The Voyage of FORTY TWO – Southbound Again!

Somehow November was shot with scheduling Doctor and Dentist visits and finishing the work on Forty Two that we did not get done before we left in July. But we now have a bimini top, two solar panels, a new 100 amp alternator and charge controller together with a Pathmaker solenoid switch that decides which batteries need charging when. We also have a new voltage instrument that tells us what the individual battery voltages are, how many amp hours are left in the house bank, and how many amps we draw when we have power on. udy's daughter Margaret visited for a week and a week later Judy had to take a quick trip home to support her sister whose husband has been diagnosed with serious cancer. So, the planned 3 week stopover was extended.

But finally at 1130 on December 4 we cast off once more and started heading south. Had no wind so motored down the Neuse River and into Adams Creek that was the start of the ICW for us again. Stopped the night in Cedar Creek – nice anchorage with 7 feet of water over very soft mud. Next day we motored on again to Beaufort. Highlight of this trip was being met by a pod of dolphins by marker 23 up from Morehead City. They stayed with us for about ½ mile, at times only feet away from us. Magic! By 1200 we were anchored of the town docks in Taylor Creek. Took a walk through town and bought an old hurricane oil lamp for additional light (and heat) in the cabin in the evening. Last night the cabin temperature got down below 50o and we had light frost on the deck in the morning. We have a hot water bottle that warms our feet and flannel sheets under the duvet. As always Forty Two still offers the best nights sleep you will ever experience- there is something soporific about curling up in the vee berth with the wind and wave noises all around.

Monday brought another day of calm as we motored out of Beaufort, around Morehead City and back into the ICW. This section is very narrow and follows the west side of Bouge Sound. Only problem was losing concentration at R42 and briefly went aground on the side of the channel. Finished up at Dudley’s Marina in Swansboro which is cheap at 75c a foot with good faculties and a loner car. Met Stacey and Duncan on Comet out of New York and had them over for dinner.

Next morning the wind was up on the nose again so we laid over a second day at Dudley’s. Wednesday was bright and clear with no wind so off we went again. This section of the ICW takes us through Camp Lejeune, the large Marine training base and through the firing ranges. We timed our arrival just right as they opened the range area at 1000 and closed it again at 1100. As we approached the end of the range area there were several Coast Guard harbor patrol vessels with machine guns mounted on their bows. Shortly after we cleared the range we heard machine gun fire – obviously the USCG is serious about the terrorist threat to harbors. Just south of Brown’s Inlet we had our second encounter with dolphins, this time a solitary one just swimming around. Made good time though this section so decided not to stop at Mile Hammock Bay but to continue on with Comet and anchor in Sloop Point behind Topsail Beach. Comet went in first as they draw 5 feet and promptly went aground. They were able to rock their boat off. After a quick radio conversation we both decided to stay at Harbor Village Marina, about 2 miles further on. That night we had a heavy rain fall and low temperatures.

Next morning there was fog that cleared by 0900 so off we went for Wrightsville Beach. Had a good boost from the tide and got through the Surf City Bridge easily, then found we could not quite make the Wrightsville Beach Bridge which only opens on the hour. Had to slow down and putz around for 45 minutes until the 1200 opening. That put us through at low tide so when we turned off the ICW into Motts Channel we were aground. Fortunately we were working our way in very slowly so we were able to get off. Three attempts later we finally found the channel over on the starboard side and worked out way into the Wrightsville Beach anchorage. Nice spot with municipal dingy docks and three other yachts at anchor. Two days later found us still anchored there as a series of south west winds blew through the area. Still the temperatures are in the 70’s and we are back into shorts for part of the day!

December 12 we finally left Wrightsville Beach for Southport. A really interesting day as we were able to run with the tide down the Cape Fear River and got into Southport earlier than anticipated with a favorable tide carrying us down the ICW. The only slow bit was through Snows Cut when we were down to three knots against the tide and had to dodge around a dredge working in the Cut. So we continued on to Holden Beach after calling the marina twice to confirm they had enough depth. The first slip they assigned us only had four feet, the second we could not get alongside so we finally loaned them our lead line so they could find out what the real depth was and on the third attempt we got in! We were beginning to get quite worried as night was fast approaching and we had not other alternate marina or anchorage to get into.

