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A Cold Front Comes to Florida

Finally we have made it to Florida!  A state where the weather is warm and palm trees aplenty.  As it goes, also the day a cold front squall line came through bringing colder air and rain!

ICW by Velocir

We found a great anchorage with southern protection at Ft. George River, home to the Kingsley Plantation National Heritage Site.  It is the oldest plantation still standing in America.  We were able to walk around for about 15 mins before they closed.  The buildings and house were very small and modest for what I’d imagined a plantation would appear to be.

The interesting history is that the owner had 40,000 acres (the entire area we had traveled from Cumberland Island to here).  He was from Senegal and purchased his wife as a slave from Cuba, moving them to Spanish Florida to become merchants.  She was his business partner and they advocated against restricting the rights of people because of race.  When the civil liberties of blacks were reduced through laws (ie Florida coming under the rule of the Unites States), he moved his family safely to Haiti.  A bit different from a lot of plantation histories I’ve read about.

ICW by Velocir

Throughout the night, alarms kept going off at the plantation waking us up!  The next morning, a cold front swept over the island.  The temperature dropped and the wind picked up.  We were happy to be protected from the storm and spent the day chartplotting our schedule and reading some good books.

ICW by Velocir

The next day we headed out at the break of dawn to get a favorable current to the St. Johns River and beyond.  The St. Johns River can have currents upwards of 6 kts (we can motor about 5 kts!)

ICW by Velocir

As we left the anchorage we came across a cruising boat that had the night before anchored off the ICW instead of in a known anchorage.  As you can see, the problem with anchoring on the narrow banks of the ICW is that the tide may drop quite a bit, leaving you uncomfortable and stuck for about 6 hours.

ICW by Velocir

As we approached our first bridge in  Florida, Sisters Creek Bridge, we were shocked to see that the bridge was actually opening BEFORE WE WERE EVEN THERE!!!!!!!  This was a momentous occasion, as most bridges like to have us wait, and wait, and wait.

ICW by Velocir

Soon after we crossed St. Johns River, one of the busiest shipping channels on the East Coast, and happy to have our AIS onboard.  Here is a snapshot of what the river looked like as we crossed.  We are the red boat.  You can see our track and where we are going.  What AIS does is show the boats around us in green or yellow, their names, how fast they are going and in what direction.  It also records their tracks.  All of the boats in the river are moving very fast, but we have a good opening. (note: the boats just above us with the black dots are superyachts that are hauled out on land still transmitting their positions, lol)

ICW by Velocir

We had hoped for a bit of sailing with a strong west wind, but that didn’t pick up until the afternoon and was very southerly.  We only got a few minutes of sailing out of it.  At the time of writing this we are anchored just north of St. Augustine, excited to explore the city tomorrow!

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Cumberland Island, GA

A few miles from our Thanksgiving spot, Cumberland Island National Seashore is known for its nature and wealth of history.

Cumberland Island by Velocir

Once a mansion named Dungeness during the Revolutionary War period, it was owned and restored by the Carnegie family and became a popular a social elite retreat in the 1930s.  The mansion was gutted by fire and in the 1970s it was donated to the NPS.

Cumberland Island by Velocir

Only the ruins remain.  Other buildings and mansions are scattered throughout, including the work areas and homes of the over 300 people it took to run this estate.  It is said the wife of Thomas Carnegie, Lucy, wanted her 9 children raised away from the stresses of industry.  They spent most of their lives here and had their own houses throughout.  There are still some private homes here.

Cumberland Island by Velocir

The cars were parked in a neat row and have not moved.

Cumberland Island by Velocir

Still only reachable by boat, Cumberland Island is well-known for its plethora of landscapes: forests, marsh, beaches, etc.

Cumberland Island by Velocir

We walked the boardwalk along the marsh, watching crabs run into their holes and large oyster beds surfaced at low tide.

Cumberland Island by Velocir

We hiked through the dunes covered with brush and trees, like a desert of driftwood.

Cumberland Island by Velocir

On the beach, there were some really interesting shells and wildlife everywhere.  We found a striped puffer fish and type of clam with a fan-like shell.

