Onward’s Cruise Journal 2013
Cruise from the Chesapeake to FL Along the ICW

Updated: 30 November 2013

November 2013

1 November 13; Friday;

  • It was a gray overcast day but pleasantly mild. Peggy and Tina went bike riding in the morning while Ed and I caught up on boat chores. Suddenly it was after noon and I was hungry so I decided to whip up a spinach calzone for lunch while Peggy watched. We enjoyed cold beers and hot calzone for lunch. I then introduced Peggy to Downton Abbey as we watched an episode together.
  • We met the Merlins and went for a long walk to look at the homes being built in the River Dunes development. All are very nice built as one-offs by various builders following the same style guide. We had to keep moving because of the mosquitos, demonstrating why all the porches are screened.
  • By 1745 the loaner car had returned and we headed off to do some shopping and visiting Oriental. We were joined by two young Canadian men, Chad and Alex, in their very early twenties. They were aboard a 26' sailboat with a 4hp outboard for auxiliary power and had come down the Erie canal and done several long offshore trips to Norfolk where they picked up the ICW. Their plan was to sail to the BVI where the older one, Chad, was born.
  • We stopped and did some grocery shopping and I found they had a nice selection of microbrews in cans so I stocked up. It didn't take us long to take a walk around town and then we decided to have dinner at the Toucans restaurant before heading home. The Merlins introduced us to an Episode of Boston Legal before we called it a night.

2 November 13; Saturday;
  • The rain came in about 0300. I was awaken by the deluge and as I lay in bed I realized I'd forgotten to take the plug out of the dinghy. It took me a while to get the courage to get out of a warm bed to go get wet. When I saw how hard it was raining, I just doffed my sleep shirt to make it easier to towel off after. After pulling the plug and getting soaked in the process, the lanyard on the plug got caught on a finger and went overboard as I removed my hand. Ah well, don't have to worry about the plug now. I toweled off and headed back to sleep.
  • By 0730, the > 500 mi long front of rain that was moving NE over us had picked up enough E to move offshore. I made Peggy and I omelets and toasted English Muffins which we made with the blueberry preserve she had brought me. It was mostly fresh whole small blueberries in a very light jam. Delish.
  • By the time breakfast was done it was time for Peggy to depart. The son of the assistant marina manager took her to the airport where she decided to rent a car and drive back to pick up her car in Annapolis. We had a delightful time on this section of the trip. I told her that some day I might find it in my heart to forgive her for abandoning ship.
  • By 0930, I managed to stir up the Merlins and asked them to consider leaving by 1100 to go to Beaufort. After a bit, Ed decided they had too much organizing to do to depart today.

3 November 13; Sunday; River Dunes to Mile Hammock Bay
  • I managed to talk the Merlins into getting out of their nice warm bed on the first day of EST to make an 0630 departure. It was a long and thankfully uneventful day as we headed for Mile Hammock Bay. I again encountered a barge and tug just before departing the canal above Beaufort. This time there was plenty of fuel in the tank and Onward did not lose power.
  • We put into Mile Hammock Bay just before sunset and I anchored well up in the SW corner near where the old landing ship used to be berthed. Merlin came alongside and rafted up and once that was done I disappeared below to begin making meatballs and angel hair pasta for dinner.

4 November 13; Monday; Mile Hammock Bay to Wrightsville Beach
  • It was a quiet night with gentle winds. Merlin cast off at 0630 and Onward weighed anchor and headed S. We found a couple of places with water < 10' but otherwise had no problem passing by the inlet area to the S. The currents were mostly in our favor and we managed to make the Figure 8 Island swing bridge at 1130. I'd ended up at the front of the line as other boats had circled back due to the current. The bridge tender was 3 min late in starting the opening and of course the bridge swung towards us. As the distance to the Wrightsville Bridge is just over 3 mi and the bridge only opens on the hour, we agreed that Onward would sprint ahead and count on there being a boat or two already there to get an opening. If I got the bow within 0.5 mi, then I could get the opening too. This worked out and once inside 0.5 mi, I moved very slowly through to allow Merlin and a couple other slower sails to make it also.
  • I managed to navigate my nemesis at the entrance to the N channel to the anchorage. The strong current was sweeping Onward toward the green marker but I managed to use a lot of power to safely get by. I quickly anchored and settled down to have lunch. Merlin had problems getting anchored and it turned out a shackle had gotten wedged in the anchor so that it wouldn't allow the anchor to set right. He had to take it on deck and unscrew the shackle to fix the problem.
  • We headed into town and first order of business was to try to find a black cat stuffed animal that Tina wants to carry as a mascot to amuse her grandchildren. The best we came up with was a small tiger. Tina turned down the offer from Ed and I to find a real black cat and stuff it. Women!
  • After a walk N along the beach into 20 kts of wind, it was very warm once we got to walk along the street back to the anchorage. We put into Tower Seven where we were in luck for the Monday Fajita special and $3 beer special. Life is good. Dinner done, we headed back and I immediately crashed for the night.

