Sunday, November 26, 2017

Winding Down - Brunswick, GA

Brunswick, GA — Tied up at St Simons; a Golden Isles sunset reflecting off the sound, pelicans and gulls ending the day doing what it is they do, all appears peaceful. Though, just a couple days ago, Thanksgiving Day, this was a different picture all together. A damp northerly wind was blowing hard and there was no sunset to be enjoyed, just gray, grayer, then darkness and cold.

In several ways, this trip is winding down.

Leaving Beaufort: With the winds blowing and seas in the unsettled state they were in, the choices were to run the ICW or stay put. Staying put was no longer an option, so it was decided, the long plod down the ICW with all it's bumps and curves was the way home.
When piloting a deep drafted boat, motoring south and winding down the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway, one must contend with the many twists and turns, there are shoals around every ocean inlet to be taken seriously, and almost every mile of the way is some obstacle to cope with. Most are not as precarious as reputed (ActiveCaptain), but all bets are off, you're compelled to give these complications your attention or one of them could make for a very bad day.  Stress.
(Hindsight is 20-20: Unless there's an unusually low tide, if you stay in the center of the channel there's little to worry about.)
The stretch between Beaufort and Cape Fear is crossed with low hanging bridges that must be lifted up or swung open to pass through, all these spans across the waterway are seemingly set up on schedules that are timed to penalize any boat requiring an opening—of course a fierce current is always pushing as you approach them and the incommunicado bridge tender's watch invariably runs 5 minutes slow.

Needless to say, if one has taken on the mindset to get home, this is a chore, and this portion of the ICW is not much for stopping and smelling the roses so...  Push.

Past the Cape Fear River and back into the ICW, St James Marina is just a short distance past Southport. A nicely manicured marina with an excellent restaurant onsite.

The Southport to Georgetown, SC run is not nearly as dreadful as it's reputation. The ICW water's fairly deep and there are fewer shoals to overthink. Once pass Myrtle Beach, other than strong currents, this bit is not bad at all. It's nice, actually.
Osprey Marina is a good stop. Tucked back into a forest of moss draped low country cypress trees is a little sanctuary of a marina. A pleasant stop that's out of the current and staffed by nice folks who are happy to give you a hand tying up.
Back in the ICW and a full day's run in deep water is Georgetown, SC. Harborwalk Marina is the nicest and closest marina to the restaurants and shops that Georgetown has to offer. A charming little town that's at least worth a couple of days.

The next morning, looking across the harbor at a stack towering over a nearby mill, the winds have settled, the smoke bellows straight up towards the clouds.
The run out Winyah Bay and into the ocean is uneventful as is the run into Charleston and all the way  up to Ashley Marina.

The winds were relenting and the seas stayed somewhat still. Leaving Charleston Bay and easing out the inlet, all remains calm and the next leg down to Hilton Head is an easy day.

Passing by the 140' Sailing Vessel ~ Athena

Soon however, the blow's back and the affected seas have picked up considerably; the pleasant days in the ocean now turn less than so, but still better than working the ICW.

The next run, Hilton Head to Brunswick, offered up quite a bit more texture.

Plowing away from Hilton Head's Calibogue Sound and out Tybee Roads, the approach was rough and busy. Turning south, the northerly winds and the following sea brought on nice speed; St Simons Sound got closer sooner than expected.

That same strong north to south wind created continuously tall nasty breakers that were crossing the channel all the way past St Simons Island. About 7 miles of contending with beam bashing seas makes this a less than pleasurable approach.

Though once it's done - It's done

Easing under the Sidney Lanier Bridge you'll find Brunswick Landing Marina. A nice community of a marina that's quite large. - Free Beer 24/7 - Nirvana for many.

= = = = = =

We stayed at Brunswick Landing for a few days and had a nice time while getting a bit of work done. We've tied up here before but it was a long time back. 14 years ago we brought the original Istaboa, an Offshore Yacht, to downtown Brunswick and celebrated Melonie's mother's 80th birthday. The place hasn't changed much since then... just the names and faces.

