Wednesday, April 21, 1999. At six-thirty we're ready to leave. Betty and Dave are on their way and we're ready to establish our travel routine. We go through the normal startup which consists of a long one page check list. The generator is started, power umbilical cables are pulled in, engines are started, electronics turned on, etc. We're casting off lines when the genset (short for "generator set") stops. Bill tries to start the #2 genset and it won't start, either. Something has happened during the primary filter change, so we call Jeff again.
By noon, the problems have been identified. The gasket furnished with the new filter is undersized, and genset #1 is drawing air. Diesels hate air in their fuel. The second genset has a faulty circuit breaker, which has chosen just this minute to act up. In short, we can get genset #1 running fine - but without a backup, and we're hours behind where we wanted to be.
We change plans and make Titusville our goal rather than St. Augustine. Jan makes the changes with marinas, and we start out. Titusville is only 36 miles away.
Titusville is close to Cape Canaveral and we can easily see the NASA vehicle assembly building and launch sites. The marina is the municipal marina and a nice facility. The marina is crawling (poor choice of words) with Manatees. While washing down the boat, Bill actually "feeds" one of them fresh water from a hose. Take a look at the pictures we have of them. They're so ugly they're cute (sorta).
We take a taxi to Dixie Crossing for a local seafood dinner. Quite an event, this place is unique. Huge servings, huge restaurant, very funk, cheap!
Thursday, April 22, 1999. An early start and we easily travel the 45 miles to Daytona Beach to stay at the Halifax River Yacht Club. This is a beautiful old club and we have a wonderful picture of Interlude tied to the rail. We have dinner at a restaurant Jan has found in a guide to dining along the Intracoastal Waterway: St. Regis. Not bad. We walk for an hour along the strand in Daytona Beach then head home. Guess what. The KVH satellite television receiver isn't working again, so Bill spends almost two hours with the technician on the phone. Wish we would have had time to shake out these systems before we left. But, we'll get it eventually.
Friday, April 23, 1999. We leave Halifax River Yacht Club at 6:30 AM so that we can pass a series of three drawbridges that have restricted openings during morning rush hour. We pass all three in 15 minutes, and are on our way. Today we plan to travel 55 miles to St. Augustine.
About 10 miles south of St. Augustine, along the Intracoastal near the Mantanzas Inlet, we come to a section of the waterway which is reputed to be heavily silted and difficult to navigate. That proves to be an understatement. We sense the problem when we discover just ahead of us in the center of the narrow channel, there is a 40' sailboat aground. Tide is ebbing and their situation will only get worse. We radio and ask which side to pass. He advised us, and we are just abeam of him and only about 15 feet to his side when we hit bottom. We back off on power and assess the situation. We're too close to the other boat, and far, far bigger - damage will be done if we stay there. We apply a burst of power and use the thruster at the same time and pass the sand spit...only to hit a second, and a third. Sheer power gets us through the situation, and into deep water. At the other end of this shallow section is another large sailboat with whom we talk on the radio. They're also grounded and waiting for the tide to rise. They ask our draft (5'5") and indicate theirs is over 6'--so they have a long wait.
During the next hour we hear a continue chatter on the radio of people having problems at that location. Claiborne Young's warning at his seminar at the Trawlerfest was right on target!
Shortly after noon we pull into the St. Augustine City Marina, a beautiful facility. We take a long walk to collect needed items, and spend a casual afternoon on chores. The next two days will be long travel days, so we need to have our travel plans in order. Tomorrow is a big day--we plan on the Interlude leaving Florida for the first time, and not to return until November.
Saturday, April 24, 1999. We leave St. Augustine for Jeckyl Island, GA, and our first venture out of Florida on Interlude. Jan has read carefully in our coastal piloting manuals about another shallow stretch in the Nassau Sound area. Based upon our experiences the day before, we were nervous--especially since we seemed to be able to get to that area only at a low tide period. We had no problems, water was shallow, but we followed the course carefully and didn't allow currents to have their way with us, and we came through.
We arrived at Jeckyl Island, after a long travel day, as a severe thunderstorm was passing. It's the first real rain on the trip and a gift of sorts: the fresh water washdown saved us an hour of work and did a better job than we could have since rain water is soft, and doesn't leave water spots.
Dinner was a local tradition called a "low country boil" which consisted of large shrimp, new potatoes, a spicy casing sausage, and corn on the cob all boiled together in a spice mix that is very zingy. When eaten with liberal quantities of cold beer, it is exceptional. We dined on the porch of this quaint restaurant during a second thunderstorm, and had a thoroughly pleasant evening.
