Getting There ….

Charleston was the best of the best!   It was wonderful to see our friends Ben and Sallie Du Buisson again and we were very lucky that they managed to get us a slip at Carolina Yacht Club.    The marinas in Charleston were totally full – there was a huge storm that came through on Thursday night and all the transient boats were ducking for cover!

Charleston is a magical city.   Despite many visits, there is always something more to see.   They do Halloween in style!

Our friends Di and Terry Clarence came and joined us for five days to get a taste of the Waterway.   They also go back a long way with Ben and Sallie and we have a great time reminiscing about the old days (are we codgers or what?!?)  We ate spectacular food, as you do in Charleston.  We took a horse and carriage tour and then walked around the city – thank goodness for digital photography as there is no end to beautiful photo opportunities.

After Charleston we anchored out for the night and Gary and Mel had us all over for a spectacular rack of lamb dinner – no pictures sadly, we were having too good of a time!   After that we headed to Beaufort SC (Bew-fort, as opposed to Beaufort NC, Bow-fort)   and then to Hilton Head.    We hadn’t realized that the South Carolina Yacht Club was closed on Mondays, so we Ubered to a restaurant on the water and ate fish and chips watching a most spectacular sunset.

This “house” (mansion?) overlooks the lock at Windmill Harbour where we stayed in Hilton Head.  

Leaving Hilton Head and heading to Savannah GA we noticed a lot of birds feeding.  Looking closer, we saw that among them were Roseate Spoonbills, which you don’t often see.   I was very happy that one of my photos featured a stork, an egret and a spoonbill together!   (I’m a point and shoot photographer – later I enlarge them to see what I captured!!

A spit of land with major erosion, and then we came across this dredger and we got a lesson all about balls and diamonds – how Garth remembers this stuff is beyond me!

More birds and then we were in Savannah for a sad farewell to Terry and Di.   It was wonderful having them with us and sharing what is so special about the trip south.

Anchored out that night – another glorious sunset and then more gorgeous scenery.   We took a side route down to St. Mary’s Sound (another score for the shallow draft PDQ) and it was idyllic!   Not a soul around and just natural beauty.

Then you get to St. Mary’s sound which is where the submarine base is.   Nothing natural about what happens around here.   A big sub in for repairs (we thought), the degaussing pen which removes magnetism from the subs, and a brightly painted workboat.

The current rips through the sound, and fortunately it was with us.   Garth wanted to record this speed (top left) for posterity!   Our normal high speed is about 14 knots with max at around 16.  

Crossing the sound took us into Fernandina Beach FL – recognizable by its paper mill as you arrive.   Another big front was coming – we stayed there for three days with rain and wind blowing solidly at 25 knots with gusts of up to 50!!   We were glad to be safely tied up and managed to get some cleaning done, as well as braving the weather to make it to a coffee shop for breakfast and a wonderful prime rib dinner at the Rusty Pelican.   We were given the ultimate cruiser’s treat when we were picked up by Graeme and Nicola Nichol, South African friends of Jonathan and Anne who told them we were in Fernandina.  They took us to a grocery store and then to their home where we did laundry and they spoiled us with delicious sous vide salmon while we shared stories and found so many common threads in our lives.   It is a tradition that is appreciated so very much – in fact, they are paying it forward from when it happened to then when they started cruising and were embraced by cruising folk in Fort Lauderdale.   Who, it turns out, were South Africans Lorraine and Rob Miller!   We knew Lorraine and Rob when we were in the Caribbean sailing in 1978/79!!!!  What a very small world.    

The next blog will cover Florida and our crossing to the Bahamas – this morning (Friday 12th) we find ourselves in Vero Beach, rushing to our friends Dick and Carol Tuschick in Stuart where we will get all of our last minute provisions, covid tests, beer and wine and be ready to take advantage of a hopefully perfect crossing day to the Bahamas tomorrow.   It will be close –    will keep you posted!!

We’re Off Again!

After our last two trips down to the Bahamas we were both hankering to do it again – just one more time. Acknowledging our advancing age, we felt we would be better off on a power boat this time – and wanted a catamaran with a shallow draft so that we would be able to visit many of the places and coves that our 6′ keel prevented us from seeing. After a lot of research and discussion, Garth decided that a PDQ Power Cat was the perfect boat for the job and through our friends Dick and Carol Tuschick and their daughter Beth we were lucky enough to find a really good one in July last year. Of course there was work to be done and Garth spent time upgrading and installing and cleaning and improving – as he does!

We left on October 19th – a day later than we had planned, but I was very grateful for that extra day!    And still there were things I forgot – like pillows!    I had Kate run by the house on her way down to say goodbye. How many groceries do you have to take with you on such a long trip – this many!   It was quite a feat to get everything packed away but we did.    There are still things I forgot, but fortunately the first part of the trip is down the waterway and there are grocery stores along the way.   We will stop and re-provision at Stuart FL before we cross, so now it is list-making-time for the things that we overlooked.  

Saying goodbye was so hard – how are we going to live without these two?

But we threw off the lines and left Back Creek on a very beautiful morning.    The first day took us to Mill Creek, VA.   The sunrise the next morning was a reminder about why we’re doing this – shedding the daily grind and getting in touch again with the simple things.     

We stopped for the night in Hampton after that.    There were so many boats!!   We worried that the whole waterway was going to be this crowded, but I think a lot of them were boats staging in Norfolk to leave on an offshore rally that made it seem worse than it was.    The first time we benefited from the change to a power cat was when we were able to make it under the low bridge in Hampton and anchor in lots of room on a perfectly calm night. 

We left early again the next morning (that is our routine – get up at 6.00, tea and rusks, then head off by 7.00.   After a long day we are tired, and with no TV reception it is easy to be in bed by 9.00 – we are both sleeping so well!!).   The trip through the Norfolk Navy shipyards is always interesting – I love the flat lines of the radar deflecting ships and these are a different kind of Blue Crane (which is the national bird of South Africa I believe). 

