Downtown Marina Beaufort SC

We had reservations to be at Downtown Marina in Beaufort, SC and the weather was not looking good. With 25 knot winds and gusts to 35 knots.

Gusts 35 tonight
35 knots = 40 MPG Gusts

As we rounded Hilton Head Island the only thing my radar saw was rain.

Hilton Head Rain Radar
That Magenta on the screen is rain reflecting my radar

Our route would look something like this:

Route 6 New River - Beaufort
Our Route from New River to Beaufort, SC

There were only a few locations where I knew we would have to face the wind if just for a short bit. When we rounded Hilton Head and came out of Skull Creek to cross Port Royal Sound inlet was one of them.

port royal sound inlet
Skull Creek along HH Island into Port Royal Sound Inlet and then up the Beaufort River

The weather worsened just as we were crossing Port Royal Sound Inlet. High winds shutdown the Lady Island swing bridge but luckily we have a reservation @ Downtown Marina in Beaufort, SC just feet from the shutdown bridge.

Waves maybe 3-5’ with the occasional 6-7’. The challenge was that I was hitting each new wave in under 2 seconds and having to work the throttle to slow down from say 6 kts to 4 kts for the larger waves. Being an unstabilized trawler we headed into the waves (rather take them on the beam) till we got a little shelter from the Northern side of the Inlet. Then we had to turn and run at 10 kts with the waves on our stern.

Port Royal Sound Inlet wave

As we approached Downtown Marina the Lady Island Swing bridge was shutdown due to high winds. Docking in high winds and strong currents makes for an interesting learning experience but the dockhands and fellow boaters came out in the driving rain to help catch lines. We had to put out extra fenders to keep the waves from smashing us into dock but it was time for a beer and to sit back and watch the storm.

The next day we observed the rushing sounds of water around the boat and took a short video of the current alongside the dock.

Beaufort, SC is a wonderful stop and we always enjoy the local restaurants like Plum and the gastro pub, Old Bull Tavern

 

We’ll use the time here to re-provision the boat and get ready for another week of anchoring out as we attempt to push North into North Carolina.

 

 

New River South Anchorage

From Cumberland Island we pushed further North into Georgia.

Our route would look like this:

Route 5 Cumberland Sound - New River
Our Route from Cumberland Island to the New River Anchorage

We would pass this house that just looked like a painting..

 

We passed this sexy trawler.

Ocean Alexander 50
Ocean Alexander 50′ Trawler

Once at the anchorage it was windy and rainy all night but the rain let up enough in the AM to see the sun.

New River

 

 

 

 

Cumberland Sound Anchorage

As we weighed anchor in Robinson’s Creek you could feel the power of the wind. The airport wind speed last showed a 30 MPH gust.

30 mph Wind Gusts at NE FL Regional Airport
25 MPH Winds with 30 MPH Gusts as we passed NE Florida Regional Airport

 

Even with the strong winds a pair of US Custom agent boats zoomed by, unaffected.

Our route would look something like this:

Route 4 - Robinson Creek - Cumberland Sound
Our Route from an anchorage in St Augustine to Cumberland Island Anchorage

We would avoid many shoals:

South Sapelo River
Shoal near South Sapelo River.

We would cross over the St. John River in Jacksonville, FL and see sights such as this Navy ship in dry dock. What a narrow beam and sharp bow these attack vessels have.

St Johns River Battleship
Navy Ship in Dry Dock

I had always wondered what a trawler would look like with a wind generator mounted on the fly deck and I just have to say I can’t imagine ever doing this..

Trawler 3 Wind Generators
A trawler with 3 Wind Generators on the Flydeck

The free overnight dock in Jacksonville had a spot open but we were determined to use what we had left of the light and cover more ground. Our plan was to cross over the Savannah River and into GA.

Once in the Savannah River we saw that many of the river banks had been built up possibly for storm surge.

