Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Wind, waves, and gratitude ... Charleston, SC, to St Marys, GA

Thursday, Nov 21 through Thursday, Nov 28 -- Thankful to get to Thanksgiving!!

Thursday-Friday, Nov 21-22 -- Our enjoyable time in Charleston having come to an end, it was time to get ready to head for St Marys, GA, where we planned to join other cruisers for a communal Thanksgiving.  Here is Fred ironing his jeans in preparation for the trip:
Fred ironing his jeans
Just kidding!  If you look closely you can see that Fred is ironing patches onto both knees of his jeans, which Dorothy then reinforced with stitching (sewing machine is on the dinette seat forward of the table).  Our inverter is 300 watts, whereas Dorothy's little travel iron (which was her mother's!) is 650 watts -- so we need shore power to use the iron.  Although the sewing machine works fine on the inverter, the iron's high wattage requirement means that patching and quilting are pretty much dock restricted to when we are at a dock with shore power -- unless we opt for a higher-powered inverter at some point, but we'll see on that ... patching and quilting are only occasional activities, and so far, doing them when we have shore power has really been ok.

While in Charleston, Dorothy made some additional headway on Ian's graduation quilt (OK, he graduated in 2012 ... I'm working on it!!):

Ian's Middlebury College graduation quilt top in progress!
We were leaving Charleston on Thursday, Nov 21, and wanted to arrive in St Marys, GA, no later than end of day Tuesday, Nov 26, so that we could enjoy the town and make our Thanksgiving dish to share on Wednesday, Nov 27.  That gave us 6 sailing days to cover about 170 nautical miles -- about 30 nm per day.  That is quite doable if conditions are favorable, but weather is always a consideration, and since we had some heavy weather in the forecast, we were eager to get some miles under our belt.

We set out from Charleston around 9:30 am, headed at least for the North Edisto River, and beyond if possible.  The wind was brisk, NE 16-20 knots, so we just put out about 1/2 of the jib.  The waves were 4-6 feet, but the wind eased down to 13 knots mid-afternoon,on our stern quarter, resulting in the dreaded slatting (big wave -- boat tips one way-- jib loses air -- boat tips back -- jib refills and slams back over -- repeat -- repeat -- repeat ... not good for the rig and not exactly pleasant sailing), so we put out the whisker pole.  Then the wind picked back up to 20-22 knots, the waves increased to 4-8', and while we had a bit of a wild ride with those big waves, we made good progress, 5.5 to 6.6 knots over ground, with 1/2 jib only.  We decided to go for the gusto and continue overnight to Doboy Sound in Georgia!

Sea state and sky as sun is getting low
Fred took the first watch (shift), 6 to 9 pm, and Dorothy tried to sleep ... uneventful.  Dorothy took the next watch, 9 to 1 -- and things got busy!  The wind lightened -- engine on.  Rain.  The wind strengthened -- engine off.  The call of a loon close to the boat.  And then ships!!  Near Savannah, 9:30 pm, Dorothy was at one point tracking the distance and bearing of six ships.  The radar comes in very handy for monitoring ships at night, particularly in heavy seas, as it is very hard to tell if the bearing of a "target" is constant when the boat is yawing / rolling.  Meantime, it was Fred's turn to sleep, or try to, as Aviva continued to rock and roll in the waves.  The dinette was a bit less rolly than the forward cabin.

Sleeping (or at least trying) Beauty!
The moon came out, surrounded by haze:
Hazy moon
Moon bisected by the mast 
Then Fred took over again, until 4 am or so ... no more ships, and wind and waves began to subside, giving Dorothy a better sleep!