After going through the Navy yards, there are a number of low bridges which you have to get through to proceed.   Because everyone generally starts out early, when the bridges are down there can be quite a lot of congestion!    This one is a railway bridge – the horizontal section raises and lowers when a train is crossing.    It doesn’t happen too often, but when it does it can back the waterway traffic up for miles!    As it raises, everyone that is waiting jockeys to get back into line to get through  – in case it closes again!

After that there are two choices:   the Dismal Swamp route (what a name!) or the Virginia Cut route.    Most people take the Virginia Cut as it is quicker and deeper, but we chose the Dismal Swamp.   So glad we did.   It is a long, straight canal with locks at each end so there is no tide and just beautiful scenery on each side.    It has a lot of shallow bits, and a lot of bits with logs on the bottom, and for the second time we were pleased with our change to a power cat which only draws 2’6”!   Gary and Mel (our good friends and boat buddies who have lived on their boat for five years and we have done this trip with them twice before) also wanted to do the swamp as there was a bridge that was being worked on on the Virginia Cut that they might not have been able to get through.   So we had good company on the trip, although afterwards they told us that with their 6′ keel they were bumping the bottom in many places.    Only three boats chose that route, so it was peaceful and scenic.

This was a Corps of Engineers boat that came buzzing past us in the canal.   You can see how brown the water is – all the fallen leaves stain the water with tannin and it is almost black.    His wake left a path of foam which slowly settled into the most beautiful patterns.

Once we were through the bridge we anchored for the night at Goat Island and set off the next morning for Belhaven NC.    Our very favorite restaurant in the whole world (except for Eastport Kitchen!) is in Belhaven.   Called Spoon River, it is run by a husband and wife – he’s a farmer and she’s a very talented chef – and they cook what is local and in season.   The restaurant is eclectic  – if you look closely at the lights they are made from books that have been folded or cut into shapes and opened around.    This year didn’t disappoint – I had smoked pork chop with butternut risotto and Garth had rack of lamb.   Both amazing!   And because they had been very full and short staffed (we didn’t mind, we were just soaking it all up) she sent a double dessert on the house – tiramisu and a kind of cookie/bar with chewy bits and homemade ice cream; out of this world.    A whole paragraph about one meal at one restaurant – but if anyone has the opportunity to go there, it’s a must!!!  

From there we stopped at R.E Mayo the next day and picked up some seafood – frozen, but fresh off the boats.   Flounder, speckled trout and shrimp.   More lovely scenery and then we were in Oriental NC for the night.   We managed to snag the municipal dock (power cat advantage #3!) and tied up next to this beautiful shrimp boat.   Fortunately the wind was blowing in the right direction and we didn’t have to sleep with fishy smell all night!    Another good meal ashore with Gary and Mel (why did I bother to buy all those groceries?) and we were on our way again in the morning.  

The scenery you pass along the way is just beautiful.   Lots of marshes and birds and the colors are spectacular.    Of course you share the waterway with lots of different craft.   And you pass amazing homes – I have been snapping pics of the beauties and also the “what were they thinking?” – I might put them all together in a separate blog – much like the winners and losers at the Oscar fashion awards!!  

Into the Waccamaw River which is one of my favorite stretches.   More of the black tannin water and a beautiful winding river with trees lining the edges.   This is where I saw an alligator on our first trip – looked hard this time, but all I got was turtles.   Very cute turtles!  And an osprey.

Charleston was the next stop – I’ll end here and start a new chapter there.  I’m sorry that it has taken so long to get this blog posted.   Hopefully I’ll be able to keep more up to date moving forward – but I can’t promise!

Winding Down

We had a great time in Farmers – reunited with some sailing friends from Maryland after crossing paths at various places along the winter cruising route – as well as other new friends we have made along the way.   The weather wasn’t as co-operative this year with rain on the first day of racing.   However, we got some great shots of the boats …

Whitty K, the overall winner, rounding the mark.   They are a crack team, been sailing together for years apparently, and romp away with the trophies every year.    That doesn’t stop the hopeful competition – which includes H20 from Black Point – who we support because it has the same name as our previous Harbor 20, and because the skipper in his yellow slicker appeared ancient when we watched two years ago – and he’s still at it!!!

The first mark is right amongst the anchored cruising boats, and with the dinghies which follow the race down the course it becomes quite chaotic when everyone starts arriving.

We anchored at Oven Rock and went looking for the nearby cave – amazing stalagmite/tite formations.   To the right you could go down to a pool of fresh water – we were told that if you stood in the water the shrimp-y things would come and nibble the dead skin off your feet!!   Not this girl, not to even go into the cave, let alone the water!   The rock colors are very beautiful.

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From Farmers we headed down to Georgetown which was abuzz with boats and people arriving for “regatta” – a two week period of fun and games, volleyball, softball, poker run, variety show – you name it, something on every day.   There was even a sailing race – duh – “regatta”!   Garth had hoped to sail but it was only on the 24th and we would have left already.   Very disappointed.

We anchored at Monument Beach which was a little bit away from the regatta craziness at Chat and Chill.   As always, the sunsets are just amazing.

And when you wake up to a wind-less morning, it is just as beautiful.   An Australian powercat was anchored near us and we enjoyed their sense of humor.   A blow up kangaroo on the bow, together with two blowup dolls that had new outfits every day and were re-positioned around the boat – sometimes on the bow, sometimes waving from the stern – always a double take!

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It was our 39th anniversary on February 16th, so we treated ourselves to a night out at a wonderful restaurant at one of the resorts – no matter how up-market, the dress is always casual.   It was that same still calm day, and the ride home was so beautiful with all the boats’ anchor lights reflecting in the water.

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The dinghy dock in Georgetown is always crowded – there were 293 boats anchored across the water when we were there and everyone comes into town to get groceries, water and to drop off garbage.   When you leave you have to negotiate this tiny little gap under the bridge – when the tide is going out and the wind is blowing in, you are guaranteed a soaking as the one meets the other!

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It is about a mile dinghy ride from Georgetown itself to Monument Beach, so our friends John and Denise McLinn were very kind to come in and help us with luggage when Jonathan and Anne arrived.

