I did promise another blog sooner than this but have failed in that sorry.We spent almost 3 weeks in Vero Beach at my cousins, Stan and Susan, ahhhhh family there is nothing like it. I wanted to acknowledge the people who we have met over the past months. We have seen and experienced many wonderful unique events and Eric and I couldn’t have imagined the joy and awe in God’s creative hand. The fish, underwater beauty, flowers, islands, I could go on and on BUT I want to say that as we are now turned around and heading North I am reflecting on the individuals that we have been impacted by. Some we know their names and some we don’t yet my life is fuller because of them. Everyone from Miss Alice in Elizabeth City to Fr. Ethan in Georgetown Bahamas, each person I saw a passion in them to live beyond their own wants and needs, to give, love and bless others. During this Lenten season I am challenged that this is what living and life is all about, to love, give and see others in a gracious, merciful and sacrificial way.
Now here we are back in St. Augustine, Florida, the oldest city in the US and saw many different countries govern them over a 200 year period. The architecture is spectacular and the history is deep. When we were here in December we only saw the external buildings and read a tiny bit of the history. In December we knew we would come back and stay for a few days and really take our time and explore the city which we did! This city has been governed by the Spanish, British, Spanish, and finally the Americans. In the early years the French Huguenots also made an appearance and bid for Florida. What all this change of governments did was to create a very diverse community that was a welcoming and safe place to live. There was an underground railroad that led south as well as north, Florida was the destination for slaves who were on the run from plantations just up north.
A huge part of the history here is from a man by the name of Henry Flagler. He seems to be the man who could see the potential of tourism in St Augustine. He built a beautiful hotel which today is Flagler College, plus another hotel, several churches(Grace Methodist, Ancient City Baptist and Memorial Presbyterian Church),a railway, and a hospital! Each building is quite extravagant in design having Mr. Tiffany designing beautiful stained glass and nothing but the best for his buildings. Our heads are on overload with all the information and history that we have taken in these last few days. We visited the Catholic Church and the Presbyterian churches and wow!!!! They were beautiful. After we visited the churches in the morning we did a Winery tour, a Distillery tour and a Micro Brewery in the afternoon! A bit of a fall from grace, maybe??
By the time the 50 & 60’s segregation was quite entrenched in St Augustine and became a pivotal city regarding the civil rights movement. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr marched here, it was the only other city that he marched in other than his participation in the march in Selma Alabama.
This city is full of history, architecture, and fabulous food. If you are heading to Florida and have a little time stop in and enter a city that will entertain you, teach you and just fill you with awe. As you can see we have quite enjoyed the days that we have spent here. Tomorrow morning we will head off and continue up the ICW.
We have been in Vero Beach Fl now for just over two weeks. Let me recount our return from the Bahamas first and then bring you up to the present and have a look into the next season for us.
After we said goodbye to Andrew and Amy we began the journey north up the Exuma Chain of Islands. We hit a couple of places along the way that we missed on our way down, notably Stanial Cay and Compass Cay. Pigs, Caves, Sharks etc.
One of the things that has become clear is that not many people actually live in the Exumas other than Black Point and Georgetown.
Many of the other places are really just Marinas for mega yachts and extremely expensive.
To change things up a bit we decided to go into Nassau for a couple days to see where most of the people actually do live.
I met the Bishop of the Bahamas while I was there and got some insight into the nature of the church. I am impressed with the overall health and ministry of this part of the Anglican family.
Our plan was to sail from Nassau to Mackie Shoal, and then to Bimini,and then finally to Ft. Lauderdale. Due to circumstances beyond our control (weather), 29 hours after we left Nassau we pulled into Lake Sylvia in Ft Lauderdale. The weather was mostly great….except for the last hour, when we found ourselves under a thunder cell. Rain and Wind.
The next day we moved up to West Palm and picked up Stan and Susan, Val’s cousin. We then traveled up the ICW as far as Stuart where we enjoyed a Cruisers Pot Luck and live music. The final leg to Vero happened the next day.
Vero Beach is known by cruisers as Velcro Beach. I asked one cruiser when he got back from the Bahamas and he said in less than a month it would be one year! It really is a great place and I could totally understand someone sailing down from Canada and just stopping here for the winter. Everything you need is here.
While here we have seen Aligators, Manetees, Pigs, Baseball, Willie Nelson and eaten a lot of Strawberries.
See our FB posts for details and pics
We are heading back over to Tampa on Tuesday to attend a conference about Seafarers sponsored by the North American Maritime Ministry organization. When we return we will begin to move the boat North again. Out plans are to stop in a few places that have some history to absorb, notably St Augustine, Savannah, and Charleston again.
Yesterday we did a road trip down long Island. Along they way we crossed the “Tropic of Cancer” You can click on the link to see why that is significant! Let me back up a bit and cover the time from Black Point to where we are now and then say a bit about what is to come. (I will do this over a couple of posts) You can check out our FB pages to see some pics and some of our experiences along the way.
