Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Merry Christmas to all!

We will be flying out soon for a two week Christmas at home, staying with grandma and grandpa in Burlington. Thanks everyone for your thoughts and wishes throughout this first major leg of our journey. Here is a musical wish from Christopher!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Wild times by the water

Now that we are further south we have come across some new friends that deserve some blog time. Seems like each day we are fascinated by the rich wildlife on and around the water. Now that we have some relaxed time
here in Eau Gallie we were able to row the dinghy up the shallow Eau Gallie river a bit to see who lives here. Getting pictures of some of these locals is much harder with our little HP camera. Sure wish I had my sister's camera! As you will notice in the fine picture of the manatee's nose, the shutter delay doesn't allow for catching the great shot as it happens. We were hoping to see a gator but no luck this time. The white bird is an Ibis - beautiful to watch as they fly around in formation. The pelicans are amazing as they continually plunge head first into the water after the fish. And then when they are successful it is entertaining to watch them wrestle with the fish to make sure it goes down right. The sandpipers at the beach are hillarious to watch as they scurry like little cartoon characters avoiding the waves as they wash up on shore. The dolphins are everywhere now, but still hard to capture. Below is a video we tried as a few of them came up to the boat.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Tied up in Eau Gallie

December 8 - 10

We left Daytona with the thought that we could make it to Eau Gallie in 2 days. It is the destination that really would mark 'Part 1 of the Adventure' for us. That is because we are fortunate enough to be able to return home for a couple of weeks to spend Christmas with family (and attend a few medical appointments). Dave had done his research and found a marina there that seemed like the perfect spot to leave Tiffany Rose. We wanted to get there with enough time to do a good size list of boat chores before we leave, and before some unsettled weather that is forecast for later in the week.

So we headed south from Daytona passing the Ponce de Leon Inlet which we had read might be a challenge as far as having enough water depth, but all was fine. We travelled through Mosquito Lagoon and then through the Haulover Canal where we had heard and read that manatees were often seen. Dave was up front with the camera and we were sure that we saw the round back of a manatee until a dolphin showed itself close by, then we weren't sure.

We anchored at Titusville and after Christopher sighted a train going by on land we got the motor on the dingy and headed in to the marina. We ran into a number of people that we had met along the way. John and Karen from Brockville had decided to leave their boat there to travel home for the holidays and two of the Port Stanley boats had stopped there to provision and get ready to head offshore to the Bahamas soon. We did hang out at the tracks for awhile but with the darkness arriving earlier every day we had to head back without any up close train sightings.

We weighed anchor the next morning feeling that this was a significant day. Providing that all went well and we made it to our destination, it would mark the end of this last three months of travelling south, which has been quite an experience for all of us. After anchoring for five days we needed to pump out the holding tank and so we headed in to the Titusville marina first thing to do that. That meant docking at an unfamiliar dock which always gets our pulse rate up a little. That went smoothly and we headed on our way.

I'm sure we've mentioned more than once that this trip south has felt temperature wise more like a trip north. So that morning when we had awoken to warm temperatures, we had opened the hatch in the v berth, something we hadn't done in all the cold weather we'd been having. So........ what had been a well established routine in the summer of always closing the hatches before getting underway, was forgotten seeing as this was not routine for us to have opened a hatch. Later the same day.................. a large power cruiser passed us leaving a larger than normal wake. I angled into their waves, but they were large and the bow dipped down and the waves came over the bow and then I saw the look of 'Yikes!' on Dave's face as he remembered that the hatch was open. Did I mention that the v berth is Dave and my bedroom? Sigh.........now completely soaked with saltwater.

After we each took turns trying to mop up and somewhat salvage things we tried to philosophize with forced cheerfulness that this was probably a good lesson and how fortunate that this happened on a day where we were going to a marina and so the clean up would be somewhat easier (laundry,etc.) than if we were at anchor.

Before we got to the marina we needed to stop for fuel so we started looking for a spot that had fuel. The first place we contacted was waiting for a delivery of fuel so no go there. The one we found we meant a short trip up the Banana River, again wondering on approach what this dock would be like. The first glimpse brought a "You expect us to tuck in there?" reaction but as we got closer there was plenty of room, the only really unnerving part was that the marina man undid our dock lines and cast us off before we had started the engine. Thankfully it did start in a timely manner and we were off to our new temporary home.