Savannah River Tree
Lone Tree standing proud on the banks of the Savannah River

As you approach Cumberland Island there is a heavy Navy presence in the area. We passed these two big Navy ships in port.

Cumberland Island Navy
Navy Ships near Cumberland Island

We read the writeup on the Cumberland Island Anchorage.

Cumberland Sound
AC Cumberland Sound Anchorage writeup

We chose this anchorage because it offered a lee in the face of strong winds.

Cumberland Sound Anchorage
Our Anchor spot in Cumberland Sound

The anchorage was quite busy and the only spot we found was one tucked between two other anchored boats. I had to anchor in an area that had oyster shells and mud. Not a strong seabed for anchoring. The anchored dragged a bit as we set it at 700 RPM. I backed off a little on the throttle and this would have to do for the night. I was tired and needed sleep.

I set the anchor alarm app on my phone and drifted off to sleep.

Anchor Alarm
Anchor Alarm App plays warning sounds if you drag outside of the red circle

 

 

Robinson Creek Anchorage

Making our way North our next anchorage, a little creek called Robinson Creek. This spot lies just North of Comanche Cove Marina in St. Augustine, FL. We stopped at Camanchee Cove for a few days on the way down.

Robinson Creek
Robinson Creek Anchorage

Our route would look something like this.

Route 3 Oak Hill - Robinson Creek
Route from Oak Hill to Robinson Creek

On our way there we passed through Daytona Beach and the airport had lots of planes flying overhead.

 

There were other hazards to watch for like this sunken sailboat. Just look for the mast 😉

Sunken Sailboat Daytona
Sunken Sailboat near Daytona Beach

As we traveled I trawled a fishing line from outside the pilothouse door. I heard the drag on my reel start zzz-zing and reeled in a what I would later identify as a “Ladyfish”. I quick fish app check and this is an unregulated species with poor edibility.

in New Smyrna Beach we had to pass under a few low bridges.  Our 22’ air draft it made for a tight squeeze. Luckily the bridge is a bit taller in the middle than what is reflected by the height board.

New Smyrna N Causeway Bridge_7968
New Smyrna North Causeway Bridge on the ICW

 

As we approached a bend in the ICW we saw two boats blocking our path to the North. One looks like they have thrown out an anchor to stop from getting pushed further ashore or a possible kedging off attempt. The other was in the process of being pulled off by TowBoatUS. We contacted the Towboat Captain on VHF and treaded water for about 20 minutes until the first boat was pulled clear and we could continue. The trick needed to pass was to hug the reds as close as 10′ abeam. Seems odd that the deeper water would be on the inside of the bend but was where you needed to be. This is location is right near Fort Matanzas South of St. Augustine, FL

The song playing in the pilothouse is “Devil’s Dance Floor” by Flogging Molly. A great Celtic band out of LA.

 

Every captain knows when you traverse the ICW, the shallow channel depths mean that you could run aground if you drift out of the channel. For this reason oncoming boats must stay “Right of Center”. This fellow captain seemed oblivious to that rule judging by the wave he gave after forcing us out of the channel. We were riding the right edge of the channel and had no choice but to either hold our ground and use sound signals (1 short blast for a 1-whistle pass – port to port) or simply move over. If you don’t know to stay right of center you wont know your sound signals either 😉

As we approached St. Augustine we saw a large trawler aground.

Trawler Aground_8030
Large trawler aground just South of St Augustine, FL

We passed the magnificent schooner Freedom

Freedom

The night ended with a warm orange-pink sunset.

Robinson Creek_Sunset
Sunset at anchor in Robinson Creek

Mosquito Lagoon Anchorage

Up early, we weighed anchor at Bluefish Point anchorage and headed North.

Our route would take us something like this..

Route 2 Bluefish - Oak Hill

As we were transiting Haulover Canal I had to laugh as I was flashed by a bird.

Haulover Canal Flasher Bird

We decided on an anchorage called Mosquito Lagoon (I know, not a inviting name).

