28 Oct 09, Wednesday
Anchored in Belle Crk, MD (N37° 41.421' W076° 20.033')
Trip: 50nm, Total: 50nm Engine: 2257hrs
I departed Solomons, MD just after dawn this morning. Actually I was up at about 4-AM and could not get back to sleep. Even though most of my friends consider yesterday's departure from Patuxent River Marina as the official start of this winter's voyage, I'm still not convinced. I traveled a whole 3 miles yesterday and it was to the north, not toward warmer weather.
Calm morning on the Patuxent River as I depart Solomons, MD
I sailed down the bay all day without incident, excitement, or really any fun. Once or twice I was inclined to run the engine. But the same overheating problem that Galena has suffered for the past few weeks was still plaguing me. So I sailed as much as possible. And when I motored I did so at just a little over idle.
I had considered stopping somewhere different this year. Every year on the trip south I stop here at Belle Creek, just off Indian Creek, which is just north of Windmill Point. It's a tiny little anchorage; room for only two or three boats. But there is usually no one else here. At the most I've seen one other vessel anchored here. And while I'd be a bit exposed to the south, winds were forecast to continue to be out of the north and northeast.
Galena at Belle Creek
I came in, anchored, put Galena to bed, and almost immediately went to sleep myself. I had the usual perfectly flat, calm night.
29 Oct 09, Thursday
Anchored at Hospital Pt, Norfolk, VA (ICW Mile Zero) (N36° 50.765' W076° 18.010')
Trip: 53nm, Total: 103nm, Engine: 2265hrs
I departed Belle Creek just after dawn. There was a bit of wind this time; every other morning I've departed this anchorage I've been stunned by the silent, still, beauty of the place. i.e.: No Wind.
Now I feel like I'm really on my way south. As such I'm starting to get into living off-the-grid again. Things like leaving the cell phone off.
Here's the thing: part of this lifestyle that many of my friends find…. What's the word? Arrogant? Selfish? …is that I do exactly what I want and on my schedule (weather permitting, of course). Part of that philosophy includes leaving a place as well as going to a place. When I leave a place I sometimes leave everything that's there… there.
I arrive at Norfolk late in the day. I'm motoring down the Elizabeth River past the Naval Base and all the big warships. We have some very cool warships. The security boats keep pace with me as I move along. I like to think that they are simply bored but I know that if I were to suddenly turn toward those aircraft carriers they would cut me and my little craft to pieces with that .50 cal Browning on their bow. I'm careful about course corrections here.
I find Hospital point and the 20 other boats already anchored there. This is just at the start of the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway (ICW); in fact it's just about exactly at Mile Zero. Many boat's insurance constraints include that they will not be south of Norfolk before November 1 of any given year (the official end of hurricane season). So the hole-up in marinas and anchorages here in Norfolk and Hampton until then.
I anchor in 30-ft of water next to a familiar boat: s/v Lady Slipper. I've seen LS several times in the past few years at places like Beaufort, NC, Lake Worth, FL, et al. But I've never met the captain.
I spent a relatively quiet night at anchor there. Norfolk would never be called 'quiet' and it's never dark there. All night I was rocked by wakes and whistles and lights as boats plied the river.
30 Oct - 02 Nov 2009 (Friday-Monday)
North Carolina Welcome Center, Dismal Swamp Canal, NC (N36° 40.413' W076° 21.365')
Trip: 24nm, Total: 127nm, Engine: 2271hrs
With the closure of the Jordan Lift bridge I have only one drawbridge between me and the cutoff for the Dismal Swamp. I wan to make the 0830 opening of the Gilmerton Bridge. They were doing repairs on that bridge and were not opening very often during the day. In addition, the bridge would be closed to river traffic all weekend. My reduced motoring speed allowed just about everyone to pass me on the 6-mile run to the bridge.
To make the 0830 opening I had to be underway by 0715. I just made it. As usual I procrastinated a lot of prep the night before. I had left the dinghy in the water and I wanted it on deck for the run down the ICW. I had left my sail-covers off and really wanted them on, since I would not be sailing for the next few days. All of this had to be done when I got up. And of course I had to hoist anchor and get underway.
I made the bridge and shortly there after (ICW Mile 10) I made the turn toward the Dismal Swamp. I was the only one in the 15 or so boats coming down the river that made that turn. Someone radioed me saying that they had heard that the swamp route was closed. I didn't respond and hoped they were wrong. I know that Capt Ron (s/v Lastdance) had gone through a few days ago. But I heard no radio traffic from the lock tenders. Finally I arrived at the lock (about 0930 hrs) and called the tenders to let them know I was standing by for their next (1100 hrs) opening. They said "Ok" so I knew I was good to go. I had a long wait so I dropped the main anchor and went below to make breakfast.
While I was below several other boats joined me waiting at the locks.
At 1015 or so the locks opened and we motored in. I was the last on the starboard side. We had about 8 boats in the lock. I've seen as many as 13 with the last three center-moored. I was happy to be the last out of the lock as my overheating engine may cause me to go even slower than usual. There's no room to pass anyone on the Dismal Swamp Canal and I didn't want to hold up anyone.
At the risk of sounding more arrogant than normal I must say that I have never seen so many inept line handlers as I saw in the lock that morning. Consider this: you know you are going to tie up in a lock. You should know that you will need fenders out (to protect your boat from the walls of the lock) and you will need lines to run from your boat to the bollards and clears on the sides of the lock (to hold you in position while locking up or down).
As a single-hander, I try to get all lines and fenders ready before I get to the lock. I don't know which side of the lock I'll be assigned so I get lines and fenders ready on both sides of the boat. I know that the lockmaster wants to take a loop of rope around the bollard and that both ends will be on Galena: on secured to a mooring cleat, the other in my hand. The end in my hand I can keep tension on to keep Galena against the wall while I lock up or down. And when it's time to go, I can slip the lines myself and be off. As I enter the lock, the lockmaster comes by with a boat hook and lifts the loop of line from the bow cleat (which I've left looped over a lifeline so he can see it and grab It) and drops it over a bollard. Same for the stern line. I'm left holding two ends of two lines and he moves on to the next boat.
What I see all along the other side of the lock is people handing the lockmaster a coil of rope…. Not even attached to their boat!!! Or they hand him an end of a line. Over and over he says, "Give me a loop of line; one end attached to your boat, the other in your hand." It seem no one is prepared. He glances over at me and we both just shake our heads.
At the last minute, a very small motor boat came into the lock. I moved up a bit and m/v Whisper tied up behind me. Dale and Carla. Carla had the same misunderstand about the lines and fenders as everyone else that day. She stood there telling me over and over how embarrassed she was over her bad line handling. Because she was very cute I told her not to worry; everyone does that the first few times they come through here.
Finally, we locked up and were discharged into the canal. I told Dale that I was going to be traveling slowly and he should get around me as soon as possible. In face he went around me in the lock.
Another thing about the northern lock of the Dismal Swamp Canal is that there is a bridge just a half mile down the canal from the lock. The lock master is also the bridge tender. When everyone is out of the lock he hops in his pickup truck (they always have pickup truck, you know) and goes to the bridge and opens it.
This means that once everyone is out of the lock we should slow down and give him time to get there. But some/most didn't read that information in the guides and while I'm idling forward people are racing by me at full speed. One boat seemed no to see that all the boats ahead of me were stopped. As he powered by me I yelled at him to cut it back; that everyone is stopped; that there's a bridge ahead. Now this is a very narrow canal and there is scant room for maneuvering. When boats get too close together there's bound to be trouble. I was backing away from the fray as the boats turned into the muddy banks rather than into each other.
Finally we were through the bridge and I watched as the crowd of boats moved away down the canal.
