Charleston to Florida

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Charleston to Florida

 

 

Beaufort, South Carolina Brunswick, Georgia Vero Beach, Florida Fort Lauderdale, Florida
From Charleston, South Carolina to "Mile 470 " on the Wadmalaw River.

1 January 2006

 

The warmest morning we have enjoyed since October. Bright sun and low wind. So, having filled fuel and water, washed the boat, done the washing and updated our web site, we left Charleston City Marina to work our way further south.

We anchored out opposite the marina for lunch first and to make some tide decisions. From Charleston harbour, the ICW turns south into Wapoo Creek, then connects to the Stono River by way of Elliott Cut. This cut has a tremendous current at certain stages of the tide. We had to weigh up the risk of attempting this cut early afternoon on an ebb tide, in order to catch the flood tide at Stono River.

We decided to go, so that we could then try for Beaufort, South Carolina, 65 miles south, the next day. (pronounced Bew-fort, whereas Beaufort, North Carolina is pronounced Bow-fort). 

As we left Charleston Harbour, we heard a vessel in the harbour report a whale sighting to the Coastguard. The Coastguard then put out a security message to all vessels in the vicinity to avoid the sighting area.

As we entered Wapoo Creek, there was a very strong ebb current and our normal cruising speed of 7 knots was reduced to 5. The current also tends to throw the boat around so it's a full time job to stay on track. We also had to request an opening of the Wapoo Creek drawbridge, before we entered the notorious Elliott Cut. Well.

Elliott Cut certainly lived up to its reputation. The current was phenomenal. At high power we could just make 2 knots. The current also created rough water. Luckily the channel is short and once out in the Stono River, we were able to get back to normal cruising speed.

The ICW then changes from the Stono River to the deeper and wider Wadmalaw River and we stopped in a bay on this river over night.

More dolphins.

Wadmalaw River to Beaufort, South Carolina
2 January

An early start on a very grey day to make Beaufort before the passage of a major cold front due overnight.

Our route was very varied as we went from the Wadmalaw River, to the North Edisto River, then into the narrower Dawho River, turning off into North Creek and Watts Cut to join the South Edisto River. From the South Edisto, we turned into the very short Fenwick Cut to join the Ashepoo River. Another turn off into the Ashepoo Coosaw Cutoff which led to the surprisingly wide Coosaw River.

From the Coosaw River into Brickyard Creek, through the Ladies Swing Bridge and into the anchorage at Beaufort.

During the trip, we had rain and thunder storms, with winds up to 22 knots. More dolphins along the way.

Just after anchoring, the skies darkened and we were hit by a very bad squall and thunder, accompanied by winds to 34 knots and hail stones!

A sleepless night followed as the front had still not passed.

Beaufort, SC to Moon River
3 January

Awoke to a flat engine start battery. Reasons unknown. Luckily we have a small Coleman portable generator stored in one of the cockpit lockers. At $399 from Home Depot this has been one of our better investments. Starts every time and puts a good charge back into the system.

A bright day but still a very strong cold wind up to 27 knots. We are heading southwest most of the time, although we meander around a great deal. Somehow though, he wind is almost always on the nose, so no sailing.

The ICW in South Carolina and even more so in Georgia involves many more twists and turns around islands and marshland and through very short cuts that connect various rivers.

Our route on 3rd January - 53 miles: Down the Beaufort River. Port Royal Sound. Skull Creek. Across Calibogue Sound. Cooper River. Ramshorn Creek. New River. Wall's Cut. Wright River. Fields Cut. Savannah River. Elba Island Cut. St. Augustine's Creek. Wilmington River. Skidaway Narrows. Hope River. Moon River.

Skull Creek runs behind Hilton Head Island. A very exclusive island with beautiful large houses along the shore. Many trawling fishing boats as we crossed Calibogue Sound. Crossing the busy commercial Savannah River involves a short, very tidal diagonal run before escaping into Elba Island Cut. We are now in Georgia. The town of Thunderbolt, another centre for marinas, lies on Skidaway Narrows. We anchored for the night in Moon River (THE MOON RIVER FROM THE SONG).

Moon River to New Teakettle Creek
4 January

A late start again as the engine failed to start due to fuel starvation. After the messy process of bleeding the system and running the little generator for a couple of hours to boost the battery, we were eventually under way.

45 Miles covered. Vernon River. Hell Gate. Ogeechee River. Florida Passage. Bear River. Past Ossabaw Island. St. Catherine's Sound. North Newport River. Johnson Creek. South Newport River. Sapelo Sound. Sapelo River. Front River. Creighton Narrows. Crescent River. Old Teakettle Creek. New Teakettle Creek.