We got hold of Steve the manager by cell phone who told us what side to have lines ready etc, then headed up the channel into Eau Gallie. When we saw him gesturing where to turn we both misunderstood and thought he wanted us to tie up there and it did not look good. When we got to the spot we realized the spot was really the entrance to a row of docks. Steve was then gesturing to us to turn into a particular slip, which Dave did perfectly I must say until we came to a complete stop part way into the slip because we were sitting on the ground. There was some discussion then about what to do as this was the only slip available and couldn't we just plough through the mud, but no, with a wing keel we couldn't, etc. So then Steve said if we could back out he'd double us up with another boat in deeper water. We weren't sure what that meant or if we could back out, but soon Steve had moved back up the row and was gesturing by a space on a dock. This meant that after Dave managed to inch us back out of the too shallow slip he then had to back all the way down this row with not a lot of space a maneuver up to the dock. Anyone who spends time around sailboats knows that backing up in tight situations is not something that sailboats are designed to do particularly well. I must say that if I were Dave I would have been hyperventilating and whining "I can't do this' and wishing for some magic force to beam me out of there. But he backed us down the row with a wide eyed "I can't believe that I'm doing this" look on his face, but did a great job, as I sprinted back and forth from one side to the other as it was not clear at all with which side we would be approaching the dock. Eventually the prop walk made that decision for us (the tendency of a boat to turn one way in reverse) and we tied up with the help of Steve and two other boaters who had arrived a day earlier. Doubling up meant that we are blocking the exit of a slip holder who apparently does not go out very often. Christopher turned off the engine with ceremonial pronouncements of it being the last 'turn off the engine' of 2008.

Now that we are safely tied up it is a nice spot. It is more a marina that is associated with a condominium, where there are a few boats who have come to stay for a few weeks like us, then there are a group of liveaboard boaters (people who live full time on their boats), then the rest of the slips are rented out to people in the condominium or local residents. It is not really a place where people come in for one night while travelling. The other boaters tell us that it is a good hurricane hole, meaning that it is well sheltered for bad weather. There are manatees in the water by the boats!

Today was the last day for the forecast of nice Florida like weather so we put off boat chores (except for numerous loads of laundry when the machine is free) and went to the beach. We actually dug out our bathing suits for the first time and played in the waves. Seeing as we are staying put for awhile and it is the Christmas season, and we have electricity, Dave put up a string of Christmas lights on Tiffany Rose. Some boats are very decorated.

We are still in the " Wow, I can't believe we made it here from Ontario" phase. We are here until we fly home on the morning of the 18th. It will be Christopher's first time on an airplane. We return on January 2nd and hope to move on to the Keys for a bit before going to the Bahamas.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

50 Is Happening Here

We decided to enjoy some of the warmer weather and hang out here in Daytona Beach for a couple of days. And it so happens that I turn 50 here. The idea for this family adventure started to bubble around more than a year and a half ago – before Shirley or I had learned anything about sailing. Turning 50 is somewhat significant in the grand scheme of life, if you are inclined to keep score at all, and this voyage was in part a way for us to celebrate this. And boy, is it working! As we walked along the beach today, amongst the cars driving along, Shirley and I were commenting on how good an idea this has been. Christopher seems to be thriving on many aspects of the trip and we are feeling very alive being kept on our toes everyday by the twists and turns that adventures are. So to celebrate we went out to the Aquarium Restaurant, which was right by the dock. Now the dock in itself has been its own adventure. And dinghy docks, by definition, are not supposed to be adventurous. We tie up to the ladder here and look way up to the dock, while the current is trying to push the dinghy underneath. Good thing we have had a ladder in the barn all these years for Christopher to practice. With ample spotting we make it to the top with our stuff and then it is a dash along the very skinny dock, somewhat like a gymnastic balance beam routine. Fortunately not 40 ft away is the on-deck bar! Complete with 2 for 1 happy hour underway. Which is what we did. The restaurant itself was fun being all decorated and lit up like an aquarium, even in the restrooms. After dinner some new friends we met, Larry and Karen, who live here in Daytona Beach treated us to further drinks on the deck. As usual, the people we meet along the way are a large part of the wonder of this journey. By the end of the day it is affirmed that turning 50 is good.