Cumberland Island by Velocir

We also came across a huge horseshoe crab.  Amelia got pretty excited, because she thinks they are really cute.  The shell was at least a foot wide!

Cumberland Island by Velocir

We would have loved to stay longer in this beautiful place.  But we plan to find many more beaches to spend the day walking very soon.  On to Florida!

Happy Thanksgiving!

We wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving and are thinking about all our family and friends and how much we love you.  We hope you all had a great day and feasted!

ICW by Velocir

We spent the day in St. Marys, GA at a “Cruiser’s Thanksgiving.”  The town provides the turkey and ham and the cruisers bring the side dishes.  Many many boats came and were anchored out for this event.  It was a nice chance to see other boats and meet people.

ICW by Velocir

The morning of Thanksgiving we had a some heavy winds coming out of the North. Around 10 a.m. the current switched to run fast the opposite direction of the wind. Pandemonium went on like a light-switch. In this picture you can see the different directions the boats are in with the strong current and wind opposing each other. Most boats started to swing and sail wildly around on their anchors. Closer to town, many boats in the fleet began to drag anchor and hit one another.  It went on for hours; some people ran aground and some played bumpercars.  Thankfully, our area made it without any problems.

ICW by Velocir

Because it was still windy and people were having problems we didn’t want to leave the boat alone, so Grant stayed onboard and Amelia went in to drop off the rice pudding she had made and bring back food.  (People didn’t seem to know what rice pudding was but I hope they enjoyed it). The line got very long, but Amelia was towards the front.

ICW by Velocir

At 1 p.m. they started the line and Amelia dished up all our favorites into tupperware and plastic bags: mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, rolls, stuffing, cranberry sauce, turkey and sweet potatoes.  There was also pumpkin pie and pecan pie.  The food was all there but we still missed family.

ICW by Velocir

Amelia came back to Velocir with all the food in a cooler bag.  It was nice that it worked out that way because we could eat together without a noisy crowd around us.

ICW by Velocir

Plates full, we stuffed ourselves until our stomachs hurt!  It is fun to think back because every year we seem to be in a different place for Thanksgiving.  Next year, who knows!

Fort Frederica & Submarine Sighting

The past two days really made us appreciate why we are cruising.  History, nature and sweeping landscapes (among other things).

Day One: Long day of motoring the ICW through Georgia.  It was a shallow draft day, seeing depth of predominately 6 ft, lowest about 5.5 ft.  The tide was way low. We were glad to be able to travel today. Other boats may not have.

ICW by Velocir

In the above photo you can see an arc in the mud where a boat ran into the shallows and then skirted away.  Now the tide is even lower, and we must traverse the edge in the shallow channel.

Albin Vega Velocir Photo

We were very isolated among the marshland and sand dunes.  A motorboat ride, but very beautiful.

Fort Frederica by Velocir

We made it to Fort Frederica at about two in the afternoon.  A sunny warm day (at last!).  The Fort is part of a town built in the 18th century to claim Georgia for Britain, with the Spanish at St. Augustine to the south.  There were houses and roads, orchards and cemeteries.  Each person was handpicked for the colony based on their skills as farmers, builders, etc.  There was a “decisive” battle near the fort and on the island in which the Spanish retreated.  In the end, it seemed no one wanted to live there.  Most people left after five years, there was a fire and then everyone left. It wasn’t until the 1940s that it became a historical place of interest and it is now part of the NPS.  They had a movie and great audio tour.

Fort Frederica by Velocir

The Spanish moss on the trees was beautiful.  We learned that it is an air plant, relative to the pineapple. Hard to believe!

Fort Frederica by Velocir

When I visited here as a kid, I thought the coolest part was the cannons and fort barracks.  This time, the orange trees beside the foundations of what was once a house stood out to me.  People lived there and planted those trees brought from Europe.  They dreamed the land would be prosperous (instead marshy and buggy).  Finally, also have to mention they had an interesting mix of Scottish, German and English settle the colony.  All in search of land and religious freedom.

