Sunday, December 29, 2013

Preparing to Cross the Gulf Stream to the Bahamas

     For the past week Joe and I have been visiting family in Deerfield Beach, Florida. Joe's mom arrived at her winter home for the holidays in mid-December. With hopes of making her as settled as possible I managed to prepare a smorgasbord of meal selections for her freezer that will keep her well provisioned for an extended period of time. I rode my bike to the nearby Publix Market so many times that I'd lost count. Though, lugging all those groceries was great exercise. Being off the boat and away from Simple Life for two weeks felt strange. After a few days I missed life aboard and I missed our people in the cruising community. Although, it was wonderful being able to spend the holidays with family and we were fortunate to be able to leave Simple Life at a dock and in a safe place for the duration.

     One thing that surprised me during the two weeks ashore was the magnitude of ambient, urban sounds. Honking horns, screeching tires, incessant construction noise. I could continue but, I'm sure you've got the picture. While riding my bike to the grocery store everyday traffic noise levels seemed louder and more agrivating than I recalled when we lived among the general populase. Grumpy shoppers in need of attitude adjustments were everywhere. Distracted drivers made the bike ride to and from the market life threatening. Maybe I've been out of touch for too long or perhaps people were stressed from holiday shopping. Whatever the reason I'd seen and experienced enough. There have been times lately when I'm not certain we fit into the community at large anymore. Cruising and living on a boat has definitely changed us. I don't know if it's for the better or not but, I do know that when we stay in one place for more than a week I've become restless and felt that the time has come to move on and resume our life aboard the Simple Life.

     While staying in Deerfield Beach I began planning and provisioning for our trip to the Bahamas. The priority was stocking up on bulk items such as cases of water, paper towels, cases of beer, boxes of wine affectionately known as Chateau Carton (say that aloud with a French accent) and cleaning supplies. Basically, large items that were more easily transported by car rather than our usual transport by dinghy. In advance of departure my fish and lobster recipes were reviewed (hopefully we'll catch our own supply) to ensure that I'll have all necessary ingredients onboard. As of now the plan is to spend about four months anchored in and around the more remote areas of the Family and Out Islands. All meals will be cooked onboard since there are few restaurants and we don't stay at marinas. If you've taken a cruise ship to the Bahamas you've most likely visited the more populated areas such as Nassau, Freeport or one of the larger Bahama Islands in the Abacos and you're probably wondering why I'm making such a fuss over provisions. We will not be spending time in those areas. Provisioning for the Family and Out Islands requires significant planning. There are small stores in the settlements on the scale of half the size of a convenience store stateside. These stores' provisions are brought on the "mailboat" that arrives once or twice a week. in other words, there are no tractor trailers that arrive at a scheduled time for restocking. If the weather happens to be bad, the mailboat may not arrive.

     Now let's talk about the cost of food. To compare the costs of everyday items that can be purchased in the States and purchased in the Bahamas is eye opening. One case of beer in the Bahamas costs $45.00! A case of soft drinks around $12.00. Paper products such as paper towels are outrageous. In general, all provisions regardless of the product are double the cost of the same product in the States and are not always readily available especially as the number of cruisers increase as the winter progresses. I canned a case of meat and a case of chicken prior to leaving RI in my 21 quart pressure canner. The canned meat can be used in a variety of tasty recipes. If it sounds as though I've gone "overboard" with planning and provisioning I can assure you I haven't. I'm certain that there will be quite a few things I've left out. In that case improvisation will be a good teacher allowing us to explore new food options that may become favorites in my recipe repertoire.