5 November 13; Tuesday; Wrightsville Beach to St. James Plantation Marina
  • A lazy morning. The temperature dropped enough to make it difficult psychologically to get out of the nice warm bed. I managed to do that by 0545 with the intention of being productive and catching up on things like getting the steward to do the dishes from Sunday night. Only the cook was responsive and got the oven going to complete the toasting of the almond biscotti. I did manage to make a nice omelet for breakfast and that was that as far as productivity went. Merlin and Onward weighed anchor at 0730. For some reason, Ed decided to go out the N channel while I took the more direct and deeper south exit. Onward got to the ICW well before Merlin and loafed it until Merlin came up and took the lead so I could match the pace. The good news is it was high tide so there were no issues with shoals as the inlets. The bad news is as Merlin got to the Carolina Beach Bridge, at about 0900 there seemed to be no height board so I stopped. This is the bridge where a stray loop of line from a construction tarp took off the windspeed sensor last April. Then Merlin spotted the top half of the 63' sign with the water at the middle of the 3. They proceeded on and I went back and anchored to wait until the tide went down.
  • I discovered a strange thing. As the tide was falling, the current shifted directions from toward the bridge to away from it. While anchored, I finally got around to cleaning out and organizing my "Smart Book" and my passage data book in the Nav Box. Then I realized I really need to go back to taking the detailed notes on bridge passages as I had done at the beginning of my ICW sojourns. Over the years I've allowed myself to become complacent as most bridges are not a problem. But, due to extremely high tides like the one I encountered this morning, previously easy-to-transit bridges become problematic.
  • About 1130, Dragon Run, a sloop with similar air draft came by and went up to the bridge before turning around. The 64' height board was now visible. So they decided to wait another half hour.

6 November 13; Wednesday; St. James Plantation to Grande Dunes Marina
  • I gave the Merlins a hand getting out of their tight slip -- actually Ed handled it perfectly and I just stood by in case. When we got to the new fixed bridge that was just built to replace the old pontoon bridge, I was astonished to find that the clearance was only 63' at a moderate high tide. What is it with the USCG and Corps of Engineers that they can't get the states to build bridges to good datum? It really is a scandal.
  • I had to anchor for a couple of hours until the tide fell enough to safely transit. The Merlins were at hand at Grande Dunes Marina to welcome Onward as I came in. Once settled, we headed off for a walk to the Lowes grocery store where we bought more foodstuffs that we didn't know we needed.
  • We returned to the boats in time to celebrate cocktail hour aboard Merlin and to enjoy the rotisserie chicken and vegetables that we'd bought at Lowes. The night was capped off with watching another Inspector Lewis video. With there many classical references they are intellectual fun.

7 November 13; Thursday; Grande Dunes Marina to S Santee R
  • We were off at 0730 with Merlin leading the way. As Onward departed the S entrance, I turned into the ICW half a boat length from mid channel and was surprised to bump into something hard well outside the marina. It was likely just the port keel wing touching the edge of the rock cut and I was moved on without a problem but underscoring the advice: beware the Rock Pile -- where the Corps of Engineers barely got a narrow channel blasted as they ran out of $ during construction.
  • The Wacamaw R was charming as always. We slowed our pace to allow the tide at the Lafayette Bridge to go down but it was a narrow clear.
  • We decided to press on and not stop at Georgetown which is still recovering from a fire that leveled 8 building on the waterfront in September 2013. We continued on and anchored just before sunset on the N branch of the S Santee River where we enjoyed a quiet night.

8 November 13; Friday; S Santee R to Charleston
  • We were off at 0730 and had an easy time along the ICW to Isle of Plams. There we found the tide was too high for Onward to pass so I found a place to drop the hook and wait while Merlin headed on to berth at Charleston Harbor Marina. By 1330 the tide had dropped enough that Onward could pass. I waited for a couple of sailboats to pass me before raising the anchor. I got the anchor almost onto the bow roller before the slip clutch slipped. So I let out a little rode and tried again but the clutch slipped earlier. Puzzled by this, I went up onto the foredeck and found a > 3.5" diameter black-coated cable was snagged on the anchor. To get it free I took the old broken boat hook I still had onboard and hooked the cable while I let out chain. I was able to hold it just long enough for the anchor to swing free before the weight of the cable pulled the boathook out of my hand. It had quickly drifted into water too shallow for me to want to retrieve it so I let it go. I had checked the chart for any cable crossing and I had anchored in the mouth of a small navigable inlet and there was no notice of a marine cable. Once free, I checked again and saw no warning of a marine cable. Go figure.
  • As a result of my dalliance with the cable, I missed by only a couple of minutes the opening given to the boats I'd let pass and I had to wait while traffic cleared to get an opening.
  • When I approached the Charleston Harbor Marina, I was assigned to slip F51 on the NE corner of the marina. They were busy on the fuel pier and the asked me to wait outside until their dockhands were free. When hailed that I could go in, I found the mouth of the F fairway very constricted by the overhanging bows of sailboats on the T-heads one each side. This and the need to concentrate on handling Onward in the 1.5+ kts of current and 10+ kts of wind made it impossible for me to really see how narrow the fairway was until I had the bow in the slot. It was necessary to make an almost immediate 90º turn to port to get into the slip. They had advised me to stay to the port, N, up current, side of the fairway but if I did this there was not enough room for Onward to turn 90º. If I turned less than this I would have hit the side of a small racing boat that shared the starboard side of the slip. I move just to the right of the centerline to make the turn and powered forward to get the bow around. the wind and current had carried Onward enough downstream that the dinghy caught on the bow pulpit of a boat on that side. I managed to get Onward into the berth but the cross brace on the davits was badly bent. I was really upset with the marina because they had very obviously put Onward into a slip on a fairway that was much too narrow for its length under the conditions of wind and current. I later used my laser rangefinder to determine that there was only ~60' width to the fairway between finger pier ends and with the bows and sterns of vessels protruding, it's actual width was much less than the length of Onward.
  • Once tied up, I needed some time to calm down.
  • We took the 1815 trolly into town to have dinner at Hymans Seafood to celebrate Tina's birthday. Once we put our names on the waiting list, we walked to the nearby Apple Store where the iPad Air I had ordered was waiting for me. Our table was ready when we returned to Hymans and we had a good dinner. We were able to catch the 2015 trolly back home.