As it was I was able to maintain about 4.5-kts most of the way. When I ran at 2500 rpm everything was ok, except that I was putting out a lot of steam from the exhaust; a clear indication that there was insufficient cooling water going into the mixing elbow. When I ran the engine at 2700 rpm I had only 2-minutes before the overheat alarm sounded. Backing down to 1000 rpm let the engine cool down and after a couple minutes the alarm went off and I resumed my 2500 rpm speed.
I arrived at the visitor center and rafted up third out and the north end.
The visitor center is just that: a standard highway visitor center (US 17 I think) with a small bulkhead dock where boats can tie up for a day or so. They have free internet, restrooms, and that's about it. Bad weather last year caused Ron and I to stay there for almost a week. This year the same thing happened. But it was only 4 days this year.
After the first night there, just about every other boat left. In the morning I moved to the south end of the dock and, for a while, was all alone.
Day 2 at Visitor Center, Dismal Swamp State Park, Galena is all alone on the dock
I wandered about and eventually went down to the little bridge that swings across the canal. There a lonely, lovely, bridge tender has the job of watching for boat traffic and then swinging the bridge out of the way before the boats get there.
Bridge with lovely tender watching for boats
I felt it was incumbent upon me to go keep her company for a bit.
The above lovely, lonely, bridge tender being harassed by lonely boater
When I asked what she was going to be when she grew up, she smiled and said, "Probably an old bridge tender standing right here looking for boats."
The morning lock opening at the north end of the canal spewed a bunch of boats. Two hours later they arrived at the visitor center. Some stopped to tie up.
I finally met Bill on s/v Lady Slipper. He also stayed there for a few days.
Bill of s/v Lady Slipper
One morning Bill and I were sitting on the dock having coffee when a guy walks down to the dock from the visitor center parking lot. He's looking at boats and we all say, 'Hi.' Turns out he has just bought a vintage motorboat, about 60-ft, wooden hull. The kind of thing you might expect to see FDR on. Beautiful boat. He has pictures (http://www.wildheartscharters.com). He said it needs a lot of work, but that that's what he does. Very cool, we say. We're talking and getting along fine when I ask when he expects to be finished with this boat. He says something like, "Well, my son will finish it for me." Huh? We ask. Roger says, "I only have a few months to live." What a horrible turn to the conversation. It seems Roger has all of his parts going bad at once. He wants to start this project for his son, also in the business.
I really liked Roger and was quite bummed out to find out he's dying. I don't know about you, but I just don't expect to get that kind of a jolt in the middle of a friendly conversation. I'm sure he's more bummed out than I. But at least he's had time to get used to the idea.
Dale and Carla (m/v Whisper) stopped by on their way back north (They were behind me in the lock). The tied up long enough for Dale to change fuel filters. During that time I was treated to a jug of chocolate milk and a bag of homemade chocolate chip cookies. It seems that Carla is not just a pretty face (well, she is certainly that, too).
When they left, they left a rather small hole in the stack of boats.
So when other boats started showing up they left that hole empty. Eventually we were three deep, and three wide, and had a hole in the middle. When s/v Hibiscus showed up I jokingly said, "Well, you could Med-moor here in this hole." To my surprise, she did just that. I'd never seen anything like it at the visitor center.
Hibiscus Med-moored behind Galena at the visitor center
Bill and I were invited to s/v Creola by Rick and Carol for dinner. We were served the most wonderful beef stew. Afterwards I taught them all how to play Dominoes (Mexican Train).
The next morning, s/v Creola departed the visitor center. In the process they came a little too close to the shoreline and took a piece of tree with them.
s/v Creola departing visitor center with bit of tree in spreaders
Bruce and Lin (s/v Alize) were a fun addition to those hanging out at the visitor center. They have a big catamaran that they want to sell. You can't tell from the picture below, but Bruce really was a fun guy. His wife, Lin, was a hoot. Always very quick with a salty comeback.
Bruce of s/v Alize
George and Kim (s/v Adagio) were also way too much fun.
When I went in to the visitor center to sign their guest book I noticed their book exchange. I had accumulated a dozen or so books that were in the 'already read' pile. So I said I would come back that day and do the book exchange. I also mentioned that it was my birthday (01 Nov). When I was finished exchanging my books the ladies who work there called me over and presented me with a little gift bag and birthday card. It was such a sweet thing. I was speechless.
Birthday Goodies from the Swamp Girls, Dismal Swamp Visitor Center.
In the bag were candies and toys and trinkets. I was very pleased.
I also had the great pleasure of finally meeting a Facebook Friend, Claudia (http://www.claudiaanghel.com/). A wonderful, effervescent girl on her way south with friend, John. We had 'talked' a few times on-line. She and John stopped by just long enough to say, "Hi" and then John whisked her away from me. What a lovely young lady.
Claudia wants to sail single-handed from Florida to the Bahamas. I see no problem with that. She wants to talk with me more about my thoughts on single-handing and crossing the Stream to the Bahamas. I'll be looking forward to that, too.
Weather forecast is looking good for a Wednesday crossing of the Albemarle Sound. Most of us who have tarried at the visitor center have done so because there was just too much wind from the wrong direction to cross the sound. That meant the Elizabeth City would be full of boats also waiting. So we had elected to stay right here with our little community of travelers.
But now it was time to move on. So preparations were made. Departure times were discussed. Lock schedules were confirmed. Trash hauled out and lines shortened.
03 Nov 2009 (Tuesday)
Elizabeth City, NC.
Trip: 21nm, Total: 148nm
I departed for the lock a bit early. About an hour early it would seem. I arrived at the South Mills bridge, which is worked by the lock master, so early that I really didn't want to try to hold station in the canal. So I dropped my dinghy anchor and used it to hold Galena stationary while waiting for the bridge/lock.
Locking down the 8-ft to the river was uneventful. As usual it seemed to take forever. Finally I moved out and let everyone pass me (overheating, remember?).
The drive down the river was fairly quiet. For some reason Bill (s/v Lady Slipper stayed behind me all the way. Later he said, "I'm just in no hurry."
I get to Elizabeth City about 1530hrs. I had never been to the "Rose Buddies" free town dock. In fact I wasn't even sure where it was. As I came through the draw bridge I spotted a boat that had been with us at the visitor center and figured that was the free dock. Thy had several slips open but there was also space on the bulkhead. I pulled in there and was told that that area was usually reserved for catamarans. But when I said I was 11-ft wide, they said, 'Oh, Never mind." It seems their slips are rather narrow.
Lady Slipper came in behind me an took the last few feet of available wall space.
Charlotte came by to tell us about the welcome party at1630hrs. Free wine and snacks and beer. She is a lovely southern belle who takes her job as one of the Rose Buddy hostesses very seriously. I asked where I might get a beer now, and Charlotte, in that wonderful southern accent that I just love, directed me to a nearby pub. Bill and I headed over.
We were soon joined by George and Kim (s/v Adagio)
George, Kim, and myself at Elizabeth City, NC.
After a beer or three we all went out to the Rose Buddy reception. There we were entertained by the mayor of Elizabeth City. Well, I was entertained by Charlotte and Susan.
Rose Buddies, Charlotte and Susan at Elizabeth City, NC.
Bill and Luke and I stayed out pretty late. We hit all four bars a couple of times that night. Then we staggered back to our boats and passed out. I was invited to a wine tasting the next day (by a most beautiful bar tender) but when I awoke at 0600hrs I decided to just cast off and head out. So I did.
04 Nov 2009 (Wednesday)
Deep point, Alligator River, NC
Trip: 45nm, Total: 203nm Eng: 2284hrs
I left Elizabeth City at daybreak. As soon as I was away from the dock I raised sails and headed south toward the Albemarle Sound. There was only just enough wind to move Galena along at about 4-kts. But that would get me into this anchorage just before dark.
Several boats left town just after I did. All eventually raised at least a headsail. But they all were motor sailing as they pasted me.
