Saturday, December 8, 2007

Minim Creek, SC to Cumberland I., GA

December 8, 2007

Hi Everyone:

It’s really fun when we hear from you. The responses and comments really brighten our day when we get a chance to go online. So thanks to all who have taken the time to share their thoughts with us and for the rest of you -- please go to the end of this posting and click on the word Comments and let us know what you think.

My apologies to all who have been wondering what happened to “the Buds at Sea” for the past few weeks. Somehow, other priorities are always popping up, but I will redouble my efforts, and try to keep up every day so I can get back to a weekly publishing schedule. I’m hoping some Wifi technology will make it easier to post updates as we go along.

We’re currently in Vero Beach. We arrived two days ago, and as advertised, it’s a great spot for cruisers to provision and get organized for further cruising. We’ll probably stay another 3 days at least.

So how did we do in the Carolinas and Georgia? This posting picks up in Myrtle Beach, SC.

Minim Creek under the Stars (Sun, Nov 11)

Sunshine Daydream (Tracy and Vytas) got off to an early start at 7 and told us their goal was Minim Creek. We left about 15 minutes later. This was a pretty easy day with only one drawbridge and we passed mile 400 on the ICW as we cruised down the sparsely settled Waccamaw River. It was a bit blustery as we passed by Georgetown, with the wind on our nose as we went down Winyah Bay, but soon we were back in a narrow ICW cut and anchored in the marshes surrounding Minim Creek by 3:30.

There was one other boat, but no Sunshine Daydream. We figured they had pressed on further to be closer to Charleston, where they planned to stay a week with family. We enjoyed an exceptional sunset followed by Sue’s pasta with clam sauce. It was a very calm night, and the stars and Milky Way were in full splendor. After a brief reflection on how lucky we were to be here, we reverted back to our usual vices and watched a couple more X-File episodes on the DVD!

Warming up for Charleston (Mon, Nov 12)

We were up and off the hook by 8:30. We were passed by the motor cruiser “Roving Seas” and had a short chat on VHF about Marblehead and Niantic, CT where they were from. All was pretty routine, until around 1:00, when I managed to run aground briefly. This time it was following the Skipper Bob ICW Guide to take day mark G “89” wide. I guess my “wide” was a little wider than Skipper Bob had in mind.

We arrived in Dewees Creek (northwest branch) around 2:10, completely surrounded by marshes, and it was warm – at last! We had cocktails as the sun set and then had a steak dinner (Brian finally got to fire up the BBQ) with sweet potatoes, zucchini and salad. We followed up with TWO X-file episodes. Living was easy!

Charleston Casts Its Charm (Tues, Nov 13)

We were off to a good start, and our luck continued when the only swing bridge we had to go through was opened perfectly by the bridge operator, so that we never even had to slow down. (It’s the simple pleasures that count on the ICW!)

At 10:30 we broke out of the “ditch” into Charleston Harbor and had some time for some sightseeing from the water (Fort Sumter, Fort Johnson, and the city itself). We even stopped the motor and actually sailed for an hour. What a concept! A sail boat using its sails on the way south! Charleston from the water was very impressive -- a nineteenth century city with a skyline dominated by church steeples and bell towers. Because of all the churches, Charleston is known locally as the “Holy City.” Let’s just say, I never heard that part about Charleston when I was in the Navy.

We tied up on the Ashley River side of town at the Charleston City Marina on the outside of the “Mega dock.” It gets its name from its size (over 1000 feet long) and the size of the yachts tied up to it. There were a number 200 foot plus mega-yachts tied there while we were there, plus two schooners and an occasional coastal passenger ship.

After we showered and had lunch, we grabbed our maps, jumped on a marina courtesy van, and soon found ourselves on East Bay Street at the city market. We proceeded get our bearings and walk through the large historic district to White Point Gardens and the Battery overlooking the harbor. You could tell immediately, that historic preservation (architecturally and otherwise) was a core Charleston value.

While looking for a restaurant that evening, we were “hailed” by four diners at the Crab Shack who highly recommended the various Low Country Boil dishes on the menu. (steamed shrimp, oysters, scallops, corn, and potatoes) They figured out from our hats that we were on Sogno. Turns out they were from “Roving Seas” (Niantic, CT), who had chatted with us the previous day. To top it off, the boat’s owners lived just a few houses down from the only couple we knew in Niantic. (Vicki, I’ll let you lead the chorus in “It’s a Small World.”).