9 November 13; Saturday; Charleston
  • After breakfast, I headed off to pickup a rental car and after fetching the Merlins we headed off to Boone Hall Plantation where a Civll War reenactment was to take place in the afternoon of the Union assault on Battery Wagner.
  • Battery Wagner was on the SW coast across from Ft. Sumpter and has long been washed into the sea. The significance of this battle is that it was the first where a black Union brigade from Massachusetts assaulted the batty and almost took it before they were repulsed on the second assault. Later on a third assault, the Union did take the outer works. The Confederates later had to give up the position because the dead from the earlier battles had polluted the drinking water.
  • I had great fun talking with the many of the reenactors. There seemed to be many motives; some are history buffs, some just like the social activity, some like playing shoot'em up with the boys; some just the chance to dress up in old finery. The initial part of simulated artillery fire and the assaults was interesting to watch. Then I started thinking of the real people who had died in this battle and I found myself praying. I was also disturbed by some of the participants and observers who really seemed that they wished the outcome of the Civil War had been different. The reenactment lost its interest for me at this point.
  • On the walk to the house to tour it, I stopped to use the port-a-potty and unexpectedly learned a bit about one way women in hooped skirts coped with the issue…
  • The large brick mansion was built in the 1930's by a retired ambassador and his wife. It occupied the site of previous homes, all of which had been much more modest and built of wood. In contrast, there were nine slave cabins built along the edge of the great live oak drive. These were the best looking and best constructed slave cabins I have ever seen all of brick with glazed tile roofs and sophisticated fireplaces and chimneys. They were much more grand in style than the pedestrian wooden main houses that predated the present brick mansion. The answer for this was that the owners lived a short boat ride across the Cooper R and thus had no need to live on site. One of the major industries of the site had been brick making and the slave cabins had been build from the unsalable bricks by the craftsmen who ran the operation.
  • The gardens were neat with may flowers that I have never seen before. Unfortunately, Tina, my horticultural consultant, had not seen them either and the were no signs to help. Ah well.
  • Nearby, we stopped at the Charles Pickney National Historic Site just before it closed for the day. It is essentially a park as the modest house on the site was built on the ruins of the original plantation home. Pickney was a key member of the South Carolina delegation to the Continental Congress and spent the remainder of his life in a continuous series of public offices. In the process, the relative who was given the job of managing the plantation managed to run it into the ground.
  • We returned to the boats and did a bit of food shopping at a Harris Teeter on the way back. I hosted the Merlins and broke out a bottle of champagne to officially celebrate Ed and Tina's birthdays. Tina then provided some advice and did some sous chef work for a stir fry chicken dinner topped off with cherry pie. A good end to a better day than yesterday.

10 November 13; Sunday; Charleston
  • Tina and Ed needed a cappuccino fix so we headed over to Starbucks for at breakfast. We there decided to visit another plantation, Middleton Place for the day instead of Ft. Sumpter. So after a quick trip back to the boats to get the stuff we should have taken with us but didn't due to the caffeine deficit, we drove across Charleston and up the W shore of the Ashley R to Middleton Place.
  • This is an amazing place known for its garden. It has a very interesting history. Henry and Arthur Middleton were the "spares" of a wealthy London merchant family who had headed off to Barbados with the hope of becoming wealthy as sugar plantation operators. Their timing was bad because the good land was gone but they got to see how slaves could be exploited to make a pile.
  • The Lords Proprietors of the South Carolina colonies offered the Middletons the chance to develop plantations in this colony and they jumped at the chance. By 24 when he married, Henry owned about 19 plantations before he acquired what became Middleton Place as dowery when he married. He had a vision of developing a palatial residence in a garden park and spent > 10 years working ~100 slaves to build classical gardens after the French style and a 3-story manor house with N and S "flanker" houses on a bluff with a majestic view down a stretch of the Ashley. He and his family were in the political thick of it in the Continental Congress, Constitutional Convention, Federal and state government and in secession. A NY regiment as part of Sherman's march destroyed the main and N flanker house.
  • They only spent about 3-4 months a year at Middleton Place and spent late spring to late fall at their mansion in Newport RI.
  • The walk and guided tours of the grounds and gardens were wonderful. We had lunch at the restaurant and it was superb.
  • I had a good deal of fun sending off video clips to Elena and Kian of all the different animals on the plantation: horses, cows, peacock and peahens, bunnies, chickens, sheep, goats, and a small alligator.
  • We returned to the boats to clean up and then headed back to Charleston for dinner at Stars Restaurant on King Street. There we met with 9 cruising friends including Dick Tudan, Denise Gill, Corky and Deb Rittenbaugh, Steve and new acquaintances, Canadians Gordon and Karen. We had a delightful dinner with a lot of time spent catching up on our ICW adventures.

11 November 13; Monday; Charleston to Stono R / Elliot Cut S
  • I was up and at it early. First to disassemble the bent cross brace on the davits and check for additional damage. In the process of doing this I discovered what had really happened: the planing fin on the port cavitation skeg of the outboard lower unit got caught under the top horizontal of the bow pulpit until both the plastic fin and a section of the skeg sheared off. I had not been able to understand how the tube of the inflatable could have had the strength to bend the SS rail.
  • I filled the water tanks and then headed off to return the rental car. I got back just in time to help Merlin get underway and head up river to be hauled out so that the cutlass bearing could be replaced.
  • I spent some time in the marina office and talked to the marina manager. We came to an agreement that the marina would cover the repair to the damaged bow pulpit and would not charge me for three nights stay.
  • That very stressful incident behind me, I was able to easily pilot Onward out of the marina at slack tide without incident. I decided to just go as far as the W side of Elliot's Cut and anchor to the W of its S side where I had anchored several times before.
  • It was a wonderfully sunny afternoon and after lunch I enjoyed a sunbath and a nap. I then took the rest of the day off to recover my equilibrium. This incident has shown me that I no longer handle stress as well as I once did.