A surprise in Daytona Beach Dec 5

Throughout this journey there are times when we miss people and events from back home. The Santa Claus Parade in Orangeville is one of those. Christopher has faithfully marked it on the calendar each year and has his favourite spot along the road that he likes to view from. A couple of weeks ago Willie Brown left a note on our blog commenting on how Christopher’s spot on the parade route was empty this year. So here we are, anchoring off the shore of downtown Daytona Beach in the Halifax River. Our dinghy took us to shore for some initial reconnaissance and immediately we noticed a banner exclaiming that the parade was tonight! Bonus! So we checked out a few more things in town and headed back to the boat for supper. And then, in the cover of darkness Sea Jay ll (our dinghy) took us back downtown. You could feel Christopher’s anticipatory excitement. We walked by the Firehall and it was all abuzz with a bubble machine, decorations and trucks ready to be in the parade. The street was lined with crowds of people, music was playing and choir getting ready. It was all very energized. The only odd part was that the trees were palms and people were in T-shirts and flip flops! Not often the sight in Orangeville at the end of November. But we were not there to complain about the warm weather – Santa contradiction we were experiencing. The parade began and it was all we hoped for. Not a big city glitzy parade, but more of a small town, small budget parade, with kids marching and shouting school slogans. Of course being in Daytona Beach there were a few noisy race cars and motorcycles in the mix. Santa, of course, provided the finale for the parade and that was all that was really important. So once again unexpected and unplanned events on our trip provide a great, memorable experience.

Friday, December 5, 2008

More History - Dec 4

St Augustine to Matanzas Inlet - Dec 4

With a short travel day ahead we weighed anchor in time to go through the 8:00 am lift bridge in St Augustine. On the other side we stopped for fuel and a pump out. They do it right here. Pump outs are free in an effort to keep the water cleaner. Some places, especially in North Carolina, it was hard to find a pump out and when you did they wanted $15. I don’t think I’d want to swim in those rivers. Our journey today was only 15 miles and the sun was shining and the wind was light. That meant peeling off the layers and letting some skin show, even on the water. Our new anchorage was on the Matanzas River just beside Fort Matanzas. More history! This is an interesting spot. To get to the fort we had to dinghy past it, go to the national park visitor centre and beach the dinghy there. Then we got on a small ferryboat that took us back across the river to the fort. An interpretive guide in full costume accompanied us and filled us in on the life and times of this small fort. It’s main purpose was to guard the back route into St Augustine. Its name, matanzas means massacre referring to the Spanish massacre of French soldiers in 1565. Brutal times. Our guide provided some information that helped better explain some of Christopher’s boat schooling unit on Florida as well. The visitor centre had a fine nature trail so once again we got our walking exercise amongst the ever more tropical flora and fauna. And all this was free – hooray for the National Park Service! We are getting good at finding the free stuff as it is often better than the places with admission charges and they fit much better into the travel budget – especially with the Canadian dollar in the slumps. Speaking of the dollar, we saw a wintering loon here in the river today. Not sure if it recognized us but it didn’t disappear when we dinghied right by it. We have also seen many turkey vultures, some of which I am sure have circled over our Mono Centre home. Could be a good way to send messages home in the spring…

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

St Augustine Dec 2-3

Historical St Augustine – Dec 2
Our next port of call was St Augustine. We were warned about very busy anchorages in fast current with poor holding for the anchors. We arrived just after lunch and were lucky to find a good spot to drop the anchor, with a stiff wind blowing. We hung around on the boat for a while to watch what the wind and current would do. When all seemed well we once again piled into the dinghy and docked over at the municipal marina. They charge $10/day to dock and you get use of the showers, laundry etc. Everything about St Augustine is historical. It claims to be the oldest settlement in the country dating back to 1565, which Christopher knew already from the boat schooling unit he had started on Florida. The architecture is fabulous and every other building seems to be a significant something. And you could pay to go into almost anywhere. An impressive fort with moat guards the entrance to the city and we watched one of our fellow boaters come in as we sat by the walls, with the cannons aimed at them. We took a very long walk to a grocery store and grabbed a cab back. Our driver was great and took us on a bit of a tour. She was a younger women and told us she is a descendant of some of the original settlers – the Minorcan’s (from Minorca in the Mediteranean, owned by Spain). That was quite interesting. At the marina there was a mini golf course, which we were told was also somewhat historical since it was still the original, well maintained, course built in 1949. Christopher was quick to point out to the attendant that it was built the same year as our house in Mono Centre. We’ll be offering tours after we return home…
One really nice part of town is the old narrow streets that have been closed to traffic and are open to pedestrians. Most of the shops are housed in the old original buildings providing a wonderful atmosphere for wandering around.