A day of meandering around the marshland again, following a tug and dredger most of the way. When we were heading west, we could see them over the marshland heading east and vice versa. Took us most of the day to catch up and pass them as we entered Johnson Creek. Anchored in the dark in winding New Teakettle Creek. Great anchorage with a 9 foot tidal difference. We could hear the tug and dredger for at least 2 hours as it passed the entry to our anchorage then travelled on towards Brunswick.

New Teakettle Creek to Brunswick
5 January

A shorter trip with another fuel starvation problem to start the day. It seems we need to install non-return valves on the fuel supply lines.

34 miles covered. Doboy Sound. North River. Darien River. Rockdedundee River. South River. Little Mud River. Altamaha River. Altamaha Sound. Buttermilk Sound. Mackay River.

This route took us close to the exclusive St. Simon's Island, part of the area known as Georgia's Golden Isles. Along the way we had passed many small scenic wooded private islands, meandering around them through Altamaha Sound. We initially anchored off St. Simon's Island in a very exposed area. Realising that a serious cold front was due that night, we decided to continue the 8 miles across St. Simon's Sound and up the Brunswick River to Brunswick Landing Marina.

We were followed across St. Simon's Sound by a Hyundai Ro-ro ship heading for Brunswick port. We stayed out of his channel but were called by the Brunswick River pilot on board, who warned us of shallow waters ahead and that advised there was room for us both in the marked channel. The ship passed us just before we passed under the impressive Sidney Lanier Bridge. By this time the sun has set.

We turned off the wide Brunswick River into the sheltered East River. 1.5 miles up the river, past the shrimp boats to the marina. We were advised over the radio that we would need to go past a large casino boat and turn in just across her bow to enter our slip.

As usual, Geoff slowed the boat well before the marina by going into neutral to lose momentum, then a quick burst of reverse to stop the boat before making the turn to starboard into the marina. After the 90° turn into the marina, into neutral again to slow to minimum maneuvering speed. A little more forward to help turn the boat the 90° into the slip, then into reverse to straighten the boat to fit in beside a Luhrs 38 sports fishing boat. However, when the transmission control was placed in reverse, it did not appear to slow the boat, so we instinctively increased power, not realising that the gear was stuck in forward. By increasing power, we had killed any chance of a clean entry or of stopping the boat. This was now all a matter of seconds and the best Geoff could do was try to turn away from the Luhrs to slide down its side rather than head on and call out to the dock that the gear had jammed. We may only have been doing 1 knot, but it felt like disaster.

We tried to fend off from the Luhrs, but the rub rail on the Luhrs, (higher than Dream On's hull), removed all of Dream On's port stanchions. An overflow port on our hull scratched the smart white Luhrs hull. Dream On then hit the dock, fortunately a low floating dock with a wooden fascia. This damaged our paintwork on the bow and folded up our towing ring.

What we did not know was that we were entering the east coast's most sociable marina. And when a new boat arrives, everybody, sober or drunk turns out to greet the new arrival. So as we arrived in style, we had many spectators, including the proud owner of the smart Luhrs, who had just finished cleaning his boat.

We were very lucky that no-one was injured. The boat damage was not as bad as anticipated. No structural damage. The Luhrs just happens to be owned by the marina's lawyer, but he has been fair.

The cause: The clamp that holds the transmission control cable onto the gearbox had fallen off. This clamp had been modified by Ocean Marine in Norfolk during installation of the new engine and gearbox.

Brunswick, Georgia
6 January 2006

So, yet another delay in our journey south having covered 684 miles  since leaving Norfolk.

 

We are negotiating with Ocean Marine in Norfolk who installed the engine and transmission and the faulty cable clamp to pay all our costs here. Westerbeke have also agreed to install a new transmission under warranty as the gearbox has been very noisy during gear selection.

 

On the positive side, we are at a great marina in downtown Brunswick with a great social life, so are making the most of our time here.

We have wild otters that play in the marina and have seen a dolphin in the marina close to Dream On.

Brunswick is not a very large city, but has some historical areas dating back to the 18th century, the original dockyard where Liberty ships were built during WW2 and a large shrimping fleet. Brunswick is known as the "City of 5 flags." Hence the marina flies the US and Georgia flags, the Union Jack, the Spanish and French flags. This is because Brunswick has been occupied by the British, the French and twice by the Spanish. It also flew the Confederate flag for a while. The town is full of old oak trees draped in lichen. Unusually for the US, not all roads are straight as they have been diverted around these old oaks.

We've had some very cold, cold fronts pass through with winds over 40 knots and night time temperatures around freezing. In between these fronts, we have seen daytime temperatures up to 25°C in sunshine.

And it's keeping us fit. We regularly walk to the local supermarket and the West Marine store which is a thee mile round trip. We also made the mistake of walking to the hairdresser the other day having been told it was "just down the road." It was an eleven mile round trip! Some haircut.