ICW by Velocir

Albin Vega Velocir in Frederica River

Day Two:  Woke up to another calm day with no breeze.  Swarmed by bugs, we got moving as quickly as possible.  Many inlets to cross today, the most beautiful was at northern Cumberland Island, a park we plan to go back to after Thanksgiving.

Cumberland Island by Velocir

Huge sandy cliffs swept across the sky. A lighthouse in the distance.

ICW by Velocir

As we neared St. Mary’s, GA we passed through Kings Bay, which is a military submarine area.  Along the docks, we could see a British submarine.  Then, after passing through, the Coast Guard came up to us and other boats, asking us to leave the channel and keep our distance.  We went as close to shore as possible and continued along the river.  A cruising sailboat behind us had not crossed into the Bay and was seen having to turn around, darn!

ICW by Velocir

Soon a large tugboat, followed by a large Coast Guard ship came out.  Then, flanked by two large vessels, the submarine made its was through the channel.  It was massive, and much larger than the other one we had seen docked earlier.

ICW by Velocir

What a treat to travel with a submarine!

Now we are anchored in St. Mary’s and looking forward to Thanksgiving!

Georgia Offshore…then Inshore

We found a good weather window and decided to go offshore from Calibogue Sound (just north of Savannah, GA) to Brunswick, GA.  They were predicting winds 10-15 kts decreasing to 5 kts overnight and 2-3 ft waves.

Sailing Velocir Offshore

We got about 3 miles offshore and found a steady 15 kts with seas 3-4 ft.  It was a bumpy ride but we got the Navik set on the Albin Vega and split into watches.

Sailing Velocir Offshore

Amelia was on the first watch, feeling very seasick and stressed.  She is not used to being on such a tiny boat in the ocean, but toughened it out and on the watch change went below to feel better.  Very quickly going down below did not result in her feeling better, and the decision was made to head in rather than risk safety having one person at less than 100% before dark.  Also, the swells were bigger then expected and being out there in 5 kts wouldn’t have given us much distance.

Grant used his watch to head into Wassaw Sound and anchor outside the channel just before dark.  We were disappointed (we probably lost time going outside and back in than doing a normal day on the ICW) but knew it was the right decision.

The next morning, the wind was less than 5 kts and reports of waves still at 3-4 ft.  We made our way back to the ICW for a long day of motoring.

As we rounded into the ICW on Skidaway River we entered fourth in a line of five sailboats, the last being a little farther behind.  Minutes later a Sea Tow boat came zooming by all of us in the other direction (northbound) throwing a big wake.  One of the boats in front of us said “Thanks for the wake Sea Tow.”  Then one or two muffled exchanges we didn’t hear clearly.  Then Sea Tow said in a threatening voice “Which boat was that? I’m coming over and we’ll’ ‘talk’ about it.”  He turned around and then buzzed up to all three sailboats in front of us to confront them (apparently).  Seems like no one came forward because he left again, throwing another wake.  We were a little bit shocked Sea Tow would A) throw the wake and B) threaten a cruising boat.  Well, it was entertaining for us and bad for Sea Tow.  Headline:  Sea Tow throws wake on line of cruising sailboats and then turns around to threaten them.

ICW by Velocir

As we got further into Georgia we saw this boat anchored and thought “Welcome to Georgia.”

ICW by Velocir

Here is another boat to add to Grant’s growing collection of “Sunken Boat Pictures.”

ICW by Velocir

More and more beautiful marshland surrounds us.  The air smells sweet.  We can hear the birds and see dolphins.  We even passed a sign indicating Manatees are close-by!  We hope to visit Fort Frederica and Cumberland Island in the coming week to explore more of this unique natural habitat.  Also, there is a big Cruiser’s Thanksgiving in St. Mary’s, GA we plan to feast at!

ICW by Velocir

Family, Friends and Projects

Last week was spent visiting family and friends in Beaufort, SC.  A little vacation from blogging and cruising, a lot of great seafood and a cute little town.  We even drove in a car to Savannah, GA for the day- very exciting and a beautiful place!