12 November 13; Tuesday; Stono R / Elliot Cut S
  • I heard from the Merlins last night that Merlin had been hauled and was on the hard. The cutlass bearing was in very bad condition and the new part was due in today.
  • It promised to be a nice sunny day but strong N winds and dropping temperatures were due tonight. Today was a the for me to catch up on all the tasks I can't seem to get done when I'm moving Onward and playing with my friends. What happened to my personal discipline?
  • One of the tasks was to put the dingy down, re-inflate it, and check out how it faired from the marina "incident". The outboard seemed to run fine. However with the port planning fin gone, it is harder to hold it steady on a course. While in the dinghy I gave the waterline another spraying with lemon juice. This does a nice job of cleaning off the "ICW Mustache".
  • Next I installed the spare cross brace for the davits and this seemed to return them to normal. With strong winds expected at night, I put the dinghy back up in place.
  • I rewarded myself with a nice lunch, a short nap, followed by time to play with my new iPad Air. I have so many apps that it took me a while to reorganize them on the new unit. I really like the feel of it, light and easy to hold. It is substantially faster than my iPad !. But I find I have a really attachment to the original as it has been such a big part of my life since I got it on the day they first went on the market.
  • I enjoyed cocktail hour and then made a chili stew that really hit the spot. Delish!
  • About the time I went to bed, the winds began to build as promised. I had planned to let out more chain but somehow forgot. So I spent until the wee hours reading and watching Onward's position on my anchor alarm app. The anchor held just fine even in the teeth of several hours of winds >20 kts and extended gusts to almost 40 kts.

13 November 13; Wednesday; Stono R / Elliot Cut S
  • It was still windy when I got up about 0700 and COLD. The good news was that it was sunny. After breakfast, I decided to work on getting the generator started. For some reason, if I don't start it every day or two, it will not start unless I bleed the injectors. I can't identify any place where there could be an air leak but apparently there is. Today it was really hard to get it going. It caught on several occasions but then died as soon as I took my finger off the starter button. Baah.
  • I heard from the Merlins that the new cutlas bearing was in place and they just needed to reinstall the prop, clean up and relaunch. However the travel lift had broken down; hopefully to be resuscitated quickly.
  • While the generator was running, I decided to see how the HVAC unit for the salon would work since it has now been almost 2 months since it was recharged. Since one of the two raw water circulation pumps died, I had discovered the remaining one could handle both HVAC units so I changed the hoses so the pump could feed one or both HVAC units. Today, when I started the salon unit, I discovered that the AC power to the pump which I had connected in parallel from the two units caused the compressor in my stateroom to also run! A very unintended consequence that I will have to undo.
  • The bad news is that the salon HVAC has already lost its charge and cannot provide heat. Drat! I will have to buy a replacement. The good news is the HVAC in the stern works just fine and I can run it if it really gets too cold.
  • After lunch, my productivity died. It was too cold and all I wanted was to stay wrapped up in a couple of blankets and read.

14 November 13; Thursday; Stono R / Elliot Cut S to Tom Point Ck`
  • COLD! TOO COLD! The temperature got down to ~ 31º last night. I was all snug in my fleece bed liner and didn't like the prospect of getting up. I got the genset going first thing and turned on the HVAC in the stern cabin. It was nice to get some heat!
  • About 0900 I got a call from Merlin that the travel lift strap had been misplaced and had put pressure on an unused transducer port that began leaking slightly so they rehauled to apply sealant. Bummer!
  • I was hailed by Escapade as they passed by on the way S.

15 November 13; Friday; Tom Point Ck to Beaufort SC

16 November 13; Saturday; Beaufort SC

17 November 13; Sunday; Beaufort to Isle of Hope
  • Onward was underway at 0630 to make it through the Beaufort fixed bridge 2 hrs before a very high tide. There was a casualty while getting underway: the great silicone squeegee that I use to clean the windows of the enclosure spun out of my hand as I used it on the starboard door and it fell overboard before I could grab it, quickly sinking in the dark water. I have to learn that my fingers are getting stiff in the mornings and I think I am grasping things more tightly than I am. Well, at least I can still grasp things.
  • Onward made it under the bridge and moved along at 2200 rpm to allow Merlin to catch up from their later start. I had been looking forward to the long stretches of Caliboge Sound to enable me to do some boat tasks in the relatively open waters. However, dense fog greeted us as we approached the inlet and stayed with us well up the Cooper R. It necessitated slowing down and using radar.
  • The decrease in speed due to fog was just enough to make Fields Cut a challenge. At the E entrance, Merlin wandered a bit too far to the N, R, side and got caught on the sandbar that is building out to the SE. Onward was able to go past < 75' to the S, G, side in 11-12'. A 45-50' motor yacht was kind enough to make 4 passes to try to wake Merlin over the bar but it didn't work. I then took Onward back to make another try. On a course further to the S, G side from my original path, where the water was supposed to be deeper, I also hit the sand bar that I had managed to pass over earlier. It stopped Onward dead but I was able to quickly back off. There was nothing for it but for Merlin to wait about 4 hrs until the tide came back up.
  • Onward continued slowly on only to ground again at the shoal building up on the S, G, side of the cut just before the exit of the pier pilings on the S bank. I was aware of this building shoat so I was moving slowly and was able to quickly back off. The deeper water (18') was on the N, R, side of the entrance. It was necessary to cut back to the S side right at the junction with the Savannah River where a tree had grounded S of the R day mark at the entrance. Passing vessels told Merlin the deep water at the E end of the cut was so close to the S, G, shore as to make one uncomfortable. The outside of the several curves in the cut should also be favored as the center of the cut is shoaling.
  • Onward crossed the Savannah R without incident and had a nice chat with the Causton Bluff Bridge tender who timed the opening perfectly so I didn't need to slow down. I was passing through the area at dead low tide and it was crucial to stay in the center of the marked channel as it thinned out quickly to either side. I've transited this area 12 times previously and never saw this low water.
  • While underway I got to listen to a USCG helicopter check in with Merlin to assure that all was well. Nice service! Just like in the Bahamas...
  • I put into Isle of Hope Marina and declared cocktail hour. I heard from Merlin after 1615 that they had managed to float off the shoal. I began plans to have a hot dinner and cocktails waiting when they arrived but I soon got a call that they had decided to anchor for the night before the Causton Bluff Bridge. So I warmed up some stew and had a quiet night reading and recovering from a very stressful afternoon.

