Monday, December 24, 2012

2012-12-25: Woman With The Brown Coat

Log of the Salty Turtle: St. Augustine to Vero Beach, Decmber 14 – December 25, 2012

12/1/2012 St. Augustine Marine Center to Daytona, FL 48 NM
12/14/2012 Daytona to Coco Beach, FL 56 NM
12/17/2012 Coco Beach to Rockpoint Spoil Islands 25 NM
12/18/2012 Rockpoint to Vero Beach, FL 24 NM

Total NM To Date: 669 NM
ICW Mile Marker: 952 SM

Sailors have made a good bargain with the world. We get to borrow it, play with it, and be released from its deadening grip. We get to use it without owing it.”

Reese Palley

Woman With the Brown Coat:

It was a couple of days before Christmas and Gigi and I had taken the bus out to the mall to see “Lincoln” (must see movie, by-the-way). The bus's air breaks had just announced a stop near Publix Super Market and I could see a short stub of a lady in a brown coat standing near a grocery cart with 4 or 5 heavy bags of groceries inside and a young black man standing on the opposite side of the cart.
She was a short roundish woman with bowling pin legs, a pair of black, road weary shoes and white stockings rolled to the knees like tight garters. Her hair was clean, stringy and of the salt and pepper variety that hung to the shoulders of her dusty brown coat. She was one of those ladies that could have been 50, 80, or anywhere in between nor could her “race” be known simply by looking. She might have been Black, White, or Latino but I could not tell. Her eyes were cold black with a twinkle of arthritic pain set in a round face with a smile that gave your heart a lift just by its presents.

As the door opened to the bus the young black man on the other side of her cart grabbed his single bag of groceries, bolted for the door, pushed his way inside, and slid into a seat toward the middle of the bus. The Lady In The Brown Coat had barely been able to awkwardly turn, square her self with the cart, and start her struggle to lift her heavy bags by the time the young man was seated. She was in obvious pain and loosing the struggle.

My heart said, “help her” but before I could move two young Black Men with the grace of gazelles cleared the door as if floating on air and were at her side in an instant. One gently touched her shoulder, she looked up with questioning eyes that broke into a Christmas smile as one man took charge of the bags and the the other young man helped her to board the bus. The young White Man in front of me quickly moved his bags from the seat next to him and slid over to make room for The Lady With The Brown Coat near the front of the bus to make it easier for her on exit. Her young helpers, without so much as a word, simply vanished into the anonymity of the bus's interior as the bus pulled away from the curb headed for the Hub to transfer its inhabitants to waiting buses.

The last I saw of the Lady With The Brown Coat was at the transit hub when a young White Woman scooped up her groceries, helped her down the steps, and began chattering away as they slowly made their way arm in arm to the next bus.

Neither, race, nor age, nor the lighting speed of today's society had mattered. The spirit of Christmas was on that bus in Vero Beach that day and had warmed its way into the hearts of most of us (one young man excluded). Christmas spirit, humanity, common decency, whatever you want to call it hangs around this time of year, every year waiting... just waiting... to warm the heart of an unsuspecting passersby. More often than not it succeeds.

Merry Christmas,
Fairwinds & Rum Drinks,


PS – Our plans are to move South after Christmas and make the jump to the Bahamas with the next..or maybe the next, next weather window. It will be when it will be.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

2012-13-2012 St. Augustine

Log of the Salty Turtle: November 11 – December 13, 2012
12/12/2012 St. Augustine Marine Center to Dock – St. Aug. Marine 0.5 NM

Total NM To Date: 514.5 NM
ICW Mile Marker: 780 SM

A ship is always refereed to as “she” because it costs so much to keep her in paint and power.”

Admiral Chester Nimitz

Living in Boatyard Hell...and Making a Small Heaven:

Early on the morning of the 12th of November with current running (but not at it's worst) Gigi put the Turtle in the travel lift slip as if she had done it hundreds of times before. With me scurrying around like the preverbal “chicken with it's head cut off.” Fenders were a blur dropped in here, moved to there, lines lassoed a bow and stern cleat in the slip on port, lines flung to the starboard side, jumped off secured the starboard lines and pulled Turtle to the middle of the slip. Salty Turtle was secure.

Gigi had put the boat where it had to be and Old Vic had done what had to be done all while 2 travel lift operators sent down to help us tie up watched. When I got enough time to breath I asked, “Why didn't you help us.” They responded, “Well you looked like you knew what you were doing.” It was an omen of things to come..or not come as the case may be.

By 9:30 we were hauled, blocked, and installed in our “penthouse apartment” near the fence next to the “US Customs Training Center” which was to become our home for 5 weeks plus a little (although we did not know it at the time). My first look at the props we expected to be dinged were suspiciously Not. We expected the prop shop to send someone to pop them off and scan them by lunch. Lunch came – nothing. We dropped by Pete's (yard manger) and asked when someone would come pop the props? “Oh, I'll get someone right on it.” 2:00 Nothing. We asked again. “I'll give the prop shop a call and get back with you.” By closing time no one had shown their shining face.

8:00 AM, 11/13/2012 – Gigi marched into Pete office. “They will be there by noon.” Noon came and went.

2:00 PM – Vic, “Pete when are they going to pop the props?” “We will get to them today.” Nope!

7:30 AM, 11/14/2012 – Vic in Pete's Office. “Pete we have been real patient but when are they going to check our props – how about now?” “I'll get someone right over there.” By 10:00 AM no one had showed. Back to Pete's office. Same deal. 11:00 AM - This time Gigi went. Again no show. 12 Noon, Gigi tried again. 2:00 PM it was Vic's turn - “Pete what the fuck is gong on.” Pete, “We had to get that Lazzara back in the water. We will be there this afternoon.” Vic, “Yea?”