Next morning we left for Barefoot Landing – our first stop in South Carolina. This is a free dock alongside a huge outlet mall. Apparently in the summer this is really packed with boats rafted up three or four deep but at this time of the year there were only six yachts and one trawler. This section took us through the Rockpile which is a five mile very narrow section of the ICW with rock ledges each side. Pushes up the stress level just a bit! That evening we met up with an old friend Joe from Brian’s Oxford, NC days and his partner Jane and went out to dinner with them.

From Barefoot Landing we went to Georgetown down the Waccamaw River. This is a picturesque section of the ICW with acres of swamp cypress on both sides. We were able to work the tides well for this leg even after being held for 20 minutes at the Socastee Bridge for construction work. Georgetown is a very nice anchorage and we were able to get in right opposite the dingy dock. Took a lay day and caught up on laundry and e-mail. Caught up with Kurt and Nadine off Crystal and their two daughters Lisa and Jana who were at Barefoot Landing with us. They are originally from Holland and Belgium. They found a great little coffee and cigar bar called Humidor and we met up there in the afternoon. Finished up having a very entertaining discussion with the owner and his friend about geopolitics. A well qualified group – two Americans, one Belgian, one Hollander, and an Egyptian and a Kiwi! And then we went on to Brian’s home for a great chicken soup dinner. Once again we marveled at the diversity of interesting people we have met on this voyage.

Thursday the 16th will go down in our memory as the day of the dolphins. As we left Winyah Bay and reentered the ICW we were greeted by three dolphins swimming alongside. Then at 1330 we had another group swim past us. Finally as we came into Price Creek anchorage there was a pod of five or six that came up within feet of the boat. Later after we took the dogs ashore and got back just on sunset they put on another display for us. They surface with such grace and serenity it seems almost natural to be traveling in tandem with them. What a joy to watch the performance of such beautiful creatures completely at home in their environment.

Friday was a short run of only 20 miles into Charlestown, SC. We had a good trip with lots of push from the tides so we were at City Marina by 1200. Biggest highlight of the trip was to finally get Lilly May to poop on the Astroturf in the cockpit. Now if we can only keep it up and train Max Harvey life will be so much better with not having to take them ashore so often. Fueled up, filled the water tanks and had a pump out, then left and anchored in the Ashley River across from the marina. Walked into town and had a short look around and orientation so we can spend Saturday playing tourist.

We cut the tourist stuff short as the weather forecast for Sunday night was gale force winds from the NW. Saturday night forecast was 10 – 15 knots also from the NW so we decided to go outside to Savannah overnight. Got our act together and left the anchorage at 1500. Trip plan was 90 miles. Once we were outside the Charlestown entrance we got the sails up and took off. But the wind was not really in the right direction (what’s new?) so we settled down expecting to have to take a long tack out then back in. However the wind kept clocking around to the NW and we found ourselves first steering 190o then gradually lifting during the night until we were finally at 245o. Tried one tack about 2200 only to find we were almost immediately headed 20o and on our way back to Charlestown. By now we were about 20 miles out and probably on the edge of the Gulf Stream as out speed dropped to between 3 and 4 knots. Dawn found us about 15 miles from the Tybee Roads entrance motoring into the wind and current. What we had planned as an 18 hour trip turned out to be 27 hours and we finally arrived at Savannah at 1820 on Sunday night. Tied up at the City Dock – great deal at $1.00 per foot and located right in the center of the historic district. Although a bit worn out from the exposure to cold and wind, we did enjoy the spectacular beauty of the ocean at night all alone on Forty Two. We saw many constellations and a few Geminids with only lights from a few large fishing vessels throughout the night to interrupt the view.

Took a lay day on Monday and visited the historic district. Beautiful live oak trees filled with Spanish moss line the streets. A free trolley stops at strategic spots to usher you about town. Many places to visit but will have to remember for another visit. When we got back found a Grand Banks trawler had tied up to the dock so we went and introduced ourselves. Marilyn and Patrick are Canadians cruising on Jawbone. We had a great time that finished at a local raw bar munching our way through ½ price oysters and shrimp for happy hour!