After we left Black point we went out into the ocean through a cut in the islands. The reason for this is that the inside gets very shallow and you have to travel significantly further to get to your destination. I decided it would be good to break it up into a two day journey to Georgetown. Upon reading the reviews and recommendations I settled on Lee Stocking Island as our stop over. A short day sail with good protection. We could wait there for a weather window if needed.
We set out the next morning and had an uneventful passage down the Exuma chain and made our entrance through Adderly Cut and found our way around to the anchorage in front of the old Caribbean Marine Research Center. This is an abandoned station, that has been bought by a developer to make a high end marina someday. We have noticed that there are loads of places like this where there has been a start and a stop and an abandonment of development. Things happen on island time… or they just don’t happen at all. If someone happens to tell you that they will be putting a roof on a new building next week, chances are they have been saying that for 10 years or so. They might put a roof on it in the future or maybe not at all.
We spent the night and since the weather looked strongish the next morning we thought that we might spend one more day to let it settle some more as we did have to go out the cut into Exuma Sound again. It was at about 11:00am that we discovered we had no more fresh water. Not a problem I thought as I turned the valve for our 40 gallon reserve tank…… not a drop! Still not sure what happened but I suspect that I did not have the valve fully off and over the last couple of months the contents of it drained into our other two tanks! I used to regularly check it and top it off when I filled the other tanks, but it was never down, till today!
I knew that we were going to soon need water and also to top off on fuel and would like to do that before Georgetown, since there is no dock in GT that you can do those two jobs. In GT you need to take the dinghy into the town dock with jugs and lug back water and fuel. One would think that with 300-500 boats sitting in the harbour for months at a time, someone would have put in a proper fuel dock!
Our only option was a rather high end Marina about 13 miles away called the Marina at Emerald Bay. It is a Sandals Resort. The entrance is tricky, especially in East winds over 20. It was blowing a solid 15. I called them to ask about their entrance and they assured me it was passable. You do have to radio ahead to make sure that the channel is clear of traffic as you approach because you can’t necessarily see vessels that are about to leave.
The most exciting part of the day was about to happen. There is a phenomenon that some of you will be familiar with called “Wind against Current” When this happens the waves get steeper, break and get higher too. As we left Adderly Cut this was what we encountered. Two knots of current flowing out vs. 15 knots of wind coming in. The sailing instructions said to veer off the main channel as soon as you had cleared the submerged reefs at the entrance of the cut….. but not too soon. Waves were breaking at about 8-10 feet and we were taking some water over the bow. This is usually fine, since the boat is well designed to shed water and continue on.
When it is hot we open our hatches…….
Usually we close them before we head out….
After the first wave Val went below to secure the hatches but was unable to move toward the forward hatch due the the motion of the boat and a couple more waves soaked our sheets and mattress!
By the time we got things battened down we were out of the channel and on our way to the Marina.
At one point I saw three flying saucers… not UFOs but actual corelle saucers flying from the port side of the galley across to the navigation station. Thankyou Dow Corning and NASA engineers for coming up with a material that can stand high impact and not break!
The entrance to the marina was as advertised. We got in, took fuel and water and got out in less than an hour. One of the good things was that because the water was metered and our tanks were completely emptied we got a measurement on our capacity for water. We now know that the two side tanks are 25 gallons and the forward one is 40. I had always thought it was more than that and wondered if because of the position of the tanks they were never emptied. Now I know. 12 gallons of fuel and 90 gallons of water cost $103. Now to Georgetown.
The timing was tight. I did not want to be doing the tricky dogleg route into Elizabeth harbour in less than ideal light, even along the deep water route. We still had 15 knots on the beam so we would be able to make it before sun set.
Georgetown and Elizabeth Harbour, for most people that go there, is the “end of the rainbow” ; It is the pot of gold and the final destination. Each year yachting snowbirds sail toward Georgetown, drop the hook and don’t go any further for 2-3 months. There is a very organized community there that can fulfil every interest.
We entered the harbour and found a spot right in front of Chat N Chil and dropped the hook. Within the next few minutes we heard a chorus of Conch shells being blown to signal the setting of the Sun! We have arrived!
We have crossed the Bank and the Tongue and arrived at New Providence Island. We had no desire to go into the overly touristy and expensive Nassau, so we opted for a night stop at a protective cove on the west end of the Island. The plan was to sleep and then head for the Exumas. Plans change and there does not seem to be a weather prediction service that is reliable. We set out at dawn with moderate Easterlies as predicted. I noticed that the engine Temperature was running too high. Since we were only in about 12 feet of water we anchored to investigate. The clouds closed in, the wind began to blow and it also rained. I dove over the side to check the intake -ok. Then I pulled the strainer-ok. I opened the water pump to check the impellor-ok. Put everything back together and it seemed to be ok. It could be that something had fowled the intake and then washed away. Temp was back down to normal. The problem was we had lost a lot of time and now the wind had piped up. There was no way we could make Highbourn Cay before dark, so we returned to West Bay.
