Weather – paying the price

Just a short report, while on a weather delay after having pretty nice conditions most of the way north from Key West….
As expected some time, the weather worsened so a planned stop at Osprey Marina near Myrtle Beach turned into a three day pause – and a very pleasant interlude. I was surprised there by the arrival of a fellow CCYC sailor on his Catalina 47 – Escapade. They are also headed north for home, but on a more aggressive schedule. They easily outpaced me when we headed out. It was an early departure in some fog, but slowly warming temps.
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An easy day’s run brought us to St James Plantation Marina – a fancy name for a lovely resort-marina, but with very reasonable rates, a nice restaurant and store.

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Next stop was the Carolina State Park Marina at mile 297. I stopped here on the way down and shared a couple days with Mark & Diana Doyle- authors of the Waterway Cruising guides. It is a simple but clean and inexpensive marina and recently upgraded. Very quiet this time of year…we were the only occupied boat!

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The trip here included a long run (about 9 miles) up the Cape Fear River – felt longer. The name should offer a clue. My bad timing put us on the river heading north against about a 4kt current. The first couple hours kept boat speed to less than 2 mph – hardly a fast walk. Regardless, the current eased and we made the Marina mid-afternoon. Once again we had approaching bad weather

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I’m writing this waiting out nasty rain all day the first day, then high winds (20-35 mph) that arrived overnight. The marina has a nice boaters lounge – warm, dry and a store next door – so a good place to spend the day. Not wanting to be out in this.

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The forecast promises better the next few days, so we’ll be pushing northward as quick as we can …..

 

 

Freeze warnings !

It was inevitable. Moving north on the waterway this time of year assures at least some cold, wet days. Almost to North Carolina, at Osprey Marina, and found it – dropping temps below 32f and rain. From Savannah to Georgetown the weather was pleasant, winds were light and current was almost always favorable. Conditions made for good progress at 40-50miles each day.

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Beaufort, SC at Ladies Island Marina (mi 535) is a pleasant stop with friendly staff and a handy restaurant….

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It also marks roughly the halfway point to home. It was time to rest and do some boat chores….

Pelicans are everywhere and constant companions following along all the way. Here a group looks for a free lunch as watermen tend their pots……
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St Johns Yacht Harbor (mi 472) is just south of Charleston, SC. It was a long day and we slipped in just at closing time. Made a quick stop at the fuel dock in the morning and headed on making McClellanville and the Leland Oil Co Marina (mi 430)- a rustic but friendly marina, and a convenient stop. This is tidal country with ranges as much as 4-8ft – came in and out at low water with only a foot or two to spare. As someone once said to me ‘if you have a foot of clearance it may as well be 50’, but 50 causes less worry….

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Georgetown, SC and Harborwalk Marina (mi400) was the next stop and convenient to downtown. But, it was a long walk to groceries for some minor provisions – long enough that I opted for a cab ride back. It turned out the cabby was a town councilman, and we had an interesting conversation about the complexities of rebuilding from the waterfront fire last year. It didn’t sound promising that much would happen very soon.

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Near Myrtle Beach, SC is Osprey Marina (mi 373) – a real gem. Among the very  best – at a dollar a foot and super helpful staff. The forecast at Georgetown had promised a significant change and was correct …. the run to Osprey Marina was against the current, against a 15-25mph cold wind and distinctly unpleasant. The reward is a beautiful marina, great facilities and very friendly staff. Free coffee, light breakfast … and Krispy Kremes, not to mention the super goodies bag you get when you check in!

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Here for a couple days to let the bad weather pass.
All the way, most every evening provides treats like these… never get tired of it.

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Goin’ home…..

It seems a short time since heading south last October, but lots of water has passed the keel since then, and lots of good times. With volunteer crew for the trip home, I left Key West February 28th and arrived in St Augustine March 12. Now in Savannah – March 17 – in time for some St Patrick’s Day cheer at Tubby’s.

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Key West to Miami – Following the Hawk Channel to Long Key provided some beautiful sailing and motor/sailing. Clear skies and moderate winds made for a pleasant two days with one night at anchor near Marathon. Coming into Long Key against an adverse current produced the first minor issue. Boat slowed – way too much, and engine temps started to climb. We shut down dropped anchor and sorted out the problem. Weeds on the prop were cleared by crew going overboard. Then clearing the impacted weeds from the raw water intact filter solved the problems, and we were on our way again – now checking the water filter on a regular basis! We made great time up Biscayne Bay to north Miami (Hollywood) and an earned marina night.

Just an aside – pelicans are the starlings of south Florida. They are everywhere – in abundance. As a former researcher of wildlife energetics, I wonder how many tons of fish are consumed by the population each day – must be measured in the thousands. Add to that all the cormorants, gulls, terns and ospreys, it’s a wonder any fish are left. These guys are waiting for the incoming fishing boats and the scraps they discard.

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Miami to Stuart (St Lucie River) was a reminder of the trip down. Bridges are frequent along the waterway in this part of Florida. Some are 65ft clearance, many are much lower and require opening to allow for passage. Each has their own opening schedule. For boats that can travel at 7-8mph, timing the openings between bridges works pretty well. For us slow boats it’s a struggle. In two days travel, we cleared 30 bridges, and had minimal waiting time – good luck, helpful currents and pushing the boat pretty hard made it work.

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It’s hard not to notice the incredible wealth evident along this part of the waterway with mega mansions one right after the other – many with 60+ft yachts at the dock – mile after mile. Guess this is a good part of the 1%.

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Stuart made for an interesting side trip up the St Lucie River. I made that same diversion last Fall so knew my way in. That said, be sure you’re looking at the right buoy. I wasn’t, and found a sand bar – was pulled free by a passing power boat. It was a reminder again of the importance of constant attention. We had a nice visit and dinner on board with sailing friends Chuck and Kathy who are staying there through the winter. We stayed two nights to avoid an arriving storm with imbedded tornado warnings. It was a pretty awesome storm, but left a great sunset..

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From Stuart, we made a 63mi day – a record for Valinor. Helpful tides and winds and a few long days got us to Vero Beach marina, Cocao Beach, Palm Coast Marina and Camanchee Cove Marina in St Augustine.

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Along the way a hand at the dock with lines introduced me to new friend ‘Frenchie’ also wandering north – and also a scotch fan, so we shared just a bit. Frenchie’s boat had a unique color scheme.

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Made St Augustine in time for the Thursday ‘gathering’ of local cruisers, and a chance to catch up with friends Mark & Diana Doyle of Waterway Guide fame.

On to Savannah across St Andrew and St Catherine’s sounds, both of which were calm and easy compare to the difficult time coming south on St Andrew. Instead, Sapelo Sound proved the challenge, with strong winds against in incoming tide making for steep chop and slow speeds. Made enough headway to reach Kilkenny Marina. Well, perhaps better described as a fish camp – it is a bit rustic. But, the folks are friendly and shore power provided heat (starting to get cool).

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Left Kilkenny and after a night at anchor, we had a short run, although in the rain, to Savannah. Here now for some engine maintenance and to wait out a couple days of nasty weather.

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More later……….