Monday, January 11, 2010

One Thousand Miles

We’ve come a thousand miles! We’re now in Daytona Beach, FL. We totally missed Beaufort, SC while waiting out the passing of the remnants of Hurricane Ida – that morphed into a nor’easter (I didn’t know hurricanes could do that – I think of hurricanes as a summer or early autumn phenomenon and nor’easters as winter phenomena) and battered our friends in Annapolis. The storm “only had wind gusts of 35 knots (roughly 40 mph) where we were anchored in Factory Creek near Beaufort, although with the 4 days of drizzly rain and chill that was unpleasant enough. The strong winds might cause the anchor to drag so we weren’t comfortable leaving the boat for a very long period to go explore the town, nor was the weather conducive to spending a lot of time outdoors. Neither could we continue south in those conditions, so we stayed in the anchorage until the weather settled, along with about 20 other boats. The manager of the nearby Lady’s Island marina was wonderfully understanding of everyone’s circumstances and assisted with local knowledge and fun sea stories – he cruised with “Skipper Bob” the author of the guide we’re using down the ICW. We did laundry and bought groceries and shared an evening with fellow Maryland cruisers Larry and Suzi who were also idled waiting out the storm. “Buying groceries” is quite different than it was when we lived on land. We both suited up in full foul weather gear, took the dinghy to shore, then walked about a mile to the grocery store. We shopped buying only what would fit in a hand basket to make sure we didn’t get too much to carry home. Then it was a mile walk home, then bail the rain that had accumulated in the dinghy before going back to the boat. Just buying yogurt, bananas, bread, and a few fresh veggies took most of the afternoon. Sometimes I miss my car!

(By the way, there’s a city named Beaufort in North Carolina and another with the same name in South Carolina. The one in the north is pronounced “Bo-fort” and the one in the south is “Bu-fort.” Locals can be quite fussy about the pronunciation; we once heard a sailboat trying to hail the “Bo-fort” marina and when the marina came on line they rather emphatically identified themselves as “This is the *Bu-fort* marina…” Although I don’t know the history of the distinct pronunciations I made up a little mnemonic to keep from offending anyone: the word “south” has a u in it so you pronounce the town in South Carolina with a u “Bu-fort.” And the word “north” only has an o in it so you pronounce the town in North Carolina with an o “Bo-fort.” Corny but it works.)

As soon as the weather settled we were on our way. Georgia was a bit of a navigational chess game. Tides here range 8 or 9 feet and the Army Corps of Engineers, who maintain the waterway, don’t dredge here, they tell you to just time your passage through shoaly areas to coincide with high tide. (No fooling! Some of those places have only a few feet of water at low tide and we need almost 5 feet to safely pass.) So that’s what we did, leaving at first light one morning and a leisurely late start on another, to time it right. One evening we came in late, in one of the most dramatic orange and magenta sunsets we’d seen, to anchor in New Teakettle Creek to the most amazing chorus of hoots and squawks that sounded more like monkeys than birds. They were loud and everywhere, and they stopped all at once at dusk.

After several nights in the marshes, we came out toward Jekyll Island – the only part of the trip where we hadn’t been able to time a stretch of river for high tide. Instead, we reached this stretch at the absolute worst time – dead low tide. We picked our way slowly, carefully through the thin stream of water edged by exposed mud flats. The good news, James informed us, was that if we got stuck (grounded) we only had a short wait until the tide started rising again and we’d float back off. Fortunately that wasn’t necessary and we passed through into deeper water and anchored a short distance downstream. We went out to dinner and came back by dinghy well after dark. The dinghy’s propeller stirred up phosphorescence in the water – it looked like the dinghy had a glowing green comet tail.

And speaking of outer space, next day we saw the smoke trail from the space shuttle launch, although we were too far away to hear the rumble. Or maybe not, with the engine running who can tell? We crossed the border into Florida. We’re now at 29 degrees 11 minutes latitude (our slip in Annapolis is at 38 degrees 57 minutes). For the first time we’re wearing shorts and tee shirts and sunburn is more than an abstract concept. We went into the municipal marina in St Augustine and took a layover day to explore the historic city. (Tell you about it in the next post.)

(originally published 20 November 2009)

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