     All of this planning probably sounds like a lot of effort and it certainly is. You may be thinking, "Why don't they just take a cruise ship to the Bahamas where people cook your food and wait on you?" Believe me on occasion I have questioned our motives, too. Although, then I remember how thrilling it was when Joe speared his first lobster at the reef on Cape Santa Maria in the Bahamas. The anxiety and sense of accomplishment of riding out a storm on anchor. Close friendships we've forged throughout our many years of cruising. It was then that I realized why we are living this life. I made this video ten years ago during our first trip to the Bahamas. If you have ten minutes to spare you too can have a virtual Bahamas Out Island adventure. Enjoy and Happy New Year! Hope you continue to follow our adventures in the new year across the Gulf Stream in the Bahama Islands where I'll be making new underwater action videos with the new GoPro camera that Santa brought!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Lake Sylvia, Fort Lauderdale, Florida

South Florida shoreline from sea
     The sea was calm with a warm, gentle 8-10 knot breeze at sunrise as Simple Life motor sailed down the coast of Florida from Lake Worth Inlet toward the Port Everglades Inlet in Fort. Lauderdale. While motorsailing Simple Life was averaging over 6.5 knots. By traveling outside on the ocean we avoided having to negotiate 19 bascule bridge openings in the ICW and accomplished the journey in one day rather than two. From the get-go the trip was interesting. First a rambunctious pod of dolphins ascended from the deep blue depths to frolic in Simple Life's bow wake. I tethered into the jackline while carefully navigating my way to the bow stepping over mired jerry cans and fenders. Over the course of ten to fifteen minutes, the dolphins and I "communicated." While I leaned over the bowsprit peering down at them they turned side to side all the while using their sonar squeaks to maintain speed with our bow wake glancing up at me with each turn. Remarkably, they kept perfect pace with our speed. It was an exhilarating experience and one that I thought would make a good video that I could share with everyone. First I needed to get the camera. To my disappointment when I returned to the bow they were gone. It was as though they were as curious about me as I was of them and when I left well...I suppose they had better things to do.

     With the dolphin departure I returned to the cockpit to check out the shoreline. I began wondering about the Kennedy's and the family's Palm Beach connections. After all I'm from that generation that was raised on the Kennedy mystique. Of course I googled the former Kennedy administration Winter White House on Palm Beach. While searching the shoreline as we sailed by the coast of Palm Beach I was able to identify the home. It was surprisingly less spectacular than most of the newer McMansions that have been constructed by lesser known individuals along the ICW in south Florida. The Kennedy home at Palm Beach was sold in 1995 but, it remains on the register of historic places.

Port Everglades Inlet, Fort Lauderdale
     By mid afternoon we negotiated the Port Everglades inlet with plans to anchor in Lake Sylvia. The anchorage entrance is shallow and requires local knowledge to get in without grounding. Once inside it's completely surrounded by land and exclusive private homes. After all it is in the epicenter of Fort Lauderdale. Fort Lauderdale is referred to as the "yachting capital of the world" but, those of us who pass through as cruising sailors often find that there is an undercurrent of unwelcoming. Or, should I say it's apparent that size definitely matters in Fort Lauderdale. OK delete that X-rated thought from your mind. I'm referring to the size of your boat. Even though many cruising sailors headed to the Bahamas or south to the Florida Keys make this one of their stops along the ICW, Fort Lauderdale is not a place that caters to cruising live aboards. It seems that if you own a megayacht of 100 feet or more along with an overstuffed money clip, then the welcome mat is rolled out. Things are not so welcoming for the average cruiser traveling aboard a boat in the 40 foot range. We're pretty much ignored although at times suspiciously eyed by authorities and stopped for minor infractions while traveling Fort Lauderdale's canals. Such crimes as not having a whistle aboard your dinghy. There is one dock down at the end of one of the canals where dinghies are allowed to land for a fee of $10.00. The location is convenient since it's near a grocery store, laundromat, liquor store and a dollar store. What more could a cruiser want? The $10.00 landing fee at the raw bar is waived if you choose to have happy hour drinks or eat at the restaurant. Of course we all partake in happy hour, so most of us make good use of the dinghy dockage fee. Though, it would be even better if there was at least one dock in the greater Fort Lauderdale area that offered free dinghy dockage for less affluent cruising sailors.