Then Dorothy was on again for the dawn hours, heading for the MoA (flashing pattern Morse Alpha) buoy marking the inlet for Doboy Sound.  When Fred got back up, we removed the whisker pole, rolled out the jib all the way ... wind died ... slatting ... engine on ... course change to avoid a fishing trawler... roll up jib ... buoys missing in sound ... and by 11:30 am we were anchored in the Dulpin River and ready for a rest.
Doboy Sound light house
Our anchorage in the Dulpin River was just beautiful:
Dulpin River anchorage
Late afternoon, it happened to be low tide, so Dorothy took the dinghy upriver to do some birding on the mud flats.  The water was so calm that driving the dinghy was like planing on glass.  Dorothy is no expert on peeps but thinks she saw dowitchers (don't know what kind!), great blue heron, dunlins, semi-palmated plover, and a snowy egret or little blue heron.  As the sun set, the peeps dispersed and the no-see-ums came out ... time to head back to the boat for dinner, with this beautiful view:
Sunset over the Dulpin River, Georgia
Saturday, Nov 23 -- A lighter wind day, the calm before the storm, with winds clocking around.  On the passage from Charleston to Dulpin River (above), our wind was NE from Thursday morning on through that day and overnight.  It shifted to ENE at about 5 am Friday, then E by 6:30 am, beginning the clocking around cycle.  This morning, Saturday, it had clocked around further, and we started the day SW 5 kts, ended WNW 6.  Dear Reader, can you guess what direction is coming next as it clocks the rest of the way around?  Exactly!!  It means you're going to want protection from the north ... it's going to blow!  How did I live 58 years and never know that?  Anyway, I digress and am getting ahead of myself.

As we left the Dulpin River, per the cruising guide we were headed to a shallow area of the ICW.  True to expectations, we heard radio calls of boats aground and boats reporting areas where the water was "thin."  Fortuitously, as we left our anchorage around 9 am, the tide was rising, with high tide due about noon.  A mid-rising tide is ideal when you are traversing shallow waters, in that if you do run aground, the water will continue to rise, and hopefully you can get off.  With a falling tide, you could be stuck quite a while.  Anyway, I digress again!

As we left the Dulpin River, headed back into Doboy Sound, we saw this ferry of folks ...
Ferry in Doboy Sound, GA
It was a quiet day, motoring.  We passed through the Altamaha State Waterfowl Management Area, graced with a fly-by by two great egrets, crossed Altamaha Sound to Buttermilk Sound, then split off to the Frederica River, the ICW alternate route that offered good depth and that sounded both pretty and protected.  Not to mention the name!  Some Frederica River sights:
Grasses along the Frederica River
Boat dock and storage along the Frederica River
Spanish Moss in trees along Frederica River
Lone palm, Frederica River
Fort -you got it -- Frederica
Sailboat on Frederica River -- named -- you got it -- Frederica

After 5 hours of motoring, we were anchored in middle of the Frederica River, just above Manhead Sound, which leads into Saint Simons Sound.  In 22 feet of water (high tide), we put out 180' of chain and hunkered down under a big rain cloud, ready for the pending cold front with gale force winds expected.

Sunday, November 25 -- We didn't move, and this is our only picture from the day:
We didn't get a picture of the maximum wind!  We didn't want to go out there!

There is always the question, when anchored in a river, of whether the boat is going to swing back and forth with the tidal current.  In the Cohansey River, in Delaware Bay, where a strong cold front came through, the tidal current was strong enough that it won out over the wind, and the boat swung with the current.  Here, on the Frederica, the wind won out over the current, and the boat pointed north throughout the passage of the front.  Who cares?  Well ... when you swing, you will be located the entire length of whatever scope you have out in the opposite direction from where you were originally.  For example, with 180 feet of chain out, if you swing 180 degrees with the current, you will be 360 feet from where you were lying originally.  Two considerations around that are -- (1) what's the depth there, and (2) will the anchor hold or re-set when pulled from the opposite direction?  So far, except for once on Back Creek in Annapolis when we dragged, our anchor has held.  Knock on wood!