18 November 13; Monday; Isle of Hope GA
  • Merlin came in to the marina about 0845 and fueled up before berthing. We picked up a rental car and headed into Savannah. It was an overcast but warm and humid day. We took our rain jackets as we walked about thus keeping the rain at bay. We visited the Telfair Museum Jepson Center to see exhibits on Henri's paintings of Spain and an exhibit of Andy Warhole prints on the Kennedy assassination. Warhole was never high on my list and after seeing one of his comments about the subject of the prints he has moved off it.
  • We walked over to the SCAD museum that I enjoyed on my last visit only to find it closed on Mondays. We walked down to the waterfront and I took note of a number of places Onward would be able to tie up at a erasable rate thus obviating the need for a rental car. One of the floating docks has a 130' Wally Yacht, Angle's Breath, tied up. The first time I've seen one of these distinctive yachts first hand.

19 November 13; Tuesday; Isle of Hope GA
  • Sun!

20 November 13; Wednesday; Isle of Hope to Crescent R
  • I was up at 0500 so I could do a load of wash before the marina opened at 0800. My plan was to move over to the fuel dock as soon as the motor yachts that had overnighted there departed. I was foiled when a Canadian sailboat beat me to it so as I still had my 2 unused stern tanks with ~70 usable gallons, I forwent the refueling in order to be underway at 0820 before high tide at the Skidaway Narrows fixed bridge. They have replaced the opening bridge here and have just removed the old structure. Since they finished the fixed bridge since my last transit, I had no experience to guide me. The Navionics Local Tide Station (NLTS) indicated there was +7.8 of an 8.7' tide. There were no height boards but I was able to make the transit without a problem with about 6" over the VHF; giving ~ 66.25'.
  • Next came Hell Gate and we arrived there with NLTS = 8'. Nice! With that I saw several places of ~ 13.2' around G89 -- so note to beware near low tide.
  • On the trip up the Sapelo R with Merlin in the lead, Onward was passed by a Catalina 470, Northstar V, with a dark blue hull (looked like Awlgrip) hailing from Boca Raton. I tried to reach them on VHF 16, 9, & 13 but was unable. A passing motor yacht had the same problem.
  • We set anchor in the Crescent River at 1540 in order to have a good tide for the Little Mud R in the morning. I took advantage of the early stop for a nap. Delish! I had the Merlins over for a dinner of fresh chicken-stuffed tortellini. The we watched an episode of Dr. Who on my new iPad.

21 November 13; Thursday; Crescent R to Jekyll I
  • We weighed anchor at 0700 and headed S to use the rising tide to get us through the infamous Little Mud River. This section is now so silted in that almost the entire section is < 6' at MLW. The worst places have only 3.6' at MLW. The bottom is soft oozy silt and I have plowed through ~5' areas in past years -- but I prefer to do it with water under the keel!
  • When we got to the Lanier I fixed bridge, we found that the height board on the N side had been destroyed. Merlin reported something over 63' so I turned around and dawdled back up the river for an hour before making my passage.
  • Jekyll Ck, is another challenging place in GA that needs dredging like Little Mud R -- but will never get it. With ~ 2' of tide I saw minimums of 9.8' but I passed under the Jekyll I bridge with > 66' of clearance. I found Merlin anchored on the W side of the anchorage and I anchored behind in ~ 11. After anchoring Onward swung a bit to the W and I began seeing depths for the edge of the shoal. Between that and wind gusts to 20 kts, I decided it was a good night to stay home and read.

22 November 13; Friday; Jekyll I to Pablo Ck
  • Onward did not wander about much during the night in spite of the current. It also managed to stay off of the shoal to the N but depths of < 6.5' were registered. The early morning was warmer than last evening and there was a lot of condensation on the dodger windows. Boy, did I miss that great squeegee for this! We were underway by 0715.
  • The St. Andrews Sound transit is always a challenge as it is the only place along the ICW where one has to go out beyond the barrier islands on both sides and then come back in. The buoys in place are the small inland buoys and hard to see -- especially with a lot of condensation on the windows. I have marked the passage with waypoints on previous transits and that helps a lot. Today I used radar to light up the two buoys and that worked nicely. Today the current and seas were mild. When seas are up and / or against the tidal current, it is very disconcerting to see breakers only a hundred yards or so on the sea side. The channel is silting in and both Merlin and Onward saw depths of 9.9' at the S end of the channel just before turning back into the Sound toward Cumberland I. We say a trawler cut the sand bar to the N and I talked with him on VHF and he said they never saw less than 9'! The tide was + 3.2' at the time of our transits. This is a tempting alternative on a rising tide...
  • I was afraid of having too high a tide at the Twin Bridges to Amelia I where I have been held up before. High tide was to be about 1148 and > 6.1'. So, I decided to speed up to see if I could get there before high tide. When I got to the sub base, my route indicated I wouldn't get there until just high tide so I gave up and throttled back to 2000 rpm to kill time.
  • As I dawdled along the Cumberland R toward Fernandina, I was hailed Southern Pilot with Ed and Connie, Corinthians from MD, whom I'd met at the Fall Out before Haul Out party at Miles R YC in 2012. They remembered me and read my journal as well as the Bahamas Cruisers Guide! Wow! Note to self: be more careful what you write!. They had a Catalina 400 that they traded in for a new motor yacht. They are on their way to FL and then Marsh Harbour where they will leave the boat while they fly back to the US for Christmas.
  • When Merlin got to the Twin Bridges at 1145 they saw a bit over 64' on the height boards on the S side. This was about the time of high tide. So, I should have kept up speed and gotten to the bridge earlier and had more clearance - ah well. Remember next time. My practice has always been to make the effort and then anchor if if doesn't work. This time I cut back early.
  • We had a smooth transit of the St. Johns R with none of the turbulence I've experienced before on the S side. We pressed on to anchor in the 3 Island Anchorage (where there are now only 2 islands) just N of the Atlantic Beach fixed bridge. I anchored and Merlin rafted so we could have a grill night.

