Goodbye, Marathon

Our Marathon months are over, and we are headed north once again. We continue to get reports of snow and ice and freezing temperatures from Maryland, so we will do everything we can to haul spring with us as we go. Just a few notes here. . .
We basically “parked” the boat in Marathon, at Sombrero Dockside Marina. Image
Quite an interesting place, as the tiki bar was open this year, and there was lots of music and traffic. Sunday night was our least favorite, as it was “open mic,” and not all guests were stellar performers.
Every evening at about 4:30 or 5:00 we gathered on the dock in front of our boat. Last year the gathering place was named “One Palm Tree Court,” and we decorated the palm with Christmas lights. They’re still there! Image

Attendees of this informal “docktail party” varied with who was at the marina. . . boats come and go all season.Image

Our little dog Niya came to love this time of day. If we didn’t let her join “the guys on the dock,” she would whimper and cry.

You can see here how close we were to the Dockside Tiki Bar. Image
The dinghy dock at the marina served many of the folks who live on their boats in the mooring field. Image
The people that live right next to the dinghy dock painted their house this winter. The color was wonderful, as you can see. The ceiling of the front porch was a pale blue. Perfect!Image
I didn’t get any pictures of the manatees this year (remember from last year?), although they visited several times a week. Once we even had a mom with two babies, both of whom were nursing! This is what they call a “manatee footprint.” They come up to the surface briefly to breathe, and disappear again. Image
Several times we saw “flights” of Leopard Spotted Rays. Wish I could claim credit for this shot, but I took it from the Internet. They swim in formation exactly like this, and are truly lovely.Image
And almost every day we were visited by needle fish. These are the same little guys that “skip” through the water on their tails in this photo from an earlier blog post.

Image
Among the palms along the fence across the street there are some banana trees, and this year we were surprised by some fruit. Odd looking “bloom,” this thing opened one or two of its leathery petals every day, and dropped them over night. Very strange! We left before the fruit turned yellow, so I don’t know if it’s any good for eating.Image
Sombrero Beach is only a couple of miles from us, and is one of the top ten “Must See” places to visit in the Keys. Image
Evidently Crocs, which we have in Marathon (remember this from last year?) are okay with salt water, and alligators prefer fresh. So we have both here. This is one of the alligators that live in “The Blue Hole” (a fresh/salt water pond) on Big Pine Key. Unfortunately they’ve become accustomed to people, so they’re not very shy. Watch out!Image
And always we are looking out over the Mooring Field of Boot Key Harbor to watch storms. . .Image
. . . and sunsets.

Image

There are several people out in the mooring field who blow their conch shells every night as the sun drops below the horizon. Very cool.
More to come. . .

 

 

Advertisements

We Have Arrived in Marathon!

We’ve been here two weeks, and I’ve fallen under the spell of Marathon/the Keys, which is to say that “tomorrow” is always better than today, to tackle a project of any kind. I’ve worked on the blog. . . well, tomorrow’s good, right?

After  our two nights at Harbortown Marina, we anchored at Vero Beach. I’d like to stay there for a week (or more!) to really see the area and the town, but in spite of never having seen anything but the harbor we really like it there. There are many moorings, and the stop is so popular with boaters that often a mooring will have two or three boats rafted together. I guess you either get really friendly with whoever is tied alongside, or you get really good at looking the other way when they’re on deck.  This picture is from our anchorage looking toward the mooring field. . .Image

. . . and this picture is looking toward the ICW, directly opposite the first picture.Image

The waterway south of Vero Beach gets more populated, and excitement comes from all sorts of things. Jupiter Inlet  is an “interesting” spot, as you have everything from beginner paddle boarders, Sunday drivers on all sorts of boats (even when it’s not Sunday),  the chaos of the high current and the double dog leg of the course.Image

Under two bridges, by the way.  From there we went to a marina in North Palm Beach, right around the corner from the PGA Golf Course.  We ended up staying two nights because of the predicted high winds. Often the winds don’t matter on the ICW, but we were going to go south through Lake Worth, which is pretty open, and call me chicken: I like my passages smooth.

