We awoke at 0230 to drive to the airport. Three inches of snow on the ground…..great. We drove with one highway lane cleared and little salt on the road. We were almost to the airport parking lot when we slid sideways to a stop inches in front of a pole. Luckily, it was all very slow motion because we were not driving fast. Definitely the right time to get out of Annapolis, leaving Velocir in the snow, and head for the Bahamas to visit Amelia’s parents on their cruising sailboat, Motu Iti. (www.sailmotuiti.com)
Goldwin and Nancy have been relaxing in the Abacos this last month, and we are very happy to join them. Our first day was a bit breezy, but we headed over to a favorite of ours, Tahiti Beach, for some low tide nature viewing. The beach is a long sand bar that appears at low tide. The area is full of starfish, sand dollars, juvenile conch and other creatures.
Even though we have explored these waters before we always find something new, like this green starfish.
A rare sighting, this juvenile conch came out of its shell for us (trying to turn over).
The eyes always get us, they are oddly adorable making them extremely hard to turn into a meal. Luckily this one is not legally large enough to eat.
We zoomed around to a few good snorkeling spots. When Grant goes spearfishing he uses a pole spear with an elastic loop at the end (making it a homemade Hawaiian sling), dive weights to help him get down to look under crevices, a knife for safety and gloves to protect his hands from sharp lobster etc.
He found a spiny lobster in a grassy bank offshore, and speared it for dinner.
We also speared a few Lion Fish, an invasive species with no natural predators and dangerous spines. It is very much encouraged to spear them.
To finish our great day, Amelia made some conch fritters out of fresh-caught conch and a local batter Nancy had gotten.
It is hard to imagine that it was an entire year ago that we spent Thanksgiving aboard Velocir in St. Mary’s, GA: https://velocir.com/2011/11/24/happy-thanksgiving/
How time flies! We are thankful for family and friends this holiday season. Grant is thankful for our good health, Amelia is thankful for a life full of joy and Crew is thankful for treats……anything for treats.
Last month Velocir made it through hurricane Sandy’s strong winds unscathed. To prepare, we secured many lines to different connection points on Velocir and the dock. She was protected in her cove from the wind, so we just kept ready in case something happened but it was very mild. Our biggest fear was a tree falling, but luckily they held tight!
This week we winterized Velocir in anticipation of the long cold winter months ahead. We used environmentally safe anti-freeze and emptied the water tanks. There was a little fish in our water filter, so we set him free.
We even got out for a weekend sail with friends in mid-November, yay warm weather! The fall colors are a beautiful time to explore the tree-lined creeks of the Chesapeake Bay.
So much to be thankful for. Happy Thanksgiving!
We are excited to share with everyone that MOTU ITI has officially left on their cruise this winter. After a lot of work and planning, their cruising dreams have become a reality. They were the boat we featured in our “I’m On A Boat” Youtube series.
Their small sailboat is a Camper Nicholson 31. Check out their blog at www.sailmotuiti.com!
Our trip last year to the Bahamas was a little underwhelming to our social life. We met some really terrific people, but learned that when surrounded by an older crowd the key is to have a baby around. Otherwise, as a young couple on a small boat you may as well be invisible.
Well, we’re not ready for a baby so hopefully the cutest puppy imaginable is the next best thing!?!?! Everyone is planning to invite us over to see their boat, go on a fishing adventure and explore a new beach now, right??!? Let’s have a long and fascinating conversation about our sailing adventures and the cruising lifestyle that doesn’t end with condescending comments like: “Do you know what radar is?” or “Do you have charts?”
So, we’ve had our hands full the last couple of weeks with our newest addition! This has been in the works for many months now, and it was finally decided that the Captains needed their “Crew.”
Crew is a Miniature Australian Shepherd. Today was his first puppy training day and he is at the top of his class with “sit” and “down.” He’s gone for his first swim, sailed in the new dinghy and likes to hang out on Velocir!
(All joking aside about babies and puppies, Crew brings joy to our lives that far exceeds any wistful social life….the part about being an invisible young couple on a small boat is not far from the truth.)
The winds at Pipe Cay subsiding, we sailed for Staniel Cay and anchored at Big Major Cay which is home to Pig Beach. “Wild” pigs actively live on the island, and their favorite hang out spot is this beach. (This is likely because tourists go over and feed them multiple times a day.) Amelia was excited there were five piglets— super cute! We motored over in the dinghy to see them up-close.