23 November 13; Saturday; Pablo Ck to St. Augustine
  • Last night I got an SMS from Ron Draper after he saw my Spot position report. He reminded me to call BoatUS Insurance to change my cruising range to S FL and the Bahamas. Good thing he did! In past years I had always done this as soon as I passed the twin bridges at Amelia I. I got sidetracked yesterday and forgot to call. I hadn't passed below Jacksonville yet so I called and got it done as soon as they opened this morning. Sometime this year, BoatUS Insurance changed the company that does their underwriting. It had been CNA. They are now offering a new cruising range similar to other carriers: From Norfolk to the Bahamas from 1 November to 1June at lower rates. So I changed my coverage -- we'll see. Thank God for buds like Ron that keep me on the right path!
  • We were underway at 0745 and were in St. Augustine in time to make the 1230 opening of the Bridge of Lions. Onward and Merlin picked up moorings 31 and 33 at the St. Augustine City Marina. With a light N wind and easy current, it almost looked like I knew what I was doing as the mooring was nicely waiting for me right at the bow and the pickup and attachment went quickly.
  • The sun had come out and it was nice and warm. Goooooddddd! As I was organizing stuff in the cockpit, a dinghy approached with Jodi and Gary Bratton from C470 Souther Dancer. They had been in St. Augustine for a few days and after chatting for awhile, we made plans to meet when we went into town after lunch.
  • The Merlins fetched me and we headed off to the marina to check in and then wander about town. We wandered around Old Town and stopped for beers and talk. The place was full of people as today was the lighting of the Christmas lights that so nicely decorate the entire waterfront and old town. We walked and looked but didn't do any shopping (unusual) before having another beer at Santa Marias on the waterfront while we waited for the lights to get turned on at 1830. It was fun to watch people enjoying themselves and the lights were worth the wait. Having observed that we headed back to the boats. A cold front was due shortly and I had forgotten to put my fleece in my backpack so I wasn't interested in hanging around longer and the others felt the same.

24 November 13; Sunday; St. Augustine
  • About 0100, the cold front moved in and winds began to ramp up although slowly. I allowed myself to sleep late and got up at 0700. The sky was overcast and the promised 20-25 kt winds with gusts to 30 arrived with overcast skies. Not a nice day to dinghy ashore and walk about St. Augustine so we were lucky to be able to do that yesterday.
  • I actually don't mind days like today -- in fact I kind of like them because they give me a good reason for staying aboard the boat to catch up on the myriad tasks I don't have the time or the energy to do on days when I'm moving Onward.
  • I used my 15-min timer system today so as not to get bogged down and / or bored with any one task. Today's list of tasks that got cycled through included: cleaning up; organizing boat tools and "stuff" forward; updating financial records; working on computer tasks; sewing.
  • I got the sewing machine working and begin the long list of sewing tasks that have been pending since I rendered the SailRight inoperable last year. I had managed to fix this some time ago but had just never convinced myself that I'd done it right and so put off using it. Tina, some time ago, had come over and had used it to sew won hatch covers thus proving that it was working again but I had been too busy with other things to do any sewing at the time. Of course before I could sew I had to find all the bits I needed and that took quite a number of 15-min slots. After doing a couple of minor things to see that it was indeed working for me, I began on one of the sewing projects I'd "discovered" during my preparations. Ironically it was the hemming of a pair of jeans - this is the project I'd been doing when I had tugged on the fabric while the machine was moving thus bending the needle and causing it to destroy the thin plate covering the bobbin holder and also throwing the timing and gib hook clearance off (well at least I learned this stuff when I did the repair). With a lot of care and patience (something normally in short supply with the Captain), I got the job completed and thus expanded my wardrobe of jeans -- which I hope to sail S to the warm quickly enough not to need.
  • The Merlins had been tempting me for a week or more with the promise of a lamb roast when it was cool enough to make using their oven comfortable. So today they called and said it was the night for lamb roast. It is a tribute to how windy it was that I didn't commit immediately. However by about 1200, the promise of roast lamb was too much and called to say I was coming.
  • I added new tasks to my list: preparing pepper biscotti dough and then rosemary-olive oil bread dough. That done I went back to the rest of my cycle. The sewing part got delayed quite a bit as I rooted around to find where the American flag was that I wanted to reinforce before flying. Some years ago, I discovered that if I didn't reinforce a new flag by resewing the first 6" to 8" of the stripe seams as well as doubling the outer 1" of the flag. To find the flag, I ended up going though every compartment, box, bag, container of "boat stuff" in the forward area of Onward. In the process of doing this and before I found the flag, I managed to find two other items which I'd torn the same areas apart looking for a month or more ago. These were the back-up rare-earth magnet for the windlass chain counter transducer and a 12-volt plug with screw wire terminals for me to use when hooking up 12-volt devices for testing or prototyping. By late afternoon I was annoyed with myself enough I again entertained thoughts about that women were lucky because it was perfectly socially acceptable for them to simply cry under such circumstances of great frustration. I called Ed to kvetch about it, and he, as a good friend, listened and described his own similar misadventures. While listening to him, and now feeling a bit better, I suddenly had an epiphany, and while still talking to Ed I found not only the new flag to be reinforced but the previous flag which was in good enough condition to be repaired and used longer! Wow.
  • About 1700 I launched Venture then cleaned up the Captain, packed up bread dough and parchment paper and then headed over to Merlin for dinner. The winds had calmed down to under 15 kts and it was warmer than I expected. The lamb roast made the effort well worthwhile. I made dinner rolls from the dough and they baked that last half hour with the roast. The roast, which the lamb-savy Merlins claimed wasn't one of their best, was better than any roast I've had at any restaurant! Delish. And the fresh rolls were a great addition. We capped off the evening by watching another episode of Lewis -- very enjoyable.

