May 192017

Today we know we are going to Savannah, Georgia. Actually a small town outside of Savannah called Thunderbolt. We chose there because the docks in Savannah are either full for the weekend or the damage to the docks from Hurricane Matthew have closed them until the fall. Call ahead and make reservations with the Hyatt, the Westin or one other. All the city docks are gone and closed.

We decided to leave our anchorage at tide rising which meant us waiting until 11:00. We don’t usually run that late in the day but we are approaching 7 foot tides. Running yesterday at low tide was unnerving in the marshlands so we thought better be safe today. It paid off as we ran through the various rivers north.

The first sound we had to pass through was St. Catherine’s Sound. We passed through with no problems. We plan our driving path each night before we go at this point. We don’t know what to expect on the way each day. There are low water areas, high tide changes and slow no wake zones. So we figure out 2-3 spots to stop for each next day.

As we travel to the next big open sound of Sapelo which was another easy pass. It is nice not having too much boating drama. We are hoping to get to Hell Gate on Obbawasa Sound at high tide. That is our main goal today. The winds were calm all day so the open waters of the sounds made crossing quite easy. A big factor is being aware of where you must travel. The buoys are easily spotted but it would be easy to miss one and go aground.

The drama for the day was when I was in the galley making lunch when all of a sudden Scott stops from a good clip instantly and the boat lurches to a stop. I go upstairs to find that a pod of about 15 dolphins with their young are in the middle of the channel and Scott was trying to avoid them by going slightly off channel. The depth changed so drastically that he pulled back on the throttle so that the dolphins would have a better opportunity to move with their young as we idled by.

We finally travel to Obbawasa Sound to find Hell Gate. As we travel across the sound we pass sailboat after sailboat who also waited for the high tide of 7 feet to pass through. Follow the buoys and stay in the channel and all is good. It’s narrow but easily done in the high tide. We read about 9-12 feet total depth. Do not attempt this area without mid to high tide.

We settle into Morningstar Marina in Thunderbolt. We decide to walk to the grocery store about 1 mile away and grab provisions then take Uber back. Uber cost $5.00 one way. The marina is very busy being the weekend. We are put on the end of the fuel dock with power and water. The services are laundry, shower, restrooms. Wifi is available close to the office but not at a slip. No pool as advertised so we are a bit disappointed. The laundry is free and there is 10 cent off per gallon and $25.00 off our overnight fee with BoatUS.

Scott took some pictures of high and low tide while at the marina.  There is a 7 feet swing in tide here so the visual is very impressive.








 Posted by at 9:00 AM
May 182017

Jacksonville Free dock was an easy turn around and out this morning. We had planned out 3 different anchor spots heading north through Georgia mainly due to the fact that we didn’t know the terrain and how fast we would be able to get along. We did leave Jacksonville as the tide was almost at its lowest. The free dock is on Sister’s Creek. Depths were around 6 feet at low tide and attention to gauges was very important. We did pass several large trawlers with more draft than us going south so they must have had a nerve racking time transiting.

I apologize in advance for this notation in our blog. It will be mostly about traversing this area for the boaters to read. The area is very different than anything we have traveled thus far.

We still see the effects of Hurricane Matthew along the route as this area from St. Augustine to Savannah are the hardest hit by the storm last November.

Heading into the marshlands of north Florida we did see very shallow depths with only about 5 feet under our belly at times. Heading towards Fernandino Beach area on the Amelia River was not a terrible run with a 3.5 foot draft however there were times when we did see less than 7 feet depths on the depth gauge.
Here we left Florida behind and said hello to Georgia.

We passed by Cumberland Inlet and the Island which would have been a great stop to see the history on the island. There are still wild horses that live on the island from when the Spanish settlers released them over 200 years ago. No appearances by the horses for us though. Also a Naval Nuclear Submarine base is here. We didn’t ee any Coast Guard Boats or security so the subs must be deployed. The dock for the sub is massive. There is a picture below and to show reference the building on the end is a storey structure. We were able to open up the throttle a bit through this area and added some distance to the day.After passing St. Mary’s Inlet (an inlet is access to the ocean) area there was significant depth changes. By this time the tide was coming in so the waters were rising. Paying attention to the depth gauge is always warranted but it is more often in these waters. The marshlands open up to vast areas.