I began to read up about local attractions as I had not planned a visit to explore. Take a look at what I found in the link below.
During the service Christmas Eve, an older man got up to read the Old Testament Lesson. You would recognize it; from Isaiah 9 “for unto us a child is born” It was read with a deep conviction and drama; so much so that you would think that the author himself was rehearsing it. As we passed the peace later in the service I spoke to the man and told him what a blessing it was for us to hear him read. I said that we had sailed down from Canada. He said; That is good. I build boats. I told him that I was an amature boat builder as well. After the service Ansil invited me to come to his Boat Shop. I protested and said; but tomorrow is Christmas day. He assured me that he would be there from around 9 to 4. That is his routine, Christmas or not.
I spoke to him again at the fellowship time, just to make sure and then said that I would be over in the morning.
He had given me the instructions that his boat shop was north of the power plant, down by the basket ball court, right out on the water. I found it easily. Ansil comes from 5 generations of Boat Builders and is the last boat builder on Bimini. He has not been able to find an apprentice. He says that they might acquire the skills, but they don’t have the heart and passion for it and quit after a short while saying it it two hard.
Boat building for Ansil has really just been a part time thing for him. His real passion is Bone Fish. You have to hunt them and stalk them like deer he says. You must see them first and cast the bait just in front of them or else you will spook them and they run. He built a boat for himself so that he could become the best bone fish guide in the area, and indeed he has been dubbed “Bone Fish Legend”
Indeed he did become that and lead a client to catch the biggest bone fish ever. Still unsurpassed. This in my mind, though a great story was not what impressed me the most. It is well known that Martin Luther King used to come to Bimini to write his speeches. Ansil was asked to take Dr. King to as secluded place so that he could write (as it turned out, his last speech) I will not try to describe this myself but refer you on to some videos that I have also posted on FB The one by the fishing show I think gives one of the best accounts of this relationship and encounter.
With regard to his boat building he designed and built the perfect boat for bone fishing and had build and sold a good many of these at florida boat shows. He has one order to go and also he needs to repair his own. It came to an untimely end as he was navigating a canal at speed and hit a rock or concrete block that had been dumped in the waterway. It holed the boat and sunk her. She rolled over under the weight of the engine and tore her transoom off. The boat sits in his shop now awaiting some materials. He has a sale for her, but must repair her and likely replace her engine. I will post below some other interviews with Ansil. He told me many other things about the history of Bimini. About Hemingway, Shark research, Conch, the Sport Fishing industry and family. And as it turns out Ashley (the Dolphin house) is his brother! He has another brother Tommy who makes jewelry. Three brothers whose ancestors arrived centuries before from Scotland and married Bahamian women.
Most blogs that I have read about doing what we are doing talk about crossing from Miami, arriving at Bimini, spending the night or maybe one day and then pressing on across the bank to Nassau and Eluthera and the Exumas. We have been totally blessed by spending a week or a bit more here. We left Miami just before a strong wind from the SW was due to blow. The predictions showed it to be up to 50 Knots. Certainly a good protected harbor would be required. In talking with a resident of Cat Cay days later, he remarked that it was the strongest wind outside of a full hurricane that he had experienced in more than 10 years. We were very glad to have crossed and tucked into Bimini Sands marina. Bimini Sands Resort/Marina is on the South Island. Very quiet, mostly residential. The north Island has all the party life, stores, infrastructure etc. We like the South Island for its peace and solitude.
So, because of the wind storm , which lasted three days and then Christmas, we found ourselves committed to at least a week. There could be worse places to be stuck. On the first day after we arrived we headed over to the North Island and Alice Town to buy a SIM card for the Phone. We decided also to do a bit of a walking tour and visit the museum. Val has written about that already. We saw a hot-dog vendor and decided to get something to eat. The young lady who ran this was quick to invite us to Church on Sunday and it turned out to be the Anglican Parish for Bimini. We knew that we would be staying on through Christmas as well, so it was decided. She described the Christmas Eve service, starting at 11:00 with a preceding Carol Sing and followed by a breakfast/midnight fellowship. I have reported in our FB posts about our Sunday Experience please check them out. Take a look at Val’s post also about Ashley Saunders, and the Dolphin House, it is all part of the bigger story!
Rev. Colin Saunders (Saunders is a very common name) was born on the island, moved to other islands as his father moved with Customs and Emigration to further his career. He studied theology at Huron College in London Ontario and after ordination was working in the Capitol region of Nassau doing a Church plant. One day about three years ago he was invited back to his boyhood home of Bimini to attend the Ordination Service of the new Baptist Pastor. Upon hearing that he would be in town and that his old home church was with out a pastor that Sunday he was called upon to fill in. His heart was stirred as he took the service and discerned that all things were not quite as he had remembered. When he returned to Nassau he spoke to his bishop and mentioned if there was ever a vacancy at his old home church, he would like to be considered. He was appointed Rector within the year. Despite the looming knowledge that a prophet was not always welcome in his home town, he began his ministry.
