Thursday, November 03, 2011
The Rest of the Way Home
October 24 – 31, 2011
At first light, on October 24, we had a great start since when we pulled up the anchor we didn't have one of the underwater cables attached to it which would have really complicated our departure plans. The passage out of Beaufort inlet was mostly calm. Two other Krogens came out right behind us, so we knew we would have some radio company at least until we got to Wrightsville Beach, NC where at least one of the other two would be going in for the night. The FLUKESTERS were leaving our options open, hoping to take advantage of a small weather window, to be able to stay out in the ocean for an overnight passage to at least Charleston, SC.
The seas weren't very nice from the beginning, and continued to decline a bit in their level of comfort throughout the day. They weren't high or dangerous, just kind of sloppy, making the ride kind of corkscrew-like since we were getting pushed from the stern quarter. It makes for a tiring, boring ride. However, we knew that the forecast for the following day would be worse, and if we went in at Wrightsville Beach, we wouldn't be able to get back out in the ocean again. Travel on the inside, on the ICW, could prove to be more frustrating and dangerous, with all the other boat traffic, low tidal areas, and excessive shoaling that would we would have to face. So, we decided to stay out all night long and press on to Charleston.
We were optimistic toward sunset when we approached Frying Pan Shoals, off of Cape Fear, NC and the seas calmed down quite a bit. We thought we would have nice night seas, but once we completed the long arc around the Shoals, King Neptune turned on his washing machine and made our lives miserable again. I think it's stressful enough traveling at night when visibility is extremely limited and you have to rely on the radar screen, but when you are getting jostled around at the same time, it is really miserable.
I had the first watch, until midnight, and couldn't wait to be able to go down below and lay down. When I awoke, it was daylight with calm seas, and I was surprised that we hadn't entered Charleston harbor yet. When I went up to the pilothouse I was told that since the seas had calmed down so much Captain Wayne had made the decision to keep going south, maybe to St. Marys, GA, if the passage proved to be comfortable.
Within half an hour, the sea conditions changed drastically which often happens when the sun fully rises above the horizon. The wind really kicked up. Since we had just passed Charleston we should have turned right back around and headed to an anchorage off the ICW. We were all tired and just the thought of spending another day in the “spin cycle” didn't bode well with any of us. I heard 2 other boats that had left Charleston say that they were turning back to port because of the poor sea conditions.
However, we decided to try to head into St. Helena Sound which wasn't too far south. We had never been in that inlet before, so we put out a call on the radio for anyone to answer with local information about how suitable it would be to use under the present sea conditions. A research ship responded favorably, so we changed course to angle into the sound.
There were two shrimp boats trawling by the outer markers. You can see how the waves are kicked up and how murky the shallow water looks.
The approach into the sound positioned us to get hit broad side by the wind and waves making FLUKE roll quite a bit to the port side. We had to hold on to keep ourselves upright and steer the boat in conjunction with the oncoming waves to reduce getting hit directly. It took over an hour to get far enough into the Sound where we could get some protection from the land enough to calm the water.
Once we finally intersected the ICW, and had a favorable tide, we continued onward another 3 hours until we reached Beaufort, SC. That meant we had traveled 34 hours straight from Beaufort, NC to Beaufort, SC! We were rewarded with a quiet, calm, peaceful night at anchor. Thank you.
When the sun rose the next morning with a forecast for calm seas and light winds, we were underway again, out the Port Royal Sound inlet. We hoped to be able to stay offshore all the way to St. Marys, GA and anchor near Cumberland Island. Once we cleared the outer marker, we could see 6 container ships, bound for either Savannah to the south or Charleston to the north.
I've told you before when the seas are calm you can do a variety of things aboard while underway. I was fascinated by the great numbers of these brown jellyfish that were floating n the water. They ranged in size from those as small as a ping pong ball to those as large as a softball. They clearly had the ability to orient themselves in a specific direction and also propel themselves at a pretty good pace.
Ordinarily Captain Wayne is reluctant to slow the boat down for me to take pictures or try to collect anything, but to my delightful surprise, he agreed to let me try to catch one of the jellyfish with my bucket on a rope. I think he was feeling sorry for how miserable we had all been the day before. Anyway, it was no easy task to try to capture one of the jellyfish with the bucket as the boat was moving even at idle speed. So, Wayne just let us drift in neutral, and I was able to scoop one up. He laughed at me when I squealed in delight over my success. I declared that we were now RV FLUKE. Once I had completed my examination of the specimen I dumped it back into the sea.
Eddie, on the other hand, finds other, less cerebral, diversions to break his boredom at sea. Some of the time that means one of the animals will get harassed. While Ursa loves sitting up on the helm so she can see out, she wasn't enthused about steering the boat.