The second half of the day was spent maneuvering through the concrete canyons that are north of Ft. Lauderdale. Between the draw bridges and the slow speed “Manatee Zones,” this stretch always seems to go on forever.  We stayed one night only in the Las Olas Marina in Ft. Lauderdale and set off for our final push at first light. Biscayne Bay is south of Miami and can be pretty choppy, but we could see that if we didn’t grab the two day weather window we’d been given, it would have been a week before we could make those last two days of travel. We had showers pretty much all day, with some of them pretty heavy, but that kept the seas down.Image

We anchored in the very protected Tarpon Basin and had a wonderful pre-sunset sky. . .Image

. . . and an equally interesting dawn sky the next morning.Image

It was a perfect day for our passage.Image

In this next photo, check out the concentric rings in the water, starting at the center of the bottom edge. At the end of it you will see a small vertical “thing.” This is a needle fish, related to the flying fish. He uses his tail to bounce across the top of the water. Very cool, and we saw a lot of them!

Image

We also saw a lot of crab traps. These guys were very cool, and when they saw me photographing them one held up the stone crab he had just hauled in, showing me their catch!Image

Last year we followed the Keys west on the Florida Bay/Gulf side, but this year conditions were right for us to go out to the Atlantic side of the Keys through the Channel  5 Bridge:Image

and go the 20 or so miles from there to Sisters Creek for entering Boot Key Harbor.  The Sisters Creek entrance is right at Sombrero Beach.

Image

It winds through the mangroves and neighborhoods of Boot Key.

Image

And later that day, “the front” moved in. . .

Image

Wonderful to be here. The JOURNEY is over for now, so it’s time to enjoy the DESTINATION!

More on that to come. . .

Home. . . and then Back on the Journey

We continued south from South Jacksonville. It’s sort of . . . barren looking. Image

Who lives here? And through St. Augustine, here is the St. Augustine Inlet. Image

The inlets all the way down the coast can be scary. Last time we were here this one had standing waves of three feet or so from changing tides. . . this time we were lucky.Image

Talk about lucky, we have Phil and Sarah as friends in Palm Coast. They arranged for us to dock our boat on a private dock near them, so we rented a car and drove home for Christmas. We looked forward to being home and had a wonderful time with our families! And we really looked forward to being back on the boat and heading south again.

Phil and Sarah have two dogs, Maggie and Casey. Well, gotta tell you, Niya thinks Casey is BEYOND the cat’s meow! The two of them are pretty evenly matched; sometimes I think Casey is faster and Niya is more agile, and other times I think Casey can definitely turn a prettier corner and Niya is gaining on him. Can I just say that Niya is smitten? Here she is WATCHING THE HOUSE WHERE CASEY LIVES! Waiting for him to appear.Image

They had a ball, and someday I’ll be fast enough to get photos or a video of them playing.

We did some organizing and provisioning, and left the day after we arrived, December 29, at 10 am heading south through the rain.Image

Got to New Smyrna Beach in the early afternoon. Image

We enjoyed our stay there last year going south, as it’s PELICAN CITY, with lots of egrets, great blue herons and White Ibis thrown in. They grunt, hoot, and growl, and lift as flocks, soar forever, and they all seem to roost on the tiny island outside of the marina. It’s a wonderful show.

There’s a young man at a dock next to the marina who I am CONVINCED has just purchased this semi-derelict fishing boat. He has spent (so far that we know) seven solid hours cleaning, adjusting, fixing and improving this boat, long into the night. Image

I’m not sure it’s worth his effort, but there you are: you have to believe, and he obviously does.

