Thursday, November 16, 2006

Our Adventure from 10/17/06 to 10/27/06

We are back at our dock in Green Cove Springs Florida, after traveling South for 10 days. Rather then bore you with the day by day events, we’ll just give you the highlights. On the 17th, we docked at the Alligator River Bridge Marina at about 3:00 in the afternoon. The extra time we spent at the marina allowed us to change the oil in both engines and clean the boat. The marina business must be good as the owner was driving a new $80,000 Mercedes. We left the next morning under rain, low overcast, and patches of fog. Not too much traffic that day, it seemed most people had more sense then us, and must have stayed put. That night, we anchored out in the South River, just across the I.C.W. from Oriental North Carolina. It was a beautiful calm clear night, with only one other boat nearby. The stars so bright you felt like you could just reach out and tough them. The water was also full of phosphorescence so much so, you could almost write your name in lights in the water. We kept our fly bridge light on to make sure we were visible, and the next morning there must have been 5,000 dead mosquitoes on the deck. The next day (19th) we were going through Bourfort N.C. and there were hundreds and hundreds of small boats fishing. They littered the waterway like water bugs on a millpond, and they were fishing for a small fish called a “Spot”, which is only about 8” to 10” long. They were pulling them in one after the other, and trying to get through the crowd of boat was like threading a needle. Forward, backward, stop, go, right, left. We didn’t squash anyone, despite their foolishness to get in front of large boats, not only ours but many others. Further down the I.C.W. we were stopped by U.S. Navy Pickett boats at the entrance to Camp Lejeune. The marines and the navy were conducting live fire exercises, using 105 howitzers, and firing over the I.C.W. into the Atlantic. We were stuck for about and hour and half until they tired of killing marine life and halted the firing to let the boats go through. One boat, apparently got past the pickets and was nearly hit, if you can believe what the navy was saying over the radio. That night, we stayed at the Beach House Marina, in Surf City NC, which was a really neat beach town, and if we ever go back up, we plan on spending a few days there. Off again the next morning (20th), and the whole day was a nightmare of wind from 10 to 30 mph. The auto pilot would not hold a tight course in heavy winds, so we steered by hand the whole day, which was exhausting. At 2:00 pm, I had had enough and we were happy to find a marina early. Our most stressful moment of the trip happened on this day, when we went through a small draw bridge opening, in very heavy winds and current, and a bunch of small john boats running dead slow in front of us. We almost hit them and the bridge. These guys in small boats just don’t realize how difficult it is to manage a huge boat in these conditions and I’m sure they think we can maneuver just like them. They say ignorance is bliss, but also dangerous. We ended up at the St. James Marina (mile #315). That night we changed out our spare fuel filter to make sure we could switch to the spares if we had a problem. At this point we are getting very concerned about Buster, who seems to have a tumor growing in his neck. He isn’t eating and is coughing a lot so now we have the additional motivation to get home to get him to a vet. The next day (21st) more running south, and John Henry is really running well. At one point our bow thruster went out, but we did manage to get it back up and running by bypassing the thermal switch. We’ll have to have it looked at on our return. This was another windy horrible day. We ended up at Johnson Marina up the Sampit River in Georgetown S.C. If anyone is reading this who might have the occasion to be in Georgetown, STAY AWAY FROM THIS MARINA. Run by a couple of toothless red necks, this place is a dump. If it wasn’t already dark, we would never have stayed. Cash only, broken docks, unsafe power arrangements, no services, and no interest on the part of the owners. The I.P. Georgetown pulp and paper mill were located across the river from the marina, which was interesting to Wink since IP was one of his customers for years. October 22nd, was a good calm travel day with nothing exciting happening. Calm uneventful is good. We stopped for the night at Buzzards Roast Marina, an OK place with a nice store, but the mosquitoes and no-see-ums were horrible. October 23rd, Wind, Wind, and more Wind. This was another exhausting day of hand steering, close quarters, and miserable weather. That night, we were faced with 25 mph winds during docking. This was interesting, but we did it without damage. We used all our fenders and skill to get in safely.

The wind continued to howl at 25mph, and the boat was stuck to the dock against the fenders. I was very concerned the fenders were going to burst the pressure was so great. Twice during the early evening, I reset fenders, to get them to the point the boat was up against the dock. We had to use the bow thruster (Wilma did this) to jam the fenders in the places I needed them. We need to get two more fender for situations like this. I didn’t sleep to well worrying about the boat. If the fenders failed, the boat would be damage. Also, I had the fender forward so if the shifted more to our stern then our bow, the swim platform would likely hit. As it turned out nothing was damage, but the wind howled all night. The next morning, the wind was still blowing but more like 15 mph. We pulled the stern away from the dock with the engines while the bow line as still attached. Then thruster the bow over and the line was cleared. We had to give it some throttle to get some headway before we slammed up against the dock. I got away with about a foot left over at the stern. If the wind was any stronger I would never had gotten off. The wind continues to blow all day and we are now heading south. This area of Georgia doesn’t have any population, so we’ll have to anchor for the night. We really wanted to go outside into the Atlantic, but it’s just to bad out their. The evening of October 24th, we anchored out at the Duplin River after transiting the mud river, a shallow, narrow, and muddy place in South Georgia. The anchorage we picked was great, little wind, only about a knot of current. As soon as we anchored the boat, we launched the dinghy and took Buster and Sara to a nearby, tiny mud/sand beach. It was infested with little flies/mosquitoes. Wink left Wilma and dogs on the insect invested beach and stayed in the dinghy doing donut turns to get rid of the hoard of bugs buzzing around.. Wilma stood the elements for 15 minutes and when Wink finally rescued them, the bugs were in the millions. When they got back into the dingy they were all were a muddy mess. We got the dinghy aboard and had to pull out the pressure washer to clean everything off. We’ll never do that again. We started the generator, watched some TV, did some laundry, and generally had a pleasant evening which was otherwise uneventful. The next morning, October 25th, we woke up at 6:30 am, did the engine room check, started engines, pulled up anchor and we were off by 7:10 am. We headed back into the ICW, but had the opportunity to go into the Atlanta as well. After checking the weather, We decided to go off shore. We were met by 3 and 4 ft waves on our beam on the way out and this was a bit uncomfortable. Once we turned South towards Jacksonville, we had the waves on our stern, and the ride smooth and peaceful. Throughout the day the wind decreased as well as the waves. We headed into the St. Johns River at about 4:00 pm and made it to the Jacksonville, Landing by 7:00 pm. We were fighting a 1.5 to 2.0 knot current all the way. There were only two spaces left at the landings, since everyone was arriving to stay for the big ball game on Sunday. Jacksonville, at least on the water front, is a bit seedy, with bum’s everywhere. I was so concerned about some scumbag getting on the boat during the night, so we left a lot of lights on and had our secret repel boarders equipment at the ready. At 7:55 the next morning, we got off the dock and head for Green Cove, only 3 hours to go. .HURRAY, WE’RE BACK AT GREEN COVE. We arrived at about 11:00 am. To greet us at the dock were Chris and Terry Smith, Travis, and Ryan of mirage. We got to the dock, flawlessly, and eased right in. The position the boat is at only made contact with the dock, forward and at the amidships. The stern didn’t have anything to tie up to. Captain Dave showed up and offered to install another drop down ladder/fender, which provided a good stern tie for John Henry.