Mosquito Lagoon

This lagoon is near Oak Hill, FL and has many fish camps where local fishermen have camps along the shore.

Oak Hill Camp.JPG

While listening to the VHF the USCG was warning about restricted areas around Cape Canaveral to the South of us. There was a SpaceX launch or their Titan 9 rocket and we wanted to be on anchor with a view for when it started.

Seeing a rocket fly over your head is both impressive and a bit unnerving.

Shortly after the launch we saw what may have been a re-entry from the reusable parts of the rocket? Something SpaceX pioneered.

Oak Hill reentry_7934

No sooner had the rocket passed overhead and we were treated to a beautiful sunset and a present moon.

Bluefish Point Anchorage

After getting a late morning start leaving Vero Beach, we decided on a short route that ended in an AC anchorage called “Bluefish Point”.

Bluefish Point 2

We use a app called Charts&Tides on both our iPhones and iPad that has integration with ActiveCaptain.com. AC is a website where boaters enter their favorite local anchorages, marinas, local knowledge (where the closest Westmarine.com store is) and hazards they are aware of or hit may have hit in their travels. This information is loaded into a small text database and iPad navigation apps can use your AC login to download for offline integration into the charting and plotting app.

The pic below is an example of the kind of AC information that can be pulled up by clicking on a AC green square icon in the app.

Bluefish Point

If you click on reviews you’ll find notes from AC Captains like ourselves about how best to approach, depths, currents, seabed type, onshore restaurants, etc.

Our route looked something like this:

Route 1 Vero - Bluefish

It was a short run but along the way we were passed by several boats and this is one example of the type of VHF communications you can expect.

When passing a boat on the ICW: The overtaking boat should hail the stand-on vessel by name or description. MV Simple Life transmits our name on AIS as well as large letters on our stern. As the stand on vessel you should lower your speed to idle or the slowest speed that you can still maintain control at. The stand-on vessel should maintain a straight course and the overtaking vessel should reduce speed till their wake will not rock the boat being passed excessively.  If the boat being overtaken does not slow down then the passing boat has no option but to increase speed and wake the boat as they pass. Large boats on the ICW can really rock you if they refuse to slow down. As a captain your learn that you are responsible for your own wake and any damage or injury that it causes to the boats you pass.

As we passed Sebastian, FL just North of Vero Beach and saw many great restaurants with live music and while tempted to drop anchor and go for some beer & live music, we pushed on.  We need to cover as much ground in the next few days that we can.

We passed an interesting small island that looks like it would be fun to setup a beach chair and few hours relaxing on.

Sebastian 1

Vero Beach Heading North

After coming out of the Okeechobee Waterway we anchored just off Hutchinson’s Island. This anchorage is just inside the St. Lucie Inlet and while it’s not an official anchorage, it worked for us.

Anchorage Marriott

Our crew was was looking a little banged up. Kelly with a broken toe (again)

Kelly Toe

Chief Martin Brody with a sore paw after ripping a claw off one of his toes.

Thankfully the captain survived to patch the crew back up.

As departed Hutchinson’s Island and made our way North towards Vero Beach I did some quick math on our speed and expected time of arrival. We had told the Suntex Marina in Vero Beach that we would be there before 5PM. With the late start that meant that we were going to have to burn a little fuel and step up our speed from a leisurely 6 kts to something North of 8 kts.

Having dolphins on your bow is something that happens daily in Southern Florida.

Soon we were docked in Vero Beach and it was time to go out to dinner with Lori & Jim @ the Bonefish grille. The food was great and we always have a blast hanging with Lori & Jim.

Back at the marina I found another North Pacific 43. This couple is from Canada and they have some interesting modifications to their NP43. For one they added backup mirrors to the outside of the life rails (I wonder if you can actually use these backing in from the pilothouse?).

I also found a fellow boater from Duxbury, MA here in the Marina.