December 3 today. My brother (way older brother) Steve’s birthday - #52!! Happy Birthday bro!

Kingsley Plantation, Fort George River Dec 1

December already!? Things are zipping by!

We headed out from Fernandina Beach around 9am and continued down the waterway. We passed many saltwater marshes as we had seen in Georgia and started to see more land with trees. Everything is very flat here as it has been for many miles. Not much elevation at in through most of Florida. By early afternoon we reached the Fort George River where we would anchor for the night. After settling the boat in its spot, you can see it in the picture, and having lunch we were visited by the crews of the boats Mary Lee and Tropical Breeze who told us of the interesting spot to visit ashore. We loaded into the dinghy and headed towards the state park dock just a couple of hundred meters away. As part of the Fort George Island Cultural State Park we landed at the Kingsley Plantation National Park. This was a really interesting place to walk around. It is the site of an old plantation, first Indigo for the blue dye and then cotton. Much of the interpretive information was on the use of slaves during that time period. What a different world that was when people owned the rights to other people and totally controlled what they could and could not do. Working 14-16 hours a day for someone else with no benefit to yourself. And that was the way fortunes were made. What would they think of the newly elected President of the USA? What a change!
I saw cotton and I saw black
Tall white mansions and little shacks
Southern man when will you pay them back?
Neil Young - from the song Southern Man

This more southerly environment was also evident on this island. Our wanderings found us face to face with a couple of armadillos! Cool! I always thought they were slow moving but these things bounded off like mini armoured kangaroos! Hard to get a good picture but here is the best one we could get.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Beach Bummin'

This has been a nice break to be here in Fernandina Beach. On Saturday we spent the day walking across the island (Amelia Island) to the beach side. The weather cooperated and we had fun exploring the beach. Some people were swimming but we mostly strolled, until we plunked down and had a nap! On the walk back we went through Egan Creek park, which is a beautiful natural area. Saw a turtle or two but no 'gators. We'll keep looking.

In the evening we had Jock from Unleaded and Don and Maj-Lis from Blue Blazer over to the boat. Jock brought some fresh shrimp that we quickly boiled up. We also picked up some boiled peanuts - a southern treat. We've seen them everywhere but hadn't tried them yet. They were pretty good too. There is a great fresh fish store right on the water here so we have been having something from there every day. The shrimp, swordfish and grouper have all been mmmm!

Today has been rather stormy. Laundry was done and then we got soaked coming back. So inside some good boat schooling went on and we even had a quiet family reading time. A very rare event so far. Hopefully more to come.