    Simple Life's anchor barely touched the bottom when our friend Steve from IP 38 SV Slow Flight
Happy hour aboard Slow Flight photo by Stefano Piviali
dinghied over to invite us for happy hour aboard his boat. He'd earlier invited many of the anchored boats in Lake Sylvia. Steve said he needed to head back to his boat to prepare hors d'oeuvres. I'll admit that a sexist thought popped into my head. "What's he going to rush back and crack open a can of peanuts?" We were the last dinghy to arrive and Steve had prepared hot Calzones for everyone and they were delicious! The get together was a reunion for many of us since we'd met the crew of Pendragon along with Steve on Slow Flight in St. Augustine. Lorraine and Phil from SV Changes and Ken from SV Sail Away were cruisers we'd met while moored in Vero Beach. We were introduced to Stefano and Helen from Fremantle, Australia who recently crossed the Atlantic aboard their sailing catamaran Novae. I must admit, Steve was an excellent host.

The anchorage in Lake Sylvia, Fort Lauderdale
      Now that we are nearing Christmas and the New Year, quite a few cruisers have been actively seeking reasonably priced, secure places to leave their boats in order to return home to family for the holidays. Once again boats have been departing the anchorage each day. Simple Life has found a temporary home at Bruno's Zoo for a week or more while we visit our family in Deerfield Beach, Florida. Bruno's Zoo is actually a few finger piers behind a private home in Fort Lauderdale. We were fortunate enough to be recommended to Bruno by fellow cruisers from SV Chantibrise II with whom we shared Thanksgiving dinner in Vero Beach. That's how life is out here. Cruisers helping fellow cruisers, sharing information, laughs and camaraderie. It's a special life that we partake in and it's rarely simple but, there's nothing that compares to life aboard. Happy holidays to everyone wherever you are! (I feel like Tiny Tim...)
Simple Life at her berth at Bruno's Zoo, Fort Lauderdale

Sent from my iPad

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Thanksgiving in Vero Beach, Florida

A walk on Vero Beach
     Given that it was Thanksgiving Day and being away from family once again for the holidays, I began feeling somewhat sentimental. Not so slushy that I wanted to be back in New England but, none the less missing the old days with the sound of pots and pans banging about and all that tension on Thanksgiving morning in my mother's kitchen. I searched the Intenet hoping to find some reference that would bring back the nostalgia of home. I came across a few Thanksgiving quotes online that were mostly sappy, laments about giving thanks for all our gifts..blah, blah, blah. The host of The Daily Show, Jon Stewart's quote cheered me the most. He said, " I celebrated Thanksgiving in an old-fashioned way. I invited everyone in my neighborhood to my house, we had an enormous feast, and then I killed them and took their land." That certainly put a new spin on Thanksgiving! With that thought in mind, this year Joe and I celebrated Thanksgiving while moored aboard Simple Life in Vero Beach in the company of our extended family; more than a hundred other cruisers.
Joe and I had a picnic in the park at the beach.
Joe and Jim Austin from SV Salty Paws at Vero City Marina

The mooring field at Vero Beach, Florida
     Due to the number of vessels attending the event this year the Vero Beach Municipal Marina required rafting up to three vessels per mooring. Simple Life was rafted to Kismet an Island Packet 350 with Jim and Laurie aboard and Sail Away a 34 foot Beneteau from Ontario with her skipper Ken. 
Another cold front arrival was in the forecast ushering in more heavy nine foot seas with winds in the 30-35 knot range. Within a few days the predicted winds arrived and lasted beyond Thanksgiving. We were all "thankful" to be safely rafted in the protection of the harbor.

Dinner with friends Elaine and Lawrence from Elle and I



     Thanksgiving dinner was scheduled to begin at 2:00 PM in a large hall at Riverside Park which was within dinghying distance from the marina. One of the nice features about these loosely organized pot luck shindigs is that each person contributes one traditional side dish for dinner. Most boat ovens can handle a bird about the size of a stuffed quail but, squeezing a turkey thats been hopped up on hormones into one of these compact cookers would be a stretch. Having the responsibility of stove top cooking on Thanksgiving can be liberating. Traditionally, there are a few towns along the southern migration route that contribute to cruiser's Thanksgiving celebrations. The oldest and best known events are at Vero Beach, Florida and St. Mary's, Georgia. This year it made sense for us to bypass St. Mary's and continue south to Vero since Thanksgiving fell so late in November. Vero's event didn't disappoint. More food than we could possibly consume, meeting new friends, interesting banter around the dinner table and ending the day with a music jam. It felt like home.
Music jam after dinner with a motley crew of individuals.
To read more about Thanksgiving in Vero Beach read the following newspaper article from Vero Beach featuring several quotes from my blog and photos that Joe Boulay took during the festivities.