After 3 days the prop shop folk finally showed up, pulled the props, scanned them, checked the balance and my suspicion was confirmed - the props were perfect. It had taken them all of 1 hour to pull the props, scan them and confirm they were OK. Three days to do 1 hours work! What now? Bent Shafts? Out of line shafts? Time to pull the shafts and find out.

Three more days of constantly pestering the front office and tracking down staff when they did show up finally got the shafts out of the boat. It was like herding cats. They would show up for a few minutes take a little baby step and then disappeared – frustrating is not the word. The shafts were very tight and had to be jacked out of the boat and when they exited the boat they “jumped” close to an inch off center line of the bearing in the log and when they were put on a bench and measure for true were out of straight by as much as .035” - Not good. The shafts had to be straightened, new cutlass bearings installed, and the intermediate struts moved.

By this time we had figured out what was going on in this yard – didn't help the frustration but did explain why things were so screwed up. I need to say up front that St. Aug. Marine had a good reputation or we would not have come here. However, St. Aug is a yard in transition. The yard has just been taken over by the management from the now closed Lurs factory from across the creek – the one and same management team that drove Lurs into the ground. The yard manger, Pete, is leaving and the yard is going from on site staff to an all “contractor” yard so the left hand does not know what the right is doing and no one communicates...period. Add to that if you need glass work it's a different contract. Engine work different contract. Rigging different contract. Hydraulics, different contract. It's almost as frustrating as a union shop but not quite. It took 2 contracts and sets of contract staff ( different “cats to herd”) to get the cap rail they busted hauling the boat fixed (didn't mention that did I). Once we figured out the struts needed to be moved the holes where the struts were originally needed to be glassed in and (of course) needed a different contractor and that added 3 days to the project. Why? Again, different set of “cats to herd.”

I'll spare you the rest of the blow-by-blow of the repair job but after 5 weeks the job is almost complete and we are back in the water. Hopefully, the final alignment will be done today and the Turtle can again get under way / making way.

The best thing that has come out of this whole, maddening deal is Danny. Danny is the guy that has done most of the work on the alignment. From the first, we worked well together...but then he is an “old gray beard” like me. Danny has done alignments on more engines than he cares to think about. He is old and slow with busted up knees, through, patient, meticulous, and a good teacher. He possess the kind of characteristics that only come from experience. In short just the kind of guy you want doing a complicated job like Salty Turtle needed. Danny has taught me a lot and now I am lucky enough to call him my friend as well.

Our Penthouse Apartment:

Living on a boat on land is not like living on a boat in the water. She is a beached whale and out of her element and her inhabitants are as well. The head does not work because it has no water to flush with and if it did your “poop” would “plop” on the ground and the boats around you would get really pissed. Every time you go to the head (night or day) you have to scurry down two flights of ladders to the ground (with your knees crossed and a prayer) and scurry across the yard to the the head that might or might not have TP. At night we kept a 5 gallon bucket in the head for “emergencies” - luckily Gigi is “bucket broke.”

Showers are the same deal. We carry enough water to use our shower but again it is a “no-no” to eject a 2” stream of water out the side of your boat while in a boat yard. The showers here at St. Aug. boat yard gave the ones at McCotters Marina a run for their money in the in the cleanliness department (or lack there of). And speaking of cleanliness...every time you come aboard half the boat yard comes with you and transfers its self to your decks. Cleanliness does not happen in a boat yard. TV?? Well the Turtle was backed up to a big Butler Building and it did an excellent job of filtering out all channels except FOX TV - yuck. In short boats are not meant to live on out of the water..and neither are a boats inhabitants.
Life is What Ya Make of It:

Life is what you make of it – hell, heaven, misery, or adventure and it is for you to pick. About the end of the second week we started to “adapt” and enjoy St. Augustine. St. Augustine is full of history. After all they will be celebrating their 500th year next fall - will that be a happening or what. It has one of the best brew pubs on the East Coast, A1A Brewery and any number of great restaurants. Then there was the annual re-enactment of the “British Night March” and light show. The tradition started when the Brits were in charge of St.Augustine. Every night when the gates were closed the town cryer would lead the troop around the city announcing the closing of the gates letting the town folk know to get their “hiknees” inside or spend the night outside the walls at the mercy of whatever was..well.. outside the walls. It was actually quite a show with drum an fife corps, and many people in period costumes (children included).
On the first friday night of every month the city's art galleries open their doors to everyone for “Art Walk.” If you are every here spend a pleasant Friday night wandering from gallery to gallery accompanied by the sounds of live Jazz filling the air with laid back music perfect to enjoy a little wine and cheese provided by the galleries.

We had reunions with cruising friends passing thru (and now well ahead of us on the path to the Bahamas) – Bob and Penny Kingsbury on Pretty Penny & William and Francis on Alexia; and Harriett & Skip on Moondancing. I ran to earth John Fitzgerald, a former employee and friend, that as it turned out lives here. He now has a beautiful wife and two fine boys. We had Thanksgiving dinner with Steve and Aggie Knox who live not far away in Palm Coast and a real “Russian” dinner with Tom and Olga Cook, the couple who made the trip part way down the water way with us this year. Tom took us to The Rat Rod competition at the Iron Horse Saloon in Daytona (see photos). Tom won “best in show.” Then there was the boat parade and lights, lights, more lights. All this and Olga re-painted Gigi's dingy cowling. Olga is a true artist and she out did herself this time.
Then there was just walking around the “Lincolnville” township. Lincolnville is really a part of St.Augustine on the “wrong side of the tracks” that lies between St. Augustine Marine and in our direct path to A1A Brewery and downtown – about a 1.5 mile walk. Had we not been hauled out at St. Augustine Marine we would not have experienced Lincolnville. We quickly found out it was an area to be savored and lingered in not sped thru. It is full of small well kept homes, flowers, small gardens and friendly people. It's history is steeped in the civil rights movement of the 50 and 60s. Much of Florida's Civil Rights reform started here and their inhabitants are proud of their heritage and rightfully so.