Charleston Beats the Advanced Billing (Wed-Fri, Nov 14-16)

We won’t bore you with the details, but the bottom line is clear -- you have to visit Charleston for a few days. It’s filled with friendly people, good food and drink, interesting history, and architectural details that keep drawing you down side streets and peeking into walled off gardens.

Recommendations: Go to the visitor center, see the Welcome Video and get your DASH shuttle pass. See the Calhoun House (fabulous collection of art, furniture and Tiffany chandeliers). Take a walking or carriage ride tour. Grocery shop at Harris Teeters. Stay at the City Marina – top notch facilities, excellent courtesy van service, and friendly staff. Don’t miss the excellent breakfast at the “Variety Store and Restaurant” near the marina. Watering holes/food: Crab Shack, Tom Condon’s Pub, Moe’s, Noisy Oyster, Mad Grill. 82 Queen Street for a special dinner in the courtyard or one of the many dining rooms.

Amidst all that, we managed to do some minor engine maintenance (change oil, zinc, clean sea strainers) and general clean up to get Sogno – and us (laundry) -- ready for South Carolina and Georgia Low Country to come.

We also met Rick and Cindy (Dragonfly), who had left Marblehead ahead of us. They are friends of our house sitters (Jon and Shawna) and we had been both on the lookout for each other. They were anchored in the Ashley, near the marina, and they spotted Sogno on a dinghy run ashore. They left their boat card in the cockpit, and we were able to get together for 40 minutes or so aboard Sogno one evening. Coincidently, we learned that the person they have watching their house was one of our former next door neighbors.

We pass the 500 Mile Mark (Sat, Nov 17)

Despite the moderate current on our stern, we managed to back off the mega-dock neatly (i.e., didn’t hit the boat ahead of us) and resume our voyage south. Despite the sub-40 degree temps at dawn, it managed to get up to the 60s by the afternoon. We were now deep into the Low Country and passed mile 500 on the ICW. We had many dolphin sightings, and captured one pair we could practically touch, on 30 seconds of video. We hope to get that posted, once we figure out how to edit it a bit. (I thought of you Vicki, when we had the camera rolling.)

We anchored in a bend of the South Edisto River (just off the ICW), and celebrated 500 miles on the ICW with grilled lamb steaks, salad, potato and an appropriate beverage, followed by a DVD movie: “Flags of Our Fathers.” We want to now see the second movie that presents Iwo Jima from a Japanese soldier perspective.

Beaufort, SC: Can you say BWEW-fert? (Sun, Nov 18)

We passed through the Beaufort draw bridge and were tied up at the Downtown Marina by 1:00 (an easy approach to a floating dock against the current). Wifi came up with out a hitch, but we took off to see the Bay Street shopping area, a beautiful walk along the river and anchorage.

When we got back to the marina, we spotted Journey (Bill and Marlene) of Elizabeth City “wine and cheese” fame. We agreed to meet after dinner to watch the Patriots game. We risked our ear drums and had dinner at Kathleen’s, which had a blues band playing on the riverside deck. The Journey crew was still waiting for their meal at game time, so we took a rain check and headed back to Sogno to retire with our usual DVD episode.

Up Bull Creek (Mon, Nov 19)

This morning, to get a decent Wifi signal from the marina, Brian set up shop with his laptop, on a park bench. Not surprisingly, the first priority was to order a “super” Wifi antenna that promised a range of “up to 1 mile.” (We would settle for 300 yards!) In the email department, the Marblehead tax collector was there to ask for the boat excise tax. (Thanks Jon for sending a copy of the bill to us.)

We got underway backing out against a small flood current, and bidding farewell to Journey for now. That day we motored pass the Marine Basic Training base at Parris Island (very large) and eventually anchored in the middle of the marshes around 3:00. We were literally “up Bull Creek” (mile 565.5!) Some of us planned, some of us dreamed (aka naptime), but morale was high after a broiled chicken dinner. A calm anchorage and full tummy is something always to be appreciated!

We “bump” into Georgia (Tue, Nov 20)

We got off to a good start, and made it pass all the “Caution” areas in our Skipper Bob guide, UNTIL we entered Field’s Cut very near low tide. This is literally the last leg of the ICW in South Carolina, since it breaks out into the busy Savannah River, which marks the boundary with Georgia.