 Thanksgiving was aboard. Excellent Roast Beef for dinner then a few episodes of the Netflix series, Alias Grace. Brunswick Landing did put on a nice Thanksgiving feast for the boaters, but it was rainy and cold out so we decided to lay low with the pups and enjoy ourselves.
We've now moved over to Morningstar Golden Isles Marina to stage our departure for Florida as soon as possible.

Brunswick marks the end of a long nautical business trip. A campaign to visit the increasing number of marinas that we do business with as well as those we'd like to build a relationship. We've caught up with many old friends and made several new contacts. It's time to stop for a while and take stock of our labors.
This little marina WiFi company is a win for all those it touches; we're proud of onSpot and it's service.

This trip is also winding down for Mel and me.
Personally, I'm ready to be back home in Jupiter. To walk with my dogs on the warm sunny beach and sleep in a king size bed, to spend all the time I want in a large hot shower and have a car at my disposal; all the trappings that Mel and I happily left behind last May.
Mel is not quite as pleased as I am about tying up Istaboa, but me thinks she'll enjoy all these things as well ... in time.

This life is in our DNA, it's not a hobby, nor an item to scratch off a bucket list, but sometimes, stepping away makes it all just that much better.

Something I wrote a few years back:
And, yes I know, there are those who feel there's no better life than full time living aboard our boats, however we've been doing this cruising thing for many years and we like to think of the boat life as a dream being realized. Though sometimes, for us anyway, it's fun to hop on the bus and say, "there's no place like home", and our dream remains floating somewhere awaiting our return. 

So yes, we're happy to be heading home and now, conveniently, the boat is just minutes away and we see it almost every day.
There are a few projects needed to be done; a radar that blinks, electrical gremlins, but all in all, since the start of this trip, Istaboa's been as kind to us as we've been to her. She likes to be run and enjoyed; we've been doing just that.

Like us, she also enjoys warm weather and Jupiter's pleasant winter is getting closer each day.

There are Palm Trees in our future.


Saturday, November 11, 2017

South To Beaufort, NC

It's a cold morning in Beaufort. The wind is brisk and out of the North, conditions we've not felt since leaving Memphis last winter. We actually broke out the jeans, sweatshirts, down jackets, and—oh my god—socks.

For the last couple of days it's been rainy too. We've mentally kicked ourselves for not going with the original plan of spending one night and continuing on South.
On the other hand, after a few hours here, it quickly became apparent that Beaufort's a bonafide boaty little town, a good hang. It would be shame to leave Beaufort and not get acquainted - as usual we caved to impulse - glad we did.

The first 2 days of our stay the weather was perfect. 72º and sunny

The walk from the marina to downtown is through a picturesque little historic neighborhood. Only about 3 blocks and you're on Front Street, lined with waterfront shops and small restaurants that overlook the harbor and town docks. Our first walkabout took us to Spouter Inn where lunch was excellent, but after some investigation we discovered the Beaufort Cafe. A local favorite.
Not on Front Street, not a place most tourist would seek out, not expensive—however, The Beaufort Cafe is certainly worth the long walk down Cedar Street to experience this genuine Beaufort style diner. The best Shrimp and Grits we've ever been served. $8.95

Yep, we really like it here, however the run down has been appealing as well.

As is always the case, leaving Atlantic Yacht Basin is good; we've been here far too long.
When we come and go we always stop and contribute to the AYB Fund, though I must admit the last few trips it has seemed like paying the troll to cross the bridge. But, it is what it is and AYB can be invaluable sometimes so we don't burn that bridge.

Finally, after almost 2 weeks, AYB dude is driving in the last screw as I'm warming up the engine, waiting on the bridge to open—then we're off.