Friday, November 28, 2008

To Florida, to Florida, got to get to Florida

Nov 25-28, Georgia to Florida
We're here in Fernandina Beach, Florida. It is only 2 miles from the border of Georgia, but we have that "I can't believe we made it here" feeling.
Tuesday, the day we left Walberg Creek in Georgia,was one of timing our travels to the tides. The waterway in Georgia is known for some very shallow water, and while our keel is not as deep as some boats, because it is a wing keel, if we do run aground we can't power off the way you can with a fin shaped keel so we are almost as fearful of the shallow water as the deep draft boats. Our route that day had two sections where the water at low tide would mean trouble for us. One was early on and the next was in about thirty miles. High tide was around daybreak so that was great for the early trouble spot but that had us arriving at the next trouble spot almost at low tide. Just before we were to head into the shallow area, a power boat that had been anchored in the same spot as us the last couple of nights, went on and was kind enough to radio back to us the depths they were finding. That helped us decide to turn off and anchor in the mouth of a nearby river, have lunch, do some boat schooling, have a wee nap, then with a couple hours of daylight left, we pulled up the anchor and travelled the last fifteen miles of our route with plenty of water. We anchored for the night in a creek called Wally's Leg, once again nearby our power boat guardian angel.
On Wednesday, our destination was Jekyll Island, which was only 20 miles away, but again would not be accessible according to the guidebooks if we arrived at low tide. So another early start had us arriving at our destination mid morning. We pulled into the marina there only to find half the "Canadian Fleet", a group of seven boats from Port Stanley, Ontario. We had met some of them a few times on the way so it was nice to see familiar faces. We wanted to take advantage of the day there, so we headed out to explore as soon as we could. Just before we headed out we did check the internet and were really surprised to find a note on the blog comments from Lynn Gerrard who said she had just returned from a vacation on Jekyll Island. Wow! How surprised we would have been if we had been there a week or so earlier and run into her. We hiked to the other side of the island so we could explore the beach. Great shells and some facinating formations in the sand formed by the tides that kept Christopher's attention for quite a while.
We were torn between staying longer on Jekyll Island and feeling the pull of Florida being so close. I think the cold weather of the past while and some really long days made us feel if we could just get to Florida we'd be warmer (even though we knew they had been having the same weather). I think it was the psychological pull of being able to say "we're here now, now we can rest for a day or two" that got us going early Thanksgiving morning. Leaving the dock was a trick. We had large boats close in front of us and behind us on the long dock and a swift current going by. Dave and I were discussing all our options for maneuvering out of there unscathed when the fellow who worked there came by and told us exactly what to do and that he would handle all the lines. Worked like a charm and before you knew it we were on our way.
We arrived in Fernandina Beach right around lunch time, just in time for huge free Thanksgiving lunch put on by the Methodist church. I don't know when we've seen so much food. And welcoming, there were lots of people there including most of the boaters anchored, moored or docked in the harbour. We have decided to stay here for a few days. The weather has warmed up (apparently the cold weather is returning on Monday), and besides being a very pretty little town (the shops remind us of Niagara-on -the Lake), there are train tracks with a train running to some industries here which means this is a good stop for Christopher after a recent drought in train sightings. We are enjoying waking up after sun up, until we move on and go back to rising to the 5:30 alarm. The warmer temperatures mean the dingy is more robust which of course has Dave smiling (thank you to all who sent their sympathies over his cold dinghy woes).

Monday, November 24, 2008

Georgia on my mind!

Nov 24
It has been a week without internet access and so now we are trying to catch up. Here is what is up with this sea faring family.
Woo hoo! Today we slipped into Georgia! We put in a 54 mile day dodging shoals by the dozen. This last few days have taken every ounce of navigation skill we could muster. The intricacies and the inaccuracies of the charts in this area have made for an exhausting and sometimes hair raising experience. Believe it or not I think I did lose a few more hairs, so I hope you can recognize me when we come home. Shirley says it looks fine but I am keeping my hat on. Our journey today took us across the Savannah River, which is the border into Georgia. Later we went through Hell's Gate, which was one of those, well, hellish spots. We saw someone else go aground there, which is always good for those approaching because we now know that is a bad spot. We were lucky and saw a local larger boat go through and we locked our human radar on him. As we scooted along through some peaceful spots we were treated to dolphins that came up and swam right in our stern wake, just about touching the boat. Christopher's comment was "Oooh, oooh! ooOOOH!"Pretty cool. We continued on and now have anchored on the edge of St. Catherines Sound just off of St. Catherines Island in Walburg Creek (for all those following on Google Earth). We dropped the anchor as close as we could to a house in the hope they had a wifi router. And Presto! Here we are. The connection is slow and we will try to load pictures when we can.

Honey, lets get a boat and go south – it’ll be warm!

Nov 22 To Bull River
The cold snap continues. Shirley has now reconfigured her outfit for the day and has compiled a fashionable ensemble comprising of eight layers. From a distance it has a certain style to be admired. But what luck – the driving winds that were still sucking the heat out of every orifice were forecasted to die down. So with a total of 21 layers of family clothing (most of which was also on yesterday) we launched into a new day of the journey. By noon the winds had died down and it began to feel seductively pleasant. Shirley even took a glove off and showed a bit of wrist skin. By late in the day the sun was still brilliant, there was no wind and we pulled into a secluded anchorage on the Bull River. As soon as we had dropped the anchor we spotted a bunch of dolphins splashing around, doing what dolphins do to keep warm. A number of times they came quite close to the boat. Sitting in the cockpit, feet up, knocking back a coke and eating a cracker with a free ‘Marineland’ show going on. Great way to end a day on the water.

Getting colder!