We started out on the left side of the channel after we saw “Eau Sauvage” (a sailboat from Montreal) run aground on the right side. Soon we saw them zigging one way and the other. As we followed behind, we saw why. It was like slaloming around shoals that came out from each bank to grab you. Finally, our Canadian “guide” ran aground only 200 short yards from the river. They backed off the mud and graciously suggested we give it a try! We tried left; we tried middle. NO GO. We just about gave up, and then we tried the same starboard path as our new friends, but this time turned toward the middle of the channel short of where they had bottomed out. The depth stayed good, and we were back in the center of the channel, we head straight for the river. We made it – and what’s more there were no big ships in the river bearing down on us! Eau Sauvage followed our lead, and a few hours later we both ended up at the same marina in the aptly named town of Isle of Hope, GA.

After we got tied up, we went over to meet the Eau Sauvage crew. They were so grateful for our help, that we got a bottle of genuine Canadian maple syrup as a present. Merci beaucoup!

After signing in, we got the necessary info to take a one hour bus ride into to Savannah for $1 each. This was our second visit, but this time we got to see what the suburbs were like. We arrived downtown around 5:00, just in time to do a Happy Hour survey. We settled on the Blue Moon Brewery on Bay Street, followed by dinner at the Old Tavern on River Street. It had been a long day indeed by 7:40 pm, so we elected to take a 20 minute taxi ride back to Isle of Hope and call it a day.

An Early Thanksgiving Feast (Wed, Nov 21)

Sogno’s crew was back for more the next morning, starting this time on a more cultural note at the “Ships of the Sea” museum (highly recommended). Lots of local nautical exhibits on commercial shipping and the Civil War, plus unexpected exhibits on the Titanic and the building in which the museum was located.

Culture always sharpens our appetites, so we jumped on the free city shuttle, and with the aid of a very jovial bus driver who told us to “trust me”, we were dropped off within a few yards of “Mrs. Wilkes Place.” It was around noon, and there were already 20 people in line for her famous “family style” Southern cooking. We jumped in line and within 20 minutes we were seated at a big table with 9 other folks, facing a huge selection of vegetables (corn, potatoes, a variety of beans, peas squash, turnips, collard greens, cabbage) and entrees (meat loaf, stew, barbeque pork, and fried chicken), biscuits, and iced tea. Everything began circulating clockwise, and continued until we couldn’t eat anymore, or were just embarrassed we were the only ones still eating. Most everyone still had room for the banana pudding. By the time we got up from the table, I realized I didn’t even know what the price was. It turned out to be a non-issue -- $15 each!!

Other attractions: Railroad Roundhouse museum, Savannah museum (lots about WWI and WWII also).

We wrapped it up with some more “grazing” along River St. and managed to have the same taxi driver we had the previous night to take us back to the marina.

Much to be Thankful For (Thur, Nov 22)

We got an early start (for us) at 8:30 on Thanksgiving morning, but our string of graceful exits ended we tried to leave the dock and avoid a large catamaran was pointing bow-to-bow with us on the dock. We nicked Sogno’s bow a bit, in trying to go forward and clear the cat. We got some more help from the catamaran couple, and with the use of a spring line and some initial forward power to kick Sogno’s stern out. We were very “thankful” to eventually back out without any more scratches or embarrassment.

We were also very thankful to get through two more “caution areas” in the Georgia ICW appropriately named “Hells Gate” and “Florida Passage” without seeing less than 2 feet under our keel. By the time we anchored in Kilkenny Creek, around 12:30 the tide was down, the wind was up, and we were happy to kick back and enjoy the marsh scenery with two other sailboats and a trawler.

Sue put together a delicious pasta dinner combining Lemon Pepper linguine (a gourmet shop purchase in Beaufort, SC) with Trader Joe’s piccatta sauce (thanks Vicki for the Trader Joe tip). Despite the “one-bar” cell phone service, Brian even managed to complete a call to his sister Norene in Denver, with only 3 or 4 drops.

We hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving with friends and family. While this was a different kind of Thanksgiving for us, it still reminded us of how very fortunate we are. We owe much to so many for helping us on this adventure and plus a special debt to those who protect our freedoms at home and overseas.

When winds oppose the tide … (Fri, Nov 23)

As we motored out of the creek, a woman on one of the sailboats (Cassiopeia) popped out of the cabin to ask it we were really planning to go into St. Catherine’s Sound. It turns out they had tried on Thanksgiving, but had to come back to the anchorage because it was so rough. I explained that we were, but weather seemed to not be an issue today.