While we were in the marina the weather turned stormy. Sitting in the pilothouse you could see the wind blowing hard over the water’s surface.

From our aft cockpit you could stay dry as the rain poured down.

We even got some hail hitting the boat and landing in the cockpit.

We had lots of fun in Vero Beach but alas we must keep making our way North to get home and see more family and friends. As we headed out onto the ICW we past many beautiful homes that reminded us how nice Vero Beach is to visit.

Okeechobee Waterway

Leaving Fort Meyers Beach we navigated our way out of the Northern entrance Channel.

FMB Channel 2

We made a last-minute decision to skip Captiva Island in favor of entering the Okeechobee Waterway.

Upon entering the Caloosahatchee River we passed many interesting sights.

Like these folks who just beached the boat and were enjoying the day.

Beached Boat 2

Then this house boat that I think had mannequins on the upper deck and an “Open for business sign”

House boat 7

Soon we were looking for a place to anchor and found a nice little turn in the Caloosahatchee right next to FPL – Florida Power and Light Power plant.

FPL 1

at night the Plant could be seen against the night sky.

FPL NIght 7

The next morning we weighed anchor and headed further down the river. We passed many houses..

Some homes for sale included an airfield so you could simply fly in for the weekend.

Airfield 5

Some farms had cows.

Cows 12

Some had horses.

Horses 1

Some like this home had a beautiful blue hulled Flemming trawler docked on the river.

Flemming

We passed under and requested a few bridge openings.

One particular bridge required contacting a woman over the VHF and waiting for her to walk out to the center of the bridge and have her swing the bridge open. She was very nice and wished us a safe passage as we motored through.

We soon passed this young girl who seemed to be hiding from the world.

Girl hiding

We had to passed through many Locks. Some were a walk in the park but one was full of DRAMA.

At one lock, I was working the lines by myself when I realized that I could not cleat both bow and stern and run fast enough between them to slip the lines. As the water poured into the lock chamber it pushed our full keel away from the concrete lock wall and I lost hold of the bow line. MV Simple Life instantly started to go sideways in the strong current. I had to quickly let go of the stern line and run for the helm. I quickly got the boat in gear and reversed the sideways spin.

Next the thrusters shutdown due to thermal overload and left me with a full-keel and a single engine, fighting to keep the boat from hitting the lock walls or the boats behind us. It was a drama filled full forward / reverse, hard over from stop to stop with the wheel. Kelly came running up and asked what she could do but at that point there wasn’t anything to be done but keep the boat from smashing into the walls, boats, or lock doors. By the time the drama ended, a lesson had been learned. I’ll call that “experience” one day. Never take the lock lines of the cleats and place the fenders as far forward and stern as possible and lastly, use the boat hook to fend-off the concrete walls as the boat twists in the current.

I don’t have a video of the moment of drama but I do have this videos of much more serene lock passings.

We arrived at Lake Okeechobee before sunset but had to tie to a dock because the last lock was closed for the evening. We tied to a small dock next to the larger Moore Haven City Docks. We had to google to find the small dock owner’s name and phone number. We called and found out that he was out-of-town on a family emergency but we found a way to pay him through the DockWa app.

The next morning we shoved off the dock but had to wait for a train bridge that was in the down position.

Since we were waiting on the train anyways, I decided to pull into a marina near the bridge and see if they had any ice. What an interesting stop. I walked up to the marina shack and found a group of men just kicking back in chairs sharing some beer and watching the day pass. They greeted me with a smile and complemented my docking skills. I reminded them that when you have a bow & stern thruster it can make a spinning docking maneuver look easy. They were so friendly, I sat down and talked with them for a while. The marina owner explained that he recently purchased the marina and I asked why he was not on ActiveCaptain.com? He said he was sure that he was on AC but after I showed him I had the latest copy of the AC DB and he was not on it.