Jim Austin SV Salty Paws and Michele share a laugh
black and white photos taken with Jim's film camera.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Shortened Stay in St. Augustine

Sailboat about to cross under bascule bridge to St. Augustine
      November has been plagued by unseasonable cold fronts that have lowered temperatures in North Florida by only a few degrees. Though, the fronts have ushered in heavy winds and sea conditions for those planning offshore passages. Ocean travel days in November have been limited. Boats have been staging in harbors along the eastern seaboard such as Charleston, SC and St. Augustine, Florida for days awaiting favorable weather windows. Some have ventured out of inlets into the offshore waters only encounter rough sea state conditions and have opted to return to port to wait for milder circumstances another day.

White pelicans migrate to the south east coast from
central and western United States
      With our low aspect ratio rig 49.5 feet Simple Life has the option to travel the inside course along the ICW most days when severe weather threatens. We don't concern ourselves with fixed bridge heights at 65 feet and Simple Life can fit under the few bridges that have a 55 foot clearance. The numerous shallow areas can still throw a monkey wrench into the mixer and we still have to be careful negotiating these notorious ICW problem areas. Although, we try to make a point of traveling at mid to high tide whenever possible even though Simple Life draws only 4.5 feet. We've gone aground occasionally and with Simple Life's full keel it's not fun. So we make every effort to avoid grounding. Though, sometimes even careful planning isn't sufficient.

Lawrence and Elaine from SV Elle and I
      Our stop in St. Augustine was abbreviated with the weather forecast this season. It has always been a favorite stop in the fall and we reserved a mooring for a few days hoping to tour the city. More high winds were in the forecast and delivered as promised. It was nice to be secured in the mooring field when the 25+knot gusts kicked up during the night. Friends Elaine and Lawrence aboard SV Elle and I were scheduled to arrive the next day and we looked forward to having them aboard since we hadn't seen them since last winter in Marathon. Their plans of spending time at Cumberland Island, Georgia were dashed when they were chased south sooner than expected by the clever north winds. The news of their early arrival was good for us since we'd hoped to catch up with them along the way.

Joe on a cool day in St. Augustine
   The day before Elle and I's arrival during early afternoon on our second day in the harbor a fellow cruiser aboard Island Packet 38 SV Slow Flight dinghied over to invite us to join him and the crew of Pendragon a Beneteau 52 for happy hour and dinner at the Legion Hall across from the Bridge of Lions in St. Augustine. It sounded like fun and we headed ashore. We were introduced to Mary Ellen and Joe from Pendragon whom we'd seen along the way last season but, never met. Since they were New Englanders from Canton, Massachusetts we had an instant bond. Perhaps it's the New England accent that we have in common. We had a couple of drinks, chatted about where we've been, where we're going and ordered dinner. I must say that the shrimp basket and fries were the BEST especially for the reasonable price of $6.50! It's such fun meeting new people and instantly feeling like old friends.
     When dinner was over it was obvious that we would all be heading in our own directions in the upcoming days. Slow Flight had to be down to No Name Key, in Biscayne Bay by a certain date, Pendragon was waiting for an offshore window since they can't travel on the ICW due to a 72 foot mast height. Simple Life was waiting for subsiding winds to move south on the ICW toward Vero Beach for the annual Thanksgiving Day Bash. That's the cruising life. Meeting new friends, parting ways, catching up again and sharing the excitement of reuniting in a new sheltered harbor with laughter and sundowners.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Shelter from the Storm, Jacksonville, FL

