January, 2010

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Charleston, South Carolina to Jacksonville Beach, Florida

Friday, January 29th, 2010

(30⁰17.421′ N by 081⁰25.915 W -  Mile 2854.06 - Jacksonville Beach, Florida)

We left Charleston, South Carolina on Thursday, October 29th continuing south on the Intracoastal Waterway and traveled 58 miles to Beaufort, South Carolina. Not to be confused with its namesake in North Carolina (pronounced Bow fort), Beaufort, South Carolina is pronounced B-you-fort. Pronounce it with the North Carolina pronunciation and the locals will quickly correct you and laugh.

A Beaufort, SC Home

A Beaufort, SC Home

Beaufort, South Carolina was established in 1514 and was first settle by the Spanish, then the French followed by the English. It endured Indian uprisings, occupation by the British and Union forces. It is in the heart of what has been aptly called “Low Country”.

As you will see from the pictures, film makers have used Beaufort as the location for movies like The Big Chill, The Prince of Tides and Forest Gump. The main attraction is the homes that have been lovingly restored to their original style which is unique compared to the homes of Charleston.

The style is more West Indian with a T-shaped floor plan, elevated first floors (rising waters in hurricanes and a place where the staff were sometimes housed), high ceilings and porches on the first and second floors which not only allowed a place to sit outside but offered shade to the inside of the building as well.

Magnolia and Dogwood trees take priority over sidewalks, roadways and traffic and some of these trees have obviously survived for over 100 years.

While we were here, the local merchants closed the main street of the town to hold a “Halloween Party” for the local

It's For Sale!

It's For Sale!

children who attended with their parents. Each shop offered the Trick-or-Treaters candies under their parent’s supervision and it was great to see all of the children dressed in costume.

Quick Fact (An Extract From Waterway Guide 2009)

Gullah Culture

The Low Country region of South Carolina and Georgia is home to the Gullah people. African-Americans whose ancestors were transported from Africa to the Carolina Colony in the late 1500’s. The Gullah region is focused in the Low Country, which includes the (Carolina) coastal plain and the Sea Islands.

Slaves from the West African rice-growing region were selected for transport to the American plantations for the skills in cultivation of the crop. Those slaves were retained and sent to the colony through the ports of Savannah and Charleston. By the 1700’s, the Africans had transformed the agricultural Low Country into a booming cotton and rice industry. A large, enslaved work force combined with disease and the Civil War, forced many white inhabitants out of the region and resulted in African dominated populations, complete with its traditions and language, throughout the Sea Islands.

Magnolia Crossing - NO TRUCKS!

Magnolia Crossing - NO TRUCKS!

The group became known as the ”Gullah”. Gullah speak an English based Creole language which has its roots in African language. In addition to their language, their cuisine, music, crafts, farming practices and folk beliefs all have strong ties to the culture of their West and Central African ancestors.

On Friday, October 30th we fueled up and took a 26 mile passage on the ICW to Hilton Head, South Carolina, a community literally built by sea-side golf resorts. It was a short day but we were setting ourselves up for the right sea conditions and visibility to jump from Hilton Head, bypassing Georgia and coming back to shore at Jacksonville, Florida a distance of 122 miles.

Georgia’s section of the ICW has long been ignored by the US Army Corp of Engineers the agency that is responsible for maintaining it. Silting and tides have created many sections which are today impassible by cruising boats with drafts greater than four feet. Many have claimed to successfully negotiated the passage while others tell of their groundings along the way. We chose wait for the right day and leave Georgia to others more adventurous.

We arrived in Hilton Head to stay the first night in Palmetto Bay Marina, nothing special but we felt we only needed secure overnight accommodation for our early start the next day. The next morning we woke to find a fog bank that

Halloween In Beaufort, SC

Halloween In Beaufort, SC

literally swallowed cruisers going into this curtain.

After two tries which took us late into the morning we decided to stay for the night at Harbour Town Yacht Basin closer to the channel leading to the ocean. This is also the home of the large, candy cane lighthouse you see in many of the post cards and pictures of Hilton Head. Climb to the top and you can see the 18th hole of Sea Pines Golf Club one of the more famous on the PGA Tour. By visiting the marina’s website you can see what we saw from the top of the lighthouse by live, internet camera. Just visit www.harbourtownyachtbasin.com and follow the links to the camera.

The next morning the fog had cleared and off we went on our first open-ocean running since we left Cape May. The sun was shining and the waves were less than two feet. Just a perfect day for a 122 mile, 8 hour ocean run!