12/11/2012 - Splash! Yeee! Ha!

We are back in the water. It is wonderful to be able to pee in my own head again. Hopefully Danny will finish the alignments tomorrow.

Fairwinds and Rum Drinks,   


PS 12/13/2012 - Well we thought Danny was going to be down first thing this morning to do the final aliment of the engines. Danny had not showed by 10:00 so it was time go find him and see what was going on. Danny was no where on site and time to do what we have learned to do here go find Pete and force “communications.” Pete called Rick, Danny's boss. Danny's lady friend had had a biopsy done a few days ago. The results come in this morning and the doctor wanted to see here immediately. Danny, (of course) did what all good men do, he was going to be by her side at the doctors and went with her. Keep them in your thoughts over the next few days.

If Danny can not make it to work tomorrow Gigi and I will do the alignment ourselves and move on down the road....we hope.

PPS 12/13/2012 – Danny arrived at 8:00 this morning and we were finished with the alignments by noon. They removed a “hunk” of malignant growth from Bonnie's leg yesterday, Danny's lady. The doctors think they got it all. Keep her on your “thoughts” list.

Friday, November 16, 2012

November 16, 2012: Beaufort to St.Augustine

Log of the Salty Turtle: November 2 – 8, 2012

11/02/2012 Beaufort, SC to Herb River, GA (Near Thunderbolt) 42nm
11/03/2012 Herb River, GA to Frederica River, GA (Near St.Simon's) 70nm
11/04/2012 Frederica River to Cumberland Island,GA (Near St.Marys) 40nm
11/05/2012 Frederica River to Bell River, FL (Near Fernandina) 7nm
11/08/2012 Bell River to Pine Island, FL (Near St. Augustine) 43nm
11/09/2012 Pine Island to St.Augustine Mooring Field, FL 13nm
11/11/2012 St.Augustine Mooring Field to St.Augustine Marine Center 3nm

Total NM To Date: 514 nm
ICW Mile Marker: 780 sm

Men in ships are always looking up, and men ashore generally looking down.”

South To Georgia:

Finally after 10 days pinned to the dock in Beaufort, SC the winds from Hurricane Sandy dropped down to less than 10 knots and it was time to head South. With a strong incoming tide pushing us, Gigi handling lines, and fear in my heart I eased the Turtle out into the current with only the engines to maneuver (remember the steering wheel / rudders do not work at slow speed). An unexpected, blast of current careening off bow of the good X-mayor's boat pushed us sideways toward the small coastal cruise ship on the next dock. A quick power up and kick from port engine turned us away from the ship and added power to starboard shot us astern into the bay and clear of the docks. With a spin from forward and reverse engines the Turtle tuned 90 degrees, power to both forward, and we were headed for the ICW, and free of Beaufort Down Town Marina. The throb of the engines (and my heart) eased and the Turtle nosed South into the current. ….And Gigi and I started to breath again. Free of the dock and no one hurt or hit.


Georgia is the most beautiful section of the ICW (in my opinion) and that includes the Waccamaw River in South Carolina. The ICW here is like an old bob-tailed dog chasing it's tail and almost catchin' it...but not quite. It snakes its way thru, rivers, sounds, and salt marsh creeks. Salt marsh creeks that fill with the ebb and flow of the tide and spill life giving, nutrient rich, water over the estuary.

Coastal Georgia is both deep and shallow but it is chock-a-block full of wildlife. Wildlife of all kind. This year I saw my first ever Wood Stork while at anchor in Herb River, an immature Bald Eagle sitting on a red marker near Isle of Hope, and a pair of Balds roosting in a tall pine in the glow of the Fall evening sun while anchored off Cumberland Island. There are dolphin around ever bend just waiting to play in your bow wake. And butterflies, hundreds of Monarchs winging their way South with us “Snowbirds” dipping in and out from under our bimini as if to say “you guys must be a turtle even I can out race you.” And they were right.
Many cruisers bypass Georgia because they say it is “boring” and “shallow” plus you can put Georgia behind you on the outside in 20 hours in what will take you 3 days on the ICW. I'll answer the boring question first...NOT! If you love wildlife; hundreds of quiet, secluded, spanish moss hung, tree bearded anchorages; and beautiful sunsets you will never be bored in Georgia. As to the “shallow?” Actually most of Georgia's ICW carries deeper water than average ICW depths. However there are few places that are damn shallow at low tide – Fields Cut, Hells Gate, Little Mud River, Buttermilk Sound and Jeckyll Island are the few that come to mind. But...Georgia has 8' or better tides so just play the tides and you gotta' no problem. If you are in too big a hurry to enjoy Georgia you probably picked the wrong lifestyle. Slow down and live brother. Slow down and live.
This trip we anchored in the Frederica River, just N. of St.Simon's Island, for the first time. The Frederica takes a left off the ICW and slowly meanders its way thur the salt marsh for almost 7 miles before it re-joins the ICW just before the St.Simon's Island highrise bridge. The chart shows good water for it's entire length and no obstructions so we decided to see if we could actually run the 7 miles back to the ICW the long way (actually not much longer in reality). We made the run at low water and in the early morning light (Oh Wow! What color!) and saw no less than 8' of water and most of the time 18 to 30 feet. The Frederica turns out to actually be deeper than the ICW. About mid-river is the remains of Ft. Frederica - now a State Park. Next trip we plan on anchoring off the fort and do a little exploring. See what I mean about Georgia? It offers new experiences at almost every bend. 
Fernandian, FL - Bell River and BBQ Toes:

