May 7, 2009, Cambridge Cay – Highborne Cay, Bahamas
We are a bit nervous leaving Cambridge Cay after last night’s experience, but we have learned our lesson and exit through Bell island Cut without problem. The wind is light so we set the spinnaker to try to get enough speed, but wind velocity decreases and even the spinnaker doesn’t get the job done. We wind up motor sailing most of the way to Highborne Cay and then thread our way through the winding cut and anchor in the lee of the island. We grill pork chops and enjoy dinner in the cockpit watching a large motor catamaran go back and forth through Highborne Cut at least half a dozen times on some kind of training session. The water is incredibly clear here and we enjoy a swim and a shower on the stern ladder before going early to bed.
May 8 – 9, 2009, Highborne Cay – West End, Grand Bahama
The Atlantis Casino from Nassu Harbor as we pass through
We approach Old Bahama Bay Marina, West End
Wind is still very light today, which is just as well as we plan to motor across the shallow Exuma Bank to Nassau. We have chosen a route that takes us between the Yellow and White Banks, but still the water never gets deeper than 30 feet and is often in the 11-12 foot range. We have to stay alert as there are many coral heads and, although they are generally visible, it is difficult to tell if they are deep enough to pass beneath the keel. So in the shallower areas we keep a sharp eye out and zig zag around to make sure we don’t hit one of the heads. In late afternoon we arrive in Nassau, pass carefully under the bridge to Paradise Island and look for a place to anchor. At the first anchorage the depth goes from 30 to 7 feet in only a few yards, and we cannot find a safe place to anchor. We motor around the cruise ship docks past a half dozen cruise ships and anchor just beyond the turning basin, Here the current and the wind are in opposite directions and we are unable to make certain that our anchor is properly set. We remember that we have never liked Nassau and decide to keep going. We retrieve he anchor and leave the harbor by the west entrance. We are pleased that the wind fills in on the beam at about 8 knots just as we exit the harbor. We are able to sail at over 5 knots under a gorgeous full moon towards Grand Bahama. We round Stirrup Cay at about 3 a.m. and fall off to a broad reach. There is constant ship traffic so we are in no danger of falling asleep. When the sun comes up the wind dies, and we motor sail all day. We pass by Freeport and round Settlement Point around 5:00. We are assisted into a slip at the wonderful (and expensive) Old Bahama Bay Marina. We enjoy showers and then a “Mother’s Day Eve” dinner at Bonefishers. We are pretty tired after the passage, ao bedtime comes early, as soon as we return from dinner.
May 10—11, 2009, West End, Grand Bahama – St. Augustine, Florida
Dolphins at play as we approach the coast of Florida
More dolphins. They seem to be having fun and at the same time give a lift to our spirits.
Still more dolphins
Old Bahama Bay marina brings us a Mother’s Day present – Bahamian banana bread. It is delicious. Elisabeth supplements it with ham and scrambled eggs, an uncommonly luxurious onboard breakfast. We do not have charts or a cruising guide for Florida as we originally did not intend to go there. The chandlery here is our last chance to purchase either one, but they only have information about the Bahamas. Elisabeth runs a load of wash in the marina’s laundry and we check out of the marina. We need fuel, so we leave the slip and stand by off the fuel dock. There is a catamaran there that must be preparing for an around-the-world trip – they take at least 30 minutes to load their fuel. We finally get our fuel and leave the marina at 11:45, almost two hours after our intended departure. Once again we are not quite sure where we are going. We have alternative courses to Cape Canaveral and to St. Augustine, Florida. Our final choice depends on the Gulf Stream – whether it is comfortable and how much boost it gives us. The wind is very light and we wind up motor sailing most of the way. The Gulf Stream is a pussy cat – it is no more uncomfortable than any other piece of sea. But it gives us a three knot kick to the north so that for most of the 11 hours we manage to stay in the stream we are going at almost 9.5 knots over the bottom. We opt for St. Augustine, the more northerly port, as our destination. We see no other sailboats and only a couple of freighters along the way, and the moon at night is almost full and completely beautiful. When we leave the stream at about 7:00 a.m. the wind has come up to about 15 knots and we are able to sail at about seven knots for a few hours. We begin to have visions of arriving by 5:00, but the wind dies once again as the day heats up and in addition we encounter some kind of counter current, likely an eddy off of the Gulf Stream, so we frequently can’t even make five knots. We are now worried about arriving after dark and begin to develop