The Albemarle Sound lived up to it's reputation and even in this light wind was unusually rough. I had not set the Aries wind steering vane for use before I left so I just hand-steered all day. I motored through the shoals at Middle Ground (just north of the swing bridge) and again through the bridge.
As I approached the Alligator River swing bridge I called for an opening. The bridge tender replied that he had people working on the mechanism and would not be able to open for 30 or 40 minutes. So I just anchored and made lunch. In about 30-minutes He called me and gave me a few minutes to raise anchor and then he opened the bridge as I started making way south.
Once I turned west and got into the lee of the headland at ICW mile 101 I had a smooth sail. All three of the boats that had passed me motor sailing out of Elizabeth City were anchored there. I picked a spot, setup my anchor trip line, and anchored in 9-ft of water.
On the radio I had heard and talked with Lee (s/v Krosna). He was a buddy from George Town, Exumas, Bahamas. He said he was heading for the same anchorage but would not arrive until after dark. I suggested that he raft up with me (this is almost always a very calm anchorage).
Lee said that his friend, Michelle, would cook dinner for us. He arrived about 1900-hrs and rafted up on Galena's starboard side. I had the pleasure of meeting Michelle who cooked a great meal. We had dinner, drinks, and played guitar till about 2200-hrs. As usual, we had a very, very quiet night.
05 Nov 09 (Thursday)
ICW Mile 159.8 (N 35° 121.557' W 076° 35.497')
Trip: 50nm, Total: 253nm, Eng: 2293hrs
I awoke at Deep Point and prattled about until I made enough noise to wake up Lee and Michelle. I had them over for coffee and we chatted about where we were going to anchor that night. Lee and I agreed it would all depend on how fast we could sail down the Pamlico River. Lee cast off from Galena and I raised anchor and followed him about a half hour later. Motoring down the canals I again had to hold back on my speed because of my engine cooling problems. Everyone was passing me… even other sailboats!
Once I was able to sail (once the canal turned into the Pamlico River) I had a rather riotous ride. Galena, with everything up (including her 130% Genoa) was surfing at 7.4-kts. Since her hull speed is only 7.1 that's a bit exciting.
During this brisk sail I actually started catching up with s/v Krosna. Lee later said that he was shocked when he looked back and saw a Westsail 32 charging down on him. He hardened up everything and started making max speed. He said he could tell that I was really pushing it since I was constantly dipping a rail into the water.
Almost passing s/v Krosna in the Pamlico River, NC
Once Lee started seriously sailing he pulled away. But I still closed to within a few hundred yards of him.
I waited too long to dowse the headsail. As I entered Goose Creek I found the wind just a little too close to the centerline of the channel. So I tried to lower the headsail; in the channel. By the time that I got the recalcitrant sail under control and on deck Galena has drifted out of channel and into 6-ft of water. I gave up and fired up the engine. I motor sailed the next mile or so and then dropped all sails.
Lee and I entered the little cove at ICW mile 159.8 and he decided it was just too 'open' for him. There were forecasts of 25-kt winds for that night. I decided to stay there and he went around the corner to Bear Creek. That night was almost completely calm.
06 - 13 Nov 09 (Friday - Friday)
Town Creek Marina, Beaufort, NC (N 35° 121.557' W 076° 35.497')
Trip: 37nm, Total: 290nm, Eng: 2300hrs
Fuel: 50 gal @ $2.59 = $140; Marina: $1.50/ft/day
I had a good sail down the Neuse River and into Adams Creek. I was making good time so I continued all the way to Beaufort, NC.
I stopped at Town Creek Marina for fuel and to see my buddy Ron and his lovely wife, Terry (s/v Lastdance).
I decided to take a slip. I know that's way out of character for me. But I did it. As it turned out that was a very good idea. I had some work to do on Galena. There was that persistent overheating problem as well as a couple of cracked chainplates that needed to be replace. A slip would make all that work a lot easier.
One of the cracked chainplates had an obvious crack visible on the outside. And it was radiating out from the uppermost bolt. So only half the chainplate was holding the shroud. (For all my non-sailboater friends out there, a chainplate is a long hunk of metal that bolts into the side of the hull. At the top end is a hole and into that hole goes the wires (shrouds) that hold up the mast. If a chainplate fails, the mast may well fall down.)
When I pulled off the chainplate I found not just the crack visible to the right of the bolt hole below, but also a crack on the left side of that bolt hole. In essence the chainplate was only held together by about 1/4" of steel. Way too close to the mast falling down.
Close-up of chainplate with two cracks highlighted by the arrows
Ron, Terry, and I went out for a drink. We headed up to the Back Street Pub, my all-time favorite bar in the world.
Lee and Michelle dropped by and said, "Hi" and met Ron and Terry. Michelle is not feeling well and is heading back home. Lee is looking for crew.
Michelle and Lee (s/v Krosna) at the Back Street Pub
Ron, Terry, and I ended up at the local wine bar (yes, I drink wine) where there was some great entertainment (besides Terry, that is).
Ron and Terry at the wine bar in Beaufort, NC
Finally I attached the cooling problem on Galena's little engine. It's a Yanmar 3GM30F. That's a nice, solid little diesel engine that should last a hundred years with even reasonable maintenance. I usually give it at least reasonable maintenance.
The only thing I have not done to solve this cooling problem is to remove and clean out the mixing elbow. The mixing elbow is the place where the cooling water that has gone through the heat exchanger gets injected into the exhaust hose. That place will get carboned up and needs to be cleaned out or replaced. I was unable to unscrew the elbow from the exhaust stack riser. So I took it over to the shop here at the marina. I gave the guy $20 and he put some heat to it and took a huge pipe wrench and spun it off. When I look inside the elbow I knew it was time to replace it. $108 later I have a new mixing elbow.
Galena's new mixing elbow
I changed the oil, flushed the coolant and called it a week. Now I'm waiting for weather to clear up so I can continue south to Key west.
14 Nov 09
Still at Town Creek Marina in Beaufort, NC.
And I'm still up in the air about where I'm headed. Here's a new Idea: From Key West to Cozumel, to Cayman, to Jamaica, to Cartagena, to San Blas, to Panama. That would work. Of course, so would Key West to Tampa to New Orleans to Galveston. So would Key West to South Riding to Nassau to Great Exuma. See? I flip back and forth. Looks like I still have absolutely no idea were I'm going to be in two months time.
I spent some more time hanging out in Beaufort. Mostly at the Back Street Pub and, believe it or not, at the Wine Bar just down the street.
One night Capt Ron brought his daughter-in-law, Michelle and her two kids to the pub. She had heard far to many stories about me and generally had the good sense to say far away.
Michelle and Terry at the Back Street Pub, Beaufort, NC
Also while there I met Frank and Mary of m/v Sea Smoke. They were on their way south, too. I love meeting people who are so predisposed to smile.
Frank and Mary of m/v Sea Smoke at the Back Street Pub
I do know this: it's time to get moving again. I really want to head south from here on the outside; I hate the ICW. Off shore I can easily make Cape Fear (Southport) in a 24-hr run. But that means staying up all night. Something I've done many times before. But the weather has to be just right. A window in the adverse weather that will allow me to sail south in reasonable comfort. Just now the forecasts are looking good for tomorrow and tomorrow night.
15 Nov 09
Anchored in Mile Hammock Bay, Camp Lejeune, NC. (34° 33.10' N 077° 19.52' W)
Trip: 39nm, Total: 329nm, Engine: 2309hrs
I've made it to Mile Hammock Bay by running on 'the inside.' That means I spent all day motoring down the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW). Let me again devolve to itemize the reasons I hate motoring down the ICW:
1. You motor; you do not/can not sail.
2. It's shallow; you spend the day staring at the fathometer. That makes my stomach hurt.
3. I can make only 40-50 miles per day and have to find a safe place to anchor each night.
4. Did I mention the ICW is shallow?
So why, you might rightly ask, did I go down the ICW to Mile Hammock rather than on the outside in the clear deep ocean as I had planed? The culprit, as is usually the case, was the demon rum. There I was, this is no shit: minding my own business. Just having a couple of drinks with friends at the local pub. Suddenly I found myself staggering back to Galena at some ungodly hour of the morning.