We’ve made it to (northern) Florida and although Jacksonville is not quite the warm sunny weather we are looking for crossing into America’s southernmost state takes us one step closer to our goal. Warm winter weather.

From Harbour Town Lighthouse Internet Cam

From Harbour Town Lighthouse Internet Cam

Beaufort, North Carolina to Charleston, South Carolina

Friday, January 29th, 2010

(32⁰46.571′ N by 079⁰57.019 W -  Mile 2694.55 - Charleston, South Carolina)

Church in Charleston, SC

Church in Charleston, SC

If you were left with the impression that so far the trip south was just a process to get the boats south that would probably be correct.  Other boaters have confirmed that the weather had been very poor for an ICW fall journey.

As we left Beaufort, North Carolina after one day of rest our decision whether to take the ICW or the ocean route was determined once again by the weather. Waves south of Cape Fear near Beaufort were 4 to 6 feet and in some areas even higher and the day dawned with what else, rain!

On our first day we cruised 8 hours and made it 83 miles to Wrightsville Beach, NC.  Wirghtsville Beach has little to claim other than its access to the ocean from the ICW. A quiet night on board and we were off again the next day traveling 6 hours and 67 miles to Myrtle Beach, SC. Once again, a raining day from the heavens and 4 to 6 foot waves on the ocean.

By our third day, October 27th, we arrived in Charleston, South Carolina. It was a good day since we had traveled 115 miles in 7 hours but, best of all, the sun was peeking out of the clouds as we arrived. Charleston was a place we had been reading about. A city with southern charm and history so, after three solid days of running the crews insisted on a lay day to convert from sailors to tourists.


Brick Architecture Charleston, SC

Brick Architecture Charleston, SC

Charleston’s architecture and history are probably the two things that bring travel magazines back frequently for a source of articles and it is not without reason. The city’s history, culture and love of good gourmet restaurants all conspire to make this a special place to visit.

The British founded Charleston in 1670 and was named after King Charles II. Colonists on the ship Carolina had originally planned to settle at Port Royal but the chief of the Kiawah Indians convinced them to move farther north. Within 10 years they had relocated to what locals refer to as “The Peninsula” or the site of the current downtown. The Peninsula is formed by the convergence of the Ashley River and Charleston Harbor. Within two years there were nearly 100 houses built establishing a vibrant community.

Of course many people are amused by the slow drawl of the southern belles and men of South Carolina and Georgia but it has a historical background that justifies their speaches tone and intonation. In the 17th and 18th century, English blended with the language of French Huguenots fleeing religious persecution. Many came by way of Barbados adding a Caribbean flair to the language and city’s lifestyle. The Spanish were also here and slaves certainly had a huge impact on the food, arts and language. Gullah, a patois of all the languages is still spoken on the sea islands in the area today.  (More on Gullah follows.)


Front Porches in Charleston

Front Porches in Charleston

This is also Confederate country as well and there is no doubt denial in theri minds whether the Unionists of the Confederates won the war, at least in South Carolina. Fort Sumter sits across from Charleston and according to local lore this is where cadets shelled to begin the Civil War. Maintained by U.S. Park Service, the rangers (northerners?) have a slightly different interpretation.

While we were walking through the park at the tip of the Battery I came across a bronze cast sign as you viewed Fort Sumter. According to local record at least the Confederate General in charge of the fort did not lose the battle to Union forces but instead “Ceased to Defend”. I thought this was not only a humorous description of a historical event but an indication of the southern pride and use of language that still exists to today.

And, as you have seen by the pictures, the historic architecture of Charleston is very interesting. The Battery is an area along the water front is where wealthy merchants built glorious homes reflecting their wealth and power in the community. There are also single homes, unique to Charleston which were built one room wide. You enter through a door onto a piazza giving the occupants privacy in the town.

All of these homes are surrounded by main streets and small lanes and the community was bonded with churches, the Old Exchange Building that used to house a prison and the Old Market that really was a market for food items, not slaves (the slave market is a few blocks away).

A Street, But No Cars!

A Street, But No Cars!

The best part of Charleston is its citizens. Stand on a street corner with a city map for even just a few seconds and the locals will offer directions or recommendations on what to see and do. Definitely a place we want to come back to.

Old Exchange Building

Old Exchange Building

Market Building

Market Building

Great Bridge, Virginia to Beaufort, North Carolina

Thursday, January 28th, 2010

(34⁰43.926′ N by 076⁰39.926 W -  Mile 2370.51 - Beaufort, North Carolina)

Traffic Jam on the ICW

Traffic Jam on the ICW

We woke up the morning of October 12th at Great Bridge to sunshine and 72 degree weather.  No rush since the first bridge only a couple of miles away in the ICW did not open until 9:00 AM.  We knew this would be a day of slow, relaxing cruising but with plenty of south bound traffic.  After the five days over rain we had received the previous week every cruiser was anxious to put in some miles in search of warm weather.