To Graham creek - shrinkage
Nov 20
It has been a bit embarassing lately with this extended cold snap because my dinghy has shrunk a bit. With this cold weather it just can’t keep up its regular, robust self and, well you know, shrinkage happens. We could work on firming it up but then if it got warm fast there is no telling what would happen. So we are living with a dinghy with wrinkles. That’s the down side of the cold. On the upside we are living a carefree food lifestyle. Nothing is spoiling. We leave things out of the fridge and can walk away without worry. In addition no flies are around to land on it. Doesn’t get any better than that! And we are saving a bundle on sunscreen!

A grunt of a day – passing through Charelston SC
Nov 21
Up early to depart Graham Creek and already the winds have picked up. And these winds are carrying fewer degees of warmth than yesterday. On these days with lots of cold and wind as well as a need to attend to tricky navigation, Christopher heads “downstairs” to the shelter of the cabin and works away on the computer. Once set to task he sticks to it and then has some “relaxing time” to click away at whatever he wants to. He pops up now and then when something interesting is going on. Like when we hit bottom and got stuck at about 9:30am. Real stuck, and towboatUS had to ride to the rescue again. Pretty yucky being stuck with 30 mph cold winds battering you the whole time. The towboat guy drove up with a ski mask on. We never did know who he was.
Then it was to the Ben Sawyer Bridge and hope it would open. The bridge tender said if the winds are up she can’t open, but if we want to wait she’ll open in a lull. Luckily there was one and we and 5 other boats scooted through and into Charleston Harbor. With the wind blowing like this the harbor was rocking and now salt water was spraying over the deck to add the the ambiance of icyness. We pushed passed Charelston and headed up the Wapoo river. Wahoo! After a cold hard day of being beaten up by the wind and hitting the ground we deaked into a marina for the night. There we met a couple of boats from Port Stanley ON. This was a hit with Christopher because he goes there to see trains in the summer. Warm fuzzies all around as we plugged in our power cord and turned on the portable heater.

Into South Carolina

Myrtle Beach revisited
Nov 17-18
Along with getting to experiencve many new places Chirstopher is also very interested in seeing places he has been to before. Myrtle Beach is one of these key stops along the way. On March Break 2007 we drove here with Grandma and Grandpa to have a fun holiday. When we arrived we were greated by some of the coldest weather in a long time. Our first time below freezing at night!! Here we rented a car and tore up the town! Of course our main stops were the spots we had been to before. The highlight was the great Aquarium here. Huge sharks swim over your head, you get to touch the rays and crabs and all the other displays are amazing.
This was followed by an icy stroll on the beach, a visit to our old hotel, a filling buffet lunch at one of the many restaurants, and then a rousing game of twilight mini-golf with golf mitts on. That kind of made the visit here complete. We returned the car at 8am the next morning, started the boat’s cold engine and were off again.

Wacama River
Nov 19
After the glitz of Myrtle Beach we found ourselves in a spectacular stretch of river. With deep water the navigation was easy and the shoreline ws draped with moss hanging from the branches of cyprus trees. We expected to see aligators at each turn but none were there. After a pretty long day of travel we dropped our anchor in a little spot called Prince Creek. Sitting here as the sun went down we could hear and watch all kinds of birds. There were no other sounds, and we were the only people around. Once the sun went down a variety of owls started their calls. Quite a cool place of solitude, in the company of wildlife.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Surf City here we come!

Nov 14-15
We woke up to a much calmer day – but couldn’t see anything. Thick fog had come in. We got everything ready to go, thinkig it would break up as the sun grew higher, but no. So we did the next best thing and went to the local coffee place for a latte! The fog seemed to clear and return a few times. Then around 10:30 it had lifted – or so we thought. Off we went thinking we could still make our destination – Surf City! All was going well and then we started to get that sinking-into-the-fog feeling. There were a few other boats around and we could use each other as reference points. Then the others turned off the waterway. Rats! By now we could not see the next channel markers and the channel here is really narrow. Shirley and I got busy on making sure we stayed safe in the channel. She began measuring bearings from the chart and giving them to me at the helm - she even put her glasses on (see picture). I was working hard at trying to make my pupils bigger so that I could take in whatever there was to see ahead. After a stressful time of this “blind navigation” the fog actually started to lift for real and the rest of the journey was a relief. Good thing we took those navigation courses! Luckily this is not a section of the waterway that is used by ships. Although we did have to travel through a marine corps base where they conduct live firing. We heard on the VHF radio that they were holding off until the fog lifted. I guess firing live amo into an area you can’t see is deemed to be a hazard.
By late afternoon we docked in at Surf City. We spent the whole next day there exploring the beach. The really high winds made for some spectacular waves. And being Surf City we were treated to a large group of surfers doing their thing. The weather was in the mid 70s so hanging out on the beach seemed to be the right thing to do.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

If you see the boat a rockin'...