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We left Georgetown the next morning to explore the Exumas with Jonathan and Anne.   We were lucky that their trip coincided with their friends Pete and Louise still being in the area, and we met up with them and shared a fabulous meal on their boat at Children’s Bay Cay, and all going on to Lee Stocking Island the next morning.   (Naming all of these places is to help me remember them later – there are more than 700 islands in the Bahamas, many of those in the Exumas uninhabited and just exquisitely beautiful).

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From there to Black Point where we enjoyed a Bahamian Buffet at the famous Lorraine’s Restaurant which ended with her giving us two red roses (left over from Valentines I think) which lasted more than a week.   A lovely extravagance on a sailboat!   Even though the vase was a beer bottle wrapped in a microfiber cloth.

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To try and explain the geography, the Exumas are a long thin chain of islands which have the deep waters of the Exuma Sound on the eastern side, and the Bahama Bank on their western side.    The winds blow predominantly from the east, and with the deep water and strong winds you get big waves developing on the “outside”.   But if you can get through a cut between the islands (some are more navigable than others), the waters on the Bahama Bank are protected from the wind by the islands and are much calmer.   As well as being shallow and crystal clear – the white sand and shallow water are what make the water down here so turquoise blue.   However, in many places it is really shallow and our boat has a 6’ draft so we are often limited as to where we can go and where we can anchor.   And when the wind changes direction and blows from the west there is very little protection so you have to be constantly aware of weather predictions and where you find yourself when the westerlies blow.    There are places you can tuck in where you are protected from east or west, but they are sometimes too shallow for us.    And when the weather is due to turn, all of the cruising boats head for the safest spots so you had better get there early!!   All of this to explain that it is not always “smooth sailing” and that you can’t always go where you would like unless the winds are in your favor.   Because of very shallow areas on the Bahama Bank lower down, the legs from Georgetown to Lee Stocking Island, and from there to Black Point had to be done “outside” – I was grateful in the big seas for Jon and Anne’s sailing expertise, which left me free to huddle in the corner and contemplate seasickness, which fortunately didn’t become an issue!!!

Up on the “inside” to Cambridge Cay where you couldn’t ask for more – red wine, roses, delicious seafood pasta, evidence of the day’s snorkeling expedition drying in the background, balmy and warm enough for sleeveless clothing all night and then the full moon rising just for us!!

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The next morning we walked over the island to the beach on the ocean side and Garth and Anne climbed the hill next to Bell Rock.  Jon and I were content to walk on the beach and try and pick up as much plastic as we could.   It is a never ending battle to deal with the synthetic flotsam and jetsam that washes up on these beaches, especially as most of the islands are uninhabited and even if you do pick it up, there is no way of getting it disposed of.    Cambridge is part of the Exuma Land and Sea Park where the entire environment is protected and you can take nothing and leave nothing.   From what I hear the lobster and grouper that you see when you go diving have this smug little smirk on their faces, knowing that you can’t touch them!   But it is a wonderful Trust and the laws are strictly enforced, to the extent of hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines and confiscation of your boat if you are caught fishing there.

While we were walking this beautiful power boat, the Allesandra, came in and picked up a mooring ball next to us.   We watched in awe as the crew hustled to get all of the toys unloaded and ready for use.  It made our special dinner the night before seem somewhat tawdry – but hey, the sunset and moonrise looked just the same from our cockpit as from theirs!

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From there up to our favorite spot, Waderick Wells, which is the headquarters of the Land and Sea Park.   We were greeted by this large guy, who seemed to enjoy the shade that our boat provided.   You can believe that we thought twice about jumping in for a swim!

While combing the beach at Cambridge, we had found a piece of driftwood and thought we would try again putting our boat name at the top of Boo Boo Hill.   This time Garth etched the boat name into the wood with his heat gun, so we hope that when we return one day we will be able to find and identify it.

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Walking back to the boat you go over sand flats where the tides ebb and flow.   Loved the image that these mangrove roots made when the tide went out, and the twisted roots keeping this hardy little tree alive.

We were enjoying Waderick so much that we decided to stay put for another aimless day rather than pressing on to a new anchorage.   Jon and Anne had completely unwound by this time and it was hard to contemplate that they had to get on a flight in Nassau and head home to cold Virginia.   But press on we did after our two days in Waderick and we did the long day crossing to Nassau in a perfect flat sea.  It was so strange to be tied up in a resort marina with electricity and golf carts and rental cars.

We dropped the Hutchings off for their flight the next day after having a wonderful time with them – so many laughs! – and then drove into Nassau itself to look around.    Horrors!!    There were four huge cruise ships in port and all of the passengers had been disgorged into the streets.   You could hardly move.   Solicitors standing outside jewelry stores and restaurants trying to entice you into their establishment – why is it that people who go on cruise ships feel a need to buy expensive jewels at exotic places???   We couldn’t get out of there fast enough and headed back to the boat as soon as we could.   I would have loved to have been there at a quieter time as the colonial buildings are charming and I’m sure that there are so many interesting places to explore.

We spent a day or two doing laundry and reveling in the well stocked grocery store and then headed off ourselves towards Spanish Wells, Eleuthera once more to begin our slow journey home.

 

Some technical info

I have learned something – if you get my blog via an email, or look at it on your phone, apparently you see all of the pictures in the same size, in a long line underneath each other.    Who knew – that’s not the way I compile it.

Apparently if you click on the title of the blog within the email (not the subject line) it will re-format and be shown the way I would like you to see it.    Give it a try – it takes time to put together and I would much rather you see it in its proper layout.

Next Phase – Leaving the Abacos

After Christmas and New Year, we had a wonderful visit from our friends Kevin and Kathy.   They flew down and stayed in a hotel, but we were able to show them all around Elbow Cay and Hope Town.    We went for a sail one day, not really enough wind but we anchored and swam – and passed these two boats which were anchored out.    The first was called Incognito – 165’ of luxury.   The second, called Shadow was their support boat – 185’ !!!    Besides the three high powered motor boats we could see, there were FIVE jetskis on deck and I can just imagine what other goodies they carried for the folk on Incognito.