From New Smyrna Beach we went down through Mosquito Lagoon, an interesting area with many “fish camps” (largely campers or single wide mobile homes that are almost at water level!) I wonder who is having more fun, these folks living a very basic life or vacation, or the ones that are living in the high class, lengthy dock, many toys, even more levels of deck to watch the water. . . Well. I do wonder.

At one point we were joined by a young couple on an outrigger canoe. Vicki and Del told us that they go up to the Kent Island relay for outrigger canoes, and I can tell you, this is one hot team! Image

We were cruising along at 9 ½ knots (about 10.45 miles an hour – amazing for US!) and they kept right up with us. It was very cool! I’m going to try to post the video I took of them. Those of you with high speed internet can download it from YouTube, but beware, it is 16 megs.

We turned right (west) through the Haulover Canal to enter the Indian River heading south to Harbortown Marina on Merritt Island.  The day was punctuated by sights of wildlife; we see many, many, MANY “Slow Speed, Manatee Zone” signs along the way, starting in Georgia. Today we saw THREE MANATEES! That’s the first time we’ve seen them outside of Boot Key Harbor, in Marathon. We saw a young bald eagle sitting atop a green course mark. He was definitely not concerned with us. In addition, Niya had a good long dose of dolphins, who joined us and stayed for ten minutes or more, laughing at her howls and yips.

So finally this evening we watched as a flock of hundreds of cormorants flew in to their night time roosts.ImageImage

It was amazing. And their noises. . . growls and snarls, is it a zombie or an alligator? YIKES! Notice that they all look like they have no heads.Once they land they instantly start to preen, clean, separate saturated feathers (these are divers!) and then, finally sleep. The one on the left, second branch from the bottom, is what they look like.

Merritt Island is the gateway to Canaveral, although there’s not much going on there these days.  We’ll be here two nights. Hans will catch up with some repairs. . . wait, MORE REPAIRS? Well, we have this problematic fresh water pump. It’s obviously leaking somewhere because about every three minutes it comes on with a loud buzz to accommodate for the loss of water. And I will walk the dog, and get some work done. I may even – gulp – vacuum up some of the many “puppies” that Niya has shed along the way. Uh-ohh-h-h-h.

 

Marshes, Sunsets and . . . Marshes

After leaving Georgetown the winds picked up during the day and we saw green water with foamy whitecaps along the waterway. We were surprised to see a large flock of white pelicans. They’re bigger than their relatives, the Brown Pelicans, and do not dive for their fish as the Browns do. Instead they work in flocks to herd their prey to the shallows. These birds normally winter on the west coast of Florida or along the Texas coast. And we’re seeing more and more of them. . . wonder why?ImageImage

We had a moderate passage across the inlet where the Cooper and Ashley Rivers rush into the Atlantic to our south – it’s always confused seas where those three bodies of water meet. Charleston was right there, to our north. We had hoped to stay in that historic city for several days, but we’ve lost so much time along the way with delays that we’ll just keep going.

We stopped that night at the St. John’s Yacht Harbour, which is a beautiful marina west of Charleston on the Stono River. The setting is in the marshes. When I commented on the rich gold of the autumn marsh grasses to one of the people who live aboard there, she looked around, a little surprised. She said, “Well, people say we don’t have fall colors here, but I don’t know. It’s pretty.” Yes indeed. . .ImageImageImageImage

Another early departure the next day, this one without hitting anything, and we were off to Beaufort, South Carolina. This particular Beaufort is pronounced “Bew-furt.” The one in North Carolina is “Bo-furt.” Evidently they were both named for the same English earl, and no one can explain the different pronunciation. We stopped in “Bew-furt” last fall and saw the Christmas boat parade, and next day the hours-long Christmas marching parade. It was a spectacular window into small town America.

This year we decided to stay across the river at the Lady’s Island Marina. A charming smaller marina with very personable marina managers, we know we’ll go back there. I took advantage of the free laundry (YES!!) and then we went out to dinner.