25 November 13; Monday; St. Augustine to Rockhouse Ck
  • The Merlins again dragged themselves out of bed for an 0700 departure. Things went well with good clearances at the first two fixed bridges S of St. Augustine. Then the Flagler Beach Bridge showed only 63.9' on the height boards and they were right. The following bridges in the lagoon around Daytona were as challenging as before. The website I built back in 2009: www.icwcruisersguide.com was very useful because it has photos of the height boards and fender boards at these bridges for occasions where I have safely passed before. So they are reassuring to look at to be sure that Onward can get through.
  • Apparently the Ponce de Leon inlet has been recently dredged and we ran into no areas of shoaling. We put into Rockhouse Ck and anchored about @ 1645. I declared cocktail hour and then enjoyed phone calls from my three children. I warmed up some delicious chili stew for dinner and toasted one of my rye bagels for Beaufort. I will have to get Harriet Hardy to tell me where the good bagels are to be had in Vero Beach. I was really exhausted from the day. After dinner I crawled into bed to read and was soon asleep.

26 November 13; Tuesday; Rockhouse Ck to Cocoa?
  • I was up at 0510 feeling very rested after a lot of sleep last night. While the coffee was perking I began preparing to bake the pepper biscotti by laying out and cutting the dough. I figured I could get the first hour of baking in before departure and then finish them off at night. The ICW is too narrow in this area to allow me to spend the time below to cut and turn the individual biscotti on the side for the next hour of baking. That done, I remembered the other half of the rosemary-olive oil dough that was in a ziplock bag in the cooler. I decided to experiment. I tore off two chunks of dough and stretched them out into English muffin sized pieces about 1/2" to 5/8" thick. I then put them in the nonstick frying pan which had been coated with just a bit of olive oil and cooked them on low heat with turning for about 15 min. The result looked just like English muffins and tasted great! I cut them into halves and then lightly toasted the insides and then made them into egg white omelet sandwiches for breakfast. Delish!
  • We weighed anchor at 0700 and I waited to see that Merlin extracted its anchor without being snagged on the steel cable that some boaters have reported in the far half of the channel. We managed to make the 0720 opening of the Munson SBB. At the Harris Saxon Bridge, I was pleased to see 66' on the height boards and made the transit without touching the VHF.
  • About 6 nm N of the Allenhurst DBB, we encountered the US Army Corps of Engineers survey vessel Florida II. This is a newly built aluminum power cat that surveys inlets. It does single and multi-beam sonar profiling of the bottom. It turns out they do major inlets (the group the captain named were all Class A) quarterly. Also, he related that all the profiles and viewing software are available on line.
  • As I turned into the channel for the Haulover Canal Bridge, the crosswind was a steady 35 kts from port side. The bridge was able to open in spite of the winds which had been building all morning. They remained in the + 20 kt range all afternoon. The sun kept threatening to break through but didn't make it.
  • We made it to Cocoa by 1530 and anchored. I had hoped to have dinner with my nephew, Michael, who is living in Orlando. But stuff got in the way: he had a softball game he expected to be cancelled early but wasn't and then the updated forecast was for very strong winds during the period I had planned to go ashore to meet him. So we put it on a raincheck -- actually I told him he'd have to come to the Bahamas to collect the dinner.
  • I experimented a bit for dinner. I decided to bake some hamburger rolls and a calzone for my lunch tomorrow. Then I remembered I had hamburger patties for my last stop at Harris Teeter. So, while the rolls and calzone were baking, I put a frozen hamburger patty into my small cast-iron flying pan and put this on the bottom of the oven under the gas jet. I turned the burger a couple of times and it was ready about the time the rolls were. Delish!