I was up at 0500 today (15 Nov) with just 4 hrs of sleep under my belt. My plan for making a 24-hr run to Cape Fear was now out of the question. I knew I couldn't stay awake all night for a run off-shore. Yet I didn't want to waste the good weather window. That and I was just about done with Beaufort, NC, for this trip. I love the place. But it IS just a small town. Also, the wind was just right for getting Galena out of the slip unassisted. And that's always an important consideration.
In the pre-dawn darkness I started casting off dock lines and getting her ready to go. Finally I had her hanging from just two windward lines. I thought I'd wait another half hour or so; until BMNT (Beginning of Morning Nautical Twilight). At BMNT one can see well enough to navigate down the channel and out to the ICW.
I went up to the bow and replaced the clove hitch with a thief knot. I had the bow hanging off the middle piling on the port side of the slip. With a thief know there I'd be able to cast off the bow line from the cockpit just after I started backing out. That would allow the bow to swing off in the wind (from the port side) at (I hoped) just the right speed to match the prop-walk pushing the stern to port. And that would end up turning Galena out into the marina's fairway without hitting the boat next to me or the ones behind me. It was an intricate but beautiful plan.
We have a saying the Army: "No plan survives contact with the enemy." There should be a corollary for boating.
Basically I screwed up. The thief know was not tied tight enough and it let loose on it's own. When I got back to the cockpit I looked up toward the bow. It didn't look quit right up there. But it WAS still dark. Yet I thought, "Is she untied?" Yep, she was. The bow was swinging toward the boat to my right in the next slip. There was no time to go forward and retire her; she was already halfway across the slip. The only thing to do was cast off the stern line and go. So I did.
I backed Galena out and she turned to clockwise just as I had planned; albeit a half-hour before I would have liked.
I headed out of Town Creek and lined up for the drawbridge at just after 0600hrs. At that time of morning the bridge is still 'On Demand.' i.e.: It opens when you ask it to. After 0700hrs the bridge is on a restricted schedule of every 30-minutes on the hour. The problem was that it was still quite dark out. Another sailboat had departed just before me and had called for an opening. The bridge was opening and I was still not all the way out of Town Creek. I called the bridge tender asking if he would hold the bridge for me. He said something to the effect of, "Is that you coming out of the anchorage? If so, gun it and you can make it. I did and I did.
Galena's track out of Town Creek and west down the ICW
I had the tidal current with me almost all day. That gave me a speed over ground of 6 - 7 kts! I arrived here very early in the day: about 1400hrs. s/v Lastdance was right behind me and was thinking of continuing south due to the early hour; but he didn't. We were the first two boats to anchor here for the night so we selected a very good spot. All day long (every time the bridge opened) we would see a bunch of boats coming down the ICW and out of each bunch of boats a few would turn into Mile Hammock Bay. As the day went on, more of each group joined us in the anchorage. By sundown the place was overcrowded with about 20 boats. Even after dark boats kept arriving; something I hadn't expected.
Among the boats joining us were s/v Shadowfax and s/v Sandra Lee. A couple of vessels I had met at Dismal Swamp. Drinks and early to bed. And there endeth the 15th of November.
16 - 17 Nov 09
Wrightsville Beach, NC. (34° 12.41' N 077° 47.98' W)
Trip: 35nm, Total: 325nm, Engine: 2316hrs.
I departed Mile Hammock at about 0630hrs. The current was once again in my favor most of the way to Wrightsville Beach and Galena was able to make 6- to 7-kts most of the day. That's very cool. I need something to be happy about when I run the ICW.
I had heard that Brown inlet had shoaled a lot this year and that boats were going aground there all day long. The only way to make it through safely was with at least a couple of feet of tide to float you over the shallow spots.
At Brown Inlet I saw a shallow water spot of 5.9' MLW. After I passed the inlet I had the current against me and was only able to hit 3.9-kts instead of my usual 5.7-kts. I still arrived here at Wrightsville Beach and had the hook down by 1300-hrs. Sort of a short day. Once again Capt Ron on Lastdance talked about going further. But again he decided that there was no place else to stop up the ditch where he could make up a full day. That is, he could go further today but not get to any place good on the next day except Southport. So either we do two medium-length days, or we do a long one today and a very short one tomorrow. I preferred to stop where I was comfortable. And along this stretch that's Beaufort, Mile Hammock, Wrightsville, Southport.
As we turned off of the ICW s/v Lastdance cut the corner into Mott's Channel a little too close and ended up "calibrating his fathometer." I almost did the say a few hundred yards further down that channel. I really don't like taking that route into Wrightsville Beach. I was told about the simplicity of navigation on Shinn Creek, which extends directly in toward the ICW from Masonboro inlet. I used that route on the way out and it was much easier with much deeper water.
Galena's track into Wrightsville Beach anchorage
After setting the hook and letting Galena swing a bit I realized that I was anchored a bit too close to another boat. So I went over to talk to them and see if they wanted me to move. It turns out that boat was s/v Impetuous with Chris and Durene. I had talked with them on the Chesapeake Bay on the way north last Spring. They had seen Ron dancing in the cockpit and had been trying to call him to ask him to share whatever drugs he was on. Ron couldn't hear the radio because he had his music cranked way up. So I talked with them and we collectively talked trash about Ron. Now I got to meet with them in person. Too cool.
After a couple of beers on Lastdance with Ron and Terry I dinghied into town. There I bumped into Jack and Sandy (s/v Sandra Lee) and Keith and Hazel(?) (s/v Shadowfax 2). I had met them earlier at the Dismal Swamp visitor center and again at Mile Hammock.
Everyone stops somewhere and for different lengths of time. So one finds that one continually bumps into the same group of people all the way down the coast. We're all going the same direction at different speeds and there are only so many places where one can stop and rest.
During the early morning of the 17th (about 0300) I stuck my head out to see where everyone was (there was a tidal and wind shift). I was surprised to see s/v Impetuous about 10-ft off my bow. In fact, his dinghy (tied to his stern) was under Galena's bowsprit. He was on rope rode while I was on heavy chain. Therefore he swung faster than Galena and pulled back on his anchor right away. Galena on the other hand just turned her head and lay to her rode. I fired up the engine and pulled back, dragging the chain so I was further away from Impetuous. The went back to bed.
In the morning a couple of boats in the anchorage departed leaving some nice 'holes' a few hundred feet closer to the bridge. Once again Impetuous was drifting very close to me. I hauled anchor and moved over there. I moved Galena only about 500-ft from where I was. But that made a big difference in the comfort level. Shadowfax had come in and anchored a bit close and I was again too close to Impetuous. Even Lastdance was a bit closer than I would have liked. Once I moved, everyone was fine.
I stayed in Wrightsville Beach another day because I wanted to go off-shore at Cape Fear (Southport). But the weather wasn't good for a couple of days. So I stayed here where I could hang out on the beach and in the bars. Yeah: Duh.
I've been told by some of my readers that my location names are confusing. Sometimes I use the nearest town to describe where I am. Sometimes the prominent geographic feature like a river or lake or an inlet. Sometimes the name commonly used by cruisers is none of the above. So I'd like to start being a bit more clear. In this case when I say "Southport" I mean somewhere near the mouth of the Cape Fear River in North Carolina.