We began Christmas eve by taking the boat down the coast about 5 miles with the hope to dive on a wreck. When we got there we found that the conditions were not favorable and we would have to look at this another time. We found a quiet spot in about 15 feet just of the marina on our return to anchor the boat and jumped in to do my first “snorkel inspection” of the anchor in the crystal clear water of the Bahamian Bank. What was really interesting was that you really did not even have to get into the water to see what the anchor was doing. I could watch it decent to the bottom, tip over and dig in, all from the deck of the boat. Even when I had let out 3:1 rode, I could still see the anchor burying itself. I swam on it anyway and then turned and looked at the boat floating, as if in air, and could see well beyond it as well!
When we got back to the harbor I thought it would be good to see about Coconuts. I had asked the marina manager if it was ok to take one. He wondered why I might want to do so and said go ahead. I found a tree with some large ones that seemed ready and right there in the brush near by was a 15 foot piece of aluminum structural component that was just perfect for knocking those nuts out of the tree. Two swipes and two were on the ground. I found a YouTube later on that showed a guy shucking a coconut in 6 seconds. He did about 1000 a day. My first attempt was about an hour! Knowing what I know now about these beasts, I think I can best that time for the next one. Shucking is only the first part. Now you have to get the water out, crack it and get the meat out, but most of us have done that before.
We made a few phone/video calls to family while we waited for night fall. This has been one of the most difficult things: to be physically away from family during the holiday. It is nice to have the technology to talk and text and post to one another, but nothing can replace the times of visiting from house to house and hosting grand feasts. I don’t recommend being away for Christmas, it is a lonely experience.
It might take up to an hour to get to church so we set out at about 9:40 pm, heading for at 10:45 pm Carol sing and an 11:00 pm service. We were early as the ferry was just arriving as we got to the dock.
Alice Town is like any other place with the good the bad the beautiful and the ugly. We have walked through the town several times now and are very aware of the more sketchy parts and the spirit that seems to go along with them. There is one particular Tiki bar in the middle of town that plays loud music seemingly 24 hours a day, whether there are customers there or not. Sunday morning it was blaring out music at about 8:30 in the morning!
That part of town has a certain darkness to it. Lots of little bars that are dark on the inside along side mini casinos, with no windows. We were also seeing people young an old driving around in golf carts with open beer. One telling sign was the fact that when you are in the liquor store there is a bottle opener beside the cash! In speaking with Pastor Colin later on he said that there are laws but they are largely ignored because of the rich tourists and not wanting to offend them. What has happened is that the locals now take it as a given and walk around with open drink all the time. It was perfectly normal to see a young man or young woman at 9:00am on Sunday morning walking or driving down the main road with a half consumed beer.
As I had mentioned in my FB post about sunday church, it was not that well attended, but what it lacked in numbers was more than offset by the quality and engagement in worship. We arrived plenty early (I think we were the first ones) We watched as people began to arrive. Those leading the service, Choir members, Lay-readers, Servers etc. I think that there were only about a dozen of us in the pews when the Choir leader stood and announced that it was time to begin singing carols. I though to my self: this is going to be a disaster, there are not enough people here. To my surprise as he lifted up his voice, the congregation responded and filled in every harmony with the richness of any trained choir that I have ever heard…. and the choir largely had not arrived! Carol after carol was sung and more people arrived. The rest of the Choir, the organist and more of the congregation. By then end we were enveloped in a full sound of glory in the highest. The service was now ready to begin.
As I described in an earlier post the style of service is very formal and Anglo-Catholic. Complete with everything you can imagine from this tradition. Incense, Sanctus Bells, as many as a dozen people assisting in some capacity with the service, candles, full liturgy. What set it apart in my mind was that there was an welcoming openness for the informal as well, and the moving and filling of the holy Spirit. This service would normally have taken about an hour in Canada, was just over two hours here in the Bahamas. Every symbol, action and word was open and available for the fullness of the glory of God to inhabit it.
We began with the blessing of the cradle, complete with procession, incense and singing. Then it was on to the opening carol and so on. Everything in the liturgy was sung with depth, and conviction. My though as we were singing the great Carols of the Nativity was this: This is how I have always imagined these songs to be sung. The only thing that came close in my experience, were the times that the clergy of my diocese got together for conference or retreat and we would sing well known hymns together. This was always good. Everyone singing songs they know well. But alas this experience has been eclipsed by the humble ordinary people of a small island in the Bahamas.
After the service we went over to the hall for “All kinds of Fellowship” I checked with Colin the Rector to see if there were others there from South Bimini so that we could be guaranteed a way back to Tevah. I suspected that the Ferry would stop running around midnight. In fact by the time I asked, the Ferry had already been put away for the night. We were glad to find a couple that could transport us back to the ferry landing. They had a small boat.