27 November 13; Wednesday; Cocoa to Vero Beach
  • I again had breakfast made with fresh "Onward English Muffins" Delish.
  • The intrepid flotilla was underway at 0700. The strong winds forecast for Tuesday night did not materialize then. They began to show up as we headed south. By the time we got to Melbourne we were experiencing steady winds of 25 kts with gusts to 30+ kts.
  • The Melbourne Causeway fixed bridge is being painted and the stuff hanging below the bridge shaved wind instruments, windex, and anchor light off Onward's masthead.   A new opportunity to give the economy a boost.
  • Note for those traversing the ICW, the photos and data I publish on www.icwcruisersguide.com are very useful to help you get through fixed bridges as there are photos showing the fender boards and height boards. The sections from Daytona S where they continue to play games with the height boards has the most complete data.  There are also notes on how Onward fared in the transits.  Note:  the tip of Onward's VHF is at 65.75'; mast plate at 63' above the waterline. The fenders boards in most areas are more reliable than height boards.  
  • The Melbourne bridge had stuff hanging below 63' 7" to do the damage.   Both E and W sides of the channel passage had a horizontal wire across. In my concern for trying to avoid a hanging loop. The Merlins and others who have passed the bridge reported horizontal cables lower than the beams and stretched across both halves of the channel passage.  I don't know what did the damage, netting or the  horizontal wire across the whole opening that is used to hold the netting in place.   The height boards and the water level at the fenders read 64.2', the same as in the past when Onward had safely made the transit.
  • God is good and I have good friends to celebrate Thanksgiving with and to help me put this trauma behind.   
  • Onward and Merlin reached Vero Beach at 1400 Wednesday.   We received a waving welcome and then a visit from Dick Tudan. The Merlins were able to negotiate an empty mooring to pick up and then helped me bring Onward safely in. I'd been a bit apprehensive because of the strong winds and the fact that I wasn't in the best of form after the altercation with the Melbourne bridge.
  • The Merlins quickly headed ashore to take the bus to Publix to shop for what they were going to bring to the Hardy's for Thanksgiving. I planned to make Onward Cranberry Chutney and I had all the ingredients aboard so I just continued to chill.
  • Beware of the Riverside and Table Scamming:
  • When the Merlins returned and we headed off to the Riverside restaurant by dinghy. This is a popular nearby waterfront restaurant that is always busy evenings. I forgot that we should have called for reservations but we were early and were a bit surprised to be told that the many empty tables were all reserved according to the hostess and the only place we could get a table was out on the deck exposed to the cold winds. It was a mark of how hungry and tired we were that we accepted. I needed to hold back a menu and put it over my legs (I hand'n been clever enough to wear jeans) to keep away the wind chill. Our meal was great (but cooled quickly in the wind) as was our waitress. However, we could see into the restaurant and all those empty tables we saw on arrival were still empty. Continuing to see this while I shivered really pissed me off.
  • After dinner I went in to the hostess and told her we had enjoyed the food and the service of our waitress BUT I was really upset at her for scamming us and pushing us to sit in the cold when half the inside tables were still empty. Instead of apologizing, she started telling me about people calling to delay. I told her that was inexcusable and she should have brought us in out of the cold. I hope any of my cursing friends who read this will take the opportunity if not to avoid this restaurant, then to tell this hostess that they've heard abut her practices and will not stand for begin scammed. As a note, Tina, as she came out of the restroom area, heard this hostess changing her tune to the next customers who walked in looking for a table -- giving them one of her precious "reserved" tables.

28 November 13; Thursday; Vero Beach
  • Slept in and arose to make Onward Cranberry Chutney. As a reward, the sink drain clogged again and needed a good dose of Draino.
  • With our Thanksgiving dinner contributions in hand I headed off with the Merlins to the dinghy dock where Skip Hardy picked us up in his new SUV and whisked us off to see their new home.
  • Having decided to give up the good life, the Hardy's did it right with a lovely Florida-style mini-McMansion with 4 bedrooms, 3 garages, pool, and a great open floor plan in a small sized gated community. Harriet, as one would expect, has done an amazing job of decorating and making it look a home. Harriet has a sewing & painting room; Skip has a study and a garage / man-cave workshop that he has woodworking equipment that I will never be able to overcome the envy of.
  • We had a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner with mutual friends Rick and Eva who have their boat at the Loggerheads marina in Vero as they provision for a winter in the Bahamas. A grand, low-key, relaxing, delicious time was had by all! Happy Thanksgiving!

29 November 13; Friday; Vero Beach
  • An overcast and windy day. I spent the morning making preparations to go up the mast. I put together a set of foot slings that should help me stand up just enough to be able to see the mast plate clearly as without them the bosun chair brings me up to where it is just above eye level. I then spent the rest of the day catching up on mail and financial stuff. The Merlins went off to town to have lunch and bring their SCUBA regulators in for service. They returned with a rotisserie chicken and we enjoyed a good meal aboard Merlin and followed it up by watching another Inspector Lewis episode which I have really come to enjoy. Tina capped the evening off by revealing a small blueberry pie that we shared out and devoured -- Delish.

30 November 13; Saturday; Vero Beach
  • Rain, intermittent, started well before dawn. I spent the morning continuing to catch up on financial stuff. About 1030, Ed Burke and Dick Tudan came on board and helped me go up the mast. When I got to the top, a scene of destruction greeted me. Both the VHF antenna and the SS shaft of the static brush were bent back at 45º. The coax cable for the VHF antenna was ripped in two with only two short stubs left, one on the antenna base and one peeping out of the mast plate. There was about 8" of the wind transducer wand left as the end of Al tubing with the feather and cups had been torn off. The connector for the wind transducer had been ripped out of the mounting base and the base ripped off the mast plate.The windex was gone and only a stump of the mounting stud remained. The good news was that the masthead light fixture was still there. The Al mooting platform had been smashed to the rear and the electrical wire torn out of the connector.
  • I took photos and then proceeded to clean off the damaged equipment from the mast plate. Dick Tudan had just bought a new Windex and he was kind and insightful enough to bring it over for me to install so at least I would have some wind direction indicator. So, I installed the windex and then came down.
  • I had taken a lot of care to see that the bowline that fastens the halyard to the bosun chair had almost no extra space in it. This allowed me to be taken to the masthead so that the mast plate came up to the bridge of my nose and I could see and work from the chair. The nylon strap stirrups I made will work but I learned that I need to have the chair dropped about a foot to give me some freedom and allow me to raise my legs and then use my hands to put the stirrups over my shoes.
  • Just after I arrived back on deck, Jon and Marilyn Van Tassell from C470-83, Escapade, came over in their dinghy. John Miller had told me they were in the anchorage but I didn't see their boat -- even though it was only on the next mooring N. Goes to show what kind of a mental state I was in yesterday. It turns out they had Escapade's masthead equipment destroyed by the same bridge!