As I said on the way out of Wrightsville Beach I went around to the southern (western?) entrance and used Shinn Creek channel, which is an extension of Masonboro Inlet. That turned out to be a much better way to go. On the way south along the barrier island toward the inlet I saw s/v Lady Slipper. I learned later that Bill had gone off-shore from Beaufort, NC and had come in after dark. So he just dropped the hook as soon as he got around the corner of the inlet. I went over to say, Hi, but he wasn't up yet.
On the way here from Wrightsville Beach I saw a shallow spot at Carolina Inlet of 5.2-ft MLW. I passed there with +4.0-ft of tide so there was no problem for Galena's 5-ft draft.
Also I had a spot of trouble an the south end of Snow Cut. There was this dredge and I was about to pass too far to the left, but Ron on Lastdance called and corrected me (Thanks, Ron). I had remembered the old adage that when it comes to dredges, "Diamonds are a girls best friend. And your boat, being a girl, heads for the side of the dredge displaying diamond daysigns." But I was heading way too far from the dredge. Ron suggested I to go between the dredge and the yellow mark.
There is a very nice marina at Southport. It's actually much better than the one here (and 4-miles closer to the ocean inlet). It's not too expensive and it's in the thick of things (as much as any can be in this part of North Carolina). But it's also a bit tight. The fairways and slips are narrow. I don't like to maneuver in tight places unless I have to.
But in this case I passed up the 'good' marina because I wanted to use the 'easy-in, easy-out' bulkhead at South Haven Marina, which is my custom. S/v Lastdance went to the Southport Marina, which is his. I've been in Southport Marina before but I didn't like the tight maneuvering required. But in this case Lastdance was placed on their main bulkhead and I would have been placed right behind her. So as it turned out I passed up a chance for major party time with Ron and Terry just because I was playing Captain Cautious. That will teach me... or not.
South Harbor Marina charges $1.35/ft + $4.00 for power (30amp). There's a nice new pub on the premises where I got a cheese steak sandwich and a couple of beers for $17.
My fuel situation is 22 gal starboard side tank, 30 gal port side tank, 11 gal in jugs on deck. Plenty for the next few days so I didn't buy any here.
As I was finishing the tying up of Galena to the dock (reversing current here is strong and one needs strong spring lines to sleep well) I looked at the main starboard-side anchor as she lay stored on the bowsprit. Something looked wrong. I looked closer. Holy-shit! The clevis pin that holds the anchor chain to the swivel on the shank of the anchor was missing it's cotter pin. Not only that, but it was half-way out of the swivel; jammed at an angle that said, "Come on, just shake me and I'll fall right out." I had just hung on that anchor for 2-days at Wrightsville beach and it was just about to separate itself from the chain! I immediately installed the biggest cotter pin that would fit and thanked the Anchor Gods for their grace.
20 Nov 09
Charleston, SC. Anchored in front of the Town Dock.
Trip: 130nm, Total: 482nm, Engine 2346 hrs.
Early in the morning of the 19th I awoke to find that I had wrenched my back flipping my dinghy onto Galena's deck. I have to find a way to do that smarter. It's a heavy, aluminum Grumman 9' dinghy. I have to lift it with the main halyard and winch, get it over the coach roof, then flip it upside-down and set it in it's chocks over the companionway and behind the mast. I tried to muscle it around yesterday and in so doing pulled something.
I think I can do it smarter by hoisting it onto the deck then repositioning the lines so that when I pick it up again with the winch it will flip itself over.
Anyway, the morning of the 19th started with little wind, but what there was was from the right direction. I kept looking at the forecasts: the all said, "Go now or sit here for couple of days." Or run down the ditch another few days.
I sat at the dock in Southport and waffled and hemmed and hawed. I gammed with the dockmaster. He agreed that tomorrow would have more wind. But that the cold front coming on the day after tomorrow would make for a very tight weather window. If I was delayed for some reason I could get caught out there in some significant bad weather. So my choices were: go today and maybe motorsail or wait till tomorrow and sail but maybe get caught in a storm. Finally about 0930hrs I decided to go. And to go off-shore all the way to Charleston, SC.
I was sitting in Galena's cockpit as she motorsailed southwest in the Atlantic. I was about 8-miles off-shore. There was almost no wind but I optimistically had the sails up. The little diesel was purring and pushing Galena along at a respectable 5.7-kts. The magic GPS said I'd sail into Charleston harbor about 10AM on the 20th.
Here's a little video clip of Galena motorsailing south.
As the sun set the sky was cloudy; the sea was running about 3-feet and had that inky smooth look to it that I've tried to capture in video clips but just can't. The weather forecast was still calling for only this all night.
The day was cool and overcast but warmed up enough for me to sail naked for the first time this trip. OK, I'm really getting south now.
About 1500 hrs on the 19th I poured the diesel fuel from the deck jugs into the starboard tank giving me 32gal/30gal/0gal (stdb/port/deck).
Just before sunset I decided it was time to harvest the head. Emptying Galena's composting head is a simple job: just dump it out. I have to do that every two months or so. Much more convenient than looking for a pump-out station.
The night was very uneventful; which is good. The air was cool, the wind light, the seas calm.
As dawn approached I started hearing weather alerts talking about heavy fog in Charleston. Just before dawn, while I was still a few hours out, USCG-Charleston was saying that Charleston harbor was closed to commercial traffic due to heavy fog. I was still in clear air, but getting concerned.
The USCG was calling for the fog to burn off by 0930hrs. I slowed down to make an arrival time of 1000hrs. But as I neared the harbor I hit the fog. And, yes, it was quite thick. I ran my radar and watched the channel markers as I made my approach. I decided that I would just wait out here for the fog to lift if I couldn't see from one channel marker to the next. As I made out the first of the marks I was able to see several marks ahead and behind me. So I went in. By the time I made it to my anchorage things were pretty clear.
I anchored near the channel across from the Town Dock. I went to sleep.
21 - 25 Nov 09
Charleston, SC. Anchored in front of the Town Dock.
In the morning of 21 Nov I saw that a couple of boats had departed the anchorage so I moved to a more protected spot. That is, protected by placing other anchored boats between me and the channel. Once I was settled down in my new spot the tide changed and I found myself too close to my neighbors so I moved again. Third time was the charm and I stayed there for a few days without having to move again.
I finally tired of hearing the whisker pole clank against the mast and remounted it. When I bought Galena the pole was clipped into rings on the front of the mast. Nice. It was out of the way, and the topping lift stayed attached and made setting it fairly easy. But it clanked as Galena rocked. Nothing I tried stopped it for long.
I found that the pole would fit along the lower lifeline between the bow pulpit and the second stanchion. The pole telescopes. And I had to open it to its 'usual' length to make it fit. I fashioned some mounting rings and clips and did a twine wrap at an intermediate stanchion to keep the rattling down. Now there she sets: quiet and readily available. Mostly quiet.
I carry my outboard motor on a bracket on the boom gallows. Since Galena is a double-ender, she can lower the outboard from the gallows directly down to the dinghy without hitting the hull. And I used to have a heavy, 6-hp outboard there. So I had a 4-part block system to haul it up and down. But now I have a 35# 2-hp outboard that really doesn't need that much mechanical advantage. So I found some small blocks and re-rigged the system to a faster 2-part system. Much easier to use.
For the next couple of days I just hung out in Charleston. I met Ben and Teresa on s/v Elizabeth (28' BCC for Ben) and s/v Daphne (27' Nor'Sea for Teresa )
They were heading south and thinking about staying in Charleston for the winter. I allowed as how that was silly since it gets cold here. But I saw them again in St Augustine, FL. It only took a few very cold nights in Charleston to convince them to go further south. I'd see them once more on this trip, in Miami Beach, where they were planning on staying for the winter. A much sounder idea I think.