We didn’t have any food for them, so when one started swimming toward the boat Amelia wanted to keep our distance. Thoughts of the pigs jumping into/capsizing the dinghy and getting bitten flashed through her mind. Grant thought it was funny how nervous Amelia was about the pigs near our dinghy. When we got back to Velocir other cruisers went over to feed the pigs. Amelia’s fear of them jumping into the dinghy was not unfounded!
The next day we walked around Staniel Cay, a quiet town. Instead of paying $5 at the marina, we walked 10 minutes to the dump to get rid of our trash. Then we treated ourselves to lunch at Staniel Cay Yacht Club. It was the most popular place in town, festively decorated with flags and swarming with cruisers (as well as people from private planes who fly down for the day from Florida). The food was really yummy (we had a Club sandwich and fish burger with onion rings) The waitress even gave us free Pina Colodas because she was practicing for the bar!
Walking around town later in the afternoon, we went in search of fresh produce. None of the islands we have visited have had a produce boat in weeks, which we are told is strange. We walked up to the first store we came by and workers were moving in boxes of fresh produce, just arrived by plane! We thought we’d lucked out, as we were among the first to arrive. The prices even seemed reasonable. We picked some things out and went over to the counter. Waiting, we heard the cashier tell the couple in front of us that the prices would be more than marked, because it was flown in. The couple said, oh yes, we had thought as much, it doesn’t matter to us (we have heard this “rich” attitude ruins it for other cruisers). When it was our turn Amelia said, how much is this bag of celery? We don’t even like celery that much, but it is usually cheap and keeps well. It was $5! If celery was $5 ($1.50 on the tag) we could not afford any of the other food we had gathered up. Grant put it all back while Amelia purchased some eggs and a small bag of carrots. Looking back, our lunch was pretty cheap in comparison!
The next day was very busy. We got up early at low tide to snorkel Thunderball Cave, made famous in an older James Bond film. It was very beautiful and fish followed us around everywhere we went. To enter the cave, we swam under a shallow ledge. At high tide, this ledge is submerged and you actually have to dive down and then up into the cave. It was early in the day, so the sunlight wasn’t shining directly in through the holes above the cave, but we could still see some beautiful coral and fish!
Some of the best coral was outside the cave!
We waited until high tide and then took the shallow route south to Bitter Guana Cay, home to endangered Iguanas. They are said to live up to 80 years old and are one of the most endangered Iguana species in the world.
Their home was on a strip of beach with white cliffs towering overhead. We anchored right off the beach and went to visit the Iguanas.
There were a lot of them! They had interesting reddish coloring, and some were as large as a cat. The way their skin hung off their bodies, their limbs looked like stuffed beanie toys.
Their tail-streaks lined the beach.
Our anchorage by the Iguanas was a bit rolly, so we went farther south to Black Point a small “local” town, crowded with cruisers. It had a small grocery store (no fresh produce), a cute cafe and a very nice laundrymat (a little pricy but popular). It was the weekend, and a lot of local men were coming to the town pier by boat with their fresh lobster tails. They started a fire and grilled them on the rocks.
We went back to Velocir and ate some more canned food for dinner, enjoying a beautiful sunset!
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!
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.
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.
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!)
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.
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.
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)
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!
A few miles from our Thanksgiving spot, Cumberland Island National Seashore is known for its nature and wealth of history.
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.
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.
The cars were parked in a neat row and have not moved.
Still only reachable by boat, Cumberland Island is well-known for its plethora of landscapes: forests, marsh, beaches, etc.
We walked the boardwalk along the marsh, watching crabs run into their holes and large oyster beds surfaced at low tide.
We hiked through the dunes covered with brush and trees, like a desert of driftwood.
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.
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!
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
We were very isolated among the marshland and sand dunes. A motorboat ride, but very beautiful.
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.
The Spanish moss on the trees was beautiful. We learned that it is an air plant, relative to the pineapple. Hard to believe!
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.
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.
Huge sandy cliffs swept across the sky. A lighthouse in the distance.
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!
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.
What a treat to travel with a submarine!
Now we are anchored in St. Mary’s and looking forward to Thanksgiving!