Salty Turtle wound her way South past Jeckyll Island, thru Cumberland Sound, past Kings Bay and the submarine base where the little machine gun clad guard boats make sure you do not get too near, past the sub degaussing station (removes static electricity from the boats) and anchored off Cumberland Island for the night. Plans had been to stay a few days here before continuing on to Fernandina, FL to celebrate Gigi's birthday. However, weather changed that. Anchored off Cumberland Island is no place to be in a N wind and that is exactly what was predicted. Bell River about a quarter mile from Fernandian Harbor Marina is much more protected and provides easy access to the town. That is where we went.
We spent Gigi's birthday (Nov. 7th) wandering around town. Gigi went to “Gaze Way” (her favorite clothing store) plus a zillion other shops and got her “toes done” (whatever that means). Vic found Gigi something for her birthday and retired to the Palace Saloon for a “cold one” to do what we men do when our women are shopping ...wait (if lucky there is a bar to wait in). Then we both went to the “Happy Tomato” for lunch. Don't laugh the place has real good pulled pork and ribs and you get a mountain of both if order a combo platter. We did. Ate the pork and “doggie bagged” the ribs for supper. 

On the dink ride back I put the ribs on the seat beside Gigi. It was a little rough so I gave “Little Cay” a little more throttle to kick the stern down and bow up so it would shed water around us instead of on us. About the third wave the dink hit bounced the ribs straight up in the air and down of my starboard foot. The BBQ sauce neatly transferred its self from the ribs to my now saucy toes.

We still ate the ribs for supper (could have used more sauce).
St. Augustine, FL - How Not To Pick Up A Mooring Ball:

As Salty Turtle approached the Bridge of Lions and entered St. Augustine harbor the fort “Castillo De San Marcos's” ancient cannon fired a salvo across our bow. Was it in warning or a salute to the staunch vessel Salty Turtle?
G and I had decided to take a mooring ball in the harbor for a few day since my cousin Chris Dunn was in town for a biker thing and planning a visit. Chris and I go back a long ways to summers together on my grandfather's farm and reciprocal visits to each other homes when we were kids. Chris is a year older than I and therefore at the age of 5 to 10 he was my “hero.” He taught me how to drive a tractor at the ripe old age of 8...or at least to leapfrog it down the road on 2 wheels – scared the poop out of me. His visit has been the highlight of the trip for me so far and the fact he made the effort meant a lot.

St. Augustine Marina gave us our mooring ball assignment and we proceeded to go walkabout thru the mooring field until No.48 hove into sight. It was a beautiful bluebird day with a strong current running and a light cross wind. Should be no problem. Neither Gigi nor I like picking up mooring pennants but have done so many times with on minor skirmishes. With the ominous sound of cannon fire somewhere in the back of my head, I eased up to the ball with G on deck to hook the pennant.

Gigi did a great job and boated the pennant on the first try. It was a short pennant however and barely reached the rail of the Turtle (here is where the“tides” of fortune turned against us). As Gigi reached for our bow line to thread thru the eye of the pennant that “tide” I was talking about ripped the pennant out of Gigi's hand and good old No.48 disappeared from sight under the boat and was swept aft.

Options? Two came to mind. Option 1: Use power to maneuver the Turtle off the ball. No way - Can't use the engines to try and get us out of this mess without taking a huge chance of entangling the mooring line in the props. Option 2: Wait and see if the ball will slip astern and then we can take a second shot at the mooring. We picked option 2. Turtle and crew took the “wait an see approach.”

Slowly, slowly, the mooring ball worked its way aft...and hung between the starboard strut and prop shaft. Slowly, ever so slowly, Salty Turtle rotated like the hands of a clock pivoting on the mooring pennant from 12 o'clock to 6 o'clock and there she stopped,... hung,... and stuck perfectly moored backwards. Well we wanted to pickup a mooring didn't we? We had and in a quite unconventional manner I might add. Now what do we do?

Option 2 was still the best approach...we waited. 10 minutes – nothing. 15 minutes – nope! Time to own up to our unconventional mooring and call the marina. They sent the water taxi. I asked them to tie along side and see if they could move us aft off the ball. That did the trick - Free At Last!! The captain of the Water Taxi was nice enough to give us a hand re-mooring Turtle in the correct orientation (I suspect he feared he would have to come back a second time if he didn't).

We are currently hauled out at St.Augustine Marine Center trying to figure out a vibration problem and it has become abundantly clear that the “cannon's salvo” were warning shots...but that is another story.

Fairwinds and Rum Drinks,


Thursday, November 1, 2012

2012/10/31 Southport to Beaufort, SC

Log of the Salty Turtle: October 19 – 31, 2012

10/19/2012 Southport, NC to Waccamaw River Ox Bow 58nm
10/20/2012 Waccamaw River Ox Bow to Waccamaw River, Butler Island 19nm
10/21/2012 Butler Island, SC to Dewees / Long Ck 51nm
10/22/2012 Dewees/Long Ck., SC to Bull River, SC 62mn
10/23/2012 Bull River to Beaufort, SC 16nm
Total NM to Date: 299nm
ICW Mile Marker: 537

It takes several years for anyone to learn to handle a yacht reasonably well, and a lifetime to admit how much more there is to learn.”