AC Moore Haven

The friendly gentleman asked if I could help get him into AC. I spent some time trying before finally emailing AC with my request and I received an email back from Karen Siegal, who I recognized as one of the co-founders of AC. I explained that AC as well as DockWa were two applications that will drive 90% of all transient docking business and we departed with a bag of ice and some fishing gear that I purchased while there.

Once in Lake Okeechobee it was beautiful. Full of amazing trees, birds and alligators.

Lake Okeechobee was very windy and choppy. The crossing had spray hitting the pilothouse windows be inside we were warm and dry.

Out the back you could watch the brown lake water as it boiled up from below.

There are two Easterly routes to the St Lucie river on the Eastern side of Lake O. We decided not to take route #2 often called the Southern Rim Route as it traverses the small towns on the south lake shore. Instead, we took route #1 which crosses in somewhat of a straight line directly to Port Mayaca lock on the Eastern shore.

Okee 68

Upon arrival at the Eastern shore, the lock was closed so we simply dropped anchor right next to lock entrance channel.

Okee Anchor 1

The sunset was amazing. We watched as it slowly sank beneath the lake. Then it was gone.

The next morning we entered the St. Lucie river and passed several interesting sights.

At one point the weather turned bad and local radar images showed we were getting hit with some strong winds and rain. We lowered the flags and closed the windows and pushed on till it passed over us.

weather-radar.png

Soon we exited the St. Lucie River right at the Saint Lucie Inlet and found a nice little anchorage spot just North of the inlet.

Marriott Anchorage

Next stop Vero Beach.

FMB

Coming into Fort Meyers Beach you see the same white sand found at Marco Island. Just amazing beaches. We entered using the Northern entrance channel.

It’s all a no wake zone so about 5 knots of headway for us. We ducked under the 65’ Matanzas Pass Bridge and grabbed a mooring ball from Mantanzas Harbor Mooring Field. It’s a town mooring field but administered by Mantanzas Inn. Running a mooring field requires not just the divers to inspect the mooring anchors, chains, balls and pennant lines…

…but also someone to answer the phone, VHF, fill out the paper work and collect the money as well as enforce the rules. Sometimes you have boats that run gas-powered gensets on deck late into the night. When in the Key West mooring field a boat finally shut off their loud generator around 10PM and another boat yelled “THANK YOU” across the mooring field. I spontaneously laughed aloud but the boater with the generator had some sharp words back. Funny but not.

matanzas-bayside-inn-marina

Upon arrival I couple, Dave & Megan & Athena (the dog) passed by in a dinghy and offered to thread my lines though the mooring ball which just like Boot Key Harbor or Key West cannot easily be pulled up to reach MV Simple Life’s foredeck. D & M announced they were on their way to a cruiser’s raft-up and extended an invite to us. I was glad they did and I had a blast meeting the FMB cruisers within minutes of arrival. They were full great stories and laughs.

Raft Up

Yes, that is a Macaw parrot on Doug’s shoulder. see top-left corner.

The next morning we had to go into the Mooring field office and register using our boat registration paperwork. This is something that you don’t have to do when getting on a ball up North. Up North a the mooring field or launch boat pulls alongside your boat and they ask the name of the boat and collect the money. In Florida most the moorings we rented required not just the registration of the big boat but also the dinghy as well as insurance paperwork. I now carry digital copies of all on my iPhone.

We wasted no time in finding lunch at Matanzas Inn Restaurant.

Kelly Chair 1

Also spent some time in the upstairs at night listening to the local singers perform.

I also spent a little time at Bonita Bills.

I would  have posted the video instead but the karaoke singing would have made your ears bleed.

Bonita Bills 1

While there I took a dinghy ride around San Carlos Island.

Approaching Hurricane Bridge you’ll pass a few cruisers who look like they have been anchored there for a bit.

Then duck under the Hurricane Pass Bridge and into Hurricane Bay.