Along the way we had some momentary glitches in our battery charging system, and managed to pass one navigation aid on the wrong side, without incident. We also made it past still another caution area (Creighton Narrows) and anchored in the Duplin River, about 600 yards short of a 35 ft power line (Sogno’s metal mast is 53’ high). Given that this is a north-south river, and the evening wind was forecast from the North or North East, this wasn’t an ideal anchorage, but it seemed to be the best in the area, with some wind protection.

Despite a steak dinner, a clear sky with a full moon, and a pretty setting, this was the worst anchorage of the trip. Around 1:00 am the waves slapping against the hull signaled this would not be a quiet night.. With the wind blowing 20 knots from the north, and the strong tidal current flowing north, it started getting choppy. Sogno couldn’t decide whether to point into the wind or into the current so she did a little of both. The net result was a very rolly-poly night, with lots of noises of chain rubbing against the hull and the rigging that supports the bowsprit (aka bobstay). This was not your restful safe harbor!

We Land in the Golden Isles (Sat, Nov 24)

After a fitful night on the hook, within an hour of dawn, the full moon set and it was indeed darkest before the dawn. When the sun finally rose, the spring tide had risen at least a foot more than the previous day, covering much of the marshes and making the river look wider than it really was. The sign warning about the power lines, was half-submerged.

Despite the 20 knot wind gusts, we had an easy time leaving the anchorage, and once we were heading south again, the wind was not as much an issue. Maybe some time, we’ll come back in calm conditions, and give the Duplin a chance to live up to some of the glowing cruising guide descriptions.

We passed through still more of the “caution areas” (Little Mud River, Altamaha Sound, and Buttermilk Sound) where dredging was badly needed, but with the above average tide, we had no problems. A few of the day marks were hard to spot since the tops were only 3 feet above the water!

We arrived at Golden Isles Marina (across from St. Simon’s Island) and Sue made a perfect landing on the face dock, in a very strong current. Melissa, the dockmaster, was extremely efficient in arranging fuel, pumpout and a courtesy car for us, while Sue put their laundry to good use. Within 3 hours we were off on a quick drive around St. Simon’s Island enjoying a peek at its old lighthouse and the well planned community. We provisioned at a Harris Teeter supermarket, and returned to the Marina for showers and an excellent dinner at the Coastal Kitchen marina restaurant. Whew! We had done more in 6 hours at this marina than we can normally get done in a day at most places.

Biking on Jekyll Island (Sun, Nov 25)

Today’s run was less than 10 miles. Our destination was Jekyll Island, sight of the historic “Millionaire’s Club”, where all the prominent names of the late 1800’s built their cottages, moored their yachts and gathered for formal dinners at the “club house.” The state of Georgia now owns the entire island and the club house is now a classic hotel.

After making it through another caution area in Jekyll Creek (easy when you do it at high tide), we were greeted by the friendly staff of Jekyll Harbor Marina. They (plus a crowd of 6 onlookers) were there to help us with our lines as Sue made an excellent approach into the current. After a quick lunch, we were off to explore the island on the free marina bicycles.

They say you never forget how to ride a bike, but we both needed time to get use to these single speed bikes, with old fashioned pedal brakes. For Sue the problem wasn’t stopping, it was getting the bike to lean to the same side as her extended foot when she came to a stop. After 7 or 8 “mini-crashes”, it was time for some serious practice. After that, biking (and stopping) started to be much more enjoyable. Fortunately, the bikes had seen their days so a few more scratches probably didn’t make any difference.

We toured the southern part of the Island (beaches and picnic areas) and stopped with some other bikers to enjoy a beer at Blackbeard’s Restaurant. Back in the historic district, we poked around the shops and then headed for the “Rah Bar” along Jekyll Creek. The steamed shrimp was so good we managed to go through two pounds!

Our next stop was a walk through the impressive club house, and a peek at the grand dining room. We also discovered a snug little pub off the basement, where our bartender Ali (who lives on her boat at the marina) brought us up to speed on future development plans for the island. Nothing drastic, but after 50 years of very little change, it looked like change was coming to many of the old motels and restaurants outside the historic district.

We raced back to check in our bikes by 6pm, and a quick bite at the marina restaurant. We had biked about 10 miles, but I suspect the calories expended did not cover the food and drink we had consumed along the way. We’ll try harder the next time.