strategies for dealing with that. Elisabeth disappears into the galley and after awhile emerges with a delicious salad Nicoise. We are not going to let little problems like perhaps arriving after dark and not having charts of the local anchorages keep us from eating well on Singoalla. To solve the charts problem we try to call a marina in St. Augustine, but we are still 20 miles or so from the coast and we do not have good telephone reception. But oddly enough, reception is good enough on our Blackberry to receive and send emails. We take advantage of this quirk of modern technology to email our daughter, Catharina and ask her to call the marina in St. Augustine to discuss the situation. She finds that there is room at the marina, but also that it is quite possible to anchor just north of the Bridge of Lions, the first bridge south of the St. Augustine inlet on the Intracoastal Waterway. Then, for maybe the first time ever we are pleased to see thunderstorms developing over land. They generate enough wind that we are able to get our speed up over six knots and calculate that we will be able to arrive at the St. Augustine sea buoy just before sunset. A benefit of our new found speed is that a pod of dolphins comes to play in our bow wave and keeps us entertained for about 45 minutes. We speculate that this is their version of a ski trip. As we get closer to land our telephone reception improves enough for Catharina to call us. She has looked at the harbor on Google Earth, and is able to give us a good description of where most boats are anchored, right in front of the old historic part of the city. The wonders of modern technology are really amazing. We turn on the radar to track the squalls and at first are comforted that they are about 20 miles away. As we continue to watch they slowly get closer. We are relieved that when we arrive at the sea buoy they are still about 6 miles away. We find our way through the inlet to the Intracoastal Waterway and head south to the Bridge of Lions to anchor. Here is another place where wind and current are opposed and it takes us two tries to be sure that we are safely attached to the bottom. By the time we are anchored it is completely dark. We are too tired for much dinner, so we have a glass of wine and some cheese and crackers and retire.
May 12, 2009, St. Augustine
The St. Augustine waterfront
After breakfast we launch the dinghy and go into the Municipal marina, which lies just south of the Bridge of Lions. It is an extraordinarily well run facility with friendly and helpful staff as well as the nicest showers we have seen in months. They help us contact the U.S. Customs office in Jacksonville as the local office is closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. After a few calls we are able to clear in by telephone, thanks to our Frequent Boater cards that we picked up in Puerto Rico. We go to Price’s Barber Shop, a large old fashioned barber shop just across the street from Flagler College, and Larry gets his first hair cut since February. Elisabeth is pleased to find that they also cut ladies’ hair, so she gets a trim as well. Larry has a craving for a good hamburger and the barber refers us to Cruisers Grill. The hamburgers are not only very good, but also very large. Nevertheless, Elisabeth has her craving for ice cream – satisfied at a small local ice cream parlor. We wander around the narrow streets of old St. Augustine, enjoying the atmosphere of America’s oldest city (and tourist attraction). When we return to Singoalla, cheese and crackers and a little wine prepare us for a very restful slumber.
May 13, 2009, St. Augustine
The Bridge of Lions is being restored to its former grandeur
Castillo de San Marcos from our anchorage
Chris Parker advises against sailing to Charleston for a few days, probably until Friday. A low pressure area off the coast is causing high adverse winds, waves and rain squalls – altogether a miserable picture. We decide to make the best of things and enjoy St. Augustine. Elisabeth does laundry and Larry updates the blog at the marina’s comfortable boater’s lounge. We go to Acapulco, an d attractive Mexican restaurant we noticed yesterday, for an excellent lunch. Acapulco is just across the street from the old Spanish fort, so we spend most of the afternoon exploring the Castillo de San Marcos. Never defeated in war, 5 different flags flew over the fort during its 150 years as an active military base. Sated with history, we now need charts of Charleston harbor, our next port of call. We walk the two miles to the West Marine store only to discover that they don’t have the charts we need. It is very hot and we see a Dunkin Donuts and immediately develop a raging thirst for iced coffee. Larry enjoys his first donut in five months. We make our way back to the boat and once again are satisfied with cheese and crackers for dinner, with a glass of wine as accompaniment. We are beginning to like this pattern of main meal in the middle of the day and a light supper in the evening.
