Archive for November, 2009

Cooling Our Heels

November 17, 2009

Merritt Island, FL  28 24.4 N, 080 40.6 W

Here we are at Harbortown Marina on Merritt Island, just south of Cape Canaveral.  We arrived this morning after three days of non-stop sailing down the coast.  Our last update was written from the ocean off Savannah, GA, but I couldn’t post it until today.  Shortly after I wrote the post we encountered dolphins.  Not the swim-by or semi-curious ones that we saw earlier in the trip – these came to play with Little Rosie.  First there were two, then four, and finally six dolphins swimming next to and under our bow.

A dolphin comes to play with Little Rosie

They swam, dove, surfaced, and cavorted so close we could almost touch them.  They transformed four adults into smiling children (see the last picture in the previous post).  The dolphins raced along for about an hour and then as quickly as they came, they swam off.  We sat amazed for the longest time remembering what we had seen.

Cruising is usually moving along at a pace that works, and we were doing great.  We had learned earlier in the trip that a space shuttle launch was scheduled for Monday.  We had a good weather forecast so we kept going.  We were off St. Augustine, trolling for fish at the appointed time.   Cape Canaveral was still almost 60 miles away when the rocket blasted off and appeared from behind our genoa.  At that distance it was still an amazing site.  A glowing red fireball and a long trail of smoke climbing into the sky.  Soon we could see the rocket separate from the shuttle and drop back to earth.  Amazing!

The weather was still holding and we kept sailing through the night.  We arrived off Cape Canaveral early today and headed in to the Canaveral Barge Canal.  We had to negotiate a bridge and then a lock in the canal.  While in the lock we saw a Manatee.  Evidently they understand the rythm of the lock and use it to pass between the outer part of the canal and the Bananna River.

We found an inexpensive marina with an inexpensive slip, warm showers, a cool pool, laundry facilities, and a restaurant.  After about three days we travelled approximately 330 miles – mostly under sail.

We will rest and resupply here and them move south to visit relatives.

Calabash Shuffle and Into the Ocean

November 17, 2009

The Atlantic Ocean Off Savannah, GA

Much has happened since the last update.  We left Southport and motored down the ICW.  We crossed the border into South Carolina and anchored for the night in Calabash Creek.  The first time we put the anchor down it didn’t hold, so we had to try again.  The second time seemed to work.

By the time we went to bed the wind was blowing hard and the current was running against the wind.  Little Rosie did the Calabash Creek Shuffle all night gybeing back and forth with the wind coming over her stern.  I decided to sit in the cockpit for a while and make sure we didn’t drag our anchor and run into shore or another boat.  The crew each took a turn during the night to keep watch, but Little Rosie’s anchor held.

Friday morning was ugly and none of us thought going out into the ocean would be fun, so we decided to motor on.  We motored all day and spent the night in Cowhouse Creek north of Georgetown, SC.  We had the same wind against current, but both were mild and we had a quiet evening.

Saturday morning our weather router gave us a good forecast and off we went.  We motored down the ICW into the Wacamaw River, passed through Georgetown, and entered the ocean early in the afternoon.  The wind was nice and the swells were easy and dolphins came to greet us.  We set sail along the coast. The wind continued until about 4:30 and then we turned on the motor.

We motored well into the night.  We used the autopilot to steer, so no one had to sit behind the wheel.  None of us like motoring, but we were nearing Charleston, SC and we needed to move through the shipping lanes.  We saw a cruise ship come out of Charleston.  It made a BIG green spot on our radar and it was quite massive to look at as it went by even though it was a couple miles away.

The night was clear and the stars shined brightly.  More stars than you can imagine.  About 4:00 AM the wind came up and we have been sailing ever since.

A slim crescent moon and a planet (Venus) rose just as the sky was lightening in the east.  The sun came up bright and warm. 

Sunrise on the Atlantic







The crew started peeling off the layers of warm clothes.  Little Rosie is easing along at about 5 knots in front of a gentle swell.  We now have the mizzen staysail up – that’s a total of four sails flying as we gently roll along.