While there we heard about and are going to join the OCC. Our friends in Beaufort, SC are Port Officers for The Ocean Cruising Club, a group originated in the UK, with members from around the world.  We had not heard about it before but it sounds like a great way to meet other cruisers and Port Officers in 46 different countries will “host” other members by giving them knowledge of their area.  In order to join you need at least 1000 miles offshore non-stop in a boat under 70 feet.  Fortunately, last year we helped some friends sail their boat from the Bahamas to Newport, RI non-stop, so now (if we are accepted) we can be a part of this group!

While there, we also completed two Albin Vega projects we had been looking forward to.

  Nature's Head in Albin Vega Velocir

The first: installing a new composting head.  We had not been happy with our previous composting head. It had many problems including leaking (TMI?).  Anyway, we have gone with a Nature’s Head that just fits barely in our head (bathroom) area.  After about a week we are very happy and thrilled with it.  No smell, easier to use and no leaks.  We got it from Bacon Sails in Annapolis, who is now a dealer.

The second: installing a soft water tank forward.  We have the original Albin Vega water tank that is 30 gallons plastic in the forward v-berth section. Before we left, we installed a 20 gallon plastic square tank under the cockpit hatch on the starboard side forward.  With the amount of weight we have in the aft, the cockpit drains fill into the cockpit rather easily.  On one off-shore passage we had water leak down into the main cabin along the lower trim tabs and pool, swashing around and unable to make it to the drainage area near the batteries.  We had resealed the cockpit floor hatch.  Now, to lessen weight aft and move it forward, we have taken a 40 gallon (not filled all the way) Plastimo soft water tank and installed it also under the v-berth just behind the other tank, and emptied our original secondary tank.  The weight is a little bit better but not by a lot.  We now have more water storage though with three tanks!  (still unsure where to store what was previously in that storage area)

Charleston: A Charming Old City

We had a wonderful sail to Charleston with a great breeze.  Our friends, Way Happy, did the trip with us and shared a couple great shots and video of Velocir.  Thanks Capt. K & Lala!

Velocir Sailing in Charleston

Wing on Wing in Charleston Harbor- (Wing on Wing is what it’s called when the main and genoa sails are on separate sides of the boat)

Velocir Sailing in Charleston

Spinnaker sailing in the canal with the current helping us!  We are going about 7 kts here which is super fast for us.

We didn’t know if we would make it Charleston so quickly.  But with the wind and current helping us it was easy.  We’ve anchored close to shore and are excited to go exploring in a place with such a rich history, beautiful buildings and warm weather.

Charleston by Velocir

First we looked online for a self-guided walking tour, not wanting to spend a lot seeing the city.  It seems as if they don’t exist.  Perhaps purposeful, as Charleston is big on its over 20 varieties of walking tours.  Still, we found just walking around was enough to keep us interested and learning.

Charleston by Velocir

Every street was so interesting we kept walking around every corner.  This shrubbery on the staircase was popular.  I think we saw everything in the end, and there were plenty of plaques to read on buildings.

Charleston by Velocir

They call Charleston the Holy City, maybe because it is filled with churches and steeples on every block?  Very beautiful, and we explored some of the cemeteries.  There were a lot of people here named Susan in the 19th century.

Charleston by Velocir

On Thursday we went out to eat!  Our rule, “One Date Per State” had to fall in Charleston.  A college and tourist town, they have a little bit of everything.  We chose a restaurant called “Virginia’s on King” (King being the main street) for their great reviews on southern cajun inspired food.  There is a lot of reference to the “Lowcountry” here, and their star dishes were Fried Green Tomatoes (above), She-Crab Soup, Shrimp and Grits and Chicken and Dumplings (below).

Charleston by Velocir

All were amazing!  It’s fun to go out for a meal when it’s something we couldn’t really make on the boat.  And I’m not attempting the delicious Fried Green Tomatoes anytime soon.

Charleston by Velocir

Walking all over the place we saw so many cool buildings.  The lots and houses here are huge for a city.  In this historic area, there is no clutter of office buildings and high-rises, making it so charming. (Also, we would like to mention that there are a million female 20 something joggers here.  Constantly!!  All women here wear jogging outfits and/or jog.  The men not so much.)