May 14, 2009, St. Augustine
Today is a lazy day. We relax on the boat watching the rain showers go by. We take advantage of a break in the rain to go into town just in time to shower before lunch. We have a better than expected lunch at the Casa Habana across the street from the marina. We spend a couple of hours wandering around the city enjoying the sights, then return to Singoalla in mid afternoon. We prepare the boat for tomorrow’s passage: outboard on the stern rail, dinghy on deck and lashed down, waypoints entered in the chart plotter, etc. Since we don’t have a paper chart of Charleston harbor we will have to rely on the electronic charts in the chart plotter. As long as the electronics stay up this is fine, it just means that we don’t have a back up if something happens to the electronic systems. We don’t like that, but this time we have no choice. We do have two spare gps instruments and we have noted all the waypoints so we can use the other devices if the primary one goes down. Again we have a light supper and go to bed early, as we want to get away as soon as we can tomorrow.
May 15 – 16, 2009, St. Augustine, Florida – Charleston, South Carolina
Chris Parker’s 6:30 forecast is encouraging: light wind in the morning, filling in from the south east in the afternoon. We are out of the harbor by 7:30 and raise the sails at the harbor entrance sea buoy. We quickly realize that the genoa is not contributing – the wind is too light. We furl the genoa and start the engine and poke along at about five knots for a few hours. Another boat that left the harbor just after us is doing the same thing on almost the same course, so we have a companion in sight for several hours. The wind increases a little at about noon so we unfurl the genoa and continue under main, genoa and engine at almost 6 knots. At 2:00 we are visited by a pod of dolphins who play in te bow wave for a while before moving on. At 3:00 the wind veers a little and increases to 12 knots. This enables us to kill the engine and sail at over 6 knots for several hours. The wind slackens a little at sunset, but we don’t have to start the engine again until 2:00 a.m. when the wind dies completely. It is important that we maintain at least five knots in order to reach Charleston harbor during daylight hours. If we are late we will have to sail back and forth off the coast all night, and the forecast for Sunday is for deteriorating weather. We see a couple of freighters and a tug and barge during the night but little else until Elisabeth is startled just before 6:00 a.m. by a motor boat that speeds by our bow unnecessarily close. Chris Parker’s morning forecast tells us to expect continued light wind until the afternoon. In an uncanny demonstration of modern technology, we tell him that we see some nasty looking thunderheads with a lot of rain under them a few miles off to starboard. He is able to see them on satellite imagery and tells us not to worry. They are moving off to the northeast and our course keeps us safely out of harm’s way. As we approach Charleston from the south we sail over an area marke “dangerous area” on the chart. We interpret the notes to mean that there may be “unexploded ordinance” on the bottom left over from wartime mine-laying training exercises. Elisabeth sees three brown objects floating together beneath the surface about 15 feet to port of us as we pass by. Now we are concerned – were they mines, buoys or just turtles? We don’t know but keep a sharp lookout the rest of the way. The wind comes up at about 5:00, a little later than forecast. We are just a few miles from the harbor, but enjoy a quiet sail up to the entrance channel, then jibe to sail up the channel into the harbor. It is a busy channel and we meet a cruise ship and a freighter during the short time we are in it. Larry has entered electronic waypoints to take us up the Cooper River to the location marked on the chart for the Charleston City Boatyard. We drop the sails well inside the harbor and motor under the beautiful Ravenel Bridge. We think we are in luck because we should arrive at the marina just at slack tide, making docking an easy process. We try to contact the boatyard on VHF and on the telephone, but at 7:00 on Saturday evening we are not surprised that no one is there. We get to Daniels Bend on the Cooper River where the chart places the boatyard, but instead we find a navy base. There is no boatyard. Now we feel the absence of the paper chart. It is almost sunset and we are not sure where we can safely anchor. The Cooper River Marina doesn’t answer our calls on either VHF or telephone. We head back down theriver looking for a place where boats are anchored or for another marina. We are able to contact Charleton harbor Marina, just below the Ravenel Bridge, and they have room for us. They guide us in through their breakwater and help us tie up just before it becomes full dark. We feel that we have dodged a bullet. We are too tired for dinner, so we showere in the marina’s nice facility, have a glass of wine and slip quietly into slumber.
May 17, 2009, Charleston Harbor Marina – Charleston City Boatyard
Dirk and Larry mug for the camera. Long pants and foul weather gear for the first time in months.