 

You certainly see all kinds of things – including a seaplane which motored into Hope Town Harbor one day.    I can only imagine the surprise when that sport fishing boat turned the corner and was confronted by a plane motoring out!!

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We had fun with Kevin and Kathy – lots of great meals, lots of great drinks, lots of great beaches, and then sadly it was time for them to leave.

 

 

The weather window was good, so as their ferry set off to take them to the Marsh Harbour airport, we motored out of Hope Town and down to Lynyard Cay to wait overnight for our crossing to Eleuthera the next day.

 

The crossing was good – we felt very diminutive when we crossed paths with this HUGE cruise ship.   I don’t understand how they just don’t topple over; they seem so top heavy.

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We love Spanish Wells at the north end of Eleuthera.   We rented a golf cart and explored all around; we shopped at their well stocked grocery store and we re-visited all of our old haunts.    We had always wanted to go to Harbour Island, but the route there is studded with treacherous coral heads so taking our boats around was not a good option.    We got a ticket on the high speed ferry that comes from Nassau and goes to Harbour Island (the name is diminished to “Briland” by the locals).   It was a great idea as five hours there, walking almost the whole time, gave us a good idea of what it was all about.

First things first – we found a coffee shop for a good latte – they had these art pieces that I liked.

 

Next are a whole bunch of pictures of things that appealed to me – I could have taken hundreds more.   We didn’t have time to learn too much of the history, but the surface of things left a great impression.

 

 

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We found yet another gem of a local restaurant – The Queen Conch – Mel had the mango conch salad.  Yum – as were our special of the day rum drinks …. until we got the bill and found that they had cost $12 each!

 

Time to head further south.   We had seen a weather pattern that would allow us to make our way to Cat Island – always wanted to go there – and so we went quickly down Eleuthera this time.   Our one stop was at Governor’s Harbour.   As in so many places around the world, the churches are what anchor the community.

 

It was a nice stop, but on a Sunday nothing was open so we left at first light the next morning.    What a day!     Not a breath of wind and amazing light and colors playing on the water.

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Our destination for that night was Little San Salvador.   This small island has been bought by a cruise line and re-named Half Moon Bay (much more enticing for the brochures!)    It is a day destination for the huge cruise ships – there were two there when we arrived.    Hundreds and hundreds of people ferried ashore to enjoy (?) themselves swimming and sunning and sipping umbrella drinks until it was time to go back to the ship.    I think a skeleton staff stays on the island, but staff is brought in from Eleuthera and Cat Island and taken home again once the ships leave.   Fortunately, cruising boats are permitted to anchor at the northern end of the island which is completely unspoilt and we had the best swim ever off the beach.

 

Our friends Terry and Di do a house swop every year to Cat Island – their house was on the beach at the south end in Port Howe.    We anchored in a little bay that was completely protected by a reef – it was spectacular!

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We all came ashore and shared a delicious lobster dinner at Terry and Di’s.

 

We were able to do some much-needed laundry and generally enjoy the comforts of land-based living.    Like a car.    Terry and Di drove us around and showed us all the sights which we would never have been able to see on foot.    The most impressive of which was The Hermitage.   Please indulge the many photos I took – these are just a few – but I was blown away.

A man, John Hawes, born in 1876, had trained as an architect but then became an Anglican minister.   After further study for the Catholic priesthood he travelled the world as a bush priest.   When it came time to retire, he came to Cat Island and received permission to retire there as a hermit.   With his own hands and native rock, alone, he built The Hermitage which was a miniature replica of a Fransiscan Monastery.   After entering through the arch at the bottom, you climb the 206’ to the top (the highest point in the whole Bahamas), with the 14 stations of the cross depicted on your path.

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He lived there alone until his death in 1956 and is buried on the site.   The one-person chapel makes you feel close to his solitary calling and philosophy – I was interested to see that there are barrel bolts on both the inside and outside of the door.

 

Our next stop was something completely different – Da Pink Chicken!!   A great little Island bar and restaurant run by Dean and his wife Patti.   Apparently there used to be many flamingoes on Cat Island – their numbers reduced to almost none by the fact that they were considered … the pink chicken!  We had wonderful conch prepared by Patti in her little hut of a kitchen, while Dean kept the drinks and the stories flowing!   The water and beach are almost luminous they are so pristine.

After another great meal at Terry and Di’s (Gary shared the mahi he had caught on the way over the day before) that evening, we gathered the next day for a lunch at the Sunshine Bar.    We had stopped there for a drink the previous day and Pompey Johnson had promised that if we came for lunch the next day, he would get his trio – “Bo Hog and the Rooters” to play Rake and Scrape for us.    We had a really fun time with local food and Bo Hog (Pompey) and his girls (who were the cook and waitress at the bar, so we had to wait until that was all finished) playing up a storm.   I’m fascinated by the percussion sound of the saw being “played” with a screwdriver.

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Sadly, all good things come to an end and it was time to get across to the Exumas.   We left in a spectacular sunrise – the clouds brought a little bit of rain, but we were rewarded with a marvelous rainbow.

Our first stop after the crossing was Staniel Cay where you can “swim” with the sharks.   You have to stand still, have your picture taken, and get out of there!    Last year a model was doing a photo shoot and she was wallowing and splashing around – one of the sharks grabbed her arm and pulled her under!   Not for me thanks; everyone to their own environment.

Also at Staniel Cay is Thunderball Grotto where the James Bond movie was shot many years ago.   You swim in at low tide under these rocks and it is apparently a spectacular cave inside.    Garth, Gary and Mel went (I had an ear problem from my swim at Little San Salvador) and were the only ones there.   Shortly after they left the tour boats started arriving – we counted ten boats with at least 4-5 people on each – they were lucky to get in early.

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After that we holed up in Sampson Bay for three days – strong winds kept us hunkered in our boats.   But at low tide we dinghied around to some sand flats that became exposed when the water drained out – wonderful shelling and we found lots of sand dollars.    We had a day’s respite from the strong weather but more was forecast so we put our names down for a mooring ball at Waderick Wells, which is the home of the office for the Exuma Land and Sea Park.    The park spans many islands, and the area is completely protected – bring nothing, take nothing.    When you snorkel you can see the abundance of coral and fish that has resulted from this conservation – the world needs to wake up!    It is a most beautiful place – the water is crystal clear and this green turtle was coming and going alongside our boat.

