We awoke to the sound of rain hitting the topsides of the boat. We weighed anchor in the rain and it poured for the next few hours.
We passed these hearty Jeepsters camping in the rain.
The weather just hung over us all day. It did not help that we were motoring South, straight into the thick of it.
The wind was on our beam and listing the boat to port. You can see the flags are flying out straight.
We passed two sunken sailboats and an aground catamaran.
This guy wins the award for the largest boat house on the ICW today and also the most dilapidated boat house. I wonder how it’s even still standing after some of the storms?
We still had a long way to go if we were going to make Titusville, FL and the sun had just set.
We kept on into the night while Kelly cooked an amazing steak tip dinner while underway. We may be pulling 10-12 hour days at the helm but we are eating well. Soon we picked a spot to anchor which was tucked in a corner between land and a railroad bridge. A bit shallow but well protected for a good night sleep. It’s very dark with only a thin waxing crescent moon but you could see the distant lights of Titusville.
Today’s leg of our journey looked something like this finger drawn route.
We had a peaceful night on anchor in the Amelia River. We awoke early before the sunrise.
Somehow we did not get moving till 8AM. We have a thing about trying to cover as many miles as we can each day and that means you need to use all the daylight there is on the ICW. Not so much this morning. The good news was that we were leaving on a high tide so little worry of running into a shoal with the added 5′ of tide.
Two tugs raced past us and I was reminded that you can tell when a full displacement boat is running at near ‘Hull Speed‘ by simply looking at the bow wake length vs the boat length. You can see the smaller tug’s bow wake dips and then crests almost at the stern of the tug. They were running hard and burning fuel. They must be in a hurry to get to the next job cuz running fast = diesel = $ = expenses for them.
Where the ICW crosses the St. Johns River in Jacksonville we always see large ships either underway or being repaired in the boatyards dotting the shore.
Last year we passed this sailboat on a small island and it still looks out of place. How’d it get up on the island? I can only assume a barge with a crane placed it there to keep it out of the way of navigation but why leave it there?
We passed this other sailboat that was using their dingy to reset their anchor. Their sailboat was too close to the ICW channel.
There are some beautiful homes along the banks and this was just one of them.
As we approached this bridge in Isle of Palms, FL we noticed 3 16YOish boys tied their boat to the bridge and were fishing beneath the support. This is a NO-NO in the boating world. It’s a federal law that you cannot tie a boat to any navigational buoy or bridge’s fender system (the boards that protect the bridge supports from boats as they pass through the center span).
As a boater you must treat bridges with special attention. When you pass under a bridge you must do so at no wake speed (about 6.4 knots for MV Simple Life). For the boats hanging out under bridges (usually fishing) you must not block the marked channel through the center span. You must also be careful as boats passing through the fender boards may not see you if you are hidden by the boards or bridge supports. Also after 9/11/2001 Homeland Security legally restricted areas under certain bridges and it’s a felony if you break that law. Individual states may have laws about simply being near any bridge in their state.
Florida Statute 327.44 refers to interference with navigation and states that anchoring underneath a bridge or adjacent to heavily traveled channels constitutes interference if unreasonable under the prevailing circumstances. There’s a lot of gray area here and not everyone has the same understanding of “unreasonable interference,” but you likely won’t get in trouble for anchoring under a bridge if you are well out of the way.
FWC (Fish & Wildlife Conservation) officers may stop you if you attempt to anchor under the bridge. It should be noted that the area around a bridge is more likely to have un underwater cable that either brings power to a lift or swing bridge or simply crosses over to the island. You don’t want to hook your anchor on these power cables.
Aside from all the bridge rules of boating, I was more interested in the expansion joint on this bridge.
We pass many engineering structures like bridges and this pier. I’m sure the first piers were only for boats to dock but soon “pleasure piers” emerged that were simply for people to stroll out onto or fish off.