Southport to the Waccamaw River:

Speaking of a learning curve..

Boat handing with this behemoth called “Salty Turtle” is becoming more natural. A twin screw power boat at slow speed responds very little to rudders. At anything less than about 3 knots turn the wheel and nothing happens. Maneuvering is accomplished by applying power to port and starboard engines – power to port engine with starboard reverse and she pivots in her own length, power just to port in forward and she turns to the right, power forward on starboard and she turns get the idea. It is very different than maneuvering a sailboat and a big learning curve for us.
We were on the back side of a T-dock at Southport Marina with boats and other dock on both sides and a salt marsh to our stern. I put the “bitch” in there like I knew what I was doing. When it came time to leave it was Gigi's turn. She backed her to the end of the T, turned her 90 degree, cleared the T, turned her 90 degrees again, and slid out into the ICW like a pro.
Confederate Rose
The Turtle worked her way South on a rising tide thru the skinny waters of Lockwood Folly and Shallotte inlets, past Little River inlet, and into South Carolina water. From here South for the next 29 miles you are in a “ditch” dug out of limestone. From Little River Swing Bridge to Barefoot Landing Swing Bridge it is narrow and literally cut out of stone with the unseen walls of the channel at 90 degrees to the surface. This area is known as the “Rock Pile.” Prudent skippers will announce their intentions to enter this area on the VHF to let other boaters know they are entering because large vessels can not pass each other in this section. If there is a barge or other large vessel in the area you hang out until he exits.

This day it was not the rocks or other traffic that were the problem. It was floating debris driven out of the marsh into the channel by a full moon high tide. Debris was everywhere logs, limbs, pieces of lumber, even a chunk of a dock all just barely visible on the surface and we were constantly dodging and weaving. About half way thru the Turtle's luck ran out – we hit a deadhead (submerged log or piece of timber floating about 2' below the surface and impossible to see). We could feel the thud as whatever it was churned it's way pass the props. Shit!
The Turtle is OK but we think we dinged a prop – we pickuped a vibration above 1600 RPMs. Salty usually travel at below 1600 so plans are to move on to St. Augustine, FL and haul the boat there to get the props fixed. As an old friend of my was fond to say, “That's boating.” Vic's translation, “Shit Happens!”
We spent 2 beautiful Fall days anchored in the Waccamaw with beautiful sunsets, warm coffee filled mornings, good food, and the company of Tom and Olga Cook. The only down side – we took on more fuel than I thought existed.

Waccamaw River to Dewees / Long Creek:

From Butler Island the Waccamaw River straightens out and joins the Great Pee Dee River spilling their guts into Winyah Bay near Georgetown. South to the Georgia you are in the “Low Country” of South Carolina. And “Low Country,” is the proper name for this area of the world with low salt marsh and a never ending crossing of creeks and rivers slowly meandering their way to the sea with the ebb and flow of the tide.

The passage thru the Cape Romain National Wildlife Area near McClellanville is always a treat this time of year with the low fall light bring the marsh to life with glowing sunsets of brilliant orange and reds, migrating waterfowl, and the song of the red-winged black birds echoing thru the marsh. This year gave us dolphins in almost ever mile of the ICW and a pair of bald eagles soaring great circles above Salty Turtle. Every time I go by McCellanville I think of the first time I sailed Oconee to the dock there, but that's another story...

It was in the Cape Romain area that I first learned dolphin speak Russian. Every dolphin brought Olga to the Turtle's side. At each encounter Gigi and I would hear Olga's soothing, musical, almost whisper like voice wishing the dolphin good morning in melodic Russian tones. The dolphin in turn, would turn their bodies sideways as they swam along side apparently mesmerized by Olga's Russian greeting. Olga loves dolphin and they her. So if anyone ever asks you, “do dolphin speak Russian?” They do.

Dewees / Long Creek to Beaufort, SC:

Only 5 miles South of Dewees Ck. the ICW breaks out into Charlestown Harbor. Charlestown Harbor is one of the most beautiful on the East Coast. Forts Sumter and Moultrie guard the entrance. Charlestown its self sit on a spit of land at the confluence of the Ashley and Cooper Rivers. The Charlestown skyline is dominated by the sail shaped Cooper River Bridges, beautiful old homes (of course), and church steeples. Charlestown is alive with blue blooded history, music and food.
Elliots Cut joins Charlestown's Ashley and the Stono rivers just South of the city. Now we begin our trip thru the Low Country in ernest. Plans were to anchor in Tom's Point Creek about 30 miles South of Charlestown for the night but high tide and current the Turtle could ride changed those plans. This section of the trip South is really a series of cuts that connect creeks and rivers that snake their way South. In many places you can see boats heading in exactly the opposite direction as you just over the marsh and both of you headed South on the ICW. We anchored in Bull River for the night and made Beaufort, SC the next day.

Usually we anchor in Beaufort but with Olga and Tom (our good weather totems) leaving us here and Hurricane Sandy predicted to bring high winds and water we decided to take a slip at Beaufort Down Town Marina. ...Our luck left with Tom and Olga on Thursday the weather went to shit...of course.

Beaufort, SC:

Beaufort is one of our favorite stops on the trip South. Beaufort is a very Southern old city with classic charm, beautiful homes and gardens, and a vibrant downtown and water front park. This year it was to bring and little “ying” and a little “yang.”