Many boaters living at the marina have cars and all have been very generous in offering us lifts. There is a weekly "Pot Luck" in the marina lounge when everyone turns up with a snack and drinks. It's a great way to meet people here and to obtain local advice. There is an Irish Pub, "The Wee Pub" 5 minutes walk away with excellent bar snacks.

There is a bi-weekly movie at the library and we've just experienced our first visit to a “shag club”!!! Now before you think we have sunk into severe moral decline, this is purely a matter of two countries separated by a common language. In this ex-colony, “shag” is a kind of dance. Hence our visit to Ziggy’s Bar & Shag Club on St. Simon's Island. A mixture of 60’s, 70’s and country music with dances such as the electric glide! Now whether one can actually go up to a strange lady in such an establishment and invite her for a shag without offence, we do not yet know. A further visit is planned.

We attended a free concert given by the US Air Force Reserve Band. Great fun and another insight into the amazing patriotism shown over here. This has been followed by a free concert by a jazz trio.

26th January and we are invited to travel as crew on the 80 foot local shrimping boat the "Fran & Lloyd" from Brunswick to Darien, a 4 hour trip to fill up their holds with ice for a shrimping trip! We entered the world of the Georgia shrimper, with a language all of its own. Names like John Boy and Bobby Joe. All ladies referred to as Miss or Missie, as in Miss Ellie. But they sure know how to handle boats. We started across the wide St. Simon's Sound then into ever narrower and shallower rivers and cuts. We touched the bottom occasionally, sometimes reduced from 10 knots to one knot as Marcus, the captain powered across the shoals. On one occasion we almost lost balance as he ploughed into one shoal. When we arrived at the crowded ice dock, Marcus just drifted the 80 foot boat into a 90 foot slot using the current with total nonchalance.

Beside the ice dock, is a "Jelly Ball" processing plant. Jelly fish are brought in by the shrimpers, placed in brine, then dried and shipped to China as a source of protein and as an aphrodisiac.

Our good friends Bobbie and Gordon offered us a visit to the Mardi Gras in St Mary's, a small town south of Brunswick on the St. Mary's River. As you can see, it poured all day, but it was a great day out.

We began to think we would never leave Brunswick. We made so many good friends and became so settled in the social scene there that the pain of our technical glitches was greatly diluted.

Line dancing and bowling on Mondays. Social sundowner at the marina on Wednesdays, and shrimp cookouts by Rusty & Terri on any night they can find a good excuse to hold one.

Thanks to our many new friends in Brunswick for all there help, advice, company, sanity and transport.

Finally, on 4th March we leave Brunswick, despite more last minute traumas waiting for new lifelines and the alternator installation. Mixture of excitement and sadness as we leave Brunswick and our new friends. But, we shall be back. Dream On is booked in to Brunswick for the summer, so Brunswick becomes our new second home.

Vero Beach, Florida
6 March

We left Brunswick at 1pm on 4th March, passed down the Brunswick River, out into St. Simon's Sound, then turned east between St. Simon's Island and Jekyll Island, (the two largest of Georgia's Golden Isles) and out into the Atlantic.

Surprise, surprise, as we passed the jetty at the lighthouse on St. Simon's Island, there were our new friends Gordon & Bobby. They had helped cast off our lines from the marina and then raced to St Simon's to see us off and take photos of Dream On, on the move. We shall miss their company, but look forward to catching up with them, their two dogs and two parrots in the summer.

A trip of around 260 nautical miles, and 42 hours, entering through Fort Pierce Inlet just after dawn on Monday 6th. We started off with a good tail wind and a steady 6-7 knots, which lasted through the first night. By midday on day 2, the wind was down to 4 knots and eventually turned against us from the south, so we had to motor-sail the remainder of the way. We stayed within 12 miles of the coast to be clear of any Gulf Stream influence, which runs north at 2 knots and creates higher seas. Seas calmed as we ventured south and we could almost feel the welcoming ambiance of Florida as we crossed the border.

At Fort Pierce, we turned north up the ICW for 10 miles to Vero Beach accompanied by numbers of dolphins. We took up a mooring off the ICW in the harbour at the Municipal Marina. We love the look of Vero Beach, a place we had always wanted to see.

Our good cruising friends John & Mikki, (s/v Wanda) who we met in Conception in The Bahamas last year have a beautiful house in Vero Beach between the ICW and the Atlantic and we are able to catch up with their news (and our post). John & Mikki gave us a wonderful guided tour of the area and a superb home cooked dinner. We love this  part of Florida.

Dream On is located in a very scenic natural harbour behind mangrove islands between the ICW and the Atlantic. 5 minutes to shore in the dinghy and another 15 minutes on foot and we are on the fantastic Atlantic Beach where businesses sponsor uniquely decorated turtle sculptures.

