My father…

I thought about my father this evening. I think of him every now and again, but somehow this was not the same. He was a gentle man, and honorable man. He served his life as a clergyman, setting an example that most of us would be hard pressed to emulate. He died young, in his mid-fifties – too young.  Too young to see and know his grandchildren. He would have been proud of each of them. Too young to watch his son grow into an adult. Too young to follow the successes and failures that we all experience. He believed with a strength of conviction that I could not follow, despite all the opportunities he provided to me to accept his view of life. If he was right and I am wrong, I imagine he’s smiling as I write this.

I think we all reach a time and place where we feel a need to remember and honor our parents. We find our own paths, and come to our own conclusions about the nature of life.  My father knew before he passed away that he and I had found different answers. He accepted that, and never sought to call mine wrong. I believe he trusted that we all come to know truth in some way in our own time. I choose to believe that this is our one and only life to live, and that we have one chance to live it in a way that we can be proud at the end that we did our best to live true to our principles. He believed in something more, and trusted in a plan greater than what we can know in this life.

At this point in my adventure traveling south, I’ve paused for a moment to honor my parents. My mother had her own strengths and shared his beliefs, but it is my father that I mostly recall this evening in a quiet spot on a boat alone.  I didn’t know it at the time I packed the boat for this trip, but must have unconsciously thought this time would come. He was a pipe smoker – perhaps his only ‘vice’. I packed his favorite – one of the few things I have of his. I filled it and lit it on the deck tonight and remembered the many time as a child I could smell the fragrance. I choose to think, right or wrong, that he noticed. If he did, then I’m mistaken, or perhaps we are both right, and this mystery of life is greater than we can imagine.

Among many other things, he gave me his heart – in many ways other than the physical that killed him.  While it has been a challenge, it has also been a strength that has so far given me a quarter of a century more than he had. I’ve had time to watch my children grow and the beautiful grandchildren they have produced. It has been a remarkable gift. He missed that.

I offer these thoughts to my family, but mostly to remind other sons to take the time to honor their own parents, and especially fathers for lessons learned – however long it might take to learn them.

I also share this as a gift back to my dad.

Awesome

Winter came early……

Well, it was a pretty good start to Savannah from Beaufort where I had beautiful warm weather – shorts and T’s… no socks. Caught the tide about right and made a good 30 miles to a lovely protected (mostly) anchorage.

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Was there all alone till early evening when a small trawler arrived and dropped anchor. Still it was a quiet and pretty spot, complete with another great sunset.

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The plan, based on the latest weather forecast was to leave in time to ride the tide and cross the busy Savannah River at slack water. Not all plans evolve as expected.

Winds began to pick up overnight causing the anchor chain to drag around on the bottom, and vibrate all through the hull – restless sleep. Got off all right in the morning (7am) and caught the tidal current. I also caught a cold, grey sky and 15 to 30kts of biting wind. It was a somewhat more exciting ride to Savannah, but done in really good time with 1-2kts of favorable current and wind that was mostly from the stern. (Really busy – no pix)

The landing at the dock at Hinckley Marina & Yacht Yard in blustery conditions with winds opposing the tide was less than perfect, but none of the 6 helpers on shore, nor the boat, sustained any damage – just a small dent in my boat handling pride.

The water pump will be here today – per UPS – and should get installed tomorrow. New crew comes Friday and we’ll be off again Saturday morning – hoping the cold forecast turns out to be as wrong as the one for today………

Finding friends

With crew off the boat in Charleston, I am enjoying the quiet of solo sailing. Also, have connected with other friends on Lasata, a 34ft Tartan. Ralph and Stacie made the trip south last year, but mostly off-shore. It’s fun to share the time and share our sailing experiences.

We left Charleston and made the run part way to Beaufort, SC in increasingly nice weather. The first night we found a pleasant anchorage in Church Creek, about half way to Beaufort. It was an uneventful motor/sail treated by frequent porpoise company, and watched a young deer swim the width of the Waterway – about ¼ mile at that point. He/she climbed out, shook off the water and wandered into the tall marsh grasses. Bald Eagles were a common sight, along with other assorted wildlife.

We made a very early start at dawn from our anchorage, breaking up our raft just as the sun was coming up.

IMG_20131116_065235_650It was about a 48 mile trip, and had some adverse current much of the way. We also ran though several of the Waterway trouble spots where shoaling has made for challenging shallows. Every sailor, if they admit the truth, has run aground. Valinor draws 4 feet when loaded with cruising gear and supplies. At one especially tricky spot, well known for its shoaling, I suddenly found the ground coming up fast – made the wrong choice, turned into the shallows and found 3 feet of water – stopped in the mud.