This is the kind of sailing we came for.

It's not just the sunshine that makes them smile - check the next post!


Next stop? North Florida?

Night Passage

November 10, 2009

Nov. 10, Southport, NC  N33 55.0, W078 01.7

It’s raining again and will probably continue to until Ida passes through Florida.  We took a slip in a marina for a night or two to rest and wait for clearer weather.  It’s hard to sail or motor down the ICW in the rain.  So how did we get here?

We left the Bay River and by about noon the next day we were in Oriental, NC.  About the time we were taking down the sails our friends Mark and Michelle on Reach were heading out of Beaufort, NC into the ocean.  The good news is they caught a big weather window and sailed all the way to northern Florida.  The bad news is now they are scurring south to get out of the way of the remanents of hurricane Ida.  They had only been a day ahead of us and we thought we might catch up if the weather slowed them down.  It was not to be, but at least we are not dodging Ida.

Oriental is a very boater friendly town in general, but even more so if you know any of the locals like we do.  Our friends Don and D of the Dickerson 41 Southern Cross live in Oriental between cruises. They arranged for a dock at a friend’s house and scrounged some bicycles so we could get around town.  It turns out they had found docking space for at least three other boats, so we had lots of other cruisers to meet and boats to tour.


Our free dock in Oriental

Oriental was a whirlwind of boat work, gathering last minute supplies, visiting other boaters, and enjoying biking around a quaint little town. 


Jackie and Beth sew lee cloths

We had a great time, but we were also looking ahead to the next part of our trip. The big-picture plan was to do the half day run to Beaufort/Moorehead City, catch a good weather forecast – a “weather window” – and head into the ocean and down the coast.  We originally talked about sailing to Charleston, SC, but the weather didn’t look like it would cooperate.  We looked at a lot of info and talked to people, but in the end we subscribed to Chris Parker’s weather service.  He is a weather router – provides sailors with weather information to plan and carry out their trips. 

We signed up with Chris on Sunday and the next morning we tuned into his broadcast.  He gives some weather forecast information and then talks to individuals about their trip plans.  We told him that we wanted to do a day trip to the Masonboro inlet – we already knew the weather wouldn’t hold long enough to go farther.  He thought the weather would work out, but then he suggested we leave Beaufort that afternoon so we would sail overnight and arrive after sunrise.

This would be the first time Jackie or I took our boat into the ocean and now we were contemplating an overnight trip.  We were up for it and so were our crew.  We got the boat ready, said goodbye to our friends in Oriental, and headed for Beaufort.  We motorsailed part of the trip, but mostly it was just another day motoring down the ditch. 


Are you sure you are going the right way?

Then just before Beaufort we finally saw one of the things all cruisers talk about – dolphins!  There they were, playing in the ICW.  Very Cool!

We arrived earlier than planned, but decided to continue into the ocean.  It was a gorgous day and we were all ready to do some sailing after all the motoring we had done on the trip.  Besides, we thought we could slow down a little if it looked like we would arrive at Masonboro in the dark.


Entering the ocean

The conditions on the ocean were much what we expected.  Winds were about 10 kts and the sea was rolling 2-4 feet.  Pretty easy conditions except that the wind was blowing directly where we wanted to go.  This may sound like a good thing, but most sailboats don’t do well with the wind right behind them and Little Rosie is no exception.  We ended up sailing about 40 degrees off our preferred couse for the first few hours.  We planned to gybe back later and sail the other side of our course.  We needed to kill time so we wouldn’t arrive at Masonboro while it was still dark, so it should work out.

Somewhere in this first part of the trip we were visited by more Dolphins.  These didn’t just swim by, they came and played with Little Rosie.  They swam along in her bow wave almost under the boat.  We had all heard of it – we had all seen pictures of it – but when it’s magical when you are right there watching it happen.