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The people anchored in the bay all get together for happy hour on the beach and we met so many people that we have bumped into all the way down the islands since then – it becomes a community of friends.   These pictures were taken from the top of Boo Boo Hill (so named because the story goes that a ship floundered there many years ago with all lives lost – evidently if you go at night you can hear their ghosts calling –  Boo, Boo.   Frankly, there is a blow hole there and it is just the noise of the wave action, but it makes a good tale).    Cruisers all climb the hill armed with a piece of driftwood with their boat names – this is the only place you can leave anything behind.    We put ours there when we were here two years ago – we searched but I think we have been buried under the pile.

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A huge squall came through and a couple of boats arrived from the ocean side in horrendous conditions.   One of them went aground trying to pick up the mooring ball – Garth went over in his dinghy and managed to get a rope to the ball, but the wind was so strong that the park warden had to come out with their bigger boat and engines to pull them off.    Things can go wrong so quickly when you are on a boat – it is a sobering lesson.

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A little more meandering brought us to Black Point – another of our favorite places.    This picture shows a typical dock that we tie up to – climb up the ladder which is high or low depending on the tide and then go ashore.   In Black Point there is the most fantastic laundry (your priorities change when you live on a boat!) with at least ten machines.    It is a one-stop shop – laundry, convenience store, coffee, carrot cake, showers, free wi-fi and we even both got haircuts.   Foot-long hot dogs with chili and cheese for lunch –  all run by one enterprising woman called Ida who also rents out rooms above and has condos in another place in the town.

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Black Point is the gathering place for boats heading down the Farmers Cay for the 5F’s – the First Friday in February Festival at Farmers.   There is a regatta with wooden C-class boats from all the island coming to compete.    At the moment there are about 100 spectator boats anchored here enjoying the festivities – we are one of them.    This is where I’ll end – next blog will have the racing and our continued trip down to Georgetown where on the 18th we are picking up Jonathan and Anne Hutchings for a week of hopefully spectacular sailing and sun.

 

 

 

 

Better Late Than Never …

Can’t believe it is so long since I have done a blog.   Being the second time we have done this trip we are much more relaxed and when I go ashore I think – should I take my big camera? …. Nah!!   So I have fewer photos to spur me into sharing.    But there is no excuse for the long delay except that it was the holiday season and we were busy.

December in Hope Town is non-stop.   Lots of annual events, and there is a wonderful network of volunteers, both local and those who are regular visitors, who make sure that there’s always something on the go.   One of those events is the Soap Box Derby.   Garth, having built and raced soap box carts at varsity, was keenly interested.   Unfortunately I had put my back out and was having a (wonderful!) massage so got there late with the camera.   The children went first and my photos show the competitors being towed back to the top of the “big hill” for another heat.   The girl in the checked shirt was the overall winner – I saw her coming down the hill, hell for leather, and she did a spectacular wipe-out at the bottom.   Missed a telephone pole by inches, but went back undeterred.

 

We took a trip down to Little Harbour and visited Pete’s Pub – a legendary stop when you are in the Abacos.   Everyone leaves a t-shirt hanging in the eaves – I think it was hit by one of the recent storms as most of the shirts only seem to go back to about 2015 or so.   There are wonderful walks on the harbor side and also the Atlantic side – the wind was howling so we stayed in the calm.   I loved the humor of the “palm room” and the “bump” was a 10’ length of 4” braided fishermans’ rope lying across the road.

Back to Hope Town with some threatening skies along the way.

 

When you are tied up in the harbor, all manner of craft pass you by.   The supply boat comes in once a day and everything that comes into or goes out of the island gets unloaded and loaded.   We were surprised to see a billiard table being towed on a float making its way through the anchorage to be loaded onto the ship.

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Early one morning two men went sailing by – no engine – on their way over to Man ‘O War Cay.   This is one of the traditional sailing boats which used to be the way everyone got from island to island in the early days.   Man ‘O War is famous for its boat building tradition and they still make Albury Power Boats there- Garth really, really, would love to have one!

 

We went across to visit; the islands in the Abacos are only about an hour’s sail apart and it is very easy to hop around.   Man ‘O War is very religious and used to be a dry island with no liquor allowed – only in the last few years did a restaurant open in the marina that got a permit to serve alcohol.   It is boycotted by the local inhabitants, but much appreciated by the cruisers!   We found a great coffee shop (Garth’s quest whenever we reach a new place!) which also houses a local history museum.   So interesting to pore over all the found items and household goods that have been accumulated and donated – many of which I have owned and used myself (like the round washing machine on legs that has a mangle over the top – made me feel like a bit of a museum piece myself!).   Walking around I came across a beautiful old weathered house, and also realized that Santa must get very hot in this climate!

 

The school play in Hope Town was touted as not to be missed.    We went – and agreed.  They put on a production of Annie, with kids from 4-17.   Full-on musical, with Annie being played by a girl of 10 with a most beautiful voice.   She was the daughter of Ken, who runs our favorite restaurant, who is in turn the grandson of Margaret, 81, the island hairdresser.  We both went for haircuts – actually one of the better ones I have had!    It is a small, close community where everyone helps and supports everyone else.   All proceeds go to local island charities, as do the proceeds from an art and craft show that we went to.     The highlight as we got closer to Christmas, was the Christmas Village.   (They had to wait for the Christmas play to be over so that they could borrow the stage from the community center for the village!)   It opened after everyone had gathered, wearing red and green, at the beach where they had written Peace on Earth in big letters in the sand.   Someone had a drone which flew over the crowd and took photos.   They then created a Christmas Card with this picture that you could buy the next day .

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The Christmas Village was fabulous!    Food and drink and games and stalls with wonderful things to buy and …… an ice rink!!!    They put down interlocking tiles of starboard to create the rink; real ice skates and the kids had a ball.   They even had a snow machine!   It was strange seeing them all dressed up in hats and jackets in the warmth – but they got into the swing of it.   Even Santa!