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Fortunately I was being followed by a family in a small power boat who stopped, took a line and pulled me about 6 feet off the shoal. Just another example of the courtesy among boaters.

The rest of the trip was a pleasant motor/sail to Beaufort, SC. About mid-afternoon we pulled into the Lady’s Island Marina where I discovered that the dock master previously the managed the DC marina where my former boss, DOI Secretary Kempthorne, keeps his live-aboard boat – indeed it is a small world.

Also at the marina are friends, Mark & Diana Doyle – authors of the best Waterway guides, and a source of great AICW info.

Tomorrow will be a start timed to catch the bridge opening and make a good start to Savannah. I’ll be there a couple days to get a water pump repaired and pick up another friend to crew for a week down to the GA/FL line. If all goes well, we’ll join other cruisers at St Mary’s, GA for a Thanksgiving dinner.

Nearly perfect

… except for the cold …

Best advice we got for making the run from Georgetown to Charleston was to leave just after the start of the ebb tide, and stop at McClellanville (Leland’s Marina) – about a 30 mile trip. Ordinarily that would take about 6hrs. With the help of the outgoing tide, we made it in 4 ½ .

Leland’s turned out to be a very protected and recently updated facility.

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Some have described it as rustic, but we found newly renovated floating docks and very friendly and helpful staff. Leland’s is a very short distance up a small creek from the ICW route, and the home port of a large fleet of shrimp boats. That meant parking in close proximity, and access to fresh shrimp at bargain prices.

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The weather forecast called for very cold and high winds, so we settled here to wait for it to pass.  Another cruiser in a Catalina 36 came in, making for a new friend and some good company to share happy hour treats.

McClellanville, SC is a small, very picturesque southern town with beautiful homes and landscaped with numerous Live Oaks, some that have been estimated to be over 1,000 years old. I was also interested to see the historic Episcopal church – given both my parents were clergy, though never served here.

 

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After waiting out the worst of the cold, we once again, bet on the right time for departure – despite the frost on the canvass – and headed out at 7 am with three other boats for the run to Charleston. No brag – but we rode a helpful tidal current all the way at 6-8mph, again making for a shortened trip, and arrived in Charleston mid-day. To add to a great day, we connected with sailing friends and have been making plans to ‘buddy boat’ from here to Savannah. The Charleston Maritime Center is a great facility with modern floating docks, easy access to shopping, and offers free laundry machines among all the standard marina benefits.

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.. and we got to watch one of the Carnival Cruises head out …

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While making a successful trip to Harry-Teeter’s to re-provision, Carl (crew) made his arrangements for a car to get home, and I worked on a float plan with my friends on Lasata for the next few days to Savannah. This will be the first solo run of the trip that I thought could be single-handing all the way. Having the extra hands, and the company, has been a plus, but looking forward to the next few ‘quiet’ days in the company of like-minded friends on their boat.

As much as sailing is enjoyed in company with other sailors, there is something very special about solo time. It encourages introspection, and challenges and hones your skills – at whatever level you may be. The freedom and independence it offers can be intoxicating, especially at anchor on a clear night far away from ground light when the sky turns black and stars, usually hidden fully populate the black space.

Bridges and Wind

Friday, November 8, 2013 – We owe a special thanks to the bridge tenders in North Carolina. In each of three cases of low clearance swing bridges we were a bit behind schedule and would have had to stand by for a half to a full hour to wait for the next opening. The friendly tenders gave us that few extra minutes we needed to make the scheduled opening, and did so cheerfully!

The several days from Oriental to our current location at the Carolina Beach State Park Marina provided pleasant scenery along the coastal dunes. We saw our first sailboat aground (Spooner Creek) – well off the waterway, and two others (Trawlers) at the entrance to Top Sail Sound where we anchored.  All three clearly missed the well-marked channel.

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The adjacent waters are shallow… we saw this fellow walking his skiff across one of the flats.

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We stopped briefly at Wrightsville Marina for fuel and a pump out. We made good time to the top of Cape Fear river, though side currents pushed us at each inlet we passed, and the current direction changed, so first we’re making 6-7mph then down to 4-5. Makes it hard to estimated arrival times.