During the night we had yet another storm, and by morning the temperature had fallen from 90 to 60.
Sunday, April 25, 1999. We leave a dawn, again, and this time wind our way to near Savannah to a small suburb called Thunderbolt and the Palmer Johnson marina. Palmer Johnson is a maker of mega-yachts and it was exciting to see several in various stages of construction. The trip was remarkable for its blandness. If you want to get away from it all, come to the low lands of Georgia. We traversed nearly 100 miles of nothing but marshes, meandering waterways, and little else. Almost no civilization of any kind. The weather was windy, overcast and cool, so there were probably fewer boats out than normal, but there are probably never very many in this area.
If it wasn't for the daymarkers maintained by the Coast Guard, and excellent charts, one could become lost in this area and never find his way out. Everything looks the same. About every 15 or 20 miles we would cross a "sound"--a sound is a body of water that connects the ocean to something (we obviously need a dictionary on board). The sounds in this area tend to be 5 to 10 miles across, and because they are open to the Atlantic, and because the wind was blowing a sustained 15-20 from the NE, the sounds were very choppy. SCW (small craft warnings) were up, and on a boat smaller than Interlude it could have been a rough experience. This is one real advantage of a big heavy boat. We can do those crossings almost without concern or hesitation.
For dinner Jan prepared a crock pot stew which we ate with an 1986 Beringer Cabernet, Special Reserve, which friends had given us. What a wonderful dinner treat. Sure beats camping out.
Monday, April 26, 1999. Up at dawn again so that we could pass a restricted bridge at it's 7am opening (no more openings until 9am). Palmer Johnson delivered both a newspaper and a box of Krispy Kremes to the boat--so the start was in style. [Editor's note: when on the waterways, small and otherwise insignificant events take on a disproportionate scale, hence the excitement about the Kirsky Kremes.] Fifty miles of flat water later we are in Beaufort, SC. Another new state for Interlude. Beaufort (pronounced bew-fort) is not to be confused with Beaufort, NC (pronounced bow-fort). Beaufort is a gem. It survived both the Revolution and the Civil War. We strolled through the historic area which is shaded by ancient live oak trees dripping with Spanish moss. Some of the homes had been built before the Revolution, and still stand proudly today.
This afternoon, as we were talking, we realized that reading a newspaper isn't as important as it used to be. Before we left on this voyage, and for years before, we read three papers every day, and called for replacements if one wasn't delivered. In addition, we listened to NPR in the morning, MacNeill-Lehrer (sic) in the evening, and seldom went to bed without one last rehash of the sensational garbage on local TVnews. We were news junkies. But it isn't so important any more, we scarcely miss it. The most important TV is now the weather channel, and there just isn't the need for the continuous diet of information we digested for years. I wonder if this is a permanent change?
Monday, April 26, 1999. A post script to Monday. Take a look at the new photos. The first is a picture of the wood railing on a DeFever 49. The skipper made a bad judgment call (his appraisal) in approaching a dock in Savannah. Tides were running and there was a 3+ knot current in the river. The skipper was docking but the currents had their way and he hit the bow rail of a boat next to him and he tore out about six feet of railing. This guy has hundreds, maybe thousands, of hours at the helm. We have been very lucky; we're inexperienced with this boat, yet we've been very successful to date. Adding the bow thruster was a good move, it enables the two of us to do more than we could otherwise.
Tuesday, April 27, 1999. Up at dawn again, and underway before 7am. We have 65 miles to go to get to Charleston, which is a pausing point for us. The day is typical of many we've had, except there is haze, almost fog, in the air. By the time we're 15 miles along, we're into heavy fog. Visibility is down to 100 yards or less (much less as times). We have our first incident with fog. We're heading down a broad river, more than three miles wide. Our plan is to exit the river into the ICW a mile or two down the river. We've just passed a commercial tour boat, and we're also being following by a Flemming 55, both are following the ICW as are we.
As the fog becomes heavier, we slow; in a short time, we're dead slow. I hear the tour boat say to the Flemming that they'll follow the Hatteras' wake. (They'll follow us? - we're new to this business!) I call the Flemming and ask if they're local to this water. The skipper says no and replies that this is going to be navigation by Braille. (With us in the lead!) With Jan watching the radar and the depth sounder, and Bill watching the helm and the navigational software, we proceed.