We called ahead, made reservations, and ask that they have pity on boat owners new to power boats and put us somewhere easy in – easy out. Not! They put us in front of “Argonauta” a large power boat owned by Henry Chapman, the X-mayor of Beaufort that the beautiful “Henry Chapman Water Front Park” is named after - sure as hell don't want to hit him on the way out.

About 2 days later the “ying” started. For some reason known only to the dockmaster they decided to put a 20 foot wide, 42 foot sail cat owned by a Frenchman out of Canada named Bernard in front of us. With cross winds and a following current he hit us on the way in and did minor damage to the Turtle's cap rail. But that wasn't the ying, after all shit does happens.

Bernard refuse to give Gigi copies of his insurance. That took a day of arguing. Even the dockmaster tried and was refused. Finally when we threatened the “cops” he gave in and let us copy his insurance. Then he insisted “he would fix it.” No you will not! No and hell no! Then he announced to all “Americans were cheats and, like all Americans were trying to steal from him.” Boy that went over real well with Gigi and I. You can think what you want about our country but you better not say it. All I really wanted to do was strangle the bastard but I didn't have time. I way too busy trying to keep Gigi from leaping off the Turtle and telling the bastard to get the fuck out of our country if he did not like “us Americans.” Discussions had taken a nasty turn and a minor war with France had begun.

After a day of cooling down for both sides. Gigi and I decided if he would pay for material to fix the damage we would let it go at that and worked up a cost of materials (about $400 – Awlgrip ain't cheap). We figured that would settle it. It didn't.

Bernard and his friend Dave (lawyer out of Canada off another sail cat) came aboard to discuss the “settlement.” All Bernard wanted to do was argue and offer $300. Up until this point Dave (the lawyer) thought we wanted $1000 (cost if someone else fixed the ding). Dave said, “Barnard you need to give the folk the money and settle this.” Bernard said, “No, I can get the paint cheaper and fix it myself. I'll buy the paint and have it shipped to you. Don't you trust me?” As calmly as I could under the strain of really wanting to bash his head in I said, “Bernard it is not about trust. I do not know you.” Bernard, again started his American bashing. At that point Dave said I think we better leave – smart man Dave.

After a few minutes cool down I joined Dave on the dock. He explained to me how tough cross boarder litigation could be and all over a minor difference of $100 bucks. I explained to him I had seen Gigi argue for months with Enterprise Car Rental over a $15 traffic ticket she was wrongly charged with...and won. She was not going to give in. She had been wronged and that was that. “But will she settle for less than $400?” Yea maybe when “Hell freezes over, when the mouth of the Mississippi wears lipstick, or when politicians don't lie. Whichever comes first”** Dave reached in his own pocket and added $100 to the pot. Gigi accepted and the war with France was over. The Frenchmen left the next day. Hitting no one.

You know despite the dings, cold weather that has now set in, and the wind blowing it's hi-knee off Beaufort is a great place. It is what a small town with rich history and a great water front should be. Once a year on or about Halloween the town closes up shop, the main streets are cordoned off, and the park dressed for spooky fun. Then the downtown merchants open their doors to hordes of trick-or-treating kids. It is just plane clean fun, especially for a photographer on the loose with a camera. Gigi and I have been lucky enough to be here for 2 Halloweens, one Marine Corp Ball complete with starched dress blues with their “uplifting” ladies dressed to the 9s, and once, even a drum circle. This town knows how to enjoy its self. Take a look at the photos from this and previous years and you will see what I mean.
With luck, the winds will back down tomorrow and we will be once again headed South.

Fairwinds and Rum Drinks,


** Quote brazenly stolen from Capt. Fatty Goodlander...after all he would do the same for me.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

2012 Salty Turtle Summer

Log of the Salty Turtle: Oct 15th to Oct 19th

  • 10/15/2012 Morehead City Yacht Basin to Mile Hammock Bay, NC - 37nm
  • 10/16/2012 Mile Hammock Bay, NC to Wrightsville Beach, NC - 35nm
  • 10/17/2012 Wrightville Beach to Southport, NC - 23 nm
Total: 94nm

Quote: “I know who you are, but you will have to wipe your feet.”
(Capt. Richard Brown of the Schooner America to Prince Albert of England - 1851)

Salty Turtle

Never though I'd be on a “power boat” but here I am. Salty Turtle is a 1987, Defever 44, a go slow, trawler, kind of girl or as Big Al Carson, likes to say “Built for Comfort not for Speed.” Why did we do it? Well because....

One of my all time heros, Dick Bradley, had a theory he called his “Shaky Card Table Theory of Life.” Dick said that when we are young (in our 20s) we go find a job and settle in. Then God issues us a rickety old card table complete with “puzzle.” Over the next 10 years or so we spend our time puttin' the puzzle together. Then we stand back, admire our efforts, and spend the rest of our our lives dancin' around that table trying to keep everyone and his brother from kicking it over and making a shamble of our creation. Not Dick, at that point he would kick over that table and scream at the top of his lungs, “God! Give me another puzzle!”

Best explanation I can come up with for how the SaltyTurtle entered our lives.

Summer was a blur mostly working on the Turtle..the old girl is a hard taskmaster. There was generator issues, bottom paint that failed, painting lessons (boat not house), new radio with AIS and GPS to install (that's a story of its own), moving stuff from Oconee to Turtle, provisioning, a wonderful Copelan Reunion (thanks again Paul, Stacy and the Athen Gang), and ….Grandbabies to see, hug and love.