The same group of cruisers could be heard on the VHF radio for days on end.  Breezy Rider, Sun Cat, Pretty Penny and others, all with similar requests for bridge openings, slow passes and general exchanges between friends who were on the same ICW journey.  Considering the differences in size and speeds of the boats it was amazing how courteous each was to the other.

This section of the ICW takes you through the Dismal Swamp area which is a good description of the area we would travel through.  Low land and in some cases swamp with tall, thick mangrove areas that reminded you of scenes from the Burt Reynolds movie, Deliverance. Seen the boats with big, brown stains on the bow commonly referred to as a Carolina Smile?  The staining is caused by the rotting vegetation and turns the water to a tea coloured brown.  This is the area where they get these stains and nothing short of muriatic acid will remove it.  That and lots of elbow grease.

Brackish Water ICW Near Abermarle Soung

Brackish Water ICW Near Abermarle Soung

This section of the ICW serves boaters well though since it provides protection from wind and waves from Norfolk, Virginia to Moorehead City, North Carolina.  It if did not exist you would be forced into the open ocean with no refuge for more than 100 miles.  The other option would be Pamlico Sound which is very shallow, open and most likely very rough in stormy weather.

As I said, traffic would be heavy and the area requires you to go slow.  Today, we would travel only 37 miles of roughly 220 to Beaufort, NC where we would decide whether to go out on the ocean or stay on the ICW.  Our first day would take 7 hours as we encountered bridges and generally tight conditions in the ICW.  Our plan was to go to Coinjock, North Carolina a spot that Bob and I had stayed in when we brought the boat north with Brian and John in 2007.

Coinjock’s only claim to fame (other than the marina) is its restaurant which the staff and owners were quite emphatic offered “Best Roast Beef In America”. Big - yes.  Tasty - yes.  But loaded with MSG to tenderize the meat.  Nancy and I both were staring at the ceiling all night unable to go to sleep since we both react to MSG’s affects.  A great place to stay though!

Hotel at Bellehaven Marina, NC

Hotel at Bellehaven Marina, NC

The next day we woke to more sunshine and 75 degree F weather.  Our trip would take us on through waterways named Albemarle Sound and the Alligator and Pungo Rivers.  We had passed most of the slower vessels and the open waters of the Albemarle allowed us to spin up the Cats and cover 89 miles in 6 hours.  Much better time, 2-1/2 times the distance in one hour less than the previous day.

We arrived in Bellehaven, North Carolina in the early afternoon in time to walk through the village which while quaint was quite a depressed area.  The marina had a hotel on the property in an old columned home reminiscent of Gone with the Wind. You could almost see Scarlett on the front porch waiting for Rhett Butler.  In the lobby, which was be refinished, there was an advertisement from Sear Roebuck circa 1908 advertising complete home kits that delivered all the materials to build this exact home.

We walked about the village taking in the afternoon sunshine.  We didn’t expect too much from this Bellehaven but, it was one of our more pleasant stops along the ICW so far.  Although it was near Halloween, Nancy and Debbie collected pine cones for a center piece on our boats for Christmas.  Probably a little premature but, both of these ladies had their hope set on seeing the children at Christmas in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Wecome to Beaufort, NC

Wecome to Beaufort, NC

The next day, October 23rd, our 80th day on board since we left Honey Harbour, Ontario in August, we pushed on to Beaufort (pronounced Bow-Fort), North Carolina.  72 miles through the ICW in 8 hours left us with the desire to take a day of well needed rest.  Besides, the winds were rising, the forecast was for rain the next day and it was time to make a decision.  Run outside directly to Hilton Head or continue on the ICW, the more protected route.

With a day off, we left the decision to the weather Gods.  The next day was for rest, then we would make the decision on which route we would take.

New York City to Great Bridge, Virginia

Friday, January 22nd, 2010

(36⁰43.246′ N by 076⁰14.278 W -  Mile 2172.35 - Great Bridge, Virginia, Maryland)

We left Liberty Landing Marina across the Hudson River from New York City on Sunday, October 11th after our daughter and her boyfriend left to return to Canada for the balance of Thanksgiving Weekend with his family.