26 Nov 09
Fernandina Beach, FL (N 30° 40.16' WQ 081° 28.02')
Trip: 165-nm, Total: 647-nm, Engine: 2352-hrs
I departed Charleston, SC, 25 Nov 09 at 0810hrs Arrived Fernandina Beach, FL, 26 Nov 09 at 1610hrs. That's 165-nm in 32-hrs for an average speed of 5.1-kts. Not blazing speed, but respectable and within the planed speed range. Also 32-hrs is about as long as I want to sail without sleep. I tend to be a little slow of wit after being up that long. And in all honesty I tend to nap a bit around dawn. Little naps that last about 10- to 15-minutes.
As I departed the USCG was advising that a vessel had sunk after hitting the jetty and that salvage operations were under way. I took this photo as I motored by. This is really sad. And it's what goes through my head every time I enter a harbor. I have usually plotted a course that takes me well clear of the end of the jetties. But then when I get there and it's dark, and I can't be sure where the rocks are, I'll usually head another half mile off-shore just to be sure I don't end up like this boat did.
Not the way to come into Charleston Harbor. This Cat sank after hitting the jetty at the entrance and was being salvaged as I departed the harbor
Also leaving Charleston Harbor, I had to share the road with an incoming freighter. This is so much easier like this, in the daylight, than at night when I'm never quite sure where the rocks are (they are to the right in this picture)
Sharing the inlet channel with an incoming freighter
The wind was a bit variable during this leg. Sometimes Galena was down to 2.5-kts. I found it a bit hard to resist firing up the engine. But within 30-minutes the wind picked up again and we were galloping along at a nice 5- to 6-kt clip. About 20-miles north of Fernandina Beach the wind was up to 15- to 20-kts out of the West; The seas built to 4-ft and I reefed the main. Finally, about 3-miles out I dropped all but the staysail and started the engine since the wind had backed to close to the bow and I hand to motorsail to keep my desired heading. I had the tide with me and the wind and waves against me during my run up the entrance channel. That made for both a very rough and very slow ride.
When I arrived I was planning on just anchoring out as I have done in the past. But I really needed sleep and the current and wind were a bit strong. And I think I'm becoming a bit of an older sailor so I opted for a place in the marina. They assigned Galena a place on the inside of their main bulkhead. By the time I got to the marina the staff was anxious to go home.
The tidal current had started to shift. What was going to be a 'stem-the-tide' approach was now a 'going with the flow' approach. Of course the boat moored ahead of me on the bulkhead was big and expensive. The dock hand was standing where he wanted my bow to end up waiting to take my bow line. I tried to tell him that I was going to stop Galena well short of that point and walk her forward. He kept saying, "Bring it on up to here!" I kept saying, "I'll stop here." When I stepped off the boat onto the dock holding all the lines and started tying up, he came back to talk. I explained that I was going with the current and Galena would not stop on a dime. I certainly didn't want to risk hitting that boat ahead of me. He understood and helped me walk Galena forward into position.
Galena's route into Fernandina Beach, FL
I took a short nap and then walked into town. But this was Thanksgiving Day. Almost nothing was open. The Palace Saloon was open, of course. So I stopped for a beer. They don't serve food there. I walked on down the main street and found a nice small restaurant that was having a "Classic Thanksgiving Dinner" for a reasonable price. I went in and had a lovely meal. Then back to the saloon for another beer before heading on back to Galena and to bed.
I stayed an extra day and was visited by friends. I also renewed my acquaintance with Greg on m/v Touch the Sun. I had met him at Coinjock last November.
The weather outside was not good so I decided that I would motor on down the ICW the next two days to St Augustine.
28 Nov 09
St John River near Jacksonville, FL (N 30° 22.83' W 081° 27.75')
Trip: 22-nm, Total: 668-nm, Engine: 2357-hrs
I went down the ICW out of Fernandina Beach. I didn't leave too early this morning since I was going only a short distance.
Sometimes getting off a dock is tricky. Sometimes it just looks tricky till you think about it for a while. In this case I had current on my bow with the dock on my port side. I had only to cast off the bow first, then wait for a moment as the wind/current swung the bow around clockwise. I give a bit a thrust to keep the stern away from the dock and let her swing. Some alternating between prop wash and prop walk and Galena was completely around and pointing south. I headed out and immediately remembered how shallow this part of the ICW can be.
The trip was uneventful as most of my trips are. I was passed by s/v First Edition; a vessel I'd seen several times this month but had never actually met. I passed a small schooner-rigged boat that was sailing along very slowly; but beautifully.
s/v First Edition turned off of the ICW at Ft George River and I considered following her. I was weighing the advantages of a shallow, quiet anchorage with little or no current against the anchorage on the St John River with high current, wakes, and noise. I thought about the potential for going aground. I chickened out and continued on to where I knew Galena would be safe from grounding and where I was anchored last year.
I found a spot in the river just west of where the ICW continues south out of the St John River. I anchored in 9-ft of water. But by the time I had let out 100-ft of rode (I wanted to sleep soundly tonight) I was back in about 7-ft. But I was not seeing much current and felt very secure.
I had been feeling sick all day. It felt like a cold or the flu. So I went to sleep as soon as I was secured. I slept 14-hrs that night and felt a little better in the morning.
29 Nov 09
St Augustine, FL (Anchored near the fort) (N 29° 53.79' W 081° 18.57')
Trip: 33-nm, Total: 701-nm, Engine: 2364-hrs
I was about to weigh anchor in St John River when I heard s/v Lastdance on the radio. He and another boat were heading into the channel from off-shore. Capt Ron actually went off-shore for an overnight run from I think Beaufort, SC. He said he was going to try to make St Augustine on the inside. So I waited for him.
We traveled together down the ICW to St Augustine. He anchored near the fort and I went over to the other side of the river (east side, but still north of the bridge). But the next morning Ron moved Lastdance into the marina. Several other boat moved as well leaving a wide open anchorage in front of the fort. I moved over there and found a very nice place to call home. I was only in 6.5-ft of water but I still put out 100-ft of chain. Again, this is a tidal river and the current switched back and forth and runs quit strongly in each direction.
View from the anchorage in St Augustine, FL toward the old Spanish fort
View of St Augustine, FL, as she is lit for Christmas
As soon as I was confident that the anchor was securely attached to the bottom of the river I headed down to my favorite bar in this, one of my favorite towns: The Trade Winds. This is just a noisy biker/boater/tourist bar that has for some reason gained a place in my heart. They always have good music and the people are just my kind of folks
Inside the Trade Winds Bar
I had ordered s 2000-watt generator from Walmart (Homelite brand, $550). It was a bit larger and heavier than the Honda generator everyone else has, but it cost half as much. My good friends Bettye and Dennis (s/v Son of a Sailor) live in town and were kind enough to give me a ride out to the store and back. Just to make sure it would run, Dennis took me to a gas station where we added fuel and oil. The generator started on the very first pull! After a lovely dinner at his house I dinghied the generator out to Galena and mounted it on the deck just forward of the mast. I used an old length of chain to lock it and roped to secure it. I covered the thing with a small tarp-like bag. Oh, and I've just found that Home Depot sells an 1800-watt generator for only $425. That would be even a better buy.
Dennis and Bettye of s/v Son of a Sailor at the Trade Winds bar, St Augustine, FL
While in Walmart I picked up a little Christmas tree for Galena.
Galena's Christmas Tree
Once again, I've complicated Galena's systems. Now I have a generator on board. This is looking more and more like a modern plastic marvel.
I then spent some time catching up with old/new friends: m/v Touch the Sun, s/v Aleze, s/v Marylee. Also a few more days of heavy drinking and a couple days with Dennis and Bettye. I also met Bettye's friends on m/v Orient Moon and had a nice dinner with them.
On the way down the ICW from Jacksonville to St Augustine one passes a wide range of homes that back up to the waterway. Some are a little strange; some are small and some are ordinary. There are a bunch that are just very nice homes. But a few are completely off the charts. Here are some pictures from the waterway. The only thing not included is the shots of the trailer courts. Some of those are also very nice.