Fog and Shrimp (Mon, Nov 26)

We woke to fog, which was even thicker by 8:00. It eventually lifted and by 10:00, we were on our way to Cumberland Island. One more “caution area” was ahead – St. Andrews Sound, which can get nasty if the wind is up. There was very little wind, but was nasty this time was a big fog bank that sat right at the mouth of the sound where we would make our turn back to enter the Cumberland River.

We had our radar going, but due to some problems with the electronic compass, the display was some times confusing. We passed two sailboats (one with radar) who had turned back. We kept going, and made the turn without incident (i.e., didn’t hit the buoy or run aground). We sounded fog signals, and communicated with an overtaking power catamaran via VHF before we finally came out of the fog in less than 30 minutes after we entered. The other two sailboats also emerged 10 minutes later. We were back in the Georgia sun!

The rest of the trip was uneventful, although there were the usual thin water “tensions” to deal with on occasion. We also passed the huge Navy submarine base at Kings Bay, but didn’t see any missile subs underway. By 3:00 we turned into the Cumberland Island anchorage, which already had around 10 boats. The catamaran at the head of the anchorage was moving to a new location, and the skipper invited us to take his place.

By the time the hook was set, it was a bit too late to go ashore and explore the island. We settled for cocktails and steamed shrimp in the cockpit, followed by more Georgia shrimp over lemon pepper linguine for dinner. Remember: when cruising always have a plan B!

Coming attractions: More Golden Isles, the warm weather returns when we arrive in Florida, pass the 900 mile mark on the ICW, and settle down for a spell in “Velcro Beach.”

Don’t forget to send us your comments. Click on Comments below!

Brian and Sue
Buds at Sea


John B said...

You bring back fond memories of Savannah, Jekyll Island and St Simon’s Island. Plus our son Brian spent six months at the airport in Vero Beach getting his commercial and instrument pilot licenses.

Barbara and I had a great time exploring San Francisco and the gold country last week. We visited Sutter’s Mill on the American River where the gold that started the gold rush was discovered. We also put on a few extra pounds eating a wide variety of tasty foods.

Well the first snows and the sub freezing temperatures have arrived here in Marblehead. We envy your stay in the warm temperatures of Florida and the Bahamas this winter.

We wish you both a Merry Christmas and favorable winds in the new year.


John & Barbara

Anonymous said...

Hi, Sue and Brian:
You're my inspiration and guiding light as I inch my way on weekends following your trail. "Possibility" is currently at Seapath Marina in Wrightsville Beach. I chuckled at your account of buoy 61A, touching bottom, Figure 8 Bridge and other scheduled bridge openings and taking advantage of a commercial vessel's ability to coax open a bridge before the appointed hour, the dolphins, the strong current, and becoming boat buddies with other southbound cruisers. I chuckled, of course, because I'm living through a very similar experience, but without as many terrific onboard meals, it seems. By the end of the day, I tend to prefer restaurants. As a result, I still have most of the provisions I started out with. There's nothing like a slalom course through skinny water to make one feel like they're living in a real-world video game, eh? I'm printing out your blog and carrying it with me onboard, both for entertainment and practical guidance.

Congratulations on making it to Florida!!


dave said...

Hi Sue and Brian, Thanks for the return of the carts and your very nice X-mas card. Today I spent the am rereading all the blog to get a good idea of your progress. It brings back so many memories. You are meeting some nice people and having memorable meals. The Dismal Swamp info was interesting as we avoided that due to our 6.8 draft. We have had 2 storms-the Nor'easter dumped 10inches on us. Dave is out now sholveling off the roof and breaking up the ice dams. We missed you at the very nice dinner/speaker at MSPS at Captain's on P. Wharf 12/7. Great food and the speaker was very good. Sailing around the world, however, is not for us. We had an absolutely wonderful time sailing the Med. Return 5/22 to cruise the eastern side ,Croatia, and Greece and Turkey. We will be presenting our Bahamas slide show February 10th at the brunch per Jack's request. Remember, Staniel Cay is a must stop for the pig Roast on NY Eve. Stock up on plenty of goodies to make appeteasers for the beach get togethers in Georgetown. Cal and Dave

Anonymous said...

Hi Guys, Glad to see all is going well. Reading your adventures makes me wish Vicki and I had done the trip again this winter, keep the stories coming.