On the last night everyone was invited to join in for caroling – we wound our way through the streets singing from song sheets – luckily, as there were some songs where I had no clue!  Homeowners and establishments passed out drinks as we went by – and the volume increased along the way!!   Barry Tulley from Annapolis, who has a house in Hope Town and comes for 6 months a year, is one of the main organizers (he used to be the choir master for the Naval Academy).  He has a rousing voice and personality and it was great fun.

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And then on the 22nd, Kate, Will and Penny arrived!!    So much anticipation, and the visit was everything we hoped for.   The kids are at the age where they are interested and enthusiastic about everything.    After picking them up in Marsh Harbour, we stayed the night at the Jib Room – they had a steak night and a “rake and scrape” guy playing the saw who was just amazing!   ( I have video on my phone and will try and find someone knowledgeable enough to help me make it a bit shorter and get it onto my computer to share).    We spent Kate’s birthday and Christmas at Green Turtle Cay; attended the 10.30 carol service at the Anglican Church; visited the pigs again and then went down to Treasure Cay which has a well deserved reputation as one of the ten best beaches in the world.   We swam, we ate (conch fritters being the kids’ food of choice on every menu!), we explored – had the best 8 days together.   I will put another blog together with pictures of the kids – it says it all.

At New Plymouth we stopped at Pineapples.   Garth enjoyed the bar, but I went down and watched as this old man cleaned and prepared conch salad.   The freshest conch, mixed together with tomato, onion, green pepper and “cooked” with lime and orange juice and a dash of hot pepper – yum!

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We went up to Manjack Cay and took the dinghy into the mangrove swamp.   It is completely protected and the water was like glass.   We must have seen 20 turtles – the water is so clear and shallow.   We also saw two eagle rays but the pictures are on the underwater camera we borrowed from Melanie.

 

There is a path over the island – kids felt like explorers! – with a most beautiful beach on the other side.   Just a perfect time with our family – we will never lose these memories.

 

Sadly they had to leave and our boat became organized again – but just so empty.   I will post another blog along with this one with just pictures – I think it will be self explanatory – kids having a ball!!!

We are now down in the Exumas – and lots to share.   So will start on another one as soon as possible and catch up.    We are having a great time – travelling with Mel and Gary is always fun; we have had many, many gourmet meals on Second Sojourn drinking wonderful wine and watching beautiful sunsets.

 

Bahamas!!

We are here in the Abacos!

It was a very quick trip down the waterway – leaving Annapolis on Thursday 18th October and setting off from Lake Worth to cross to the Bahamas on Tuesday 13th November!   We would normally have gone a little slower, but with the engine work in Charleston and then pushing to make the weather window for that Tuesday, we hurried all the way.  We were “overtaken” by this guy kite foiling – my head can’t get around the concept of this thin little foil lifting the board and him out of the water and travelling at such speed.

These are a couple of pictures of us taken by Mel – we always see each other’s boats but never our own.

We had a lovely visit with Dick and Carol in Stuart and they loaned us their car to do the provisioning that we would normally have done while waiting in Lake Worth.   There are sections on the stretch of the waterway around Jupiter that have the most outrageously extravagant houses – they look like hotels!   (loved the trained creeper on that chimney).

There was a more modest house with the most enormous boat and tender parked outside – either he had his priorities right or else he leased his slip to the owner of the big boat – I imagine the rent for that would cover his mortgage; smart man.

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We anchored overnight near the inlet at Lake Worth – an impressive row of sport fishing boats lined up here for easy access to the sea.

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An early morning departure got us on our way.   It was lumpy in the beginning as you can see from the pictures of Mel and Gary’s boat – we were lifted out of the water and then crashed down as the waves passed.   They have a cat on board (Hobie Cat!) who was not a happy chap.   I wasn’t a very happy girl either.   But as the day passed the seas flattened and everything settled down.   We left at 6.30 am and got there around 4.30pm.    The gulf stream current pushing us northwards was very strong the whole way – 4.5 knots – and you have to steer considerably south of your destination in order to travel the straight line.    But we made it to West End, cleared customs and celebrated (along with millions of our tiny no-see-um friends who now share our blood)  with a swim in the pool, a Goombay Smash and Cracked Conch.

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We waited for high tide the next day (Wednesday) to navigate Indian Cut and sailed over to Great Sale Cay.   Gary jumped in his dinghy and went looking for lobster – he caught two smallish ones and it was another Bahamas celebration with lobster appetizers that night.    The sunsets are amazing and the clouds make every one, in every direction, different.

From Great Sale we headed to Powell Cay – we had hoped to anchor there but the wind was not in the right direction and there wasn’t enough protection (fine at sunset, but you don’t want to find yourself in strong winds and seas in the middle of the night and have to move then!)   Gary and Garth went diving; Mel and I went beachcombing and swimming – perfect day, especially as the boys came back with two nice lobsters!  Gary also caught two lion fish – a non-indigenous fish which is taking over the local reefs.   They have lethally poisonous spines and you have to know how to handle them.   But once all that is removed, they are delicious eating.   They are small and you need quite a few to make a decent size meal, so finding and killing them is a win-win!   It was surf and turf night as Mel had some lamb chops she needed to use – absolutely delicious!!!!!

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We headed to Green Turtle Cay after swimming – love it there!   Another spectacular cloud sunset.

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It was Garth’s birthday on Friday and he wanted to spend it in Hope Town.   The waves around Whale Cut were big, but the wind was slightly behind us and we had a rocking and rolling and surfing down waves rocket ride around – averaged 8 knots!!    Once we reached calm water it was a glorious sail all the way down to Elbow Cay where the Hope Town Light beckoned.

We love being here.   It is a wonderful community – as you walk the streets and pass school children they all greet you and smile.   There’s a lot of talk about development and how things are changing – I’m grateful to have visited before it becomes too commercial.   There is a guy building a huge concrete house on the north end of the island – one of those that will never blow away.    How does he do it?   On island time of course, but this is how the concrete arrives from Marsh Harbor!

