April 29, 2007 , Norfolk-Portsmouth, Virginia
Surprise, surprise! We left North Palm Beach without spending a penny on the boat. Terrific! Everything works, the mechanics reassured us about the engine and we spent our "saved" dollars on treats from the great Publix grocery store. We made our way to St. Augustine with our friends, Judi, Bill and dogs Dakota, Jackson and Oscar, aboard m/v Recess, together with a whole slew of other boats starting their voyage north. For the next couple of months we expect much traffic from both Canadian and American snowbirds making their trek back home. Yes, Americans do have snow up north.
Arriving in St. Augustine, we jockeyed to find an anchorage and chewed up lots of mud before finally dropping the anchor. Unfortunately, m/v Recess, with a deeper keel than us, was not so lucky. After they ran hard aground on an ebb tide, we tried to tow them off the mud bar but even John Deere, our 375 HP engine, couldn't pull them off (see picture). So we spent the evening watching Recess tilting to port until the tide finally started rising again. Bill, Judi and the dogs had a nap on board Mystic Bond and then transferred back to their boat in the early hours of the morning after Recess re-floated. What an adventure! Luckily, no harm done, many lessons learned and a few good pictures for our friends.
Despite this incident, we managed to visit St. Augustine (see Gallery). It's a wonderful place to walk around with lots of historical sights, good bus service everywhere and good provisioning. From St. Augustine we made our way to Brunswick, Georgia (pronounced "Jeoooojya"). Because of rain and strong winds, we hunkered down at the nicely appointed municipal marina there for a few days and had a great supper at a local high class restaurant. First good cut of meat since we went to the Bahamas!
We also finally saw our first manatee (see picture). The beast, about ten feet long and easily weighing a ton, was drinking fresh water from a boat's thru-hull at the waterline. One of the other boaters decided to hose the manatee down. The beast was lapping it up like it was beer, rolling, nosing the water gush and just plain enjoying itself. They are quite a sight and seem to be very gentle mammals. Since leaving Brunswick, we have been making our way up the ICW, anchoring in small creeks at night. It is very pleasant and quiet as long as the winds don't pipe up. The temperature has been fairly warm during the day but goes down to the 40's (F) at night.
In Charleston, South Carolina, we tried to anchor in the river but the current and winds were too strong. Boats were flopping all over the place, so we went to the Maritime Centre Marina. Because of the lack of protection, we were bounced around again; so, for the third time that day we moved the boat to another marina, Charleston Harbour Marina, where we finally found some peace from the elements. Taking the water taxi back across the harbour the next day, we visited Charleston and provisioned. (see picture) Charleston is certainly a favourite spot for many boaters. It is a great city with a lot of sights and terrific restaurants within easy walking distance. We even bought T-shirts!
The waterways of Georgia and the Carolinas are very scenic with lots of wild life (dolphins, ospreys, eagles and a wide variety of sea birds). While you have to really pay attention to your depth sounder, partially submerged log heads and numerous other boaters, it makes for a pleasant day on the water. Saturdays and Sundays are less fun because all the yahoos with some money and a key to a brand new boat are on the water. You immediately recognize who is a long term voyager by their considerate and polite manners on the water.
We stopped for an overnight at St. James Plantation, the place we talked about in our November log. Since it was a late Sunday afternoon, all the "residents" (old geezers mostly) were sitting on their boats having a drink before taking their Mercedes five hundred yards back home after a hard weekend on the water at the dock. What a life!
Anchored again in Hammock Bay the next day, where we had taken the brunt of a storm in November, we were buzzed half the night by three Osprey fixed-wing vertical takeoff military planes. They were doing night landing practices in the scrubs ¼ mile from the bay and taking off to circle Camp Lejeune. They were flying no more than tree level and making quite a racket, with no navigation lights on and enjoying buzzing the mast tops of the many sailboats anchored with us.
After a quick overnight in Oriental, NC we continued up the Alligator River to the "Virginia Cut" which is a canal-river from the Albemarle Sound to Norfolk, VA. We stopped overnight at Great Bridge (a nice little village) where we waited for the Great Bridge bridge (I'm not repeating myself, it's what it's called). We enjoyed the town's free dock with other boaters and managed to have a nice Italian supper and do some provisioning.
We are currently spending a few days at Portsmouth, just across from Norfolk, to do some maintenance and put some new antifouling on the boat. The amount of barnacles, grass and slime that has accummulated on the hull since last summer is likely slowing us down, so it is time to haul the boat out and give it a good cleaning and fresh paint. It also gives us a chance to meet-up with friends also going north like Paul and Lise on s/v Nantelise, Ken and Kathie on s/v Geneva and others.
So, here we sit at a dock, mothering the engine and systems for the next leg of our trip north. Spring is here with a only few bugs (so far) and everything is green. Lots of snowbirds on their way home, including our feathered cousins ( see picture). Next stop: Chesapeake Bay where we will spend a week or two to take in the sights and visit places we missed in the fall.
We hope everyone is having a nice spring up north.
Olga and Andre aboard m/v Mystic Bond