Next morning we left for Isle of Hope, a short 20 mile run. As we left the Savannah River there was a yacht aground in the ICW – must have been a shoal out from the mark. We tossed them a line and tried to pull their bow around into deeper water, but to no avail. Fortunately they were aground at low tide so we heard about ½ hour later that they had floated off. Arrived at Isle of Hope at 1300 and anchored just off the ICW. Local marina provides access for a fee so we took the opportunity to catch up on laundry and reprovision at the local Piggly Wiggly.

0800 found us away again still chasing the elusive sun and warm weather. But by 1045 it had warmed up enough that we were finally into shorts and tee shirts! Of course that was just delusional as by 1130 we were back to long trousers and fleeces! This was planned as a long day as we had to cross St Catherines Sound and Sapelo Sound. Both are several miles wide and require a course nearly out to the Atlantic then back with very careful attention to the marks. We have found the most effective way is to use the 3M Post It colored pointers and move them across the chart as we go. We use a minimum of two charts, one the official NOAA charts, the other a book called the Charttracker that shows the route very clearly, but does not have the level of detail that the regular charts have. The other key is to watch the tides and figure out where the rivers flow to take advantage of the tide flow as much as possible. Down in Georgia tide ranges are around 7 feet and currents 2 – 3 knots so the tide can make the difference of traveling at 8 knots or 4 knots. Our goal was the anchorage at Duplin River, a run of 55 miles for the day. In the event we stopped about 5 miles short at New Teakettle Creek just after 1700 as we did not want to risk finding our way into an unmarked anchorage after sunset. This day also marked another soft grounding in Johnson Creek when Judy cut a red marker too close while avoiding a crab pot. Backed off successfully so the only damage was to pride. This was definitely the crab pot’s fault and is and will remain logged as such although Judy intends never to cut Red or Green markers that close again.

We got up early in the morning of December 23 and left at just after dawn for Jekyll Island. Two sounds again Doboy and St Simons. Dolphins sometimes leading and sometimes following Forty Two. They are becoming expected traveling companions. Doboy was simple and smaller and we went through St Simons on a falling tide which facilitated. Another long day as the wind was from the SW and on the nose all the way. We only averaged 4.5 knots for the whole day. When we arrived at Jekyll Island we decided to stay the night at the Jekyll Island Marina as we did not like the location of the anchorage just off the ICW channel. Imagine our surprise when we pulled into our assigned slip and found Mskoki opposite us. We traveled through the Erie Canal to Annapolis with them and thought they had got a lot further south. Unfortunately Brad, Karen and Skipper were not aboard having gone home to Canada for Christmas. Just after docking one other cruiser stopped by to invite us to a pot luck dinner that evening for the liveaboards at the marina. Great timing and we had a great evening exchanging stories and news. Wonderful deep fried turkey and various dishes contributed by all. This is where we find the most unusual and interesting new recipes. This time Brian’s rolled flatbread filled with ham and cream cheese was a big hit. With the diversity among fellow sailors we always find something is new to someone.

Christmas Eve we left for St Marys where we planned to stop for two days for Christmas. Wind has swung to NW which although a help also brought the cold with it, so once again we were bundled up in thermal underwear, slacks, fleeces, foul weather jackets and gloves. We also added our Santa hats. Jekyll Sound was another long run out and back, so far that as we made the turn we could look up the whole length of the ocean side of Jekyll Island. The channels on the Cumberland River are very narrow and again kept us on our toes. At 1315 we passed another yacht that had left Jekyll Island about an hour before us. It looked like they had missed a channel marker as they were hard aground outside the channel on a falling tide. When we passed they were on their side with enough of the bottom showing to clean and repaint one side! The final run was down the Cumberland Sound past Kings Bay which is a Trident Submarine base and up the St Marys River. The anchorage is very nice about ¼ mile off the downtown area which has a nice collection of houses and buildings from the late 1800’s.