Once under the bridge you are in Hurricane Bay and I stopped to snap a few photos of a derelict house boat aground.

The No Wake Zone ends and it was time to open the dinghy up and capture some sunset photos from Hurricane Bay.

While we were here in FMB a close family friend, Capt Mike Spinney came down on his boat and offered to give me a tour of FMB.

Mike and his friend Dave took me for a high-speed run all around FMB.

Mike Dave 1

What fun to go from our normal 6kts to 35kts!

Capt Spin was quick to see that the dolphins were trailing us and mentioned that if you boost your wake a bit you can get them to do some jumps. As if right on cue..

We took a trip down to Lovers Key where there is a great white sand beach that all the boaters pull up right onto the beach and enjoy the day.

Then it was on to the Lani Kai Beach Resort a hot spot for Spring Breakers here in FMB.

Marty Mike 3

Back at the boat I said goodbye to Mike and Dave and they gave us a wave as they departed through the mooring field.

Mike Dave 3

Next stop, Captiva Island and the Okeechobee Waterway.

Marco Island

Marco Island is wonderful. The trip here from the Everglades was a 10 hour slow trip through a hazy Gulf of Mexico.

Looking out the cockpit windows at times it seemed that the horizon simply faded into the pale green water.

 

At one point in the journey we noticed something floating on the water and thought we should investigate. From a distance I could not tell what it was..

Box Far Away
Something floating from afar

As we got closer it appeared to be a floating box of sorts. Maybe it was some kind of hatch cover off a boat?

Box Close
Piece of a boat?

As we entered the Marco Island entrance channel you could see the large buildings with the white sandy beaches. I believe hurricane Irma hit Marco island pretty hard but read that they were able to recover quickly and reopen their beaches for tourists.

There was a moment from that I could not figure out what the bright white lining the shore was. I’m not used to seeing beaches so white?

As we made our way in Capri Pass we passed people having fun on tubes as well as the Key West Express. For folks on the West coast of Florida Marco Island would seem a great jumping off point to get to Key West.

Soon we found a great anchor spot just outside the channel North West of Green Daymark #15. The current was strong but the holding great.

IMG_2162
Our Anchor spot in Marco Island. Follow the orange route line to the outlined boat with heading line projected off bow.

Anchoring here puts you right in front of the “World Famous Snook Inn”. It  was time to drop the dink and go for some drinks.

Bar
At the Snook Inn bar

Looking out from the Snook Inn you could see MV Simple Life on anchor.

Snook Inn View 1
You can see MV Simple Life from our table at the Snook Inn in Marco Island.

You can also watch the many boats who sail on by. They have a custom of doing a close sail by the front windows of the Snook Inn and blowing their horn followed by waving at the folks in the restaurant. It was fun to watch the boats go by.

 

On our way back  we tried to get a selfie of us in the dink in front of our boat. We could not stop spinning in the current and the shade from our camera just seemed like an eclipse shadow that we could not shake.

 

While we were on anchor in Cudjoe Key a stray line became fouled in our propeller. MV Simple Life has a “pot cutter” on our propeller shaft and it did the job of cutting the line. However, we now had a slight vibration in the running gear at higher RPMs. I decided I should dive on the propeller and attempt to untangle any line from the propeller. While my heart may be on the water, I’m not very comfortable being “in the water”. Diving on a boat propeller while on anchor with current and sharp instruments in your hand turned out to be more difficult than expected. However after several attempts and even cutting my head after being banged into the hull, I managed to cut the offending line free.

Propeller Line
I don’t like diving to untangle lines from our prop. Time for a beer!

The spot we picked to anchor is in a “no wake” zone and passing traffic was super polite about passing us super slow.

After seeing the local sheriff pull over this pair of wave runners I get the feeling the sheriff enforces this no-wake zone.

Sherrif
The Sheriff enforces the no-wake zone here

The calm anchorage made for some beautiful sunsets.

Sunset
Every night was a beautiful sunset