Monday, November 26 -- Two travel days left to reach St. Marys by our goal of end-of-day Tuesday, with 36 to 39 nautical miles to go, depending on whether we go inside (in the ICW) or outside (pop out into the Atlantic at St Simons Sound, then back in at St Marys - Fernandina inlet).  Either way, that is a feasible distance to cover in one day.  Decisions, decisions!  Motoring in the ICW has consistently been prettier than expected, but still, the operative word is motoring, and we'd just as soon sail where possible.   Today Dorothy was "captain of the day," and she opted to try the outside route, subject to how it looked once we got out there, as it was still blowing pretty strongly from the cold front (NNE 16-20 knots as we set out at 8:30 am).

First thing, we went under the FJ Torras Causeway.  Nothing extraordinary here, just thought it might be of interest, as most of you readers are probably more used to going over bridges.  This bridge has 65' vertical clearance, and looks the way most bridges look on approach:
FJ Torras Bridge next to St Simons Island, GA
Below is how it looks to us as we pass under.  Doesn't it make you want to duck???  We had about 10-11 feet of clearance, but even looking at this picture I want to duck!!
Aviva's mast - passing under FJ Torras Bridge
From here, we headed through St Simons Sound out toward the open sea.  It started to drizzle, and with the wind and waves we were seeing, and the temperature being 50 degrees, Dorothy decided to put on her full foul weather gear (aka "foulies").  Good call!!  As we rounded Neptune Park and got further out into the sound, the wind picked up to 18-22, gusting near 30, with waves increasing in size -- we were getting hammered.  Dorothy's turn-around point was gusts over 30, the thought being that if it was gusting over 30 in the sound, it was likely to be even worse further out there.  As much as we want to get experience in all conditions, we don't intend to knowingly sail into a gale (35 knots).  And cruisers frequently remind each other that there is no shame in poking your nose out and turning around if it doesn't look good.  

When the gusts hit 31 knots, Dorothy turned the boat around and we headed back in to the ICW.  Now the ICW in this area still goes through the sounds.  So it wasn't like the wild ride was over.  Indeed, as we plowed our way through St Andrew Sound, more than 2 hours after leaving, it was blowing NNE 28 and gusting to 34.  

These were the toughest conditions we had encountered, and it was rough.  It took most of Dorothy's strength to steer the boat through St Andrew Sound and was exhausting.  But we did it!  And Hallelujah, when we got into Cumberland Sound, the wind dropped to 22 (!) and we were able to put out the jib, cut the engine, and sail on a dead run all the way to the St. Marys River.  

By around 2 pm, the wind had dropped to 13 knots ... what a relief!  At Kings Bay in Cumberland Sound, we passed the Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base, home port to the US Navy Atlantic Fleet's Trident nuclear-powered submarines.  A large escort ship radioed to tell us they were just about to leave, and to leave them plenty of room.  We did!  (But they didn't leave until we were almost turning into the St Marys River).  Here are a few (unclassified) photos we took as we passed the facility:
Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base structure
Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base buildings
Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base submarine escort ships 
Here is a link to another cruiser's report and photo exhibit seeing the Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base ... they got much better photos!

At about 2:45 pm, we turned into the St Marys River, and by 3:30 pm we were anchored!!  Below is Dorothy, still suited up, very happy to have made it!

Awesome day!
Tuesday, November 26 -- Touring St Marys!

St Marys is one of the oldest towns in the south, chartered in 1787.  It has a variety of small shops and a beautiful park on the waterfront.  There is a full-service marina, and plenty of room for lots of boats to anchor.  Here are a few shots of historic buildings:

Orange Hall, c. 1829

First Presbyterian Church

Wednesday, November 27 -- Since it had been over 24 hours since we'd had heavy wind, apparently it was time for some more!  Accordingly ...
Someone took the extra big mooring ... way to be safe in a blow!
Our transom flag patriotically standing at attention
More wind!
You can't really tell it in this photo, but the river and all the boats in the anchorage were rocking:
Windy river, water sloshing, boats rocking
Thanksgiving -- Thursday, November 28 -- Turkey Day!

With our two freshly-baked pecan pies in hand, we headed into shore around noon -- time for the big feast!