The dock master at the marina tells us that Charleston City Boatyard is up the Wando River – we should have turned right instead of left after passing under the Ravenel Bridge. Larry finds a cruising guide with an arrow pointing up the river indicating that the boatyard is off the chartlet up river, but it doesn’t say how far. We look around the grounds of the hotel associated with the marina for future reference. When we return to Singoalla and look at the current station on the chart plotter we realize that slack tide is in only an hour. Our friend Wendy has recommended that we try to arrive near slack water, so we cast off immediately. The electronic chart of the river is very good, if you don’t include putting the boatyard on the wrong river. We wind along the Wando River for about 9 miles. In places it is deep from shore to shore, but as we get farther up the channel becomes quite narrow and twisty. Fortunately there are easily visible range markers that enable us to stay in deep water. We pass slack tide and the river begins to flood as we pass bend after bend in the river without seeing the boatyard. We begin to think we have somehow missed it when Elisabeth sees “City Boatyard” on the roof of a building in the distance. The tide is now flooding, but there is space on the outer dock and we are able to turn into the current and come alongside very gently. While we are exploring the boatyard another boat is towed in by SeaTow, one of the commercial rescue services. Lison Life was on its way from Florida to Beaufort, but the stern gland where the propeller shaft exits the boat has begun to leak badly. Dirk and Silvia, a German couple who currently live in Michigan, did not dare to run the engine, so they called the towing service, which recommended City Boatyard for repairs and towed them here. Our sails are a little damp, but the forecast is for rain and more wind, so we spend the afternoon removing and flaking the sales, removing the bimini and dodger, stowing lines and blocks, putting “crew covers” on the cushions to protect them during storage and generally preparing the boat to be on land for several months. We invite Dirk and Silvia aboard for cocktails. We are amused and amazed to discover that they come from Konstanz, a lake on the German-Swiss border where Elisabeth spent several summers as a teenager. We have a marvelous time over pina coladas, and after they leave decide that our hors d’ouevres make a perfectly acceptable dinner. Sleep come soon after.
May 18, 2009, Charleston City Boatyard
Singoalla is ready to be hauled
Singoalla in the slings in preparation for hauling at Charleston City Boatyard
We register with the boatyard and discuss our schedule. The forecast is for several days of bad weather, so we want to haul the boat this afternoon. We are given a ride to the airport where we plan to rent a car by John, who introduces himself as an “externship” employee. We discover that he is a student at the IYRS marine systems course in Bristol that our son Erik has enrolled in for the fall. We are pleased that he speaks so warmly of the course. We find a Home Depot and buy a dehumidifier which we plan to install on the boat while she is stored. We hope this will reduce potential mildew problems. When we return to the boatyard we continue removing movable items from the deck, stowing down below, and packing for or trip home. In early afternoon we move the boat around the corner to the staging area for the haul out basin. The current has begun to flow upstream, so the dock approach is a little tricky, but we manage without problem. It is nice to get a compliment from the foreman at the boatyard for skilful boat handling. The boat is hauled, power washed and blocked in the late afternoon. We are able to see the damage done by the coral in the Bahamas – it is mostly cosmetic and easily repairable. Larry Knapp at the boatyard recommends Queen Anne’s Revenge in Daniels Island for dinner, and Dirk and Silvia join us for a pleasant evening there. We spend our next-to-last night in Singoalla and it is none too pleasant, as there are half-packed bags, sails and other items that have been removed from their cabinets for better ventilation, everywhere. We are glad that we only have one more night on board.
May 19, 2009, Charleston City Boatyard
Larry, Silvia and Dirk in the boatyard.
We drive Dirk and Silvia to the airport to rent a car, eat a monster breakfast at Denny’s and then return to the yard. We remove the boom and lash it to the deck. We lash down the frames for the bimini and the dodger. We finish packing our bags and put them in the car. We remove the cockpit speakers that have ceased to function so we can return them to Bose for repair. We go to Lowe’s, buy a 16 foot 2 x 4 and rig a tent over the cockpit to keep the varnish ot of the summer sun. In general, we spend a very long day working non-stop to get ready for several months “on the hard”. Finally we are done. We shower and drive into Charleston for dinner at the Hominy Grill, a wonderful restaurant specializing in traditional southern food that Larry Knapp has recommended. Once again his recommendation is a great success. When we return we climb under our “tent” to a final night of sleep in only slightly organized chaos.
May 20, 2009, Charleston City Boatyard – Bristol, Rhode Island
The alarm goes off at 5:45. We work frantically for two hours doing last minute packing, closing up the boat and checking out of the boatyard. By 8:00 we are on our way home and our blog is done until we return in December to head south again.