Stuck. Good thing the Carolina Beach Park Marina is inexpensive and very nice – and well protected. We stopped here in order to time the run down the Cape Fear River which often has strong tidal currents and rough conditions. Winds we’re picking up and we missed the outgoing tide. Good thing.

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We arrived here Wednesday afternoon after a pleasant day. Overnight the winds increased to 15-20 with gusts to 30 – and have stayed there till today (Friday). Forecast may let us out of here tomorrow with diminished winds. Meanwhile, we walked the three mile round trip to the grocery store, and did a load of laundry here at the marina.

We’re luckier than some. We monitored one Coast Guard rescue on the VHF of a swamped sailboat off the NC coast, and read reports today about four others rescues. Winds near or above gale force, especially off the coast, have taken their toll. My friend, Mark Doyle (author of the Waterway guides), is here at the marina with us. He just called to say that folks in Southport advised us to stay put. Conditions at the mouth of the Cape Fear are distinctly unpleasant. So, another day to relax and do minor chores.

Tomorrow is another day, and the forecast promises lighter winds and a safer time to make our next run to a protected anchorage just beyond Southport.

Southbound – Dismal days

It has been an eventful few days beginning with our departure from Hampton Roads. First stop was at Hospital point – the popular staging point for the AICW. Two routes are available that join in the Albemarle Sound about mile 80. The first is the Virginia Cut that runs easterly with one lock and several bridge openings. The second, a senic tour, is through the Dismal Swamp. We chose the latter…..thus the title, in part, of this post.

From Hospital Point, we followed the well marked ICW route, raced to make the Gilmerton lift bridge that is timed for the north lock on the Dismal Swamp route.

Gilmerton BridgeGilmerton lift bridge, mile 5.8

IMG_2044Entrance to the Dismal Swamp route at mile 8.8.

IMG_2042IMG_2045Deep Creek (North) lock on the Dismal Swamp Route, mile 10.6.
Then on to  the Visitors Center where we joined several other boats, rafted two deep on the free bulkhead. It was a pleasant evening with cool but dry weather.

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Next morning (October 30) we made an early start and followed the Dismal Swamp channel dodging patches of duck weed that are known to foul engine heat exchangers.  Then through the south lock , mile 33.2.

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It was a pleasant and beautiful trip that was first a straight canal, then wandered though cyprus swamp.

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As we came out near civilization at Elizabeth City we encountered several boats of waterfowl hunters, and a friendly sounding shotgun at one point.

We chose to bypass Elizabith City, though several new friends stopped there. Rather we continued down the Pasquotank River to an anchorage just north of the Albemarle Sound. Weather forcasts (more later) encouraged an early morning trip across the Sound to take advantage of light winds and quiet waters – a good decision.

So, the eventful day started with a smooth ride across the Sound in flat water and almost no wind – it was beautiful and peaceful.

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We entered the Alligator River, followed the new marks around the shoals and pulled into the Marina just short of the swing bridge. We needed fuel – and an ice cream sandwich!

After a long wait at the bridge, it opened and five boats, 4 sail and a trawler, made it through to run up the Alligator River. This is where luck failed us, and the forecasters were wrong. Instead of light south winds we got 10-20 building through the afternoon, along with 2-3 foot chop from the long 10 mile fetch down the river. When we turned the corner at the end, the squalls hit in rapid succession – 15-27kt winds just as we were looking for a safe, sheltered anchorage for the night.

As I wrote this the squalls continued to march through. We have ample ground tackle down in seven feet of water with no one behind us in case the anchore drags…….

A glass of wine and a peaceful evening made all right with the world.

The run from the Aligator river anchorage to use to Belhaven (mile 135) and a pleasant nigt at the Belhaven Waterway Marine – and Tiki Bar

The motor/sail from Belhaven to Oriental was a great ride. Finally with wind NOT on the nose we made good time at 6-7kts most of the way with only the head sail flying. Oriental is a sailor’s town, and deserves more than our brief stay. But we found the shrimp fleet and the local dragon, got hot showers and laundry done.

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From Oriental, the plan was a shorter sail (downwind!) to Beaufort, but we made such good time we went on the Swansboro – a 48 mile day!

That brings us to today (November 4, and crew Carl’s birthday). To catch up, we are taking a down day at Swansboro, NC – Dudley’s Marina with electric, water, showers and wifi – all for $0.75/ft. Almost cheaper than a days diesel use. The sun is shining, though the temps are still pretty chilly.

Tomorrow we’ll head further south, and the forecast promises warmer…….