Deciding to bypass the customary stop at Coinjock, we keep pushing to Alligator River Marina. This makes for a longer day, but we really like this little marina in the middle of nowhere. Rumors are there's not enough water for a boat such as ours, but,  as rumors often are ...  that's not accurate at all. FYI: Leaving the channel there's good depths all the way to the entrance of the marina. Then, it does shallow up to 8' right up to the long transient dock. The gas station has excellent gas station food. Yes, it's surely bad for you, but - are we actually doing this stuff for our health? Buy some fried chicken, it travels well.

Full Moon Over Alligator River

Next stop is Belhaven's River Forest Marina. We stayed here for the first time on our way up this year and found it to be one of those places we'll always visit.  It seems many boats pass by River Forest and go to Belhaven Marina because it's closer to town, but Henry gives us a golf cart to make the short run to Spoon River Restaurant and we can use the cart all day.

Sticking with our plan this time, we stayed here for a couple of days.

On our second day, a pleasant Indian Summer day, all was good until a boat full of gentlemen came roaring in to get fuel and waked the crap out of us.  Slamming us against the docks, and badly bending our boarding ladder, we weren't too happy, nor was the dockmaster . After a few words, with difficulty due to the captain being Argentinian, we got the appropriate insurance info and a possible resolution. We'll see. Geico?

Leaving Belhaven, promising to come back, we made our way South unsure where we might end the day. 

We made a call to Morehead City Docks, but they wouldn't commit to a T-Head slip - even though there was one available. At the time our plan was rise early and head outside to wherever. We've been held here in the past by a strong unrelenting current pressing us against the dock for hours; we didn't want to repeat that so a T-Head was important to us. No joy from Morehead City Docks so we started looking for something else.

Mel did some research, made a few calls, and at the last minute we pass Jarrett Bay to go to Homer Smith's Docks. Not doing any homework, we're unsure where to get off the ICW and into the marina, but after a call and some fuzzy directions, we make it in and tie up. 

Homer Smith's Docks and Marina is a perfectly descriptive name. Homer Smith was an old time fish broker, looking around you'll see his docks, crowded with shrimp boats and fishing boats; where we are out at the end is the marina portion. It's small but the service is good and attitude here is refreshing. First they give you - for free - 2 pounds of shrimp that you just witnessed being taken off a boat, then they offer to let you buy more at $6.00 a pound so we bought 6 pounds. Floating docks, loaner car, usable WiFi that's soon to be excellent, we've found our, "always stop at", marina in Beaufort.

The next morning, planning to crank up and leave early, I walk up to find dense fog that's only getting worse.

Knowing we'd need every bit of daylight to make it to Masonboro Inlet and down to Southport, we quickly realize that staying put for another day will be a good idea.
It was, and around 11:00 AM the sun burned off the fog and presented us a glorious day, the perfect conditions to explore our surroundings.
Checking the weather for the next day, it was forecast to be the same or worse in the morning. So, it was decided to give Beaufort yet another day. And we did—and a week later—we're still here.

Not entirely because of weather; we really like this marina a lot, just the smell of the place pleases our senses, and they offer a weekly rate after 4 days stay making the next few days were free.

Watching the shimpers and fishermen come in to unload is fun. They're a friendly bunch, always happy to strike up a conversation as they go about refueling or unloading the days catch.

Staying here is being backstage at the fish docks.

Today, the weather's howling and outside the Atlantic is building huge seas.

Tomorrow, our time's up, we'll untie and head south on the AICW.  Not much fun, but it's time to go.
Hopefully, the seas will soon subside and we can point outside towards Charleston, Hilton Head, Brunswick, then home as fast as we can go.

We've had a great time this year. Worked hard, but enjoyed doing it, got a lot accomplished while living the life we love. Probably stayed at more marinas in more cities than we ever have and that's been a blast.

We left Jupiter in May with a plan to go to the Bahamas for a couple of months then return. It's now November and we've not made it home yet.

We always seem to know when it's time to go home.

It's time.