Charleston by Velocir

As we travel we also keep a working list of places we might like to live.  So far we are adding places including Charleston, SC and Beaufort, NC since the voyage began.  This is in addition to a dozen other places.  We look forward to the Farmer’s Market in Marion Square on Saturday and then off southward!

Charleston by Velocir

So Much Pumpkin!

Not wanting any of our food to go to waste, I once again looked to my pumpkin recipe book for some guidance.  I have a pumpkin pie recipe I really love, but wanted to try the Pumpkin Cheesecake from the book so we found some cream cheese in Charleston after a massive search. (Note: in trendy cities “market” is code for overpriced sandwiches with wine, and “grocery” is code for cheap sandwiches with beer).

Pumpkin 1: Pumpkin Cheesecake

Pumpkin by Velocir

I guessed at two packages cream cheese but needed three.  I was also short one egg, had no rum and beat the egg whites as much as possible but they were only foamy, not stiff.  It wasn’t a problem in the end.

Original Recipe: 1 1/2 lbs. Cream Cheese (3 packages), 6 eggs yolks, 1 1/3 c. sugar, 2 tsp. ginger, 2 tsp. cinnamon, 1/4 tsp. salt, 3 tbs. honey, 2 tbs. rum, 2 c, pumpkin puree, 6 egg whites.  Directions: Combine all ingredients except egg whites.  Fold in stiffly beaten egg whites.   Bake at 325 for 20-25 mins.  (I left mine in longer).

Pumpkin by Velocir

I just mixed everything I had together and baked it anyway!  Probably for the best health-wise to have less cream cheese.

Pumpkin by Velocir

It was super-delicious.  Next time I will smooth out the cream cheese more.  It was a little lumpy but I thought it would maybe even out when baking.  Not the case, but didn’t affect the taste.

Pumpkin 2: Pumpkin Bread

Pumpkin by Velocir

This is a whole wheat bread and was very easy to make.  It is very good and I would recommend it for a breakfast food.  Also, luckily I have these nice baking pans that make it impossible for me to burn anything which I think is an important part of my baking coming out well sometimes.

Recipe: 2 c. brown sugar, 1 c. oil, 3 eggs, 2 c. pumpkin puree, 3 c. whole wheat flour, 1/2 tsp salt, 1 tsp baking powder, 1 tsp. ground cloves, 1 tsp. cinnamon, 1 tsp. nutmeg, 1/2 c. chopped pumpkin seeds.  Directions: Mix sugar and oil, adding eggs and beating well. Add pumpkin puree, then dry ingredients,  mixing well.  Bake 45-60 mins at 325 degrees.

Somewhere in the Swamps of South Carolina

Barefoot Marina was a such a treat! We got showers, laundry, secure dock and most importantly a hot tub! After this last cold spell we were so thrilled to be soaking in hot water. From camping to a resort! We even went out to dinner and grocery shopping. We were both pretty blown away at just how much of a hugely developed beach/tourism town Myrtle Beach was, and we were in North Myrtle Beach. We did enjoy walking by Alligator Adventures.

by Velocir

The next day we hit the waterway and put down some miles. Slowly the scenery changed from marsh to swampland. Swampland and multi-million dollar homes on the waterway/golf courses.

by Velocir

We had a nice day despite having to motor the whole way. The engine is now working as it should and we made good time. Only one bridge to go through today.

by Velocir

NOAA was calling for a gale that night, winds on the coast could break 50 knots. So, we planned to anchor deep in the swamps we were heading for. We ended up anchoring not quite where we planned, but it turned out to be a great spot.

by Velocir

The weather was not as bad as predicted and we had a good night. The next day was sunny, still a bit windy, but got to dry everything out after the rain. We decided to rest for a day here and relax a bit.

We got out for a bit of exploring, too.

by Velocir

Old wrecked boat on the island near us.

by Velocir

It was so beautiful and we loved the Spanish Moss.

by Velocir

It blew eerily in the wind.

by Velocir

by Velocir

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That night we heard someone come into the anchorage and blow an air horn. I immediately knew who it was. A year or so ago when we were still working on our boat and dreaming about our trip we found the blog of a young couple sailing an Albin Vega 27 (our same boat) from New England to the Bahamas. We followed their story  which was both fun and inspiring to follow.