At St. Andrew’s Sound the area opens up however a large shoal is in the middle. The boater must head towards the ocean and then come back in again. In our 44 ft Searay she handles the larger waves of about 3 feet very well. The rollers from the ocean are very normal and are more the nuisance than the wave heights. We made it literally around The Sound where the sand on the shore is very white and a lighthouse stands on the top of a cliff.

I would suggest if you need to stop at this point Jekyl Island is the place to do so. A great anchor spot near the marina is available as well as a calm less busy marina awaits you to take in the history of the island. We pushed on though knowing we’ll be back another time. The tides are with us at this time of the day.

Jekyl Creek past the marina should only be attempted at mid to high tide. Also be conscious of your time and look at when you will meet Mud River farther north where you need the high water. We saw 5 foot depths at times and moved slowly toward St Simons Sound. Jekyl Creek meanders through some marshland and unobstructed views of waterways and seagrass.

Now heading north and passing St Simon’s Sound and St Simon’s Island on the Mackay River the tide has given us several feet of water. The tides fluctuate about 5 feet here. We are able to run fairly quickly watching depths and buoys and open water. We know that Mud River has some of the most shallow portions on the ICW and must be transited at a rising to high tide. We decide to push on through this area to keep the high water.

Mud River is very shallow with depths around 9-10 feet at tide rising. We run this stretch a couple hours before high tide. No problems to report at all. It’s tight and attention is warranted.

Our anchorage for the night is just north of Doboy Sound in Duplin River. It’s a beautiful area. Passing the ferry travel approx. .5 miles to a nice anchorage. A nice deep, protected area with lots of bugs.

We drove 91 miles today in 5.5 hours. A good haul through the swamp, I mean, marsh!

 Posted by at 9:23 AM
May 172017

We were lucky enough to have an America’s Great Loop Cruiser’s Association (AGLCA) fellow member in the next slip. We met Jacquelyn on the vessel “Elske” and chatted about moving north. They are from Fort Myers here in Florida and heading to Chesapeake Bay for their end destination this year. Next summer the Trent Severn and the north country are on their destination list. We exchanged boat cards (business cards with our names, boat and contact info). Hopefully we will meet up again sometime on our travels. Leaving the St. Augustine Marina we decided to fuel up with diesel not knowing what is available north of here due to the hurricane in November. The marina is a difficult one to maneuver in and out of due to wind and close quarters.

We set out on a hot breezy day. We fit nicely under the Bridge of Lions in St.Augustine. There was some slower driving areas along our route today but they had beautiful homes and boathouses to see. Also, we have noticed that there are fewer dolphins and pelicans as we head north. The buoys are in place now since the dredging has been done. In some places there are more buoys and deeper water So that’s a bonus.

We have set our sights on Jacksonville, FL as a stopover. They have a free dock available for 72 hours. Prior to Jacksonville we approach St. John’s Inlet where we notice currents have picked up. Not a lot for us as we have traveled the Niagara River but for those not used to it it might be unnerving. Upon approaching St. John’s inlet to the ocean we see some large homes and a few more boats. A Coast Guard boat is patrolling as well. The winds have started to pick up by this point.

It was a non eventful boating day and we found the free dock on the ICW. For those that wish to stop here it is NOT the dock right after the causeway with the boat ramp. This dock only has about a 7.5 ft high tide clearance. So at low tide you’ll only have about 3.5 feet under you. If you go further north along the ICW about 2 minutes there is a small inlet where a substantial dock awaits you. The depth of the water is approx. 17 ft at high tide. The tide fluctuates normally around 3 feet here so there is lots of water under your belly. Keep the slow speed manatee zone to your starboard on your way in. We went in about 6 pillars and had lots of depth. The area around is great for dogs but that is about it. This used to be a marina that the city purchased way back and now offers restrooms, walking paths that lead to no where and a great dock. We are thankful for it in these 20 mph easterlies.

We don’t have much to do after wandering around so we work on the next few nights that will be someplace around Jekyl Island, in Georgia.

 Posted by at 7:50 PM
May 162017

I was up at sunrise and to my delight a pod of dolphins was enjoying breakfast. They came within 10 feet of the boat. The sunrise was spectacular where only being on the east coast could provide. We pulled anchor around 8:30 and headed toward St Augustine. Today would be a long haul of about 68 miles. It took us approximately 6 hours to get settled. We passed through significantly more hurricane damaged areas with boats on shore, docks completely missing and palm trees with no palms. Buoys were not as the charts said so following the buoys was the only thing we could do to keep in the channel. We did see Ponce de Leon inlet to the ocean in the distance marked by its tall lighthouse.