Let me take a moment and explain the tools we have to help us. First, radar gives us a real-time picture of the shore, of "targets" in the water, etc. We use it to tell us how far things are from us. The depth sounders (we have two), tell us how deep the water is, and we can use these data to compare to the charts--often it can tell us about how far we are off shore. The navigational software is a high-tech combination of a computer that displays the local charts of the area we're traversing, combined with our GPS (geographical positioning satellite) system. The GPS continually receives signals from as many as 11 geosynchronos satellites that it translates into very precise latitude and longitude values and indicates our location on the globe. The GPS feeds this information to the navigational software, and the result is that the boat is "placed" on the electronic chart so that we can "see" where Interlude is on the electronic chart.
With all of these tools in play, our objective was to locate a red daymarker in the fog, swing widely to port around it, proceed a half mile and then make a sharp turn to starboard, and enter a channel that was but 100 yards wide. In clear weather, this would have been easy enough, but it was so foggy that we didn't see the red daymarker, ever! But we tracked our position on the navigational software and made the turn around it based upon where the charts said it should be. Radar confirmed a "target" where we expected the daymarker to be. Meanwhile, glibly, the other boats followed us.
We found the channel to starboard using both navigational software and radar, and carefully made the turn in dense fog. We issued a "securite" announcement on the VHF radio on both channel 16 and 13 warning other vessels that we (and our two traveling companions behind us) were entering the channel with very low visibility). No one answered, so we proceeded, dead slow. Within half an hour the fog began to lift and we increased our speed from dead slow to 10k--the event was over. Everything worked as it should, and all we had expended was about a ton of adrenaline. A good learning experience, and everything turned out OK. We never saw the tour boat again, though we heard him on the radio. The Flemming eventually passed us when the fog lifted.
By 1pm we arrived in Charleston and tied-up at the city dock--a beautiful facility. It was an interesting docking situation. We passed a long fuel dock, heading into the significant current. Then we backed into a long slot and tied up against a long dock. Later the dockmaster said she was impressed how well we handled the boat in the wind and current. Coming from a dockmaster in a big facility we accepted the comment as a compliment. We follow Doug Sanders' first axiom of docking: "Don't approach any inanimate object any faster than you intend to hit it."
This is a neat facility. We're not the big kid on the block here. Behind us is Chevy Toy, a 120 foot Trinity, and behind it is a 100 foot Broward. Both are beautiful mega-yachts.
We'll remain here until Saturday. On Thursday we fly to Washington for an SRG (Sterling Research Group) client meeting to return on Friday AM. Tomorrow, we'll tour historic Charleston by foot and by trolley.
Wednesday, April 28, 1999. We actually slept in past 5:30am today--must not have gotten up until maybe 7:00. What a treat. Spent the morning getting phone calls returned, plus Bill worked on some spreadsheet models for SRG. Then about 11am we left to tour historic Charleston. Traveled by Dash, their local low-cost trolley. Visited the Nathaniel Russell home that was built around 1800. Very beautiful three story elliptical staircase. We walked Charleston's historic district as well as some of the shopping area. This is a wonderful town...a real gem where you wouldn't necessarily expect it.
We had lunch at Charleston Place hotel--and it was an Epicurean delight. Stopped in Pusser's store (started in Tortulla in the Caribbean) and bought some foul weather gear. (That turned out to be prophetic since the weather went to @^%*&?% within hours.) Dinner was also at Pusser's -- this time the restaurant. Why is Pusser's in the Caribbean and Charleston? Why not Miami or Ft. Lauderdale? No body seems to know.
Thursday, April 29, 1999. We fly to Washington DC for meetings, via Raleigh on Midway Airlines. The folks at the marina in Charleston drove us to the airport and assured us they would watch after Interlude. Bill meets Karen Miller from SRG and together they meet with a client on job matters. Jan meets Ina Berkey and they shop Pentagon City Mall until they drop. Dinner is at the Berkeys--Tom does steaks on the grill, and it is a perfect ending to a busy day.
Friday, April 30, 1999. We fly back to Charleston in terrible weather. When we arrive, it is pouring down, cold and blustery. We spend the afternoon working with Yacht-Tech of Tampa Bay to finish work on the shipboard telephone system. Brent Walsh gets it all working by 5pm and return to St. Pete. We clean up and meet Bob and Marlene Stefani for cocktails on the boat then dinner in Charleston. Bob and Marlene are new friends who were introduced to us by our good friends the Meyers. Bob and Marlene take us to dinner at Magnolia's in Charleston. We even waited a little extra for the table under the Magnolia painting--the perfect table in the restaurant. The weather is awful but we have a fabulous dinner. Magnolia's is a restaurant of note, and the Stefani's are great hosts.