Some homes on the ICW are strange (like the dome on the right) and others are ordinary
Some are very nice indeed
And some are just over-the-top drop-dead beautiful
On 01 DEC I heard from my daughter, Michelle, that she had once again completed her entry for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). Every November a contest is held wherein 'contestants' attempt to write a 50,000 word novel in one month. Michelle has done it a couple of times. I tried once and after the first week I was so far behind in the 'words-per-day' rate that there was no way I would be able to finish in time. So I quit. Michelle wrote a very good story this year.
If anyone has any desire at all to write a novel (in 30-days) they should look into this contest. Great motivation. They even have support groups in cities all over the US that meet and discuss ideas, methods and problems.
On 2 DEC a nasty storm blew through the anchorage. At one point I saw 20-amps on the wind generator; that equates to about 30-kts of wind. But by 2230 everything was quiet again.
The next day the St Augustine police boat came by and asked if I planned on being here next Saturday. I said, "No." He said they were having a parade of boats and wanted everyone out of the anchorage. He also said that the city was going to put in mooring balls and fill in the entire anchorage between the bridge and the fort. Sounds good as long as the cost is minimal.
I made two fuel runs in my dinghy to top-off Galena (42-gal; $120).
4 DEC and breakfast with Dennis and Bettye. I plan on doing an off-shore run tomorrow to Lake Worth or Fort Pierce, FL Dennis had talked about sailing with me to Lake Worth, but later thought better of it.
06 DEC 09
Fort Pierce, FL. Anchored behind (south of) Causeway Island (N 27° 27.37' W 080° 18.34')
Trip: 169-nm, Total: 870-nm,
I departed St Augustine early in the morning on the 5th. Winds were fair and the seas were only running at 3-4-ft. That said, there was serious tidal rage at the surf line in the St Augustine inlet. Not dangerous, just uncomfortable and slow-going. Once I was out in deep water and had turned on my course south everything was fine.
The sail south was not particularly pleasant. The seas built to 5-ft and the wind would shift Northwest and then West-northwest. At times I could make good time but as the waves built and were hitting Galena well forward of the beam the ride became quite uncomfortable. I saw s/v Elizabeth and s/v Daphne come out of the inlet behind me. I also heard them calling friends on the VHF where were already outside but well north of us. I listened in and found they were going have a SSB net every six hours. So I listened there, too. Turns out that one of the boats in the net is s/v Clear Day. I had met them 3-years ago just south of Coinjock, NC. They had gone aground and I pulled them free.
The wind kept clocking toward the bow and the ride got rougher. Everyone in the little group was talking about heading in the Cape Canaveral inlet at dawn. I wanted to get to Ft Pierce. I ended up going it alone.
The view astern looking out from the cabin into the dark
The Ft Pierce inlet is quite narrow. Well marked and deep. But narrow. As I lined up to come in, I saw a really fearsome tidal rip for the first half mile of channel.
The wind was now east at 15, the seas were running to the west at 6-8 feet. The tide was flowing out to the east. As the sea swell hit the outrushing current they mounted up to 10-12 ft. And of course were breaking and quite square-faced.
Galena would be lifted from behind on one of these waves and surf down it's face at 7 to 8 kts. Then in the trough would come to almost a stop in speed over ground as the current rushed out under her. Each time she surfed down the face of a wave I was struggling to keep her lined up in the channel. The ride wasn't actually rough, so much as just scary. I was throwing the tiller lock to lock as I tried to keep from hitting the channel markers on the starboard side and the outward bound boat on the port side.
Yes, there was a sailboat coming out. While the conditions off-shore were reasonable, I don't know that I would have braved that tidal race to get out. Waiting till the tide shifted would seem more prudent; even though I had no intention of waiting to come in. It looked to be about a 42-ft Island Packet. She had the rougher ride as she was pounding into the waves. She would rise up on a wave and launch fully half of her length out of the water before crashing down into the trough and plow through the following wave. Then she would gather speed and do it all again. Once we passed each other I had more room to maneuver but still had a hard time keeping Galena on course.
I made it around Causeway Island and into the quiet anchorage to the south. Again I had been up for a day-night-day and was ready for sleep. Only three other boats were anchored here. I've seen this place crowded with cruisers in past years. Made me feel like I was in the wrong place. While the charts show 7-ft MLW I saw a couple of spots that were about 6.5-ft deep.
I settled in for a calm, quiet night and slept well. Tomorrow I'd make for Lake Worth, FL.
Galena's track into the inlet and around to the anchorage at Ft Pierce, FL
07 - 14 Dec 09
Lake Worth, FL (N 27° 27.37' W 080° 18.34') ICW SM:1014
Trip: 48-nm, Total: 918-nm, Engine: 2400-hrs
I'm anchored in the usual place at the very northern tip of Lake Worth. Again, this is one of those places where East Coast cruisers use a variety of names to describe a single place. And some people find it confusing. This spot is variously referred to as Lake Worth, West Palm Beach, North Palm Beach, Palm Beach Gardens, et al. The ocean inlet just 4-nm south of here is the Lake Worth Inlet and so that's what's the area is generally called.
Here's a map showing all the city names around this place.
My track into the Lake Worth, FL, Anchorage
I slept well last night and woke up a little late. I got underway as quickly as possible and as I made the turn south into the ICW I joined several other sailboats heading out of various anchorages and marinas. As it happened I came out directly in front of s/v Lastdance with Ron and Terry. We chatted on the radio for a bit and then settled into a nice run down the ditch.
The trip was uneventful and I anchored near Lastdance in the northeastern end of the anchorage. In fact I ended up a bit too far to the east and at low tide found myself in less than 7-ft of water. That's OK, just a bit less than I'm used to here.
I dinghied over to visit with Ron and Terry for a bit then headed into town. Ron was making for Ft Lauderdale in the morning and would be spending a few days there. My plan was to spend a few days here and then run outside to Miami.
The next morning Lastdance was gone when I awoke and I spent a very quiet day aboard. I visited local friends and was happy to be able to visit with old cruising friends who were also passing through.
One of those friends were George and Lynn on the cat, s/v Sun Spot Baby. I had met them last year in George Town, Bahamas.
I also made the acquaintance of John on the sailing cat "1010" and the two boats that were traveling with him to the Abacos, s/v Coincidence and one other (sorry, Neil, I can't recall the name of your boat). I met them when, while sitting on Galena one afternoon I saw a dinghy drifting toward me. Since the only boats anchored up-wind were the three boats rafted up I figured it belonged to them. I could see they were all in the cockpits and moving about, yet no one had noticed that one of the several dinghies tied to their sterns had gone on walkabout. I hopped into my dink and towed their's back to them and then hung around for a beer or three. Later I would see them downtown and hang around a few more times. John was a lot like me. The others were very new at this cruising thing.
I did a little maintenance and found the engine mounting bolts loose again (I need to get some locking bolts on them), the water pump belt was loose, the alternator belt was loose, and she was a bit low on oil. I corrected all that and was ready to head off-shore to Miami.
15 - 19 Dec 09
Miami Beach, FL (N 25° 42.604' W 080° 08.830')
Trip: 75-nm, Total: 993-nm, Engine: 2408-hrs
The forecast called for winds to be east at ten-knots with less than two-foot seas. And that's about what I had. I had a nice offshore run. I stayed close to shore (less than a mile away) to stay out of the Gulf Stream which is almost against the shoreline here.
I departed Lake Worth at 0800-hrs on the 14th and arrived here at 2100-hrs. Since it was late and dark I just came around by the Miami Yacht Club and anchored for the night. First thing in the morning I motored around to the north side of Belle Island.