Simple Life docked at the Landings at Jacksonville, Florida
photo by Joe Boulay
      The storm forecast was not our primary reason for heading up the St. John's River to Jacksonville, Florida but, it turned out to be a good place to wait out impending gale force winds. The main reason for heading to Jacksonville was that I had discovered that Ana Vidovic, a virtuoso classical guitarist whom I'd been following on YouTube for a number of years was giving a solo concert at Riverside Fine Arts in Jacksonville. Since we were nearby I hoped to divert up the St. John's River to attend the event. It's difficult to make any plans too far in advance when traveling aboard a sailboat. However, occasionally the stars align and plans made a few days in advance materialize.

     You may or may not know that I play classical guitar or perhaps I should say, I am a student of classical guitar. I say this because this instrument is so challenging that most who play often feel that learning and perfecting techniques is a lifelong journey. I don't know if guitar virtuosos in the world would sympathize with this concept or not but, perhaps they feel the same way. Having the opportunity to see Ana Vidovic live in concert was a dream that I'd hoped would eventually happen. She is an extraordinary talent with formidable gifts that place her among the elite musicians in the world. She's also an international performer whose tour schedule takes her throughout the world with only ten performances in the States in any given year. Between her sporadic schedule on the east coast and our hit and miss itinerary, I surmised that attending this performance was a once in a lifetime experience.

     Simple Life arrived at the free dock at the Jacksonville Landing after negotiatiating the 3+knot currents up the St. John's River off the ICW. At times we were moving at over eight knots! We researched our options with two choices for free dockage. One at Memorial Park near the Gator Bowl offered free dockage with electric and water for $8.75 per day. As we passed by the location only one boat occupied the space for 100 boats and it seemed to be in the "boonies" next to the port and away from the city. Joe and I decided to continue on toward Jacksonville Landing even though there was no electric. I assumed no boats would be there given that Jacksonville was 18 miles off the north south ICW route. Wrong once again. There was space at the dock but, it filled to capacity by late afternoon. Apparently, everyone was seeking shelter from the storm.

     The gale came and went and our wind generator never began spinning. The commercial buildings at the landing that house numerous restaurants along the waterfront made a superb wind break. The next day we'd heard that nearby St. Augustine had wind gusts to 50 knots! Either we slept through the worst of the storm or as I said Simple Life was blocked from the wind.

Ana Vidovic at the Riverside Fine Arts Center
      The concert was the following evening and we called a cab to insure an ontime arrival since our tickets were held at will call. We were second in line and had our choice of front row seating in the glorious venue which was an Episcopal Cathedral. The concert was sold out. I could not believe that we were seated front row and center. Ana was only a few feet away. I was so close that I was able to watch Ana's flawless tremolo technique which is somewhat controversial since she uses only her index and middle finger. Her solo concert began at 7:30 and continued until 10:00 PM with a brief intermission. A catered reception with wine, sandwiches and pastries was held at the conclusion of the concert where concert goers could meet Ana, have programs signed along with photo opportunities. Ana signed my program we chatted about her tremolo technique and I had my photo taken with her. I was so excited that I expected my head to explode. It was the thrill of a lifetime!
Ana Vidovic after a fabulous performance
Michele and Ana having a post concert chat


     Joe called a cab after the reception but, it never came. Nearly everyone had gone and it was time to lock the gates. The security guard said he didn't want to leave us waiting around for a cab that probably wasn't coming. He offered us a ride back to the Landing. The cab never arrived and we were fortunate that he was so kind. There are good people who will help others in need. The cruising life never fails to restore my faith in humanity.