Well that was a heck of a night and morning here. Started off pretty good at this anchorage in Swansboro and then in the wee hours the wind and rain started kicking in in a big way. By the time my alarm went off at 5:30 Shirley and I were both awake wondering what this would turn into. It turned into more. With the winds and the very strong tidal current our boat was being blown one way and pushed the other, causing various types of commotion in and around. Usually the boat turns and noses into the wind while at anchor, providing protection for the cockpit with the dodger. This time the current had turned the boat around and the rain was driving straight into the companion way (the door). With this torrent pouring into the boat we had to close everything up tight and hang out. Christopher got to do lots of boat schooling and is working on a presentation about sharks. But the boat does start to get small when you are stuck inside.

Then there was more excitement around lunch. Another boat had broken free from its anchor, while its crew was ashore, and was drifting and blowing aimlessly. A 13,000 lb projectile lose in the river! It hit another boat but they were able to fend it off. Then we saw it start to head towards us. The wind and current combo made it very unpredictable. Alas, to the rescue came the coast guard. They zoomed in, lights flashing, siren going. A couple of them hopped on board, like Roy Rogers off his horse, and they stopped and secured the boat. And then they rode off into the sunset. Who were they anyway? While this was going on a few dolphins came cruising by our boat. Just checking on the commotion I guess.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Back to the Ocean side

For the last few weeks we have been quite a distance from the ocean. Today after getting up in the dark to head out with first light, we cruised to the ocean. The dolphins came out to meet us as we got close to Morehead City and made us feel very welcome! West of the city we entered into Bogue Sound. What an incredible stretch of the waterway. We traveled along the strip of water between the mainland and the outer Bogue banks - a thin strip of land protecting us from the main ocean. We had contemplated going outside for this section but the wind was up and the prediction for the next little while is a bit hairy for us new sailors. But I wouldn't want to have missed this section. For much of it, just metres from the boat are a series of small islands of sand, shells and shrubs. On the other side are some fine houses of the not-so-poor folk of NC. Some of the navigation is tricky and we know of a few boats that have run aground along here. With the wind on our beam we had the sail out with the motor and we zipped along quite nicely. The tidal currents are strong here as well and for part of the time they pushed us along and for the last bit they leaned all their watery weight into us. By early afternoon we pulled into an anchorage at Swansboro. There we dinghied over to one of the islands and were amazed at how practically the whole thing seemed to be made of shells - zillions and zillions of them (click on the picture of Christopher to see what the ground is like). Then we scooted over to the town and found a really delightful community there. The quaint shops are fully decked out in their Christmas regalia. Now that we have entered into the zone where palm trees start to be viable I guess we are going to have to get used to seeing Santa and all that goes with him amongst the different shaped greenery! Likely won't take much adjusting.

Remembrance Day

This morning we were still at the marina and so could use the internet to find some Remembrance Day events. Christopher is very interested in this day and focuses on anything we can find. We did our own little two minutes of silence on the boat. Thinking about the wars of past and present and us sitting on this boat in 2008 was very reflective. I felt great gratitude for the sacrifice of the soldiers and their families that has led to our family being free enough to venture off on this adventure. And that we are free to do this in a foreign country is quite remarkable. On our journey so far we have met a soldier on the subway in Washington who had returned from Iraq and some fellow Canadian boaters who had just retired from the Armed Forces. It is people like these who we'd like to thank today while remembering those from the past.