We find it interesting that “birds of a feather flock together”. It’s like all these white pelicans said … “Hey, why don’t we all me on the banks of the ICW over where Jimmy found that big pile or old crab shells tomorrow?”. They clearly enjoy each other’s company.
Soon we were waiting for Saint Augustine’s ‘Bridge of Lions‘ to open (every 30 minute openings). In line in front of us was a boat called ‘Yellow Bird” from Cape Cod.
We attempted to get a mooring ball in Saint Augustines FL but alas the City Marina only had balls for boats with drafts under 3′. I hear it’s a fun town but our plan is to continue on tonight and find a quiet place to anchor. As the sun was setting we settled on anchoring just off Fort Matanzas. Fort Matanzas was built by the Spanish in 1742 to guard Matanzas Inlet.
I awoke at 4AM before any of the crew. Neither Happy or Brody came out from under the covers to join me. We are in Georgia and it’s only 40 degrees when I awoke.
Heck, the temps were going to fall deeper before the 7:13AM sunrise.
By 6:30AM the sky was starting to lighten up on the ICW.
I decided to walk out on the bow while underway and snap a picture and a quick video before sunrise.
Once the sun rose you could see it burning the face of the daymarks as we passed.
When you are at the helm for hours the internet is your entertainment. I was watching Mike-the-Drunken-Donkey from Mike’s Weather Page broadcasting FB Live video stream. I tuned in as Mike taught about weather and what to expect from the winter storm making its way across the US.
We were amazed at how flat calm the ICW was as we pushed along at 7 knots.
At the helm I’m wearing my work pajamas because it’s still a bit chilly even with the diesel heat on. Happy just figured out that there is HEAT coming out of that little black round duct below the AC panel door. She parked herself right under my feet to steal all the heat.
We were making incredible time as we approached Cumberland Island in Georgia.
10.4 knots because we were enjoying a strong current on our stern.
Then as we looked out, we could see a current line on the surface of the water.
We feared as soon as we crossed this line that our 10.4 knot speed would begin to erode. We could never have guessed just how much.
Knowing we would face this current from our trip around Cumberland Island we attempted to ride close to shore looking for an eddy current (reverse direction). But alas it was no use. We had a long slow ride around the island.
Then it happened. We crossed over the state line into Florida’s Amelia Island A.K.A. Fernandina Beach. As we passed we saw a ship that looked like a member of the Sea Shepherd fleet. We snapped a photo on the way by and low & behold, it was a Sea Shepherd ship.
Kelly & I have always been fans of ocean conservation and the crew of Sea Shepherd work hard to keep our oceans and their inhabitants safe.
We are currently anchored in the Amelia River just over the GA-FL state line.
Today’s leg looked something like this finger drawn route.
We awoke on anchor just South of Turtle Island in SC. It’s a tiny uninhabited island that is on the Atlantic Ocean. There is hardly any light at night so the stars just pop out at you. They seem so much brighter and like you could reach up an touch them. Seeing the cosmos this way makes you realize that your consciousness is contemplating your existence on a small planet in the Milky Way galaxy. I wish there was a way to capture it in a picture but alas I have not found a way.
Cold. It’s F’n cold when I stand outside and watch the sunrise. It’s part of the experience but it’s also the whole reason we left New England and have been boating for the last 180 hours. Getting away from the cold means traveling further South than you would think. It’s only 36 degree as I stand out there watching the sunrise. 36 degrees and I’m on the edge of Georgia! Time to simply weigh anchor and go..
When anchored in weather like this you need a 12V heater as there are no long extension cords leading to the boat. Kelly & I installed a Espar D8LC 27K BTU diesel-fired forced-hot-air heater and mornings like this I realize we would never live on a boat without HEAT.
Georgia has enormous tides and strong currents.
We were riding an 8′ high tide so we were unstoppable. Well, I mean unstoppable in the sense we probably won’t run into a shoal and be stopped dead in our tracks.