     At departure the next day the current was not in our favor until 10:30 AM but, when it turned it would sweep us down the river into the ICW at over eight knots in less than three hours. Our journey would once again be on course and headed south. The short term goal for now is to make it to Vero Beach for the Thanksgiving Cruiser Celebration. The city provides turkeys and ham for the cruisers at the Municipal Marina and we provide the sides. Apparently, a record turnout is expected at the event this year. It promises to be an enjoyable holiday and we look forward to reuniting with cruiser friends whom we haven't caught up for awhile.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Offshore from Beaufort, SC (Port Royal Inlet)-Fernandina,Fl

Sunset off Tybee Roads Inlet, Georgia
     Lately, offshore weather windows have been few and far between. High winds and offshore seas have persisted for a couple of weeks with an occasional opportunity to travel on the outside. Recently, there were 15 foot seas in the Gulf Stream with 35-50 knot winds. Even though those conditions were well offshore they still affected the coastal waters of the Carolina's making offshore travel dodgy.
     We'd been waiting for a window to move from Charleston, SC and decided to travel on the ICW to Beaufort, SC. It took only one night anchoring in a creek with an arrival the following day anchoring in Factory Creek across from the town. Our general mail delivery been forwarded to Beaufort so we couldn't bypass the town.

     Weather forecasts had been downgraded for diminishing winds to 10-15 knots from the northwest and the seas were forecast to diminish from nine feet at Grey's Reef off Georgia to five feet the following day. With all systems go it appeared that we could plan an offshore passage late Saturday afternoon from Port Royal Sound Inlet at Beaufort with an arrival at the Mary's Inlet on the Florida/Georgia border around 11:00 AM Sunday morning.

     The passage began with us having to dodge a hazard to navigation, a large 30 foot floating tree with roots and branches reaching upward from below the waves leaving the inlet. Coast Guard had no security's on this hazard until we reported it. After that we heard reports periodically throughout the night. Somehow, I couldn't get that tree out of my mind. I hoped it was the only one we'd encounter especially in the darkness. At sunset seas were down but, the wave direction hit Simple Life on her side...all night. It was rolly but, at least we had a sliver of a moon to light our way. The engine was off and Simple Life was under sail for seven hours making over six knots! After midnight the moon set and the the wind lightened. It was necessary to motor once again making the ride more bearable. The rolling worsened after a couple of hours. It was going to be a long night. When it's the wee hours of the morning and way past my bedtime my imagination tends to run wild. I'd spotted a boat's lights off in the distance and thought I saw a helicopter's lights or some flying object swooping down toward the boat. Guess what I thought it was? Of course, I'd spotted a UFO! "OK, Michele, get a holed of yourself. There are no UFO's" I looked back with binoculars and the flying thing was gone. I saw only the boat. Whew! Without moonlight the darkness, wind and waves can play tricks with your mind. I mentioned it to Joe who quickly straightened me out by saying, "Don't start imagining things. It's a boat with running lights, that's all! Go to bed and get some sleep."

     Usually, I'm so wired at the start of a passage that sleep is nearly impossible but, around 3:00 AM I hit a wall. At that point I'm so tired that I have few worries and sleep happens. Poor Joe tends to take breaks but, gets little sleep during the first night offshore. I worry about him when I'm below in my cabin. With the engine running it's impossible to hear anything. Even though he's wearing a PFD with a harness and tether, I'm afraid I won't hear if he needs me over the drone of the engine. I feel much better when we're under sail. Those are my fears...I suppose most sailors have them, in one manner or another.

A shrimp boat plying the waters of St. Mary's Inlet

     Waiting for dawn can be like watching paint dry. You stare off toward the east searching for any hint of light. The darkest dark is just before dawn. I know it well. Finally, it happens, clouds become visible, then the horizon line, slowly a magenta glow spreads near the water and sky. I breath a sigh of relief. It's dawn. We've made it.

Refueling at Fernandina Beach, Florida

Saturday, November 9, 2013

A Few Days in Historic Charleston, SC

    Thus far, our southern fall migration has been relatively mild in comparison to what we'd experienced last year. Weather has been dry and warm with minimal amounts of rain. Unlike last fall, we have not experienced any hurricanes, tropical storms or gales. Simple Life's onboard fireplace hasn't been lit this season! One weather factor that has affected most of us this fall has been the number of cold fronts that have not caused plummeting temperatures but, have brought numerous days of high wind conditions both inshore and offshore. This has limited the number of travel days.