It was about this time that Eddie made some “profound” statement that made me remark, laughing, about the possibility of him being our resident savant. He puffed himself up until Wayne went on to explain that there are two extremes to someone being a savant. Since one of Eddie's favorite movies is Rain Man he got the message of what I what kind of savant I had in mind for him!! Idle time at sea also has its dangers.
We reached the entrance to St. Marys inlet at 9:00 p.m. Since we had been in here before after dark, we had confidence in getting safely to the anchorage. The only “hazard” we encountered was an extinguished (light out) channel marker that we came way too close to. Wayne reported that to the Coast Guard the next day.
We had hoped to make the short run over to Fernandina Beach the next morning and pick up one of their mooring balls for a day or two. However, when we called about availability, we were told all the moorings were “down for maintenance”. Sounds like that means there must have been an incident, like a boat breaking loose, that would cause them all to be out of service right at the beginning of the Fall migration of cruisers heading south.
So, we decided to head south to St. Augustine, where we would visit with Wayne's family. After we upped the anchor I was able to see 5 wild horses on Cumberland Island grazing in the morning light. A great start to my day!
The upper portion of the Florida ICW allows cruisers to get really close to large flocks of white pelicans that have migrated south for the winter.
Not all the areas of the Florida ICW are wide open, natural areas like in the previous photo. Some of the waterway is very channelized and flows by residential areas with a wide range of home styles and prices. I thought this directional patio signage was clever and colorful.
We arrived in St. Augustine in late morning and were greeted by the tourist pirate ship, BLACK RAVEN. This cruise had a bunch of kids aboard, and Eddie gave them a blast on our big ship's horn and the kids went crazy. Since it was a pirate celebration weekend, lots of people went out on the ship, and judging by all the singing and loud arrghs coming from the passengers, they were having a fun time. A lot of people we passed on the street were dressed in pirate garb, going to various pirate functions. I kept my eye out for my favorite pirate, Jack Sparrow, but I didn't see him or the BLACK PEARL. Guess I'll have to watch the latest movie to see him again.
We picked up one of the new moorings, south of the Bridge of Lions. This old style house was right across from us and had some Halloween decorations. At night, the archways were lit with orange lights, and looked really neat.
St. Augustine should be on everyone's tourist stop; there is so much to see, and the historic sites are all close to the marina and easy to walk to. However, we were not really tourists this time since we stopped just to visit with Wayne's Dad, Russell, and his wife, Rayma. We could walk to their house from the marina, so it was nice to be able to go back and forth as we wanted without having to worry about transportation. We usually visit them on a holiday like Thanksgiving or Christmas, so it was really nice to see them this time without all the holiday chaos. One thing was the same as the holidays though, they always bake cookies and feed us way to much!
We left St. Augustine at first light with the intention of making it all the way to Mosquito Lagoon and anchoring for the night outside the channel. Since the tides had been running high, we didn't have any trouble with the usual shallow spots that would have slowed us down. I have always been fascinated by this intracoastal home with its own astronomical observatory, even more so after looking through the binoculars that night back at the swamp in Alligator River.
I could really tell we were back in Florida because of all the dolphins and manatees that we could see. Some of the dolphins gave us private acrobatic shows with high leaps fully out of the water, always with that gleeful “smile” they have, looking right at us. Mother Nature also treated us to a flock of three dozen rosette spoonbills, flying right over us. There were so many together they had a pink aura around them, just gorgeous.
When we got to Mosquito Lagoon, it was way too windy to anchor. Even though it was nearing sunset, I told the guys I wouldn't be a happy cruiser if we anchored there and that we had enough light left to make it through Haulover Cut and get over to the ICW where we would have better wind protection. Plus, the lighted channel markers would provide safe enough beacons for the short distance we would need to travel in the total darkness. Then we heard a radio conversation between another cruising boat and the Titusville Municipal Marina about their new moorings. We figured we could make it there in the dark and pick up a mooring.
When we made it to the mooring field, it was more difficult than we thought it would be to even see the mooring balls, but there weren't many boats, so we had plenty of room for error in maneuvering toward a ball. Once we radioed in to pay $15 for the mooring, the marina employee said the mooring would be complimentary. It sounded like the whole mooring system was brand new and they weren't set up to take customers yet anyway. Okay by us, thank you.
Rain came during the night, along with even stronger winds. At first light, we upped the anchor in the rain, and it stayed with us until about 1:00 p.m. The wind never let up, blowing 20 – 25 KTS, but at least it was behind us, so we got a good push, and arrived at the dock at the Vero Beach Municipal Marina at 3:30 p.m. and pulled into the same slip we left 6 months ago.
We'll be posting our usual summary blog within a couple of weeks once we tabulate all the data. I'll also be making a few additional comments now that I don't have to worry about being restricted to the confines of FLUKE and having to put up with any whining from my two crewmates if I divulge too much personal information.
Posted by FLUKE - Carol, Wayne 'n Eddie at 6:31 PM