Track into Miami. Stopped at Miami Yacht Club before heading over to the Belle Island anchorage
While this is a nice little anchorage and is very convenient to the dinghy dock, it is also very open to the north. When the winds picked up later in the week I found this a bumpy place to be. Not untenable, just a bit annoying. Again I visited with cruising friends and made new ones. I love hanging out here in Miami Beach. I guess if I come through here again I stick to the anchorage south of Belle Island. But with the draw bridge right here one can move back and forth depending on the wind and weather.
On the 17th the wind went north and the weather went to hell. Very high winds and rain all day and night for several days. 'High winds' in this case means over 20-kts with significantly higher gusts. Most of the boats moved around to the south side of Belle Island. I should have, too, but I was just too lazy and it wasn't really too rough; just bumpy.
And it rained hard, too. In one day I pumped out over 40-gal of water from my dink. I need to make a cover for it otherwise it just might fill up and sink some day. But it would make for a nice bathtub if I had it on deck catching rainwater.
I'll stage at No Name Harbor, about 8 miles south of here in a couple of days. From there it's just a three day sail down Hawk Channel to Key West.
20 Dec 09
No Name Harbor, Key Biscayne, FL (N 25° 42.604' W 080° 08.830')
Trip: 8-nm, Total: 1002-nm, Engine: 2410-hrs
Moved over here in preparation for a run down Hawk Channel tomorrow. s/v Sun Spot Baby was here and invited me over for dinner. Again it was nice to catch up with old friends. They were going to wait for weather and cross over to the Bahamas from here. They figured they could cross on Friday (five days from now).
The winds and currents had twisted Galena around and around her anchor. The GPS track for the past few days again looked like a kid's Etch-a-Sketch.
GPS at Miami Beach anchorage showing how she walked around the hook in the past few days
I left Miami Beach mid-morning and was here by 1300-hrs. The wind was still blowing hard out of the northwest and it was nice to be out of that anchorage. As I made my way down to Key Biscayne I was planning on just anchoring in the lee of the island. But the wind didn't clock around to the north as predicted and the water outside of No Name Harbor was pretty rough. But there were only two other boats inside when I arrived so I came in and anchored. By the evening this place was packed.
Galena anchored in No Name Harbor, Key Biscayne, FL
My track into and out of No Name Harbor, Key Biscayne, FL
There is a $20/night anchoring fee. But it's sort of on the honor system. And the rules say one can not stay tied up to the bulkhead overnight. But again, that's not enforced.
I ate too much dinner on Sun Spot Baby and had a hard time sleeping; my tummy hurt. So I was a bit tired when I set off the next morning.
21 Dec 09
Rodriguez Key, FL (N 25° 01.671' W 080° 27.660')
Trip: 55-nm, Total: 1057-nm, Engine: 2412-hrs
Since I had not slept well I had got up late: 0630. By the time I was ready to head out it was after seven. The wind was up a bit but not bad and was blowing 10-15kts out of the NNW. I motored out of the harbor and raised sails. Then I motorsailed down the old Florida Channel to Hawk Channel where I turned south and started sailing.
The day was pleasant and the wind was generally fair. Sometimes the wind seemed to die and Galena slowed to 2.5 kts. But my ETA at Rodriguez was still before dark so I continued to simply sail.
I was visited by porpoise several times today. They charged Galena and danced and played in her bow wave for quite a while.
Porpoise around Galena
I had always hoisted my hard dinghy up on deck before I went out where there might be significant waves. This time I was lazy and just towed her. Except for a couple of times when she surfed along and tried to pass me, she was fine back there. And there was not much tension on the painter, either.
My faithful dinghy following along behind.
I was passed by four or five large motor yachts and a few sailboats. The sailboats were all motorsailing, which seemed wasteful since the wind was fair.
At 1530hrs I made the turn into the lee of this island. I'm just a few hundred yards south of the island and the water is just a little bit choppy from the wind. I'm in seven-feet of water so this is about as close to the island as I can get.
Rodriguez Key is near the south end of, and outside of, Key Largo. Nothing here. Just a nice place to stop for the night.
Time for a spot of rum and some spam. Then to bed. Tomorrow: Marathon, FL.
22 Dec 09
Marathon, FL (N 24° 41.604' W 081° 07.071')
Trip: 45-nm, Total: 1102-nm, Engine: 2413-hrs
Again I got up a bit late. But I'm only going 45-nm and the wind is fair and I should make it with no problem.
Also, I plan to just stop for the night, so there will be no need to go into the harbor and take a mooring.
The wind is still stiff from the NNE clocking to NE today. Seas inside the reef (i.e.: Hawk Channel) are 2- to 3-ft.
I'm off and sailing at 0720hrs and have no problems at all along the way.
Galena is hook-down by 1545-hrs. Again I just swung around to the lee side of Boot Key and motored toward the island till I was in 8-ft of water and dropped the hook. Since Boot Key is so very much larger than Rodriguez Key the wind chop doesn't wrap around the island. I have a very calm and quiet anchorage. And except for some boats that seem to be permanently anchored out here, I'm all alone. I do, however see a lot of people heading in to the harbor to take a mooring ball.
My track into the lee of Boot Key, Marathon, FL
23 Dec 09
Boca Chica, FL (N 24° 34.573' W 081° 42.514')
Trip: 38-nm, Total: 1140-nm, Engine: 2416-hrs
Up early and off I go on this, the final leg of my journey to Key West. The wind is blowing harder today than yesterday. I have only the Yankee jib up and a reefed main. Making good speed, though.
Then something happened. I noticed a rather sudden reduction in speed. I couldn't make more than 5 or 5.5 kts. Yet the sails were full, and Galena seemed to be straining to make way. Oh well, Maybe I'm bucking a current or something.
All day long I'm going slowly. But I'll still make it into Boca Chica well before dark.
The wind continues to build and along with it, the seas.
By the time I run the engine, drop sails, and make the turn into the Boca Chica channel I can only make 2.5 kts as I crab into the wind and waves.
My track into Boca Chica Naval Air Station marina, Key West, FL
I call the dockmaster, Bruce, and am assigned a transient slip. Well at least I won't have to try to pick up a mooring in this wind. But I will have to put her into a slip. Might be tricky.
I saw Dirk and Nancy (S/V Tybee Time) on the dock waiting to take my lines. They are Facebook buddies of mine and have been watching my progress down the coast as they cruised down the Gulf Coast.
I turned Galena into the slip and brought her to a stop. Several lines later and she was secured. After "meeting" Tybee Time and showing my Military ID to the dockmaster I started putting Galena to bed.
That's when I noticed a black line extending aft from her rudder. I got a boat hook and snagged the line. With great effort I pulled it in. At the end was a lobster pot weighted down with about 20-lbs of concrete! At the other end was the big white float. The line was caught in the slot between my keel and my rudder.
The lobster trap and the line stuck in my rudder-keel slot (arrow)
I had, several years ago put a batten across that slow with the intent of keeping lines from getting caught in there. Since then I've dragged lines behind me two times.
No wonder I couldn't make speed. I was literally dragging an anchor behind me.
Of the several lobsters in the trap only one was of legal size. So it was my dinner.
Off I went to the marina bar. Happy hour beers are $1. It's a "must be there" daily event. Dirk and Nancy showed me around and introduced me to the rest of the sailors and we had a great afternoon.
Me and Dirk (s/v Tybee Time) at the Navigator bar, Boca Chica, FL
Me and Nancy (s/v Tybee Time) at the Navigator bar, Boca Chica, FL
Dotty, Page, and Nancy at the Navigator bar, Boca Chica, FL
So I'm here.
1140 miles in 8-weeks and 3 days.
I'm not sure where I want to go this winter (still). So I'll sit here till I figure it all out.
For now I'll just hang out and enjoy the lifestyle of Key West. I may be off the new for a while (as I have been for the last month or so). But I'll keep posting little missives on Facebook and we'll see what peaks my fancy.