Although there’s a bar/restaurant on the premises, it was suggested that we walk down the road to the “Fillin’ Station,” where they have $4 burgers on Wednesday night. Okay. . . this was SMALLER small town America! We first tried the door with a handle, but the guy in the pickup truck out front said we should use the other door. In the other door there was an empty hole where the doorknob had been. . . okay. That might have been a giveaway, but we went in, into the darkness. There were a few Coors Lite and Yeungling signs lighting the space, and some Christmas lights along one wall.Image

Five or six tall tables with high bar chairs, a pool table, and the bar, and that was it. Image

The charming lady bar tender told us they had no waitress, but if we wanted to order food we should go “over there.” Over there was out another door onto the deck, where there was much laughter, smoking, and a lot of beer. In a lean-to on one side was a big charcoal grill, a counter in front of it with all the fixin’s, and a gnarled older gentleman who looked like he might have been homeless. Other than on Wednesdays, when he cooked the burgers.Image

We ordered. $4 for a big cheeseburger, a small hot dog, a scoop of excellent potato salad and a bowl of cold baked beans. It was DELICIOUS! Thursday nights they do pork chops, and Fridays the steak is $10. There is no menu, what they got is what you get.

Off again early morning, Thursday, and we were in Georgia. After almost 78 miles of circuitous cruising, we were at anchor in the silence of Kilkenny Creek. You do have to wonder; did they kill Kenny here? Small streams running through the marsh grasses form the shadows and landscape of this place, and we were treated to a lovely sunset.Image

Friday, after another 77 miles through the choppy Sounds and narrow, shoaling channels of Georgia, we anchored next to Little Cumberland Island. A peaceful, somewhat exposed anchorage, we had another even more beautiful sunset. We were rocked to sleep by the waves that were leftovers from St. Andrews Sound to our north.Image

Woke at 2:45 am to turn off the heat and take off the blankets. The air was still, water flat. Looks like we’ve finally gotten to the warmth of the SOUTH!

 

 

South Carolina

We had two stops in South Carolina where we had free dockage, the first at Harbourgate, in North Myrtle Beach. This is a small marina connected to a condominium, where we were directly on the ICW, on their fuel dock. It was cold and misty, and in their parking lot there was a group preparing their float for the Christmas Parade that was to be held that night. I hope they had some people brave enough to be an audience.

The next stop was Osprey Marina, in South Myrtle Beach. This stretch of the waterway is lovely, with lots of Spanish moss draped from tall cypress trees. They have a beautiful facility cut into the swamp of the waterway and protected from wind and traffic. They also had a small herd of goats, which Niya thought were very, VERY exciting.

12-9-13 We left Osprey Marina in fog. . . It doesn’t look terrible, and we had about a quarter of a mile of visibility, but when you looked straight ahead it was like the end of the world. There was nothing. Very unnerving.ImageImage

When we finally got clear skies it only lasted about ten miles, and just before we got to Georgetown, South Carolina we were socked in again.

We went in to Georgetown Harbor, always a favorite of ours.Image

It’s a charming town, with a couple of good restaurants. They had a disastrous fire in the early fall this year and lost 9 buildings along the historic waterfront. They are still cleaning up the debris.Image

We had a lovely dinner at the River Room with Hans’s friend Kenny, who lives nearby. They were fire department buddies in the “old days,” and had much to reminisce about and catch up on.Image

Unfortunately when we left the next morning we were pinned by wind into the dock, and we wiped out the power pole we’d been plugged into over night with the broad sweep of our bow. We e-mailed the Dock Master about it, as he wasn’t in yet and we wanted to leave. We now have a bill for $478. That was an expensive overnight stay. . .