Melanie Bear Leaves New York City

Melanie Bear Leaves New York City

Bob and Debbie and Nancy and I were eager to get moving since the weather had a definite fall feel. We joked that we wanted to get south quick enough that we would never have to put long pants or jackets on this fall. Unfortunately, that would not be the case.

Once you clear New York Harbor and then pass Sandy Hook, New Jersey we turned south in the North Atlantic. This is one of the few places on the east coast south of New York where there is no inner channel such as the Intracoastal Waterway offers further south. For that reason, you have to carefully choose which day the wind and wave conditions will be favourable for the trip. It is roughly 150 miles from NYC to Cape May where we were to enter Delaware Bay the first inshore route of the ICW.

Fortunately, the wave conditions were a reasonable 3 to 4 feet and we cruised on plane as we left. About 35 miles from New York the starboard motor began to slow which normally signals fuel starvation. Considering the time of day and the possibility that it could be something worse than a clogged filter we decided to stop in Brielle, New Jersey.

As we pulled in to get fresh fuel we noticed that there was a strong current flowing out the river to the ocean. Later, tied to the dock we experienced our first strong tidal surge with currents up to 4 knots creating eddy pools around the docks and a tide change of 7 feet. We watched a young fellow about 12 years old fishing from the dock wondering if his parents even knew he was here. One slip and he would be lost to the ocean.

We left the next morning to run roughly 100 miles to Cape May. Although I had changed the filters on both engines and the boat was now running well, we decided to have a Caterpillar mechanic check the engines just to be sure everything was all right. A quick check indicated all was OK but since it was late in the morning, Nancy and I decided to take a short break for the day to see Cape May.

Main Street - Cape May

Main Street - Cape May

Cape May is a very historic town with a history linked to the sea. Fishing, crabbing and tourism are today’s economic drivers but the history of the community lies intact in the buildings in its downtown core. This was the year that town was celebrating its 400th anniversary. While we spent the better part of a day here Cape May is on our list of places to return to to enjoy the atmosphere and the activities that are available in the summer.

The following day, we left Cape May heading west into Delaware Bay to the C & D Canal, a 15 mile waterway that links the west end of Delaware Bay to Chesapeake Bay. It was here we caught Melanie Bear once again as they had left Cape May one day earlier. The weather had turned cooler and was now overcast with a forecast that looked even worse (rain) for the next five days. We pushed hard passing Annapolis, MD for Herrington Harbor.

The marina facilities were good but the weather forecast delivered on its promise. We were locked into this port for five nights until the rain and fog cleared.

A trip to the Annapolis Power Boat Show which was underway provide the distraction (if not wet) that we all needed.  Nothing better than going to a boat show in the rain.

Yes, It Is A Snake!

Yes, It Is A Snake!

It was here that even the local fauna was trying to stay dry. We returned from a walk (in the rain) to find a local snake lying on the swim platform and quite convinced he was not interested in getting back in the water.  Even after a thorough soaking with the water hose this snake  only left reluctantly.

Sadly, we would push on missing Chesapeake Bay but knowing we will return sometime in the future.  We left Herrington Harbor at 7:00 AM on October 19th staying that night at Deltaville, Maryland.  Nothing exciting to report here except that despite the overcast we managed to cruise “with no rain”, a first in at least six days.

The next day we pushed on through Norfolk, Virginia one of America’s largest naval bases.  We can not even begin to explain the size and scope of the naval establishment here.

Literally miles of ships lining the shores with project management barges close by to supervise the ship’s refit.  What did surprise me though was the lack of military security around the shoreline and the floating vessels as we had seen in 2007 when we brought Prime Time V north to Canada.  With the current “high security” alerts that have been posted in the USA there were no small patrol vessels around  watching for pleasure craft coming too close.

In Dry Dock

In Dry Dock

What is truly amazing about this yard is the size of the vessels that they lift in the dry docks for repair.  I am sure someone can identify the class of warship this is in the picture but small it is not and this dry dock is obviously up to the task of lifting it out of the water to facilitate the repairs.

As fascinating as the naval shipyards were, we pushed on just south of Norfolk to Great Bridge, Virginia the first “noticeable” time that you are in the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway  and Great Bridge is a small village that has a lock separating the brackish run-off of the Dismal Swamp from the Atlantic Ocean.  For the first time since the Erie Canal we would be relegated to a slow passage through the narrow ICW south of the Chesapeake.

When we cleared the lock and the bridge we tucked into the local docks for the night knowing that we would not be facing any open water unless we chose to for some time.

In spite of the cold and sometimes overcast or rainy weather we knew this would be a slower and easier part of our journey south to Florida and Bahamas.