Field’s Cut is just before the ICW crosses the Savannah River and we had to cruise fast to get ahead of the oncoming container ship that just issued a ‘securite’ warning that they were on incoming on the Savannah River and approaching Fields Cut. You need to listen to these securite calls from large ships if you don’t want to wind up on the wrong end of them. We’d have snapped a photo but we were more concerned with staying out of their way. We hailed the ship and let them know that we would be crossing in front of their bow and that we would not be in their way.
We call this picture “Bush of White Birds” cuz we so creative.
We slipped under this bridge carefully as we just fit beneath.
Low bridges that boat traffic must wait on openings are being replaced by tall 65′ high bridges. That’s a good thing for boaters and motorists alike.
Kelly has a thing for wooden transom boats so we snapped these pics of MV Sandrita as she was being hauled via a marine travel lift. We had to slow down to no wake speed as these dock workers were trying to load her in the slings.
We hailed this blue-hulled sailboat to warn them they were approaching a shoal. They had already figured it out but thanked us as they backed out of the channel they were in. Captains on the water are kind and always offer help if they see another boater doing something that might get them into trouble. I’ve had captains hail me and say… Simple Life, you need to keep that red tight to port to clear that shoal”. Kelly & I feel lucky to be apart of a group that looks out for one another.
Kelly & I each bought Florida saltwater fishing licenses today. We’ll be in Florida for a minimum of 3 weeks while we prepare for our Bahamas departure.
I am on many Facebook Boating groups and love the discussions about the Aqua Maps Explorer Bahamas charts. Folks complaining about the fact that they are raster (bitmap) charts vs vector charts which use math equations to draw the charts at each particular zoom level. It’s interesting to me not just because they pictured Green Turtle Cay where Kelly & I have wanted to visit but that I just am drawn to nautical charts. We hung one on the 275 gallon oil tank in our old house that we sold. It took me hours to print each individual 8″x11″ chart and piece them all together to have a huge chart of Narragansett Bay. I enjoy staring at paper charts like they are artwork for ship captains. Vector charts lack the beauty of raster (paper-style) charts.
We passed a beautiful fishing trawler as we got close to our final anchor location for the night.
Soon we were passing this cool little house on an island along the banks of the ICW in Georgia.
The sun was quickly setting on us and it was spectacular.
As we pulled into the creek where we’d drop our anchor for the night it was last light.
Today’s leg looked something like this… Not really as the ICW snakes its way through countless creeks in Georgia.
We opt’d for a late 11AM departure from Beaufort, SC. When we went to leave the current was pushing us so hard against the dock that our bow & stern thrusters were not able to move us away from the dock. A fellow boater on SV Bay Dreaming came over and held our spring line so I could motor the stern off the dock and then back into the current. Amazing how strong the current can be in this area with 7-8′ tides.
Soon we were at the Southern tip of Paris Island.
Our friends Ann & Todd’s son Conner is there going through boot camp as we pass. We are reminded by the sounds of freedom (Jets screaming overhead).
My brother just let me know that yesterday a guy caught a 17′, 3500lb. great white shark off Hilton Head Island.
Today’s trip was short and we only passed a few sights pictured below
Soon we were dropping anchor in the 20 kts winds and it surprised me when after lining up bow into the wind we quickly spun around in the strong current with our stern facing the wind.
The sunset’s here in the lowlands of South Carolina are amazing.
The storms blew over us all night in Charleston Harbor. The large catamaran beat us off anchor by leaving in the dark. When I weighed anchor it came up muddy and with wooden debris possibly from an old sunken dock or similar?
We cleared the debris and pulled out behind MV Gratitude but quickly fell behind her. She was moving at about 8 knots and we had the current against us and were ok to simply keep up 7 knots.
We would be making way through Southern South Carolina’s ICW and it’s all about the tide in this area. Unfortunately, we were running into low tide.
You can see 7-8′ tides in these creeks and we were coming up to Watt’s Cut an infamous shallow cut. As we approached we saw a sailboat stalled out in Watts Cut. They were trying to find the deepest water in which to travel.