Our sailing plan worked.  The wind wobbled around a little and they waves got a little bigger at times, but we sailed along quite well.  We split into teams of two and did four hour shifts through the night.  By dawn we were just up the coast from Masonboro.  We were in the ICW by about nine.  We had put about 100 miles behind us and passed a few big milestones.  The only downside was that the direction of the waves rolled the boat around a lot.  We knew there would be things we overlooked that would end up on the floor and a lot did.  The waves caused less ease and more quese than we would have liked, but everyone was able to sleep well despite the occassional lurhces and bangs from big waves that caught us off guard.

So what do we think of weather routers?  It began raining about noon and kept up well into the afternoon.  Had we gone with our original plan we would have been entering a well marked, but tricky inlet in the rain under limited visibility.  Not a very pleasant thought.  As it turned out we did the rainy stretch in the ICW where the worst problem would likely be running aground.

We made use of the time and got a few miles down the ditch.   We may be pinned down for a few days by the weather – even motoring in the ICW in the rain gets exciting because you can’t see the channel markers and other boats.  Nothing like a barge appearing out of the mist!  Hopefully we will find some interesting things to do in the little town here.

The next step? Depends on the weather!

Hampton to the Middle of Nowhere, NC

November 5, 2009
Well here we are in North Carolina.  The only thing around us besides marsh grass is a house with a wifi connection and another boat.  The other boat appears to be abandoned – we think the solo sailor was carried off by mosquitos.

Peter and Beth joined us on Sunday in Hampton.  After proper storing of gear planning for the next leg of the journy began.


Our crew, Peter and Beth

We left Hampton in cold, overcast, drizzly gray conditions.  We left the Hampton River and watched the Caribbean 1500 boats head to sea as we crossed Hampton Roads to the Elizabeth River. 


Trying to stay warm in the Elizabeth River

Passing the naval station was a humbling experience.  We saw a range of vessels from aircraft carriers to smaller ships.

The Elizabeth River is the beginning of the ICW.  After sailing a short stretch and negotiating some draw bridges we had to chose between the Virgina Cut and the Dismal Swamp routes.  We chose the Dismal Swamp for its scenery and lack of larger vessel traffic.  We weren’t disappointed.  It seemed all the power boats took the Virginia Cut.

The Dismal Swamp channel connects two landlocked areas of Virginia and North Carolina.  Formed out of a need for transportation.  Col. William Byrd, II called the swamp “Dismal”, hence the name.  Construction started after the Revolutionary War and was manually dug by slaves who became so familiar with this ditch that it became an integral part of the Underground Railroad.  It remains the oldest artificial waterway in the US.

The swamp water is coffee colored because of the tannin that leaches out of the Cypress trees.  The Dismal Swamp route has two locks.  We were raised about eight feet in the first lock and dropped the same in the second. 


Locking through

The canal is long and narrow and we had to dodge logs in the water and overhaning branches above. 

We anchored in the creek shortly after the first lock.  It was so narrow we used bow and stern anchors so we wouldn’t swing into shore.


Morning in the Dismal Swamp

The Dismal Swamp ends at Elizabeth City, mile 51 of the ICW.  There the Compass Rose crew was greeted by the “Rose Buddies”, a gangly group of golden agers who helped us tie up in the free slips the town provides.  They were incredibly helpful with information about the town and even gave Eric a ride to the auto parts store to pick up some oil.

Any time there are five or more cruising boats at the dock the Mayor throws an afternoon wine and cheese party on the dock.  We had boat work to do and errands to run so we only made the end of the party.

We left Elizabeth City the next morning and sailed down the Pasquotank River, across Albemarle Sound, and into the Alligator River.  We anchored just before the Alligator narrowed down.

Thursday we spent mostly motoring.  We finished the Alligator River, a canal and entered the Pongo River.  From there we crossed the Pamlico River, went up Goose Creek and down another canal.  We anchored for the night at mile marker 160 at the mouth of the Bay River.

Tomorrow – Oriental.