Monday, October 27, 2014


I'm reading blogs and Facebook posts from people who are making their way south and dealing with chilly strong winds in the Chesapeake and the northern parts of North Carolina.  I'm feeling smug, sitting here in a thin t-shirt and sunglasses, just a short day's sail north of Georgia.  As we settle into this cruising life, every time we make the trip, we seem to go slower than the previous year, make more stops in different places, and the bar for weather we deem suitable for traveling slowly rises from good-enough to good to better to darn-near-perfect.  And every year,  I find myself enjoying the trip more and more, as it becomes less of a slog southward to a destination and more of an exploration.  We stay in some places longer, and get to know them a little deeper, than we did early in our travels.  My memories are less about the process of sailing this time, and more about the people whose paths crossed ours, and the wonder of the slowly-unreeling film of lowcountry life, passing at average boat speed of 5 knots (not quite 6 mph, or about the pace of a moderate run).

A collage of places that stuck in my memory along this portion of the ICW:

Waiting for the fog to lift coincided perfectly
 with my desire for a second pot of coffee
and a lazy start to the morning, at Camp Lejeune

We'd look at the hodgepodge of houses along the shore
and try to imagine what it would be like to live in one of them.
 "That one?" "Nah, too big." "How 'bout that other one?"
 "Only if we could repaint it."
"This one's gigantic but their guest cabin looks about right for us" 

And sometimes all the houses along the water are HUGE, or
downright pretentious (Wrightsville Beach)

The Cape Fear River can be, well, fearsome, if strong winds
oppose its current of up to six knots.  Today, though, was sunny and calm.
We timed our run to get just a gentle push from the last of the ebbing tide,
and there was no fear.  Don't the loading cranes on the shore look like goofy erector-set giraffes?  

They're even the right color for giraffes!

It's always scary to cross paths with big, fast-moving commercial traffic,
but we were the attraction for this ferry-load of passengers crossing the river.

Motoring along tree-lined canal and
Waccamaw River reaches,
some days are hazy...

...and some are sparkling

Intricate side-channels in the cypress swamps.
I think it would be wonderful to explore these with a kayak or dinghy.

Generally, the ICW is a motor trip for most of its length.
Too many twists and turns, narrow cuts, bridges and shoals.
but sometimes, the forces align and we prove
sailing is sometimes possible on the ICW!

We are, as I mentioned, rather ahead of the "pack" of migrating snowbirds, so several times we had normally popular anchorages to ourselves.  Well, alone except for the duck perched on this dilapidated dock.  And silent, except for the occasional bark of a small dog.  I kept looking around for the dog until I figured it out.  Every time the "dog" barked, the duck shook his head.  He had something caught in his throat, I'm guessing, and every few minutes he'd shake his head and cough.  But his cough sounded exactly like the bark of a small dog.  I can see the writeup in the guidebooks now:  Minim Creek -- so quiet, you can hear a duck bark.

This life takes us to lovely places.  Anchorage sunrise ...

... and sunset. 

People in my collage:
We spent an evening laughing with new cruisers who are rapidly gaining experience, fellow blogger Tammy (Things We Did Today) and her husband Bruce.  We'd followed each others blogs for years, but this was the first time we'd met IRL.  And because we'd been reading each other's work for so long, when we met the conversation didn't start at the beginning, we'd covered all that ground online before. Online friendships are fun that way, though somewhat confusing for the spouses, no doubt.  And Bruce rolled with it, politely reminding us of the imbalance by starting a conversation offering an introduction and capsule history of his sailing and how he came to be here, and invited us to do the same, so we were all at least somewhat "on the same page" conversationally.  Shared stories, and giggles, never slowed down from that point until it was time to go home.

We decided to wait an extra day or two, and not coincidentally wait out a predicted storm, in the anchorage in Wrightsville Beach so we could connect with Paul and Deb (Lat43).  We had first met them in St Augustine where they had a car and were gracious enough to offer us a ride for some errands (a standard, but never to be underestimated, cruiser courtesy).   And then to our surprised delight, when we docked in Beaufort, SC several weeks later, we saw the bow of their boat just across the fairway from where we tied up.  This time we were the ones with the car, and we were able to return their favor from 6 months and 250 miles ago.
It's five o'clock somewhere!
Love this set of wall clocks we found in a bar we visited with Paul and Deb.
We also took the opportunity in Wrightsville to go out to dinner with friends Tom and Debbie, who had their boat docked near ours back in Annapolis, but had a house, and careers, in North Carolina.