On Oct 12, Tom and Olga Cook joined us for the trip down the ICW from Morehead City to Beaufort, SC. Tom is a neat guy – author, diver, sailor, rat rodder (built an old Chevy) and jack of all trades. Olga is Russian and just a sweetie. Good crew and pleasant company.

We spent the first night at anchor in Mile Hammock Bay nestled in the bosom of Camp Lejune Marine Corp Base. “Bay” is really a misnomer. It is really a dug out basin roughly the shape of an rectangle. The day came complete with entertainment. Flights of “Osprey” (the helicopter not the bird) clopped circles around us searching some unknown prey. Tracked, amphibious, attack vehicles loaded with marines plowed across the ICW in front of us with red flagged Marines directing traffic from the bank. The night settled in with the echoed sound of cannon fire all around. I can't quite explain it, but it was strangely serene and peaceful night.
The next day found us at anchor in Banks Channel at Wrightsville Beach by 1:30. As much as we hurried we caught all the bridges wrong. Surf City Bridge has 12' vertical clearance (we need 21' to clear) and opens on the half hour and hours. We arrived 4 minutes after the hour. Figure 8 Island bridge (clearance 23' at the time we arrived) opens on the hour and we hit it dead on...and would not have needed an opening. Wrightsville Beach Bridge normally has a clearance of 23' at the state of tide we arrived had only 18' because a construction barge was parked under it and we waited another half hour. “That's cruising.” as they say or "screw speed just go slow."

Wrightsville Beach gave us a great lunch, rendezvous with friends on Escape - another Defever, and (of course) a stop at Roberts Grocery. Roberts has homemade chicken salad and pimento cheese ..MMMMM Good.

We are currently in Southport with plans to leave tomorrow for the Waccamaw River in South Carolina with a stop somewhere to fill up with fuel (shudder)...but SC is much cheaper than NC.

Fairwinds and Rum Drinks,


PS – Note for you Sailors: If you leave Wrightsville Beach at the turn of high tide at Southport you will ride the tide all the way down the Cape Fear.

Monday, January 16, 2012

2012-01-09 Pumpkin Key to Sampson Cay

December 23, 2011 – January 16, 2012: Pumpkin Key, FL to Sampson Cay, Bahamas

12/23/2011 Coconut Grove to Pumpkin Key / Key Largo 31 nm

12/26/2011 Pumpkin Key to Key Biscayne 24 nm

12/27/2011 Moved to Dinner Key Mooring Field –

12/29-30/2011 Dinner Key to Nassau, Bahamas 180 nm

1/4/2012 Nassau Harbor Club Marina to Rose Island 7 nm

1/5/2012 Rose Island to Norman's Cay 39 nm

1/6/2012 Norman's Cay to Sampson Cay 34 nm

Total Miles to Date: 1161 nm

Upside down Christmas...Again:

The weather for crossing to the Bahamas just was not cooperating. The windows were too short for our liking or the winds too strong and the seas too big. We were in wait mode. To get away from the crazy boaters in Biscayne Bay, the crews of “Skat” and “Oconee” decided to sail down to Pumpkin Cay near Key Largo for a nice quite Christmas dinner aboard Oconee. I was to cook a turkey breast and a Vicki Skemp's flan, and Gigi (as inconceivable as that may sound) cooked a cranberry crunch, and Barb aboard Skat was to do the rest. It happened but not quite the way we had planed...but then improvise is what us boaters do best.

I don't know why but for some reason I seem destined to be upside down fixin' something on Christmas day. Last year it was Gigi's windlass and I spent 4 days upside down in the anchor locker replacing her windlass. This year, just as we were getting ready for bed on Christmas Eve the fresh water pump went belly up and the galley sink drain started leaking (at least leaking bad enough I could no longer ignore it). I had replacements for both aboard. That was the good news. The bad news was the replacement sink drain was in the second lever of storage all the way in the V-berth locker and the replacement pump was in the quarter berth in the aft locker....and for those of you that don't know my quarter berth it is not a berth at all it is (you guessed it) storage so all that shit had to come out as well.

So on Christmas morning the bedding and everything is out of the V-berth and into the main salon. Everything out of the quarter berth is in the main salon. Everything under the galley sink is out from under it and on top of the galley. The door is off the storage area under the galley sink where the access to the pump and drain are and the companion way stairs are off the engine (needed so I have enough room to get under the sink). The whole boat looks like someone dumped everything everywhere and shook it (and the someone was me). The turkey is in the oven and Old Vic is upside down under the galley sink, feet on top of the engine, butt in the galley, playing with plumbing and cussing (one has to have the vocabulary right or nothing gets done). And... Gigi is sitting in the corner in the only place with nothing on it trying to be as in conspicuous as possible so as to not be included in my discussions with the plumbing. Two hours later we had water again, the sink was no longer leaking, and the turkey was done but the boat was still a shambles. Jim and Barb came to the rescue and hosted Christmas Dinner aboard “Skat” and all was right with the world...again.

Aboard boats things work out and Christmas was what it should be: friends, good food, and running water.

The Crossing:

On the 29th of December our chance finally came to get across the Gulf Stream to Nassau. We had waited almost 3 weeks for this opportunity. The predictions were for light North West winds and seas in the 2 to 3 foot range. We cleared Florida Channel and were at sea by 9:30 AM. Usually you do not want to go anywhere near the Stream with any wind out of the North but the seas were predicted to be small so we took the chance. As it turned out it was a good chance and a good crossing. They were wrong about the seas in the Gulf Stream, however. We saw some 10 footers in the middle of the stream but their period was about 10 seconds apart and “Oconee” and “Skat” slid gently over them like little rubber duckies on a pond. The feeling is sort of like riding an elevator up and down every 10 seconds.