An example of a Charleston Single House
     We planned to stay in Charleston, SC for a couple of days and decided to extend it to a week after two back to back cold fronts came through in a matter of three days and altered our plans. Being held hostage by weather in Charleston can be an enjoyable experience and not necessarily negative. Charleston is another of our favorite southern ports of call steeped in history with the finest southern cuisine and convenient amenities for itinerant cruisers like us. There isn't a good anchorage in Charleston but, there are a few marina choices. This season we stayed at The Charleston Maritime Center and found it to be convienient to the historic district and provisioning. The staff was friendly, helpful and...not  texting as we made our approach into the dock. That was a positive experience after The Town Creek Marina episode in Beaufort, NC. If you're curious read the blog on Beaufort, NC.


      Simple Life arrived at her berth around mid-day and I took the opportunity to do one load of laundry while the machine was available. That made my day! Getting chores done on a boat tends to give such a feeling of contentment. I always feel a sense of safety and comfort when I know we have clean laundry and groceries. It's a strange phenomenon since the things I disliked most when living on land was grocery shopping and laundry chores and now these chores lift my spirits. I suppose I am merely reconnecting with my primal instincts.

One of the remaining cobblestone streets in Charleston
 The proximity of the Maritime Center gave us the opportunity to come and go as we pleased. Other marinas offer transportation to town via vehicle or water taxi but, you are then relegated to the marinas' scheduled departures and arrival times. At this point in my life, I've had enough of other's schedules. We were free to return to the boat whenever we chose to have lunch or take showers before a night on the town.

     When all the boat chores were taken care of Joe began researching places where we could watch what we hoped would be the final game of the Boston Red Sox World Series. The King Street Bar and Grill looked like a good choice and it was offering half price burgers and multiple TV screens at the bar. The excitement in the bar was palpable as the Red Sox roared home with their victory and once again became baseballs' world champions. We were thrilled to be able to actually watch the game since we'd been following all week via staticky radio transmissions while anchored out.
Stately home in the Battery section of Charleston

Ornate iron work adorns most buildings

The Calhoun Mansion
During our second day in Charleston the sun shone brightly and I wanted to take the opportunity to photograph the city with good lighting conditions. We managed to cover some ground visiting my favorite southern cemeteries and historic haunts. I know I've said it before but, the graveyards in the south are pleasant places to visit. Offering a feeling of peace and tranquility in a modern life. There's a sense of coming to grips with one's own mortality when reading the names and dates of birth and death of those who came long before us.
A gravestone dating back to 1760


      I've often been told, "There is no free lunch" and being a New Englander I've often suspected anyone offering one. A light mist began falling upon Charleston during our last day in town. While walking along Meeting Street toward one of our favorite restaurants, Jestine's Kitchen for lunch, a young man lurking on a nearby corner hailed us. He was clearly a "salesman" of sort and definitely relentless since we waved him off. But, it was beginning to rain and he was offering...a free lunch! Although we were skeptical we decided to allow him to reel us in and listened to his promotion. He offered us a $25.00 gift certificate to Amen Restaurant and Raw Bar for lunch and a $50.00 gift certificate for dinner along with $50.00 in cash if we attended a seminar for 90 minutes pitching a membership in a wholesale travel club. It was raining, we were hungry, what did we have to lose? We took the $25.00 and went to Amen on East Bay St. Joe ordered a beer, a cup of she crab soup and an appetizer of fried green tomatoes with pickled okra. I ordered a glass of Chardonnay and a half pound of peel and eat shrimp! All far. At 3:00PM we attended a hard sell seminar for 90 minutes and came out the other side no worse for wear with the gift certificate for $50.00 for dinner at Amen Street Raw Bar and $50.00 cash! That night we dined on the best shrimp and grits (I've sampled shrimp and grits up and down the low country coast) and crab cakes! All free! By the way, we didn't buy into the wholesale travel club. For now, we do enough traveling aboard the Simple Life. Beaufort, SC would be our next to collect a mail delivery, renew passports and stage for an overnight offshore passage from Port Royal Sound to St. Mary's Inlet on the Florida/Georgia border.