They now have a bigger boat and are sailing it down South (and a new blog at www.way-happy.com). We had been in touch and hoping to meet up. Here they were! They spotted us as they were passing by and made a sharp turn to come visit. We had a great time finally meeting them and getting to hang out.

The next morning both boats headed out for Georgetown. We motored part way until the windy river opened up and then we got a great spinnaker sail right down to town.

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We made it to Georgetown today, it is a beautiful old southern town dominated by a huge ugly steel mill and paper mill. Tonight we are having our favorite Cream of Crab Soup with the crew of Way Happy. Tomorrow we go with the tide and work our way to Charleston.

by Velocir

Milestone: One Month!!

We’ve been cruising for one month and have made it from Annapolis, MD to Barefoot Landing, SC!  To celebrate, we are going out to dinner and staying at a marina for the first time!

Small not-really-but-kinda-rant about boating convoys:  Funny thing happened.  We passed a marina and noticed that there were four nice large sailboats that all looked similar with flags flying.  I said to Grant, “I bet they’re in a convoy, where they travel together as a group.”  Sure enough, a few hours later they had left the marina and were now passing us.  All from a small summer town in MD.  Now behind them, we hear on the radio channel 16 (for those that don’t know Ch 16 is a hailing and distress channel only, there are about 50 other channels for chatter”—Well, they say “Loose Folly Inlet”,  then a few minutes later “depth?”  We look at the chart.  We are coming up to that inlet.  Then seconds later “20”…..”depth?”  “14.”  and on it went.   EVERY BIRD SPOTTING WAS SHARED AMONG THE GROUP!  Jan especially was interested in the birds: “Heron and Egret to port! Heron with fish ahead”.  Well, not really interested in hearing about the egret a mile in front of us and irritated that I now know her name is Jan only because she’s talking on a distress channel for emergencies, I finally said “Please be advised CH 16 is for hailing and distress, please pick a party channel if you would like to share information about birds.”  It didn’t really help, but ugh, why?!?!?!  P.S. I’m sure they’re nice people.

Small rant about bridges:  The past few days we have gone through quite a few swing bridges.  We find that most of them are fine but a couple we have had irritating experiences with.  First,  RARELY do they ever respond to boaters requesting an opening.  The Figure Eight Island Swing Bridge told us when we requested a bridge opening at 11:28 (bridge opens on hour and half hour) that his clock read 11:34 and we were late.  I said “my watch must be slow.”  Then, 32 minutes later he promptly opened it for us and three other boats at 12:00 (our time).  Bridge tenders don’t open bridges 4 minutes early, so we had to wait a half hour in heavy current and drop our sails because he wouldn’t open it.  Also, while we waited he was hailed about the 12:00 bridge opening 6 times by different boaters and never responded to them.

Our other bad experience was today at Little River Swing Bridge.  We were in a line with two other boats we had all left the same anchorage with.  The first two boats went through but we were too far behind I think and he closed it on us, saying it would be a little while wait for the next bridge (this bridge opens on request).  As we were waiting, our engine started to overheat and we anchored in the channel next to the bridge.

Velocir Kubota Engine

Our raw water pump got loose and shifted, kinking it’s hose.  This had caused the engine to overheat and we were getting low oil pressure.  About 20 minutes later a huge cruise ship came through (American Cruise Lines, like we are used to seeing in St. Michaels, MD).  Luckily, they could get by us, but I noticed the bridge was already open for them, waiting, even before the point where earlier the bridge closed because we were too far away.  When we finally got going again, we had to wait for the bridge.  While this (unlike the previous bridge) is somewhat understandable, still I feel like we are treated like second-class boaters!

Velocir

The rest of the day to Barefoot Landing (a part of Myrtle Beach filled with restaurants and shopping) the scenery changed into interesting shrimping boats and less houses.  Without the the lines of houses with their break walls we could see more of the natural edges of the canal, which has turned from marsh to swamp.  Very beautiful, and we hope to anchor in a cypress swamp on our next stop.

by Velocir

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