Camp Lejeune Anchorage

Thursday, December 5

Can you tell I’m playing catch up with the blog? Here’s the deal: We have internet access on the boat but are limited in the amount of information we can upload or download. We try to keep the photos in the blog at a good quality level (have you tried clicking on any of the photos? They get larger so you can see just that on your screen. High resolution, or almost.) Most of the marinas we’ve stayed at “have internet access.” Let me explain. Most of the time “Internet Access” means you can SEE their signal, but either it is so weak you can’t sign on, or it drops almost immediately. So I save it up and send it when I can.

There was still fog as we left Morehead City but not major.Image

This section of the ICW seems to be less picturesque than many others, with many areas of straight channel. Image

Image

Much of it runs through Camp Lejeune. . . there are periodic closings for a variety of reasons.Image

We arrived fairly early at our chosen anchorage, Mile Hammock Bay, which is actually in Camp Lejeune. It was obvious that some of the people who have access to the base enjoy the leisure activities available in the area.Image

We shared the anchorage with four sail boats, and had a beautiful sunset. Ah-h-h-h-h. . . .Image

Morehead City 12-1-13

Aside

I can’t believe it’s December. Although recent temperatures are definitely in the ballpark, it just doesn’t seem as if that much time has passed. Plus, it’s 51 degrees here, at ten o’clock at night. We’re in Morehead City, North Carolina. So maybe we’re. . . south?

We only traveled about five hours today, from River Dunes almost directly south to Morehead City. We’re pretty much at the Beaufort Inlet.

On the way the electrical system of engines/batteries/charger/alternator seemed to go nuts, with “OVERCHARGED!” in orange showing on the dial. Orange is not good. Red is worse, but orange is as high as it gets on this particular dial. Here’s the picture, showing “normal.”Image

We were getting major OVERCHARGED messages, which means we can burn out the (very expen$ive) batteries. It was sort of a troubleshooting voyage, and when we arrived and the engine room cooled off enough, Hans figure out it was. . . a disconnected wire. We are OKAY! (I lower my head into my hands and shake no. . . then I shake yes. We’re okay.)

Here’s the thing about Morehead City – well, a couple of things. We are in a major waterway, at the mouth of an inlet/outlet to the ocean, where there is industry, including tugs, which are difficult to pass or follow. They leave a very “disturbed” wake, yanking us back and forth in the narrow channel.

Image

The other thing is that this is where The Dolphins start. Okay, Niya has imprinted her nose on the window since we left Baltimore, looking for The Dolphins. Every day she looks. If I gasp, or say “look” or anything resembling it, she’s there, smearing her nose into the window to get a clear picture.

Image

We’ve told her it doesn’t happen up north, but she does it anyway. . . waiting. TODAY. . . THE DOLPHINS CAME! She howled, whined, screamed and squealed. I said, “Niya!” and she said “YES!” squealing and howling before she even got out there to see them! They were very busy with their own activities, but there were a lot of them, and she saw them, tried to gather them all to her with her cries. . . and then they were gone. I didn’t get a picture of them or a video, but Niya saw them and was thrilled. There will be more. And she will sing to them, so happy to be part of their pod. . .  Pack. . .  Community.

Wednesday 12/4/13

We are still here in Morehead City. We tried to leave Monday and ten minutes away from the dock the alternator started over charging again. So back we went to the dock. Monday we took the marina rental car ($10 for two hours) and wandered, looking for an alternator repair shop (the owner was at an appointment and wasn’t answering his phone) or a new alternator. It’s taken us several days to resolve this, but the bottom line is we are still here, waiting for a new alternator to arrive.

We have new friends, Shay and Elizabeth, who live here on their boat. Shay and Hans worked for many hours trouble shooting the alternator, to no avail. And our friend Carolyn arrived by car from Maryland. She is here for several days of fishing, and will stay on her Camano in Beaufort. We had a very nice dinner with her in Beaufort, which is a charming town. I have to say, much more interesting than Morehead City. I’m thinking that the next time we pass through we might just go over there. Maybe.

Tomorrow, we’ll leave here. Our new alternator is installed. Tonight, there is fog.Image