The fellowship went on past 02:00 am complete with Johnny cake, hominy, fish and chicken boiled in gravy, coffee, tea, wine, rum, beer, eggnog. Thanks to the kindness of a couple we were introduced to we got back to the boat just before 3:00 am
This entry may be a little longer than usual so a cup of cheer may be in order. Our crossing was quite uneventful considering all that could have gone wrong. We got up at 4 am (ridiculous, I know 😬) and we weren’t heading into the night by 4:30am. What we saw was lots of water, obviously, and lots of flying fish. At first I thought they were some type of flying bugs, they are tiny, white and they don’t just jump out of the water but can keep going for quite a long way before they head back into the ocean. We arrived into the harbour of Bimini Sands Marina and Resort around 12:30. As you are coming into the banks of Bimini the water turns that beautiful aqua colour that you see in travel magazines and it is breathtaking. So we tied up and have rented a slip for a week at a whopping cost of $100 for the week. Looking at the weather we could see a nasty storm coming for the next two days. (I told a friend in Florida that I’m sure we tied a cold front to the stern of the boat and brought it every km of the way with us). We seem to arrive and it is a nice enough day to take off your coat and enjoy the ☀️ then the coat has to go back on the next day.
We are on the South Bimini Island so have to take a ferry over to the North Bimini Island, both islands are tiny they are the smallest within the 700 islands of the Bahamas archipelagos. This island is very quiet compared to the Northern island. On the resort it has the laundry, (sketchy) wifi, showers, 2 pools and of course the beach. So the first day we were here we went to both pools with no one else in them. I think that will change the day after Christmas. They say this is the quiet week with everything ramping up for the next 3-4 months, so we will enjoy the calm before the storm.
Speaking of storm we were hit with a whale of a storm with winds up to 100 km/hr. We felt we were helping our son in law Justin to break in a horse! Eric adjusted the ropes several times (5 of them) trying to snug up the boat but just the way the wind, waves and how the tiny little harbour is we had more than 24 hours of high winds. It is still rocking and rolling a bit here but certainly has calmed down a lot. I told you Susan C we bring the cold and winds with us. 😁
So our adventures: as we go out and about we have gotten another phone card Bahamian. When we sent out the text to our kids, Kait said that’s phone number 4! Yup.🙄 But with the technology we are able to keep in touch. Thank you Lord.
Bimini’s claim to fame is Ernest Hemingway loved living here for a few years and wrote a few books while he was here as well he loved the fishing. The other person who loved to come here was Martin Luther King Jr. It was a place of rest as well as a place where it is said he wrote his acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace prize that he received in 1967, I think
The character of the day is a guy called Ashley aka Dolphin Man owner of Dolphin House. Today we took a second trip to the North island and were told we had to go see the Dolphin House as a touristy trip. So we did. The island is about as wide as a football field with the geography which has a bit of a little hill down the centre and the Dolphin House is at the top of the hill. As we arrive Ashley is outside and looks like a Jamaican man with The dreads and all. As soon as he started talking I wanted to head down the hill but you know Eric he won’t walk away, so we had to go on this tour. Ashley told us how the dolphins had changed his life and he was spending the rest of his life telling people about them. SO I thought we were going to learn about the life, eco system, needs etc of the dolphin. I was thinking a biology/oceanic lesson but nope it was an artistic lauding of dolphins tiled all over the walls inside and out, (over 50 drawings/ceramic tiles) thus Dolphin House! Most of the house is made out of things that he has been able to find on the beaches or anywhere else he can scrounge, including conch shells, coral rock limestone, ceramic tiles and other building materials. He has built a house that will stand against any hurricane of which it has weathered 7 if I am correct. We had the tour and had a unbelievable view of both sides of the island standing in one spot. So I walked away pondering a couple of things, hearing about the Dolphin House I had one expectation but experienced something totally different of which I really appreciated. The other is I have such a small window of giving people a chance and yet I am the one who misses the unexpected, the out of the ordinary and maybe I need to work at hearing the full story.
We have found a church that we will go to tomorrow and to the Christmas Eve service. We will write to you again soon.
By Val. On Dec 1 we left Charleston SC with the goal to get to Florida as fast as we can go, (which isn’t very fast on a sailboat)😬We entered Florida several days ago and can now say we are feeling more comfy. The nights are no longer dropping down to 2C and we don’t need to turn the heater on to warm us up to start the day. Since we left Charleston we have stopped only to get fuel and a few groceries otherwise we have been pushing to get south. So long days then anchor, sleep and do it again the next day.
