • Even at low tide the transit of Ponce de Leon inlet was not difficult with the least depth being 11' right at the N end. With inadequate daylight to get to Titusville, we anchored at Rockhouse Ck. Onward was the second boat in after a motor yacht, Freedom from Block Island who hd passed us earlier; then 3 other boats came in and anchored. Should make for a nice parade to get to the Munson bridge before the 0700 lockdown.
  • So we enjoyed a sunny afternoon to relax and catch up a bit.

15 Nov 14; Saturday; Rockhouse Creek to Cocoa
  • Anchors aweigh at 0620 to avoid the lockdown at Munson BB. Made it to Titusville by 1100 and enjoyed passing the new Max Brewer fixed bridge with plenty of clearance! Would that Florida built all their fixed bridges to this standard.
  • Traveling on a Saturday gave us an open on demand at the Addison Point bascule bridge. Then we got to more of the problematic bridges at City Point and Cocoa. At Cocoa, I was pleased to discover that the state had adjusted the height boards so they read about a foot more and more accurately reflect the actual clearance. In 2009, I'd discovered that they had adjusted the height boards so they read > 1' less than actual. I had reported this to the USCG, the USCOE, and the Florida bridge department. It took only 5 years to get it corrected. Amazing.
  • We could not make Vero Beach by dark so we anchored at Cocoa. It was such a nice sunny afternoon that once Onward was settled, the Captain took an air bath and nap in the sun. Delish.
  • Peg and I headed ashore for a walk about. After tying up and starting to walk along, I swiveled my right knee as I extended it and immediately was in pain. Apparently my damaged ACL was reinsured.

16 Nov 14; Sunday; Cocoa to Vero Beach
  • A moderately lazy morning with Onward weighing anchor at 0735 on a beautiful sunny and warm morning.
  • Amen. Onward picked up mooring 7 with "Plan B". A sigh of relief! Great to be done with the sojourn from Maine to FL for the year.
  • Irene and Phil, our raft mates, invited aboard for cocktails, and we had a delightful time learning a bit about each other. A nice way to begin the provision and weather-waiting period.

17 Nov 14; Monday; Vero Beach
  • A lazy morning evolved. I began to check on the availability of a marina slip in the area where I could keep Onward while Peg and I visited Boston for Thanksgiving. That became an exercise in futility.
  • Then it was time to make a sally in to do laundry. We heard last night about the arrival of 20 new boats today so we wanted to get the laundry done before the expected crush. At ~ 1030, we lucked out and 5 washers came available in turn as we filled one. By 1230 the last loads were in the drier.
  • Harriet Hardy drove over after her watercolor lesson and found us in the laundry room. We loaded up the clothes in her car and headed over to the beachfront where we had lunch at Waldo's. It was great fun catching up.
  • Harriet then took Peg on a driving tour of the area. We went out to the Loggerheads Marina to check on an available slip. We found Denis and Vivian on Aleva and stopped by for a visit. I checked with the Dockmaster and found they had no slips available. This season is proving to be a busy one.
  • We returned to Onward and offloaded our clean clothes. Today, Peg ran the dinghy as I realized that I had been doing the driving too much and it was important for her to be readily able to take control.
  • Once aboard, I was able to contact Nettles Island Marina where I kept Onward last December and was "lucky" to get one of the two slips available. The economy must be getting better! All the marinas I had contacted had been full!

18 Nov 14; Tuesday; Vero Beach
  • Rain moved in overnight. Since last night was the first time in > 4 weeks that it was warm enough to open a hatch, we forgot the drill of checking they are closed before we go to bed -- just in case. I had awoken and heard the rain squall but never thought of the hatch in the salon that we'd opened. Of course, I'd decided to pile my clothes from the laundry there awaiting stowage this morning. So I found them a bit damp; luckily the squalls had apparently been brief.

19 Nov 14; Wednesday; Vero Beach

20 Nov 14; Thursday; Vero Beach

21 Nov 14; Friday; Nettles Island
  • I wanted to get Onward settled in a marina by the 24th before we were scheduled to fly to Boston on the 26th. Last year, there were plenty of slips available but this year, I couldn't find a slip in the Ft. Pierce - Vero area. Ft. Pierce has made a major improvement in its city marina and a set of new floating piers are scheduled to open — but not unit the 1st of December. As a last resort, I was able to find a slip at Nettles Island where Onward was last December when I had the arch built.
  • This morning we headed S under overcast skies with a E wind > 17 kts. When we reached Nettles Island, I was astounded to find we had been placed on the S pier which has no protection from the E or S. On top of that the slip they put me in was so narrow that I could not safely back the dinghy through the outer pilings due to the stiff crosswind. In trying to turn around in the narrow channel, the keel caught on the edge of the bar. When Peg walked up on the bow, it shifted the trim enough that we were able to power off the bar.
  • I was able to nose into the slip in spite of the cross wind. I found that they had added a set of outer pilings to extend the accommodation to boats of 60' but they didn't line up the pilings and the outer two were about the width of Onward's beam. We got in and tied off. I wasn't happy with the slip but now Onward was in, it was too hard to get out through the narrow space between pilings without potentially damaging the dinghy. So we were stuck until the winds went down. I had expected an slip on the interior of the basin and would not have moved there if I know the slip was where it was located. But the operator couldn't or likely wouldn't clearly describe exactly were it was. As the day wore on the wind increased and the wave slap on the stern became almost unbearable.

22 Nov 14; Saturday; Nettles Island
  • The winds and the wave slap continued with no chance to get out. I managed to find a slip at Loggerhead Marina in Stuart and reserved it for when I was able to extricate Onward.
  • We focused on defrosting the freezer and inventorying the contents. Then we moved on to updating the the rest of the food inventory. Actually, Peggy did most of it while I was busy on boat stuff. She now knows all my secrets — as far as inventory goes.