We made a two day trip down to Fort Pierce to have our rigging checked, then returned to Vero Beach. Geoff then had to make a day trip to Nassau, the closest foreign point to obtain a new US entry permit. He flew out of Orlando, so we rented a car for the day.

Fort Lauderdale, Florida
22 March 2006

 

 

 

 

Having broken away from "Bungy Brunswick" a place that cruisers find hard to leave, we then had to break away from "Velcro Vero" a place with the same reputation.

We left on 20th March and headed down the ICW. One reason to be further south is to have a better crack at the northerly flowing Gulf Stream for an easy run to Bimini in the Bahamas. The second reason is to find yet another "Expert" to solve our ongoing alternator problems. We spent quite a while on the ICW heading for Fort Lauderdale with our small portable generator chugging away noisily on our swim platform!

A beautiful trip down the ICW in sunshine, passing fabulous houses fronting onto the channel, with large docks and equally large boats. We passed through places like Palm Beach, where property seems to start at $6 million. One place we saw advertised for $32 million. Nice view though! One advertised: "Lemonade $6 million. Glass and house free with lemonade."

This trip involved 34 bridges, of which 31 had to open for us. Some are on request but not in the morning or afternoon rush hours. Some are only on the hour. Some are on the hour and half hour. Some every 20 minutes. Some every 15 minutes. If you get the speed right it can be a clean run, but a little adverse current can throw us out of synch and then we have to wait, usually in a narrow cut, with current and wind and lots of traffic. Never a dull moment. Maximum wait so far 35 minutes.

On arrival in Fort Lauderdale, "The yachting capital of the world" where anchoring is frowned upon due to lack of space, we picked up a very awkward mooring in a small crowed mooring field. We were the last arrival of the day so had plenty of spectators as we made our way in to a try to position our 43 foot length in the 50 foot gap between the buoy and an private expensive private dock. Luckily, (sorry, skillfully), we managed to squeeze into the gap, Iza did an amazing buoy pick up, so we did not embarrass ourselves.

We met up with our friend Jim Huber from Chestertown, who has his boat "Champagne" moored at a private dock up the New River in Fort Lauderdale for the winter. Jim arranged for Dream On to moor at the dock next door, so we moved her up river to within half a mile of where it all started 2 years ago.

The New River is another challenge. Not very wide. Winding west between beautiful houses, marinas, the Las Olas Waterfront area of shops and restaurants. It has strong current, 4 narrow lifting bridges within a mile and LOTS of traffic. We survived!

We are now moored at the private dock right in front of "Champagne" and are only five minutes walk from Las Olas Riverside and Las Olas Boulevard, the restaurant and entertainment centre of Fort Lauderdale.

The house where we are moored has two labradors, LJ and Chester. LJ is quite old and not too mobile. Chester comes and sits on the dock by the boat every morning and squeals until we come up to say good morning. His favourite game is chasing a tennis ball. Unfortunately, many roll off the dock into the river, so we've had to do some ball fishing.

One afternoon, we were visited by a 4 foot iguana. He crawled out of the bushes, sunbathed beside us and posed for a few photos. Then he caught sight of Chester, and just jumped into the river 4' below and swam off to a safer dock.

We have finally managed to solve the alternator problem, completed many other lingering jobs and are now ready to go.

Many thanks to Jim Huber, for his company, for his wealth of knowledge on so many topics, his advice, his invaluable assistance, his fabrication skills and the loan of his car.

We left our dock in Fort Lauderdale on Thursday 30th March, and out into the many challenges the New River has to offer. Strong currents, narrow areas, particularly around bridges, heavy river traffic and four bridges to open within a mile. But it is also a scenic ride passing parks, riverside walks, marinas, well designed high rise offices and condominiums and spectacular houses.

 

As the New River meets the ICW, there is a very busy three way junction and the channel markers have to be monitored closely. It is easy to follow the wrong markers and suddenly be in very shallow water. If turning south into the ICW, red is on the right and green on the left. It is the opposite way around heading north. We crossed the ICW and entered Lake Sylvia, which is just inside the Atlantic shoreline north of Port Everglades and is surrounded by private homes and docks.

 

Boats are only allowed to stay in Lake Sylvia for 24 hours, so this is used as an overnight stop for boats heading out early the following day, once a good weather window has been identified.

 

In our case, there wasn’t really a good weather window. We needed to head SE to reach the Bahama Banks. However the winds for the next 7 days were forecast to be easterly or southeasterly.

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Link to ICW Charleston to Florida - Photos

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Email

prower@ondreamon.com

Telephone

USA: 1-954 4785948        UK:  +44 7855388258         Skype: geoff.iza