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We saw another barge later on heading in the opposite directed that had a huge water tanker on it – that’s how it’s done!

We went to watch a flag football tournament – kids from all the different islands compete.   There’s no tackling, if your white flag is pulled off your belt then you are considered down.   Great fun and well supported.   The #13 Beckham jersey photo was taken for my nephew and special person Craig!

After that we went for a walk along the beach, finished with a swim (Garth in his shorts!) for the guys and a Radler (grapefruit beer drink) for Mel and I.

 

Walking home we saw that the habit of decorating early for Christmas had reached the islands!   With that amount of work, I am sure they want to get as much enjoyment for as long as they can.

Sunday was football at the Hope Town Inn & Marina – picture says it all!

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We are early this season; a lot of places haven’t opened yet and some are not doing full weeks.   These people work so hard through the season to keep all of us visitors happy – they deserve the break they get.   We went snorkeling at Mermaid Reef yesterday (checking out all the potential spots for when Will and Penny come down at Christmas) and into Marsh Harbor for groceries, diesel and water.   This is a good life – although we miss our home, family and friends.   We are celebrating Thanksgiving on Second Sojourn with Mel and Gary and Muffin and Will tomorrow – we are certainly very thankful for the opportunities we have had in our lives.   Happy Thanksgiving to you all.

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P.S. – hadn’t posted this, so include a picture of our most delicious ever Thanksgiving dinner!   Caprese salad followed by Cornish hens, stuffing, gravy, scalloped potatoes, corn; key lime pie for dessert – and of course lots of wine, rum and good company.

And here’s a pic of some of the signs around Hope Town – love that Queen’s Highway is such a grandiose name for a little lane down to the dinghy dock!

Intracoastal Waterway – Love It!!!

Life continues down the Intracoastal Waterway.   We have been gone for three weeks now and have been covering a lot of ground.    You see all sides of life as you pass through communities – from this guy who is making the best of being without a boat at the moment, to some magnificent, extravagant homes.  Many of them a stone’s throw from each other.

We love the waterway.   You slide through some totally remote areas where the beauty is unspoilt and completely natural.   Nothing happens.    The water in the Waccamaw River in South Carolina is dark brown – tannins leach from the fallen leaf debris.   Apparently it was believed to have healing properties and people used to travel to fill containers and take them home.    We saw turtles sunning on logs, but no alligators this time.   Wonderful birdlife.

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We stopped at Georgetown SC and had hoped to anchor there for the night.   Two things against that – it was a Sunday and nothing was open, and the anchorage is right underneath a paper mill, which was belching noxious fumes.   It’s OK when the wind is blowing away, but this day it was not!    So we stretched our legs and wandered around this very pretty town.    When commerce was governed by access to water, it grew into a booming little town on the river with close access to the sea.   It was in the center of a rice growing area – they have a rice museum which we had wanted to visit – closed on Sundays.   The town has done a great job of revitalizing and it is a definite stop on our way back.

The Waccamaw opens up into marshlands and we spent the night at anchor in Minum Creek.   A very special night – not a breath of wind, a perfect sunset that was golden on one side and pink and mauve on the other; but the best was that flock after flock of birds flew over the top of us to roost (somewhere) at sunset.    It was as though they had laid on this show for us.    Herons, egrets, ibis, even some roseate spoonbills.   With swallows darting around at water level eating the bugs (but not enough of them as that is what eventually drove us inside with the screens in place!).

 

We were anxious to get to Charleston and get the engine work done – success!   It took a lot of clearing out of the back cabin to make room, and a lot of cramped bending double and working with no view of what his hands were doing, but Garth replaced the seal and all is good in engine land again!    Gary’s help was invaluable; and what were Mel and I to do but a little bit of shopping?  It’s a sad fact that it was only a visit to Trader Joe’s to pick up provisions – but in a cruiser’s life access to a good grocery store is way more satisfying than the standard retail therapy!   We were very grateful to Ben for driving us around.

The buildings in Charleston are amazing – every corner presents something photo-worthy.   I restrained myself as last time we came through I took hundreds of photos.

Love the green building – whose kids would ever know what dry goods and notions are??

Also, tons of great restaurants.   (Although Ben told us that some of the proprietors are having a tough time – so many people are moving to Charleston that downtown property values are going through the roof.   Taxes follow, and it is hard to find reliable workers and make the fickle restaurant business worthwhile.   Some people are closing their restaurants and selling their properties – the same money at the end for much less headache and hard work).   We had a great lunch at Jestines – a local institution serving low country food – corn fritters and fried green tomatoes, collard greens and okra gumbo alongside fried chicken livers and meatloaf!   Across the road was the Chareston Fire Department.   We poked our heads inside and were intrigued to see how prepared they are – shiny fire pole from the floor above, and their suits sitting with boots already in place (two sets right by the cab door!) so all they have to do is put their feet in and pull them up!     A trick from which I think many a schoolchild could benefit!

 

For those who have not been on our boat, I thought I would send a couple of pictures so you could imagine what our life aboard is like.   It’s very comfortable for two – everything you could need.   Kate, Will and Penny will be joining us for Christmas – it will get a little tight then, but worth every minute.  I hope then we will be living outside more than in.

 

Some more pictures of the life that happens every day ….. one would think that it would get boring and you would have to find things to keep you busy.   But somehow the things you pass are more compelling than a book; we love it.

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St Mary’s Sound is at the bottom of Georgia, just before you cross into Florida.  There is a very large submarine base there – regular submarines as well as nuclear.     Mel and Gary were quite a way ahead of us, and messaged back to say that they had seen a sub coming up the river.   By the time we got there the patrol had contacted us asking us to wait for the sub to pass – right in front of us.  Not a problem!   It was fascinating – with patrol boats buzzing around, two large tugs came out and lined themselves up for the sub to pass between.   They then maneuvered to  lead it into its pen.   Not sure whether or not I was allowed to take photos, but better to ask for forgiveness than permission!   They then proceeded to escort us past the rear – fully armed, ready to shoot!