Thanksgiving is generously hosted by Gayla and Jerry Brandon, at their Riverview Hotel and Seagles Restaurant and Saloon, and other town residents.  It is a big potluck, and I do mean big!!
Site of Thanksgiving festivities (love the Hippies sign!)
Feasters assembling, lining up outdoors
Ann Barr and her husband Lynn Harden have attended for years and are the cruiser organizers.
Local cruiser contact and organizers Ann Barr and Lynn Harden

Others pitch in with the organizing as well, like Jage North, Pete and Stephanie Peterson.
Jage North
Feasters feasting
Annapolis Boat Show workers who attended Thanksgiving, plus a few more folks
Feasters feasting
It was a HUGE spread of WONDERFULLY TASTY DELIGHTS, turkey with all the trimmings, ham, sides, and there was plenty of food!!  And the next day, we got together again for a pancake breakfast and swap-meet.  (Certain syrup-snobby Vermonters brought their own maple syrup!)

Dorothy gave some of the organizers tissue pack covers, and Stephanie Peterson was so excited about them as stocking stuffers that she bought four more.  That was a nice surprise ... and covered breakfast!

Friday, November 29 -- Time to go!

Thanksgiving was wonderful, but we could not help noticing that the temperatures were still COLD!  Knowing that warmer climates awaited, we were ready to move south -- seriously!!

First a quick repair -- we had noticed that a folded-under flap on the UV cover of our new jib had come unfolded and was flapping wildly in the recent heavy winds.  Today, with moderate breeze and some blue sky, was perfect for the job:
Dorothy up the jib in the bosun's chair
Dorothy will sew anything, anywhere!
We didn't quite hit the 1500 nautical mile mark, but we are so close, I can't help but include this -- 1400+ miles traveled!!

Next post - -  Passage to Florida...stay tuned...

Saturday, December 28, 2013


Monday, Nov 18 through Wednesday, Nov 20 -- Charleston, SC

From our last post, we arrived in Charleston after an overnight offshore passage -- badly in need of marina facilities with holding tank pump-out.  While we were outside the 3 mile offshore limit,  our own attempt to macerate to empty our holding tanks had been unsuccessful for both forward and aft holding tanks.  We had hoped to come in to the Charleston City Dock, on the Ashley river (west side of Charleston), so we headed to that side of Charleston and dropped the hook to make arrangements.  However, they were full  and said they could not offer pump-out service to boats not staying on their docks, and as we called around further, we found there was no pump-out to be had on the Ashley River side of Charleston.  In addition, the depth in that area was 30', the holding was poor, the current was strong, and a strong blow was expected!  So we did some further hasty cell phone calling and found the Charleston Maritime Center (also owned by the City) on the east side, Cooper River.  They offered free pump-out and had dock slips available -- so we went over there.  That turned out to be great!

After pumping out we arranged dockage for our stay in Charleston, which we had planned to cover 3-4 days.

One of our tasks in this port was to get our holding tanks pumped out and to fix the offshore macerator pump.  Fred lost the coin flip to get his hands into this...
Fred with his hand (blue gloved) in the forward holding tank, repairing the macerator pick-up tube, which had come completely unattached.  A truly unpleasant chore (witnessed by Fred's  not-so-cheerful expression).  But we got it fixed!
Meanwhile, Dorothy went to sample Charleston's shops, in search of a mother-of-the-bride dress to wear at Sage and Sam's wedding next spring, and was also successful!  It turns out that Charleston is very walkable and has free downtown trolley buses -- easy to get around.  The post office where we had had a battery-operated drill shipped to ourselves General Delivery was just a couple of blocks away.  After that stop, having discovered online that King Street boasts a good number of women's dress shops, Dorothy was successful in finding just the right dress in less than an hour!!  However, that seemed too good to be true, so I spent a couple more hours looking further and trying on other dresses, and consulting with and emailing photos to Sage, the bride, and my sister, Betty Thomas.  In the end, the first dress was the best, and I look forward to wearing it on June 14!  (Sorry, no photo allowed, yet).