And so we finished with our remembrances and tossed off the dock lines to venture further south, but not much further. We crossed over the Neuse River, which was building to be quite bouncy by then and headed up to a quiet anchorage along Adams Creek. We can sleep well here tonight. Thank you soldiers.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Express to Oriental

Sunday, November 9 and Monday November 10

Up with the sun again, this time our aim was to get to Oriental, a city on the Neuse River, a body of water that has a reputation that rivals that of Abermarle Sound if the winds are not just right. The forecast sounded like the morning would be fine and by afternoon we might see why it has the reputation. So we headed down the Pungo River across the Pamlico River to Goose Creek (these 'creeks' down here look more like rivers than what we are used to calling creeks). This led to another canal that brought us out to the Bay River. Just as we emerged from the canal there were a bunch of dolphins there to greet us. One even went right under Tiffany Rose! The guidebooks said that we'd begin to see on the Bay River if the Neuse River was going to be a problem and all was calm. We turned on to the Neuse River with 18 miles to go, and about halfway down the winds started to show us how the river might be on a not so favourable day. For the first time we had reserved a slip ahead of time at a marina, as we had read that is a popular stopping spot with not too many anchoring locations. From the sound of the VHF radio chatter it sounded like all the marinas in Oriental were busy.

At Whittaker Creek marina the dockmaster was very accommodating. We needed fuel and to pump out and we were given a slip on the other side of the fuel dock so we only had to dock once. We're getting the hang of these docks with pilings but on approach it can get your heart racing! We sure will look forward to landing at those friendly floating docks up north again next summer!

Being at a marina means power, showers, laundry and when the wind shifted, internet access!

We walked to the grocery store and got a lift back with a man who had crossed the Atlantic four times, had ducked in here a few years ago to escape a hurricane and never left.

Today, we got some boat maintenance chores done, then were offered a lift into town. Quite an interesting little town. I think the population is about 900 people and the number of boats are 2700. At the marina in town we ran into a number of people that we had spent time with in Elizabeth City. We also met a family from Midland, Ontario travelling with three (maybe four) children. We met them because the boy was wearing his life jacket in the store and Christopher was telling him that wasn't one of our life jacket rules! A great conversation starter. Nice to see another family travelling. We ran into the same gentleman who drove us into town on the way back so he was kind enough to offer again. He had just arrived in town because he bought a boat that's at this marina. Right now we're pouring over the charts and guidebooks, checking the long range weather forecast to make our next plan.

Changing geography in NC

With the time change we are adjusting our travelling to take advantage of the light when it is there. So now we are getting up before 5:30 so that we can be pulling up the anchor just after the sun comes up. A late night now is anything after 10pm.
This morning we continued on in to the Alligator River Canal. You’d think another canal would be boring but it allows us to see up close by the life along the shore. What we are really noticing now is the different ecosystem we have entered – a distinctly more southern look and feel. Now we are swatting at mosquitoes again! Along shore the cyprus trees are amongst the swaying tall grasses. The calm waters and warm sunshine also made good conditions for Christopher to go forward on the deck to watch this new world go by.
The canal has many dead head logs floating (that often look like alligators lurking about) and we have to be very diligent in navigating our way through. We came across another sailboat that had hit and ridden up on a submerged stump. He was being pulled off by another boat and it didn’t look good the way the boat had to rock and lean and creak and groan to get off.

By afternoon dark clouds came in, we were out of the canal into bigger water and had the sails out again for a while. With rain threatening we made our way into the protected waters just off of Belhaven NC. Time to launch the dinghy again and head to a town that has an old North Carolina look to it. We did a good walk around and hit a great little ice cream and coffee shop. Great way to end the day before buzzing our way back to Tiffany Rose just before the sun went down.

Across the Sound to Alligator River Nov 7

Woo-hoo! At 6:30AM boats started pulling out of Elizabeth City. It was quite a procession as the sun came up. We were kind of in the middle of the pack as we all headed towards Albermarle Sound. When we started the crossing it was very pleasant – about one foot waves with 10 knot winds, so all the sails were up. We hadn’t had the sails up since Chesapeake Bay so it felt pretty good to have the wind pulling us along. It is quite a large body of water and I guess it must have been pretty nasty while we hung out in Elizabeth City. Navigation was easy today because we had other boats to follow. Just hope they knew where they were going!
As usual, the really great thing about being at the docks here was getting to know more of our fellow travellers. We went out for dinner a few times with these new friends, did laundry together and provided each other with endless boating advice and commentary on the US getting a historically significant new president. Many boaters seem to be fairly liberal but by talking more people are all over the spectrum.
Crossing the Sound led us to the start of the Alligator River. By afternoon the sun was out and the temp was hitting around 70°. Our search for Alligators turned up nothing, and I think we probably saw all there were. Christopher did some good sight seeing with his binoculars as well. We were fortunate to come to a roomy anchorage with peaceful conditions. No getting up in the middle of the night to see if we were still there.