We reached the Little Bahama Banks at dusk and experienced our first “green flash” at sea and one of the most spectacular sunsets I've ever seen – absolute clear horizon with deep navy blue sky blending to black set with the magenta / orange glow of the dieing sun. As the sun faded out and the last thin line of rose color blended into black and the sky came alive with stars. The brilliant planet Venus first followed by a sky dusted so full of all magnitude of stars it looked like Van Gogh had painted them. Then the disk of our universe, The Milky Way, appeared so dense with stars it is almost solid – it takes the breath away just thinking about it now. How could anyone look at a sky like that and believe we are alone in the universe? My friends you have not seen stars until you have seen them at sea without the lights of land to mask your view. A sky like that make one feel so small, infinitesimally small.

An hour or so after we hit the banks, I was below cooking supper and Gigi on watch when she called. “Vic. We have slowed down, the engine is over heating, and there is a vibration can you come up?” Immediately you start going thru the list of possibilities. Water pump going bad or clogged sea strainer? No. That would explain the over heat but not the vibration or the slow speed. Could be the shaft zinc is trying come off. Nope. That would explain the vibration but not the slow speed or the over heat. We must have pickup something on the prop. I stopped the engine hoping what ever it was would fall off. It didn't. Now all I could see was me having to go in the water to clear the prop on an inky dark night in the middle of the Banks. Shit! One more thing to try – reverse engine and see if that will kick off what is there. Three tries and with a bang shudder Oconee rid herself of what was down there. Whew!!

The rest of the trip was just a great ride on calm seas with Gigi and I doing watch and watch (3 hours on 3 hours off). By 2:30 in the afternoon Nassau Harbor Control had given Oconee permission to enter the harbor and at 3:20 we were tied up at Nassau Harbor Club and Marina with our yellow quarantine flag flying waiting Customs and Immigration to clear in country. Our friends; Clark, Dudley, and Peter; had helped us tie up and welcomed us with open arms (literally) with hugs all around. Customs showed up 4ish. We ask for a for a 180 day clearance. They gave us 90. By 4:30 the quarantine flag was doused and the courtesy flag in her proper place on the starboard spreader flag halyard - “We in Da Bahama's Mon.”

Junkanoo New Years Day...sort of:

Junkanoo is a true Bahamian “ting.” Junkanoo is really a huge parade and party sort of like New Orleans Mardi Gras, the 60's Grambling University Marching Band, and a Holly Roller Camp Meeting rolled into one. It is celebrated at different dates and times on different islands and cays. Nassau holds the king of all Junkanoos and is held on Boxing Day (Dec. 26th) from sunset until midnight and on New Years Day from Midnight until about 10:00 in the morning...unless it falls on a Sunday and then they sort of “freelance” the date. Like I always say, “Dis Da Bahamas Mon.” Sometimes no one knows when but somehow the Bahamian's do and then it just

No one really knows what “Junkanoo” means or why it exists but the most logical answer I've heard (and therefore probably not right) is Junkanoo is a corruption of a famous African slave named "John Canoe.” These slaves were not allowed much freedom and would hide in the bush when they had the chance. While in the bush, they would dance and make music while covered in costumes that they made from various paints that they made and leaves that they found, sponges and old newspaper. This festival represented the slave's freedom from slavery. According to legend, John Canoe fought for the rights of his people to have some time for themselves and this may explain why it is celebrated late at night. The old masters gave them time off when their “time” was not needed by them.

Parades in Nassau are judged in various categories; A Category, the B Category, Individual costume, and fun groups. The A category groups in the Nassau Junkanoo include, The Valley Boys, The Music Makers, Roots, Saxons, One Family and The Prodigal Sons. In the B category groups include One Love Soldiers, Clico Colours, Fancy Dancers, Fox Hill Congos, and Conquerors for Christ. Fun groups include The Pigs, Sting and Barabbas, The Tribe, and many many more. These groups work on their costumes, floats and music all year just for Junkanoo.

G and I took a taxi downtown at 4:00 AM and elected to stand on the street with the Bahamians rather than sit in the bleachers. Man what fun!! You are there with men, women, and children all cheering on their favorites – the place vibrates and sways with music, color and rhythm all of which never stop. When groups like the Valley Boys or the Saxons get within ear shot a wave of energy sweeps up and down the street and just plain envelops you. The Valley Boys, maybe 200 strong, with man-pulled floats, dancers, outrageous colorful costumes, and a huge band is perhaps our favorite. As they approach you hear mixed in the horns, African goat skin drum rhythms, the cry from the Boys go up, “We Are?” And the crowd's response, “Vallee,Valee,Valee” wash over you and draw you in. G and I were no exception and we added our “Vallees” to the drum beat symphony.

My camera seemed to attract the best. Don't miss the photos. They don't do Junkanoo justice without the music or the magic of the crowd but go take a look anyway. I've never experienced anything like Junkanoo. Would I do this again? You bet.

Sampson Cay:

We made Sampson Cay on the 6th and were greeted by 9 days of light winds, 80 degree weather, and warm water. I really meant to write when I got here but the Bahamas just would not let me. We have fished, snorkeled, read, visited, and enjoyed sunsets and sunrises that only the Bahamas can give. There just has not been time for writing – Dis Da Bahamas Mon.

Fairwinds & Rum Drinks,

Vic & Gigi

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