We were hoping to stay on the anchor tonight but with the shoaling and the hurricane damage we decided to head to the City marina. The marina is directly across from the quaint downtown. A spanish architecture and early settlement of the British is here. There is so much history in this little town. We were able to see the first school house, the Fountain of Youth, buildings from the 1600 and earlier. Much native settlement is here as well. The Bridge of Lions which is the main causeway bridge is directly beside the marina.

The Municipal Marina has everything a boater needs. Close proximity to the town, restrooms, laundry, lounge, fuel, showers and 24 hour security.

St. Augustine is worth a couple night’s stay even if you are passing through.

 Posted by at 9:37 PM
May 152017

After a late start of 10 AM because of a go pro malfunction we started out north toward our anchorage for the night. We were not sure exactly what to expect with the notice of Hurricane Matthew damage from the storm last October. We again were privileged to see dolphins swimming. The damage from Matthew was apparent as we saw boats on shore, masts sticking out of the water and palm trees leaning. Nothing to substantial at this point. As we entered the Haulage Canal which connects the brackish water of the estuary north of Cape Canaveral the drawbridge was being worked on and only one side was open. Much to our delight we were able to see a family of manatees as well. We thought they were logs in the water as you see by the pick. They were behind an old abandoned breakwall in an open area near the boat ramp.

 Posted by at 9:07 PM
Mar 202017

We decided to stay at the lock another night so that we could spend our last full play day on the beach. We packed up all our snorkel gear, boogie boards, and wet suits. We headed south on Banana River in the dingy about 2 miles to a marina called Island Time Marina. Island Time Marina is undergoing a full and major renovation. It is to be completed by July, 2017, with showers, laundry, restroom, tiki bar and restaurant. It is situated about 3 blocks from the tourist strip in Cocoa Beach where the beach entrance is also. This marina had several boats with about a 3-4 foot draft. They have about 50 slips available.

We had a great day for the boogie boards. The surf was good with about 2-3 foot waves. The beach was busy and people watching is always in season. Cocoa Beach is known for its surf. This is the place to be for small and big surf in Florida. We noticed that the winds were getting big. We decided to leave and found that the Banana River had at least 4 foot waves. That would be too much for the dingy with our gear and us. We decided to hug the shore where there would be several homes and places to get to if needed. It proved to be the best of the worst situation. We found ourselves caught in water 1 foot deep and had to “portage” the dingy over. The waves were better near the shore but the 20 minute ride we had in the morning turned out to be about 2 hours to get home. We were very lucky that we left when we did because the winds picked up to gust of 35 mph. The last 600 feet was in open water to where we had Conductance well anchored. We watched as the waves grew and watched the weather. We had about 4 more hours of big winds so we watched a movie and put on the anchor alarm. The anchor alarm lets out a sound if the boat moves from its positioned anchor space.

Before the sun went down and in the big waves we watched another anchored buddy from Montreal when their anchor let go. We sounded the horn 5 times hoping they would hear but Scott figured they hit bottom on a shoal that was directly behind their boat. They quickly got on deck and reset their anchor. We settled in for an old time movie, Groundhog Day, and checked our position periodically. We were in really well considering the 35 mph gusts which started to taper off around 1 AM.

 Posted by at 9:39 PM
Mar 192017

We were looking for something to do today and thought a beach day would be in order. As we looked at opportunities we found that the Banana River just south of Cape Canaveral would be a good anchor spot as it would be near the manatee centre, a ramp to leave the dingy to head to the beach and also a decent depth. The river seems to have several very shallow spots so we called our marina for local knowledge. He stated there would be a launch of a rocket at Cape Canaveral. We know have our mission for the day.

We head out from Sebastian on a northward path. It’s an easy pass the entire distance. We see those dolphins today but none of them want to play. Several Loopers are heading north as we pass them. The more humble homes of the catch our attention. There are lots of causeways heading to the Oceanside. We pass Vero Beach and Melbourne. The only way we know we are passing these cities is by the causeways and our charts. There are no high hotels and condos. We did put in the video from the day that they were jumping in our wake. Please ignore my dog training response squeals for the performance by our dolphins.

