Sunday, April 1, 2012

Overnight Motor-Sail to Charleston, SC

On March 28th we left St. Augustine and motor/sailed north to Charleston, SC.  It was a nice clear day and a very pleasant passage.  We anchored in the Ashley River right across from Ashley Marina, Charleston, SC.  It took us two or three tries to get the anchor set where we wanted it and then we just crashed.
We shared a piece of the ocean with this towboat and huge barge.

And the sun comes up over the ocean after sailing through the night.

The next morning, March 29, we called our Charleston sailing buddies Laurie and Rob Kramer (s/v Moon Shadow) who we'd enjoyed being with in Marathon, FL months ago.  Well, as luck would have it, the Kramers were docked in Ashley Marina and were happy to come get us in their dinghy.  Wow!  What nice folks!  We spent the rest of the day and evening getting caught up with them and visiting their beautiful Charleston house.  Then we wandered around Charleston with them----fun, fun, fun.
John and Rob in Griffon's Bar.

Laurie and Penny in Griffons.

Laurie and Penny on the Kramer's front porch.

What a nice Charleston house!

This morning Laurie call and said that Rob would come get us for coffee and homemade pumpkin muffins aboard their boat.  Thanks!
The four of us from Moon Shadow's nicely varnished toe rail.

March 24-28 in St. Augustine, Florida

Ahhh-- it was mighty nice to come ashore in St. Augustine.  We spent the first day getting our boat and ourselves cleared through US Customs.  Then we reconnected with family via email and telephone.  After that we treated ourselves to some terrific meals, great music, first rate showers, quality laundry, great grocery shopping and --alas--a very disappointing basketball game Sunday night.

We were so tired, we forgot to take many pictures.  This is all we have of St. Augustine:

We shared a table at Harry's Restaurant with this nice little lizard.

I got to attend my favorite Episcopal Church in St. Augustine.

Alcazar Cafe' .  This used to be a huge indoor swimming pool  a hundred years ago.  The cafe' is set up in the deep end of the pool.  And the food was fabulous!

March 22 and 23 Crossing the Gulf Stream

Three years ago we were lucky to ride the Gulf Stream for three or four days and nights straight to Beaufort, North Carolina.  This time we could not find a weather window big enough to do that much sailing in the Gulf Stream, so on March 22 we sailed west (northwest) from Bimini to St. Augustine, Florida.  So far we had been able to sail every day of our trip home and we were hopeful that this passage would be all sailing too.  However, sometime during the night of March 22 the winds died and we had to turn on the engine.  In the morning we tried launching the spinnaker in the light air, but the sail went crazy wrapping around itself such that it was quite a challenge to get the thing unwrapped from the furled jib and down on the deck.  After that we resigned ourselves to motoring on to St. Augustine.

At one point we were moving long with about 20 dolphins--all of us going about 7 or 8 knots!  After it got dark the dolphins beside our boat kicked up an impressive light show with the phosphorescence in the water.  Here they are:

Our original calculations had us arriving in St. Augustine sometime in the daylight of March 24; however, things got confusing and we found ourselves facing a night time arrival at St. Augustine.  Entering any harbor--even ones you know well--is tricky business and really should be done during daylight hours.  But it was 2AM in the morning of March 24 with no moonlight when we arrived.  Captain John said we could sail up and down in the ocean until the sun came up, but we were so very tired he decided to try picking our way into the harbor.  It was going well until we came upon a huge dredge barge with tentacles of pipes all over the inlet channel--yikes!  We got the dredge boat on the VHF radio and he told us to keep the barge and all its tentacles to our starboard.  Of course it wasn't quite that simple, but John did a terrific job of getting us safely into the harbor.

We found a vacant mooring ball at the St. Augustine Municipal Marina and tied up and slept like dead people.  The next day we started working on clearing through US Customs.

March 20 - 21 Lovin' Bimini Sands

Oh my--what a nice place Bimini Sands Marina/Resort is!  We rented a slip for a couple of nights and had access to internet, a fresh water pool, laundry, and a great little grill for breakfast and lunch.  Also there was free bus transportation to an affiliate restaurant at the end of the island--so nice!

Here's John posing with a terrific breakfast sandwich made with thick slabs of yummy Bahamian bread.

We connected to internet and enjoyed the pool as we planned our big ocean crossing to the states.

Thought you all would enjoy this sign posted on the docks at the fish cleaning station.  It asks folks to be sure that all the fish guts they dump into the water sink----and stay sunk.  But the best line is hard to read in this picture.  It says, "puncture the eyes, gut, swim bladder, etc."  Nice huh?

March 18, 19, and 20--Non-stop sail to Bimini

On March 18th we headed out for a wonderful sail north long the Exuma Banks.  We spent the night of March 18th anchored in the lee of Norman's Cay.  Again we did not leave the boat--just got a good night's sleep and headed out first thing in the morning.

So March 19 and 20 was a non-stop, through-the-night sail across the Exuma Banks south of New Providence Island (Nassau), the Tongue of the Ocean, and across the Great Bahama Banks to Bimini.  The sailing was terrific--honestly the best sailing of the whole trip.  John did some serious fishing along the way and we had a couple of terrific meals of Spanish Mackerel.

Ahh--the sun set on March 19th, but we kept sailing northeast to Bimini.  And, what a lovely night sail it was!
At about 3PM on March 20th we sailed into South Bimini to rest and plan our passage across the Gulf Stream to Florida.

Homeward Bound--March 17

On March 17th (St. Patrick's Day) we left George Town, Exumas and headed home.  The first leg of that trip was a day-long sail north in the deep waters of Exuma Sound.  We were happy to be sailing--no motoring necessary!

At the end of that day we sailed through Dotham Cut just north of Black Point, Exumas onto the Banks side of the Exuma Chain of Islands.

Anchoring up in the harbor at Black Point, we spied s/v Windward and were treated to a brief visit with Windward's captain and crew--our good friends Ian and Lynn Bashaw.  Then we crashed for the night--slept very soundly!  We hope to see Lynn and Ian when they come through Beaufort in a month or so.  We had plans to head out early the next morning without getting off the boat.  The weather was good and the wind was perfect for sailing home so we needed to press on.

Life in George Town, Exumas

The idea was for us to sail to George Town, Exumas and pick up the mail that had been forwarded to us at the Exuma Markets.  The postal service in the Bahamas is not too swift, but it had been three or four weeks since Mom sent the bag of tax forms and misc. mail.  We anchored in Elizabeth Harbor near Volley Ball Beach/ Stocking Island and dinghied over to George Town.  Here's what that looks like:

Of course, we were expecting too much--the mail never came.  We were in George Town for a week (from March 11 to March 17) but no mail!  Finally we left a self-addressed envelope with $20 to cover postage with the Exuma Market lady who said she would forward our mail back to us in the states.

Here are some pictures of our stay in George Town.  This is me lounging in front of the Chat 'n' Chill on Volleyball Beach.

And this is the Chat 'n' Chill where barefooted drinking and eating is required.

This a view from the beach out into the anchorage in Elizabeth Harbor.  There's no way to tell which one of these boats is ours--they all look the same.

 And this is John at the Peace and Plenty in George Town looking out at Elizabeth Harbor.
And finally, here's a short video of the friendly stingray who likes to entertain folks in the shallow waters of Volleyball Beach.