We did take an afternoon and walked around the beautiful and historic St Augustine. Wow what can I say! As you enter into the harbour you feel like you are sailing into a European city. The architecture is Spanish with a huge fortress to welcome you as you come in. Castillo de San Marcos has been there for over 300 years beginning in the 1600’s, built by the Spanish to claim a little of the New World. One Ponce de Leon and his navigators came to understand the Gulf Stream and used it to travel back and forth to Spain. They would follow the Gulf Stream to South America, travel north to Florida and follow the Gulf Stream back to Spain, amazing! This route made Spain a very prosperous country in the 1600-1800’s where it cedes Florida to the US after the Civil War .
The fortress was never defeated unless changing hands in peaceful/treaty exchanges. The city hall is gorgeous with very Spanish architecture and I’m sorry that I didn’t stop and take a pictures all around me. The side streets are those narrow alley like walkways with all kinds of shops. It was a short but very sweet visit and we would like to stop in on our return voyage.
The weather has risen incrementally as we motor down the coast. Today (Sunday) it is poring rain out. The Captain is drenched but the Wench is dry 😬☔️. Tomorrow we will be in Vero Beach for a few days. I have a cousin whom we will visit and I’m getting very excited! I’m looking forward to catching up on life since I’ve not really spent anytime with him and get to meet his wife Susan. They have graciously opened their home up to us so we will stop and do laundry, get groceries and I will have a glorious bath. The shower cleans me bit oh I love to relax in a tub so that is one thing that I am looking forward to.
It has been a week of pushing hard to get closer to the ever elusive sweet weather and we both are happy to say 3 months later we are beginning to feel we can put on a pair of shorts very soon.
To all of you suffering through the cold, wind and snow I’m sorry but winter sports are great fun we will just miss them this year. Love to you all.
This blog is for all those sailors in the Saint John area that are wondering what it is like to travel the Intercoastal Waterway. I will frame it in comparison to travels along the Saint John River.
A day on the ICW is like leaving Saint John and traveling to Gagetown…. every day for 5 days in a row.
It would also be like going through the entrance to Grand lake, washdamoak and Bellisle all in a row… for 8 hours, including going over the flats near Shampers, with 1 foot under the keel.
It might be like traveling through grand lake and then going up the Salmon to Chipman, and then back again.
Some parts, like the “Great Dismal Swamp” would be like going along Manawagonish road, as if it was a canal. … for two days. The trees in many places almost touch over you….. and … there might be alligators.
Then you anchor and have supper and get up at 0600 and do it all again! After about a week you pull into a marina and pay your $1.50 to $3.00 per foot and have a chance to take a long shower, have a courtesy car, see some sights, have a meal out, do some shopping and then return to 5 or so more days as above.
The history that you will see and experience will rewrite so much of what you were told in school. We have spend hours in museums and reading monuments and talking to locals. There is something to learn at every stop along the way.
If you have ever dreamed about doing this… go for it!
I think it has been a month since I have posted a rseport so I guess I am long overdue. Since Nov 13 I have been in Saskatchewan visiting with Kait, Justin, David, Nathalie and the girls. It was a great time going to Norahs hockey games, cooking and just enjoying family. I got to see a little of Cold Lake Alberta where Dave and Nathalie live. Needless to say my time flew by and it was time to head back. In Edmonton I got to visit with my brother Gerry for a few hours. Time is such a precious commodity that really one needs to cherish our moments with care. I left Canada with a thankful heart and looking forward to returning in the spring.
Eric and I returned on the same day within minutes of each other. We headed back to the boat and both were ready for a sleep. This flying is not a relaxing way to travel. In Toronto I sat in a loaded plane ready to go but had to wait for a new part to be put in the plane before we took off. Now I do appreciate the care they take in keeping us safe but I could feel myself getting anxious as we were more and more delayed. I knew I had about an hour (which I felt was great timing) to get to my connection for Charleston. Well we chewed that up in Toronto so when I got off the plane these old legs ran to the other end of the airport to see if I could catch the flight. As I was leaving the Air Canada guy had a voucher ready for me if I missed my plane. Well I made it!!!!!!!! I was the last one on with no minutes to spare.
So our first day we spent doing all the laundry we could and getting groceries so we could leave on Saturday. We decided to head out right away and not visit the plantation now and will wait until our return. We really did enjoy Charleston, the depth of history, the spirit of the place and the people. Eric went to a church there for the three Sunday’s he was there and we want to return when we come back in the spring.
I am writing as we are now on the Intra-Coastal Waterway heading to Beaufort SC (pronounced Būfort) not to be confused with Beaufort NC (pronounced Bōfort), you will be corrected if you get it wrong 😬. We have decided to push hard to Vero Beach where I have a cousin, provision the boat there and then wait for our weather window to go to the Bahamas and be there by Christmas.
So the adventure continues and we continue to search for the ever elusive warm weather. My cousin Stan tells me Vero Beach’s weather is beautiful. Let’s pray.