Meeting up with former Annapolis dock neighbors
Tom and Debbie at a restaurant they recommended.
Extra points for ambiance, and the portions were HUGE!

Columbus Day weekend is the fall sailboat show, and pretty much end of sailing season in Annapolis, but it found us warm and secure at Isle of Palms (just north of Charleston, SC).  Boating season here was still in full swing and there was a non-stop parade of watercraft off the stern of our boat, everything from stand-up paddleboards and jetskis, sailboats and powerboats in a range of sizes.  We were docked next to the eco-tours charter boat, and had lots of interesting conversations with the captain and crew.  And when they came back from trips with more leftover food and wine than they could use and offered it to us, who were we to refuse?

My wonderful sister-in-law Karen and her husband James just love the Myrtle Beach area, and have been visiting for many years.  It always baffled me because they seem to love nature and quiet, but the one time we visited the town we saw a bustling boardwalk with a big ferris wheel and lots of tacky tourist shops; didn't seem like them at all.
Myrtle Beach boardwalk and Ferris wheel, photo from here
So this trip, we arranged to dock at a marina not too far from where they were camped in their travel trailer, and asked them to show us what was special to them about the town.  And she really took the task to heart!  They spent the day driving us here and there, their favorite fishing pier, the hotel they stayed at 20 years ago when it had another owner, the Walmart that was built where a popular miniature golf course used to be, memories of the changes the town has gone through.  They commented on the run-down areas and the glitzy new built-up ones, and took us to check out a marina in the heart of the action as an alternative to the quiet, wooded one we were staying at, since without a car the entertainment options are limited.  We also spent some time exploring their camper, and chatting about the similarities and differences between it and our boat.  Our spaces share the same extreme efficiency of space where all the furniture is either built in or folds down (or folds up), and storage is in whatever odd corner or nook or cranny that isn't otherwise occupied.  Unlike our boat, though, her camper stays FLAT -- all the time!  And even if you mess up, it can't sink!  On the other hand, we can jump off the back of ours to go for a swim.  We don't have to be quite as careful about the added weight of our possessions, since we have a whole hull to hold ours up instead of 4 tires.  And we have unlimited salt water available to flush with.  The funniest coincidence of all though, is that the place they are camped is an RV resort called Pirateland. She insisted they chose the place for its amenities rather than because its piratey theme, which was carried out throughout the park, made her think of us.

In the registration office of PirateLand.
Who would've thought a brother and sister from landlocked Kansas
would both be drawn to the ocean as adults?

They even had this life-size guy swinging from the ceiling

There are some places that we seem to miss every time we come through, or that other people rave about that we just can't understand the attraction.  We made a point of trying to spend time in some of these bypassed places this trip.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Fast Update

Our internet is limited, but our adventures haven't been!  Here's a quick update till we get into a place we can provide a longer one.  With the work list finally finished, we left Oriental on Sept 28, resolved that we were going to make our way south very leisurely.  And we did - a half-day motoring took us to Morehead City, where we traded sea stories with friend Rob and tried a new brewpub for dinner. Then it was one night anchored out at a favorite anchorage in the middle of Camp Lejeune, a long travel day then anchored a few nights in Wrightsville Beach, connecting up with blogging friends Paul and Deb of Latitude 43, some anchor drag drama that I'll write about when we're in port for a while, and an evening with old Annapolis dock neighbors Tom and Debbie.  We had hoped for a marina here because of predicted bad weather but they were full; luckily next day when even worse weather was predicted they had a cancellation and we grabbed it.  Nice to sleep soundly when the wind is blowing 30 knots and the rain is dumping!  Three easy short days took us to our next stop at the south end of Myrtle Beach, one of my favorite reaches on the trip.  And fun for other reasons -- we promised ourselves that we would make sure this trip wasn't "work," an ordeal slogging our way south.  With short (6-hour) days of travel, we still had plenty of time after the anchor was set in the afternoon to read books, cook a fun dinner, talk, (and of course, have a glass of rum -- you wouldn't know it was us otherwise right?).  And we planned only 2-3 days each stretch before a layover day to explore, rest, or meet friends.  The pace was lovely!  And at Myrtle we had a treat planned, a visit with Dan's sister and her husband, who have been vacationing here for decades, a great chance for us to get a true insiders view -- and we did!  On tomorrow (weather permitting) to Charleston and then Beaufort.  When we get to Beaufort we'll linger a while, and I'll update with more details, some sea stories, and some pictures.