In all that walking up and down King Street, Dorothy was surprised to spy the sign below:
Mary Oliver on wayside pulpit, right on busy King Street in shopping district
A wayside pulpit featuring this Mary Oliver quote could only mean one thing -- that a Unitarian church was lurking nearby!!  And indeed one was -- The Unitarian Church in Charleston!  Going through the passageway framed by the signs and brick walls above, you enter the church's cemetery (below).  This is not your typical cemetery!
Unitarian Church in Charleston cemetery
The cemetery is wild and lush with all variety of plants, with grave markers dating from the 1700s to the present, and benches on which to sit quietly and rest, reflect, or remember.  It takes up a good chunk of the block between King and Archdale Streets, where the church is located:

Unitarian Church in Charleston  at "A", cemetery behind and to the side.  Church next door also has a cemetery behind it.
The church is pictured below from the street side:
Unitarian Church in Charleston
This being the south, many of the historic buildings were built with the labor of enslaved workers, including this church -- an uncomfortable piece of history.  The church has constructed a memorial to the enslaved workers whose labor made construction of the church possible.

Memorial to enslaved workers who helped build the Unitarian Church in Charleston
The bird looking backwards over its shoulder symbolizes learning from our past.  May it ever be so.

With macerator repair, dress-shopping, and unexpected cemetery-visiting complete, we had plans to connect with friends, one of the most enjoyable aspects of the cruising life.

Ben Eriksen Carey and Teresa Carey, the wonderful delivery-training captains we had sailed with from Florida to Rhode Island last May, were doing a similar delivery/training with Marc and Jen Konesco, on their new Jeanneau -- s/v Adagio, and happened to arrive in Charleston shortly after we did.  We were thrilled to be able to connect for a delightful dinner together at the Hominy Grill (unfortunately sans Jen, who had flown back home).  The Konescos are planning to become live-aboards with their 3 young children in January -- home schooling on board to boot!  We look forward to seeing them all in the Bahamas...

The Hominy Grill in Charleston gave us a real taste of southern cooking.  We began with an appetizer plate of Jalapeno hushpuppies with sorghum butter.  Fred had shrimp and grits!  Dorothy had cheese grits with the southern vegetable plate including mustard greens, zuchini casserole and cornbread.  We shared an amazing dessert chocolate pudding.  Check out the Hominy Grill menu at:  Hominy Grill    YUM!

Back at our slip, we observed several large ships passing by, including car carriers like this one below:

The back of this ship has its own fold-up car highway bridge for loading/unloading:

Note also the life boat a la Captain Phillips!!!  We were told that there is a nearby BMW assembly plant, which supplied these car carrier ships.  


Charleston is a really beautiful city!  Our friends John and Laura Scott, who divide their time between their Middlebury and Charleston homes, had invited us to contact them when we came into Charleston, and fortunately, they were here.  John gave us a wonderful walking tour, and we all toured additionally as we went out to dinner one evening.

Charleston is a city famous for porches (here called piazzas - roofed and arcaded passageways).
Fred recognized this one from Beth Dow's pictures - and one of her screensavers...

 Charleston also has a beautiful park at the Battery, at the point overlooking the harbor entrance:

 Beautiful historic architecture:

A city of many beautiful churches :

 One of many monumental historic residences south of Broad Street

John & Laura Scott's lovely home in Charleston.  

John and Laura were wonderful hosts to us, giving us walking tours -- they have amazing historical knowledge of Charlerston!  We enjoyed an evening walk and dinner out with them -- the city is so beautiful in the evening...  We also enjoyed some "old home week" with them chatting about Middlebury matters... Thanks again, John and Laura!
Fort Sumter - at the ocean channel entrance...where the civil war started
Sailing out of Charleston...
A ship coming into Charleston as we were leaving;  they move fast!
 Below 90 seconds later: 

Container ship coming into Charleston Harbor
Back in the blue water -- a following sea on our overnight passage to Doboy Sound, GA