Val has left for a visit at Kait’s and I am hunkered down here in Charleston SC until I head up to Toronto for the last week of November. I do have to say that the “Southern weather” can be a bit fickle! We get one day where we comment that we have “beaten winter” or “turned the corner”… and then 5 days of overcast, wind, rain and cold tempetures. I guess we will need to press on as quick as possible when we resume our trip!
In the mean time the boat is docked at the Cooper River Marina, a state park facility on the grounds of an old Navy Base. The staff is extremely helpful and the facilities are modern, clean and well stocked. It is in the middle of nowhere but the staff will always give you a lift to do some shopping or run to the airport. I have met a couple of my neighbors and they are great people.
Found a small new church plant to attend on Sunday and made a couple of connections. We were amazed at the similarities in our walk in the church and theirs! Definitely a sense of connecting to what God is doing. I will return there for sure this Sunday.
I have begun a long list of boat projects for the time that I have on the boat alone. There are a number of “leaks” to be tracked down and fixed, some improvements to the living space as well as some electrical/mechanical issues to deal with. It is great to be located in one place so that I can order stuff and recieve it. I have found that even though we are in a major boating centre it is cheaper, easier and faster to find things on line either at Amazon or an independent dealer and have them shipped directly to the marina. I have ordered some new gaskets for the ports, a new Alternator and a spare drive belt for the Autohelm.
Here is the complete list so far and the status:
Jobs while Val is away
Remote switch for Anchor windless – done
Charging circuit for Anchor windless Battery – done
Battery Box for Windless Battery
Clean drinking water filter -done
Lift and clean dinghy. Store on deck – done
Reinstall and seal windless. – Done
Clean and mark anchor rode – on going (need to let the rope dry out, before I can paint the marks on it!)
Clean and fix oil sump and extractor pump – done
Shop for food – ongoing
Get new spare alternator – ordered
Get spare autohelm belt – ordered
Get spare oil filters ordered locally – he will call
Get oil – done
Find and fix leaks
1 Front left Staunton on pulpit done
2 Windless and foot switches. Done
3 at helm station – still a mystery, but I have some ideas!
Clean deck with hose – ongoing
Organize Vberth –
Add Velcro to screens in preparation for a climate where bugs can actually survive
We did do a day of exploring the history of Charleston when we first arrived. Spent 90 minutes on a city tour and went to the Museum. Very though provoking and informative. When Val returns we will go on a Plantation tour. I will let Val blog about this aspect of the trip as she will do it so much better then I.
Val and I have just booked our tickets for a mid November break. I have meetings with Wycliffe Bible Translators in Toronto the week of the 26th and she is going to visit Kait and the kids in Sask. I have found a place to keep the boat in Charleston for the week that I am away and the rest of the time I will Anchor in a couple of places and do boat projects.
Yesterday we arrived in Myrtle Beach and got a marina slip. There was a bit of a mix up first thing as the marina that I had originally booked, had never heard of the booking service that I used. We were trying to make an 11:00 service at a nearby church that sounded really great. Check out Barefoot Church in North Myrtle Beach SC.
We are within striking distance of Charleston and still have about 10 days before we need to be there for Val’s flight. There are a good number of anchorages along the Wackama river that we will make use of and only go 10-15 miles each day.
Yesterday we enjoye walking on the Beach. I was talking to a local guy today that said there are 60 miles of beach! The sand was like white powder and it squeezed under Val’s bare feet!
Two days ago I had to change the Alternator back to the old one. Remember Cruising is really just boat repairs in exotic locations! The new one that I had bought this summer and installed in Maryland, failed. I spent some time with the guys at Autotec on Duke street on the phone to arange to ship it back to them when I get to Toronto. When I get to Charleston I will look for a replacement.
For the first time we are feeling that we can slow down and enjoy the “South”. Yesterday was reasonably warm and today it looks like it will be warmer still. Seeing Palm trees and Pelicans is now a regular thing, so we must be headed in the right direction.
After we left Beaufort and the Homer Smith Marina and Fish processing plant, we continued South on the ICW to “Mile Hammock” Anchorage. This is owned by the US Military and is a favorite for people traveling between Beaufort and Wrightsville. Just about exactly half way. I think by sunset there were 19 boats anchored. We were lulled to sleep by the sound of light Artilery fire and other military operational sounds. This part of the ICW is also used for live fire exercises and is sometimes closed for obvious reasons. We saw several of the “Targets” scattered along the shore as we went along.
We also passed by a Navy base where they were practicing vertical take off and landing with their Jets. Reminded me of Arnold Schwarzenegger “Your fired!” Those Jets. Very loud.
As there were several bridges that operated on a scheduled we have learned the art of keeping in a neat row without moving but very carefully using FWD and REV and a tiny bit of rudder to maintain our position in line abidst the wind and current. A couple of small z drives attached to a geo stationary controller would work well here!
We are in the south now. Virginia that is. Let me recount the Journey from the time we left Easton (accross from DC) to our entering the Canal known as the Dismal Swamp.
