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.