We stayed overnight in Fernandina Beach – a quaint town that although touristy has so much charm.   Sorry, again no pictures because I took them all last time.   The decision whether to take the camera or just go and enjoy the evening tends to favor the latter!

I can finally rest easy – I have my dolphin picture!    It has become a standing joke that no matter how many dolphins are around us, as soon as I pick up my camera, they dive down.   Every time!!!   But the other morning, at sunrise, this boy obliged and now I never have to worry about it again.

But better than that, at anchor that evening, there was a lot of stirred up water and we saw this group of dolphins doing something – couldn’t work out what.   I remembered a story I had heard about how the dolphins swim in circles and “herd” the fish closer and closer together until they have easy dinner pickings.   I can only imagine that this is what was happening.   In the first picture you will see four fins in a circle, facing each other.   And then lots of diving and writhing and snorting and spouting …. wish I knew more about these beautiful creatures.

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Passing through Florida you have long, straight stretches – literally for miles.   You set your autopilot and keep checking every now and again but there is nothing you have to do.   The day was beautiful, the water was like glass.  Lots of dolphins and manatees – but they do dive when you get close.

 

We are now tied up in Vero Beach.   Just a quick stop to get fuel and water and get some laundry done and the boat washed down.   We believe that it will be a good window to cross to the Bahamas next Tuesday, so it is all systems go to get down to Lake Worth, do final provisioning and be ready first thing Tuesday morning.   We hope to stop in Stuart tomorrow and visit with our friends and RV partners Dick and Carol Tuschick.   If we don’t go on Tuesday, it looks as though it will be a long wait at Lake Worth for another weather window – we want to GET THERE!!!

Thanks for following – I see your comments but am often not in service range to reply.   I do this blog mainly to share the pictures and experiences with those who are interested, and as a record for ourselves.   I have no pretensions about being a writer!

We’re doing it again ….!

Goodbye Annapolis!!!!    Off to the Bahamas for the winter.   We had such a good time in 2016/17 and we decided that before our joints get too creaky, we should do it one more time.    This has been a very busy year and we unfortunately haven’t used the boat much on the bay.   With a lovely visit from Dave and Kat just before boat show, and then Garth working the boat show with AYS (can’t keep him away!) we found ourselves only one day beyond our projected departure date of October 17th.   We said a sad goodbye to Kate, Will and Penny and left Annapolis around midday on the 18th.     It has taken us this week to find our sea legs again – remembering where and how we stored things for our last trip, how freezer and fridge temperatures are critical, how SMALL the galley is – it all comes back.

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We had an easy ride down to Solomons Island, passing the LNG (liquid natural gas) dock along the way.

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We woke to “water smoke” and I took a great picture of Second Sojourn, our friends Mel and Gary Tisdale’s boat.   We are very happy to be travelling in tandem them again as we can bounce decisions about weather, water depth, anchorages etc. off one another, as well as enjoy a glass of wine together at the end of a long day!

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From there to Deltaville, a familiar route.   The four of us had dinner with Anne Hutchings (Jonathan was flattened by the flu) and Pete and Louise Hoggins, who are also making their way to the Bahamas this year.    We went to a new restaurant called The Table – tell the world!! – fine dining has finally arrived in Deltaville!!     Not white tablecloth, but delicious, well prepared food with great ingredients and a funny, sharp server.   We had a great evening!

Next stop was a marina in Hampton for two nights to wait out a front that was passing through.    Had a great brunch with John and Denise McLinn and their group of friends on boats from Herrington Harbour.   We left Hampton early on Monday as we had a long day ahead of us.    May as well have slept in – we were held up for at least an hour and a half by two railway bridges that are normally open.    Many boats had holed up in the Hampton/Norfolk area and we were all caught – there was a group of about 15 boats all jockeying to be ahead when we reached the next obstacle, the lock at Great Bridge.   Fortunately we made the first cut – the boats behind had to wait another hour for the next intake.  The trip through the Norfolk shipyards is always interesting with all the war ships berthed there.

 

We wanted to stop at Coinjock Marina just a little further on (they sell a bumper sticker there that says “where in the world is Coinjock?”)   as they have an excellent restaurant that specializes in prime rib.    Because of the bottleneck caused by the bad weather, the docks were full but we were able to raft up to another boat and spend the night.   Next morning we were completely engulfed in fog, but it is a long, straight canal and so we set off at first light.   It started lifting as the sun came up and the sky and sunrise were spectacular.

 

From Coinjock to Belhaven, one of our favorite spots, where we enjoyed a superb sunset as the harvest moon rose behind us.   Sadly the town had suffered badly in Hurricane Florence and was still mopping up.

From Belhaven we headed to an anchorage at Cedar Creek where we again rendezvoused with the Herrington Harbour group and had a great evening in the cockpit of Dave and Sue’s Leopard catamaran.   Those cockpits are huge!!    Next stop was Mile Hammock Bay in the Camp LeJeune military area.  Kept my eyes peeled for another bobcat swimming by, but not this time.     Watched an Osprey helicopter practicing landing and taking off – fortunately it didn’t go on all night.

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The travelling on this trip has not been as exciting as last.   For one, it has been freezing – Garth has been in four or five layers every day.   I huddle under the dodger and bring hot tea, coffee and food as required!    It has been wet.   It has been gray.    It has been windy.  And sadly we are seeing the damage wrought by Hurricane Florence – not as bad so far as what Matthew did last trip, but I don’t think we have reached the worst part yet.    There seem to be hundreds of houses with blue tarps on their roofs and also lots of damage to docks.

We are anchored at Caroliina Beach for the night (in pouring rain – we had hoped to get ashore for a long walk) and have slips reserved at the Myrtle Beach Yacht Club marina tomorrow.   We will get some laundry done and eat in their great restaurant.   We are hoping to get to Charleston SC by Monday evening and will stay there for three days or so.    Garth has an engine seal to replace which is a huge job but not so daunting when you are in a town that has a big boating community.   We are looking forward to seeing our good friends Ben and Sallie there too and Charleston is just so charming!    DSC09612