Spending a few days in Easton was a good battery recharge (Literaly as I needed to purchase some batteries for our electrical needs). It was now time to move on and press south to find some of that elusive warm weather that has been teasing us. We make a series of hops down the Chesapeake Bay and are now “in the Ditch” as they say. No more waiting out bad weather warning (we hope).
The first day was delayed a bit as there was a small boat advisory that kept us in Easton until about noon. That did calm down and we cruised down the Trend Avon River and out into the Bay. Having only a half day we only went about 20 miles to a place called Solomons Island. We were able to anchor in a harbor and get fuel that next morning and head out again.
From Solomons we went to a place called Reedville where we went up a creek and anchored in a nice protected basin as yet another cold front was moving through and we would need to stay put until about 10 or so. As we were coming in we noticed that there seemed to be the remenents of some kind of industry there. There were also some very large fishing vessels there with small tenders that looked like they were in some kind of seining operation. As val researched the community we found out that it was and still is a huge fishing community with a significant ocean going fleet. There were two Smoke stacks there. One had been demolished and the other (still standing) had a plaque on it. This may have had something to do with the fish processing industry.
From Reedville we sailed most of the way to Fishing Bay, another beautiful anchorage that we did some ziging and zagging to get into.
After leaving early we put in a full day and arrive at the Hampton Public Piers where we take a Slip, have a drink in a Brew Pub on the Dock, visit a museum and watch “First Man” on an iMax screen.
There is talk of some more snottty weather coming our way and some of our neighbors are talking about staying on in Hampton for two more days to wait it out. I see that there is going to be a bit of a break the next day before it returns to Gale force so we decide to make a break for it and head out accross Hampton Roads, through Norfolk harbour and onto the Elezebeth river and then to the Dismal Swamp Canal. It sounds long but it was only 20 miles. The first ten were against 20+ knots on the nose with a 5 mile fetch. Slowing going and keeping a sharp watch as we are in the home of the Atlantic Fleet for the US Navy. We have never seen so many Navy Ships. Some in use, some mothballed, some getting built and some getting rebuilt.
After the Elizabeth river was Deep Creek which leads to the lock that lifted us up about 9 feet to the level of the Dismal Swamp. We locked through and are tied to a free dock for the night. Tomorrow we head down a very long hand dug cut. Google Dismal Swamp, there is loads of info on it and its connections with the Civil war.
So after a 3 hour sail in windy choppy swelly water we have arrived in one of the prestigious sailing ports on this coast. We passed 2 12 meter yachts as we entered the inner Harbor, and as we walked up the hill to the grocerie store we saw the Church where JFK was married. They were selling tickets on re-enactment displays and live music to relive the Camelot era event. Hopefully tomorrow the Small Craft Advisory will be down and we can make the run to Mystic.
As I reflect on what got me to the point of being ready to set off on this journey I realized there were many influencers and helpers along the way and I want to hold some of those up. Some are people, some are resources and some are ideas. I will try to begin at the beginning and talk about the people in my life that have inspired and instructed.
My Father, Garnet Phinney: From the very begining he was there pointing me in the right direction and providing instruction and experience around sailing, boat building and maintenance. He very much gave me the understanding that if you want it, you can have it, but you might have to do it yourself! He also introduced me to many people along the way who could help.
Bill Fearnhead: my fathers best friend and never very far away. Many of the instruct-able moments came with Bill. He was certainly my greatest influencer with respect to electronics and communications, outboard motors and general technical things.
My Grandfather, Reg Barbour: I supposed the first boat I ever saw was this flat bottom rowboat. He himself had a history of owning, repairing and sailing a number of boats. One of which we actually bought years later, rebuilt it and sailed it for several years.
Gerry Peer: If anyone knew how to do something right it was Gerry. He always set the highwater mark for craftsmanship and seamanship. The fact that he cruised his boat to the Bahamas and build several boats may well be part of the reason that I am doing it and have build several small boats. These things are doable, and should be done.
Stan Bustin: One day after spending several hours at Peers Cottage on Kennebecasis Island, we came home and decided to build a boat. This happened because Andrew had spent all his time rowing a boat back and forth in front of the cottage. I had not been on the water for years and this moment was an inspiration to get back to it. After I built the “Bill and Garnet”, and made a sailing rig for her, Stan approached me and said that any time I wanted to I could take his NorthWind “Seadog” out sailing. I must say with Stan’s encouragement I sailed his boat more than he did. I remember the summer before he passed away taking him out for one last sail. He was really not able to use the boat himself and it was a great privilege to sail with him down past Sandy point where he pointed out his old cottage and told many stories of sailing on Kennebecasis Bay.
It has probably been 10 years since I last ventured up the creek to the Mount House Ruins. My memory served me well as we paddled up the creek and found a likly spot to put to shore. We were only about 200 feet away from the old homestead.
Finding out our way back to the boats was a different story. I missed it be about 200 feet , Val found them