We make our way to the Cape Canaveral Barge Canal and head east. There are anchor spots at the north and south part of the entrance to the Lock. The Canal itself has 2 marinas available where the locals go for hurricane holes for their boats. It is a natural setting with a no wake zone the entire canal. Several fisherman are here in the canal as well as boats getting ready to go through the lock and head out to the Atlantic Ocean.

As we exit the canal the area opens up to a large area. We see several day boats beached on an island to the north of the lock and several sailboats and trawlers to the south of the lock. We head to the northern side where the island is. At Ski Island we take the dingy in to this tiny 200 foot island. It’s crowded on a Saturday. The island effect is quickly over as more and more people show up. We hop back in “Low Voltage” and head over to the next island and through the bay where there are 3 cruise ships waiting to disembark.

Now we wait for the launch. It’s a Falcon 9 capsule on a Delta 4 rocket. It is a military communication system satellite that is being launched. Apparently it is more powerful for the military comm than all of the combined systems available now. There are 6 countries involved including Canada, The Netherlands, USA, Luxemborg, and a couple more. The window for launch is from 7:44 to 8:59. It’s now 8:02 as there is an issue with a swing arms. So we wait…….8:08…….T minus 4 minutes.

We had lift off at 8:18. Awesome!!! Spectacular! Tick off another item on the bucket list!

 Posted by at 1:11 AM
Mar 182017

We left in the morning for the 30 mile trek to an anchor spot we found on Active Captain. It is the closest we could find to the Sebastian Inlet and still anchor in 6 feet of water. The morning proved to be more than we expected as we cruised the beautiful estuary area between Fort Pierce and Vero Beach.

We were passing boats of all sizes including sails, catamarans, cruisers and lots of fishing boats heading out for their morning catch. We didn’t expect that we would have several trailing dolphins several during this stretch. The pods of dolphins followed directly behind our boat in the wake. They liked the big wakes more than the little ones as they played and we cheered them on for more. In fact one dolphin started the whole thing when we heard his familiar squeal behind the boat. Both Aiden and I went back and started clapping and coaxing them. Sure enough there were at least 5-6 jumping our wake and enjoying the applause. They continued to dive and jump at the rear of the boat in the wake for several miles. We had to slow for a slow moving boat and they moved on. What a great experience.

As we traveled past Vero Beach the many marinas and large homes stood out. The homes were equal in size to the ones south but it seemed they had more land which were perfectly manicured. The water is a crystal blue colour and really clear. I’m sure we can see several feet down.

Then again as we started up again more dolphins started jumping in our wake. We could see them at the back of the boat just under the props as they kept the same speed and then would give us a show with a jump. We would take pictures and videos as they jumped. They continued with us for several miles again until we had to slow down for other boats. Then we saw 2 manatees. One was just coming up for air as Scott happened to notice him. Then another had a flipper come out of the water and Aiden caught sight of him.

Eventually we found our anchor spot just off the channel leading out to the Sebastian Inlet. It is not protected from winds at all but we checked the forecast and winds are to die down overnight and only start building by tomorrow afternoon. Our spot is just off the channel, before the sea grass area in about 6 feet of water. The tide here is only about 4 inches where the inlet is 2 feet. So we feel comfortable staying put. There is a bit of current from the tidal flow.

We headed by dingy to the inlet area where there is a safe and shallow snorkeling area deemed excellent. It is a beach area, with rocks at the water side of the inlet to allow a safe haven for swimming for the smallest of persons. The beach is a white soft sand. You can snorkel by these rocks on the “lagoon’ side in about 3 feet of water. For the more experienced snorkel you can go on the outside of the rocks on the inlet side and ride the tide either in or out depending on the direction. Note that at tide changes the current is at least 3 knots. Be sure you know the direction of the tide before heading outside the rocks to snorkel. Both spots are excellent for viewing fish and sea life.

After a day of snorkeling we headed to the beach which is on the other side of the “lagoon’. It was only a 5 minute walk to this secluded beach area. The pier has several local fisherman, the beach is one of the most natural beaches and doesn’t have many people. The beach has untouched shells which includes finds of several types of very large intact shells. On a calm day you could spend all day swimming, searching for shells, snorkeling, and beach time. There are no amenities close by so bring whatever you need.

 Posted by at 2:17 AM