And so to our first Christmas aboard. The day opened dreary and went to continual rain around 1200, but we did manage to get Max and Lily ashore before it really set in. Christmas lunch was turkey breast, gravy, mashed sweet potatoes, and oyster stuffing, followed by a pistachio and chocolate pie that Judy created. The big Scrabble game was won by Brian but Judy made a come back by soundly winning the Cribbage game.

The day after Christmas (Boxing Day for our anglophile friends) opened with more rain and cold temperatures. We got together with Irene off Katja and a local, Charlie, and went out for breakfast, did some shopping together and then had them back to Forty Two for tea and more conversation. We first met Irene at Northwest Creek in New Bern so it was a pleasure to catch up with her again. Later in the afternoon the rain finally let up and we were able to take a walk around St Marys and look at the houses that date back to the 18th and 19th centuries.

We decided to go to Vero Beach for New Year so need to put in some long days driving the ICW. It’s about 225 miles from St Marys. Monday we left St Marys and motored to Jacksonville Beach and stayed in a marina so we could get an early start Tuesday. Left Jacksonville Beach at 0715 and had a great run of 47.7 miles including a long period down the Tolomata River where we were able to motor sail with the jib out. The only hold up was in St Augustine where we had to anchor for 40 minutes to wait for a scheduled bridge opening. We were able to pass the planned anchorage and stop at Palm Cove Marina.

Wednesday was another early start 0645 just before dawn so drove the first few miles by moonlight and the early rays of the sun. This was Brian’s day for grounding! First was at Ponce de Leon Inlet where he pulled over and slowed to give a north bound yacht some room and promptly grounded. Judy was silently pleased that it was near a red marker; somehow that made her “hugging the reds” while she was at the helm less of an issue. He was able to pivot the boat around and get off after about three or four minutes. Then just coming into New Smyrna Beach he again pulled to one side for another north bound yacht and again clipped the site of the ICW. This time it was a hard grounding and took a lot more effort to pivot the boat and get off. Finally got into the New Smyrna Beach anchorage at 1425. An interesting stop – we are just off the ICW channel in a pocket of water that is 7 – 10 feet deep. At low tide we had about 6 inches of water under the keel.

An early start at 0700 was called for as we wanted to try and do the 53 miles to Melbourne to meet with Ron and Katy, old friends of Brian’s from Searle and Paris. Fortunately by Titusville the wind had built to where we could motor sail with the jib up at speed of 6.5 – 7.5 knots. Quite an experience sailing through the Cape Kennedy Space Center and seeing the launching pads and shuttle assembly building in the distance. We were able to make Melbourne by 1730 and had a great evening with Ron and Katy playing ‘catch up’ with each other’s lives.

And so to New Year’s Eve. We carried on south to Vero Beach for the weekend. Vero Beach is known as ‘Velcro’ Beach in the cruising community because so many get there and stick! We had reserved a mooring ball which we are sharing with two other yachts. We are taking a well earned rest for the weekend as we have pushed hard to get here. We rode our bikes to the beach and along the way were able to see the damage left by the hurricanes. Much of the beach area was totally boarded up with no businesses open. While talking to a local we were informed that the few hotels with any room left are filled with insurance people so locals have to live in what remains of their homes. Most of the hotels and vacation spots have heavy damage and are closed until the area is reconstructed. Many roofs and the tops of palm trees are missing. We now can attest that the damage was much more extensive than reports we had received.

New Year’s Eve we sat and watched small local fireworks, played cribbage, smoked a cigar and watched the ball drop in New York on the small TV.

We finish the year having lived aboard for six months and traveled 2938 nautical miles. We have studied the stars through the night with the only sound that of the wind in the sails. So many sunrises and sunsets far too breathtaking to describe. We have thrilled to the hundreds of dolphins who travel with us sharing their remarkable serenity and grace as they jump and dive all around the boat. Along with these great and memorable experiences we have met many new friends who share our lifestyle. One cruiser we have met is Eileen Quinn who writes and sings great songs about the cruising life. One of her tunes is dedicated to the ‘dirt dwellers’ that still live ashore. So to all our ‘dirt dweller’ friends around the world may 2005 bless you with health and happiness. To our cruising friends may you continue to have fair winds and following seas.

And finally, we have more photos here.

Best wishes,

Brian & Judy