Dinner was fabulous!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Reflections Along the Waccamaw River

An anchorage along the Waccamaw River
      One of the most scenic areas along the many diverse sections of the Intracoastal Waterway is the Waccamaw River in South Carolina. The water along this stretch is known as black water due to the tannins from decaying leaves and other decaying elements along this riverfront forest. Black water is highly reflective due to its' dense quality and can be ideal for photography at certain times of the day. Sunset can be particularly wonderful when clouds are reflected in the water.
Delightful fall colors


Ospreys and eagles nest along the river where
abandoned rice fields change the landscape.
 The bald cypress forest supports a wide variety of flora and fauna including the black bear that lives in the Waccamaw's upper reaches on the North and South Carolina border. Along the ICW the river transforms from heavily forested bald cypress trees with exposed knees in the swamp areas to abandoned rice fields as the river merges with the Pee Dee River and Winyah Bay near Georgetown, SC.

Bald cypress knees in the swamp.


Sunset on the Waccamaw by Joe Boulay

     Our overnight anchorage at Butler Island was a spectacular setting since we were treated to a windless sunset which provided a highly reflective water surface and an eerie fog shrouded sunrise the next morning. We hope you'll enjoy the images of our time transiting the Waccamaw River.

Fog at sunrise on the Waccamaw by Joe Boulay

Thursday, October 31, 2013

New Friends Along the ICW

     Cruising sailors are a motley crew of individuals, a veritable stew of personalities and avocations. The sailing migration south tends to be somewhat isolating unless cruisers set off in pairs from their places of origin. Joe and I prefer to take an individualistic approach to traveling because it gives us more opportunities to meet and connect with new people. Recently, while transiting the Camp LeJeune area of the ICW a passing boater hailed us on VHF channel 16. SV Moonraker hailing port Annapolis, MD remarked that they'd spotted Simple Life a couple of weeks ago entering the channel into Solomon's Island. We remembered Moonraker as well. They asked our destination and we were both headed to the Mile Hammock Bay anchorage for the night.
Donna and Bill of SV Moonraker
     After negotiating some tricky and stressful, shallow areas in the Camp Le Jeune section of the ICW I think we all looked forward to bit of rest and relaxation and hoped for enough room in the anchorage when we all arrived that afternoon. The Onslow Beach Bridge (a scheduled opening bridge) was the last bridge for the day and Mile Hammock Bay was only a short distance away. At final approach I counted over twenty boats already in the anchorage! Joe decided that we should drop our hook as soon as we cleared the channel marker. He said, "This is as good as anywhere else," and I heard the anchor chain ratcheting out of the windlass. Moonraker was directly in front of us and had just dropped their anchor, too. I suppose we were all feeling anxious about securing our spots for the night especially while monitoring VHF16 and listening to a couple of other boats who were hard aground awaiting assistance from Boat US Towing in the Camp LeJeune shallows. We felt lucky to have made it beyond that tricky area.

Pierre and Jessy from SV LOL
     Within a short time after settling into the anchorage the crew fromMoonraker had deployed their dinghy and were making the rounds of the anchorage stopping at a few boats including ours. They thought it would be fun to have a sundowner party aboard Moonraker. They'd invited a charming couple Pierre and Jessy from SV LOL who had sailed their boat from France, a young couple Riley and Allison aboard a 30 foot C&C and us for a 5:00 PM party!
First time cruisers Allison and Rielly from Roanoake, VA

     Everyone was genuinely appreciative of their efforts and kind hospitality. We'd all been traveling for a number of days, anchoring in remote areas and stressed from the anticipation of numerous shallow areas along the ICW. Sometimes it's days before having an opportunity to get off the boat and take a walk onshore. The party was just what we all needed at that particular point in the trip. We shared stories of our individual journeys, frustrations, anxieties and most of all everyone had the opportunity to...LOL!
Michele and Joe enjoying the company of new friends.