23 Nov 14; Sunday; Nettles Island
  • More wind and wave slap. But there was a promise of a lull in the morning. More storage area cleaning and inventorying.
  • 24 Nov 14; Monday; Nettles Island to Stuart
  • Quiet winds greeted us with the morning. I left a letter and a check for the marina office which I hadn't been able to talk with in 60 hours. Without the strong winds I was able extricate Onward from the grips of the narrow slip and we headed S to Stuart. The transit was easy and we had no problems at the A1A bridges or rounding Sewell's point. Perhaps the gods were making amends for the terrible days at Nettles Island.
  • We pulled into our slip, L9, on one of floating piers and were soon comfortably ensconced. Now the focus turned to getting ready for the trip to Boston. The hardest part for me was digging out my backpack and carryon duffle from storage in the bow compartment in the forward shower.

25 Nov 14; Tuesday; Stuart
  • We picked up our rental car and started the process of doing the heavy-duty provisioning for the next 5 months. We hit the Walmart superstore and the West Marine before returning to Onward.
  • We then focused on preparation for the trip. Peggy had it easy as she leaves a set of clothes at daughter Valerie's home which greatly simplified her packing. Then we learned that NE was about to be hit with a nor'easter during our visit so I had to dig out my boots that I hadn't used since I moved aboard in 2004!
  • Onward has had an AIS receiver aboard for many years. I resisted installing an AIS transceiver because I was concerned with clogging up the charts with yet another vessel symbol. My philosophy was that it was better to see the big guys and get out of the way than to tell them where I was. Then, this summer in New England between the fog and some shipping traffic, I decided it was safer to be able to transmit the AIS location. So today my son ordered an AIS650 transceiver and VHF splitter for me to be delivered to the marina when I returned from the trip.

26 Nov 14; Wednesday; Stuart to Andover
  • We were off to Palm Beach airport by 0500. We had the 0700 Jet Blue flight to Boston - the first flight of the day. We managed to get off the ground and away before the tail of the oncoming cold front hit the area — the same front that would bring snow to the Boston area later in the day. Peg is an expert at traveling by air on busy holidays and schedules the first flight out of the day which is very early when crowds are light. And she booked the "more space" seats which made stowing our carry-ons a snap. Nice!
  • By 1000, we were being whisked to Andover by daughter Valerie. As we drove the rain that was the precursor to snow started. We were home as the first flakes fell. By the evening there was about 6" on the ground which made the beautiful yard even more charming.

27 Nov 14; Thursday; Andover

  • We were disappointed to learn that Peg's older daughter, Lori, and her family were not going to be able to drive up for Thanksgiving because her husband, Joe, wasn't feeling well. The grandchildren on both sides were devastated at not being able to have the great sleepover they had been counting on.
  • Valerie, amazingly, was up and out early with the family to run in a local annual fundraising race. Impressive.
  • I got to meet Frank's mom and two brothers. The family Thanksgiving dinner is a well-oiled and executed ritual where everyone has their task. Peg was constantly busy with pumpkin pies, stuffing, turkey preparation, etc. I introduced something new — the Rocchio Family holiday antipasto. I was a bit apprehensive with interfering with another family's ritual but all enjoyed watching the assembly process and heartily enjoying the result.
  • Dinner was wonderful particularly feeling wrapped in the arms of a loving family group. I got to spend phone and FaceTime with my family in LA, San Diego, and RI. A very nice time.

28 Nov 14; Friday; Andover
  • More snow! We had a lazy day hanging about. I remained at home on Black Friday but put in orders to Amazon for a cell signal booster and a 12-V router. While I was at it, I discovered that Nespresso was offering an entry level expresso machine for under $85!. Now since the summer of 2013, I've been bugging Ed Burke who got me hooked on expresso to buy one of these machines for Onward to make up for getting me addicted. Ed is a wonderful guy but I'm afraid he let me down here. So, with such a bargain available, I went ahead and ordered one. I know Ed really wanted to do the right thing.

29 Nov 14; Saturday; Andover
  • Grandma took grandchildren Frankie and Vivian to the movies — her annual ritual, and I went along as a spear carrier. We had good fun with the children. On the way home we stopped by Valerie and Frank's gym, Infinity Fitness, and got to see the substantial improvements they'd implemented since our first visit in August shortly after they had bought it.

30 Nov 14; Sunday; Andover to Stuart
  • We were up at 0315 and ready to go when the limo arrived at 0345. It is amazing how quick the trip to Logan can be when there is no one else on the roads. When we got to the terminal we had to wait in line until the TSA security operation opened at 0500. Ah, I've come to love being qualified for the TSA-precheck as we absolutely zipped through the line. There was plenty of time for breakfast before we boarded Jet Blue for the return to FL. Again, Peg planned this amazingly well and we had no problems with crowds or delays.
  • By 0900 we had our rental car and were off back to Onward. Along the way we took advantage of the quiet Sunday morning to do a provisioning run to Sams Club, Walmart, etc. Such efficiency!
  • One of the places we stumbled upon was a Harbor Freight store. I always visit these because they have those tools I don't know I need beforehand. Today we found the remnants of their Black Friday sale ongoing. The had almost 50% off on the electric winches John Miller recommended for the dinghy arch. So, while I had completely forgot about installing electric winches this summer, I couldn't pass up the bargain and decided to do it before departing for the Bahamas.
  • Between luggage and shopping booty we had a lot of stuff to schlep aboard — but not before I had to walk almost a mile to hunt down a dock cart. We ended up leaving a lot of stuff in the trunk for a second haul in the morning.