Saturday, May 1, 1999. Against our better instincts, we leave about 8am for Georgetown SC, about 70 miles to the north. The weather is still awful--cold, windy and rain. We arrive without incident at the Georgetown Harborwalk Marina about 4pm. An aside on how we run. We've established a general running pattern of maintaining about 1050 rpm on the engines which gives us from 9 to 11 knots, depending upon current. This appears to be a "sweet spot" on the engines (where they sound good) and gives us good fuel efficiency (less than 2 gallons per mile). If we run at 20 knots, the boat has a strong pitch, the engines are noisy, and we burn more than twice as much fuel per mile.
During the afternoon Jan called Southport Marina in Southport for dockage for Sunday night. Normally we call two or three days ahead to make sure we have a place to dock. This is the first time we're told "no". It seems that boats aren't leaving because of the weather. Are we strange or foolish? But, fairly, many of the boats that we travel with are much smaller and much more susceptible to weather than are we. We'll try tomorrow for dockage someplace else.
We fuel when we arrive in Georgetown. The diesel "pump" is actually a fuel truck--we pump 520 gallons off the truck and directly onto Interlude. As we are filling Bill strikes up a conversation with the boat next to us--the Claire de Lune from Canada. They invite us over for cocktails--Jan brings some cheese and crackers, and we spend a pleasant hour discussing cruising, et al.
We're met on the Interlude by Henry Allen and his son Trey. Henry is an old friend and neighbor (sorta) from St. Pete who has now moved to Litchfield, SC. We have a really pleasant and too-soon-over evening with them including a memorable dinner at Frank's on Pawley Island.
Sunday, May 2, 1999. We get up late at 7:00am, look at the weather and decide to make a run for it. Claire de Lune leaves about 7:15. By 8:00am we're underway, the weather continues to be awful but at least the rain has stopped. [We learn that Florida has set some record low temperatures for the date, too.] Much of the way we follow the beautiful Waccamaw River which is remote, tree-lined, and full of wildlife. A treat after the endless grass and marshlands of Georgia and South Carolina. The river's drawback is its brown color--clear, not muddy, perhaps as a result of the tannin from the roots of the trees. It tends to give boats moustaches about the bow, which is rather unsightly. For some reason Claire de Lune's moustache was much worse than Interlude's. We wonder why.
During the day we pass the "rock pile" which is a narrow cut three miles long and is noted for its rock formations underwater which can do severe harm to the hulls of boats of mariners who are not alert. We issue a security call on channels 16 and 13 and enter the cut staying to the center of the channel. We really don't want to pass another large vessel in the cut. No problems. In the middle of the afternoon we enter North Carolina--another new state for Interlude. The weather continues to be dry but windy and cold. [We can receive the Weather Channel continuously on the boat via DSS--satellite television. We have a KVH stabilized antenna system which continuously points at the satellite even as we pitch and roll, and change directions.] The Weather Channel isn't very encouraging--the front assaulting the Carolinas is just sitting there. We press on.
During the afternoon Jan tries Southport Marina again for dockage with no luck. Boats simply aren't moving. We try Bald Head Island Marina, a few miles out of our itinerary, but recommended by a another cruiser we met at Jeckyl Island in Georgia. They have room for us, so we book it and arrive about 6:00pm after a long day.
Docking is a little harried since there is a 20-30 knot wind blowing us against the dock, and a fellow from the marina who doesn't have a clue about what he is doing. Another aside: docking is always a tension-filled process--you're trying to bring 70 tons to rest usually in a small space without damaging the boat, the dock, or any other nearby boats. There is a desire to count on the docking assistants from the marinas since they know the dock, the weather, the currents, and (should have) tons of experience. However, sometimes, even often, the fellows on the dock don't have a clue. At Ft. Myers, the kindly old guy just held the line when Jan tossed it to him. Today, the young guy just didn't have any idea of what to do. As a result, we're learning to be self sufficient in docking. We're discovering that we need to be proactive--tell the dock hand where to put the line, and how. It's all part of the routine, and some comes only after much experience. In spite of it all, we manage to tie up without incident.