We hailed them to pass and wanted to offer that they simply follow us but they only answered our hail enough to pass then must have been too busy finding the deep.
As we passed we both said, Is that boat that orange?
We had to move over in Watt’s cut to get past the dredge that was in operation. We saw 5.8′ of depth just enough to slip through.
After getting by the dredge called “Tenacious” you can here my 6′ shallow water alarm going off. We had passed a SV Knee Deep who happily let us go first and requested that we hail them if we saw 6′ or less of water.
We ran at a fast cruise of 8 knots trying to make Beaufort SC before Downtown Marina closed at 5PM. The currents were with us and we arrived with plenty of time to fuel up before they closed.
This lovely 55′ Fleming trawler pulled in after us.
We got to watch as one of the sailors attempted to row his dinghy down current to chase his boat fender that was quickly getting away from him. Another sailor jumped in his motorized dinghy and quickly came to his rescue. There was no way once he retrieved his runaway fender that he was going to be able to row against the current in the Beaufort River. It was comical as they tried to make their way back. It took them a minute to figure out that both of them should be in the motorized dinghy and simply tow a lightweight dingy behind them.
We crashed through the back door of Plums restaurant for some burgers and IPA.
The next day we found our way to Q’s on Bay which had a larger selection of Craft Brew IPA.
The crew was all smiles
We awoke the next AM and the loaner car was out so we grabbed some more ice, dumped the trash, filled the water tanks, and made some breakfast.
Our leg from Charleston, SC to Beaufort, SC looked something like this.. Not really as I did not take the time to figure out how to draw a finger line while staying on the ICW which snakes it’s way through many different creeks in these parts. But I think you’ll get the general direction.
We weighed anchor at first light in the Waccamaw River and it was foggy.
I felt bad that we had to put on our automatic fog horn so early in the morning as there were other boats sleeping on anchor (or at least they were sleeping). At times the fog was thick enough that you would not be able to see the small duck hunting boats that zip around in this area.
It rained all day. Not good for the folks who lived along the river banks. The river had already overrun its banks and many of the riverbank homes were dealing with flooding. More rain was the last thing they needed.
Then the fog would return.
When it was clear we got to see the lowlands of South Carolina. Beautiful grasses that extend out to the Atlantic Ocean.
Along the way we passed a steel hulled sailboat that was anchored in the same location as when we came up this part of the ICW in the spring. I guess like many is just permanently anchored along the ICW?
We passed someone’s boat that was still tied to the dock but had sunk for some reason or another.
Our plan for today was to attempt to make it all the way to Charleston, SC. The currents were helping us along and there was not traffic or bridges to slow us down. We ran right up until dark and had to settle on a wide open commercial anchorage just off Fort Johnson in Charleston Harbor. Kelly asked that we pick an anchorage that had cellular service as it was football and she had been watching the Giants / Bears game but the Patriots game was on next.
We anchored next to a large sailing catamaran and the winds were blowing. The weather was bad as there were thunderstorms moving through that were bring wind gusts up to 55 MPH. A quick look at my weather apps showed them passing directly over us on anchor.
While on anchor I captured some of the storm.
Our leg today looked something like this … (80 NM)
We had spent a fun two nights at St. James Marina with friends. Kelly & Wende got to compare charity bracelets made by their niece, Michaela over drinks.
While we were at the dock I watched a sailboat snap a piling off. I felt bad for the captain as there was some mis-communication that had the sailboat backing out of a fairway in the marina and then incorrectly tying up to a T-dock that was reserved for a similar sized sailboat that had just entered the marina’s entrance. The captain quickly untied from the T-dock and attempted to back up but while he must have thought he had shifted from reverse into neutral, was clearly still accelerating in reverse. He hit the piling and snapped it off without putting a single scratch in his boat. I don’t know what the manufacturer of this sailboat is but that’s a solid boat.
After that excitement, I spent some time finding an iPad app that would give me detailed charts of the Bahamas. I settled on the Aqua Map app. I had been using Charts & Tides by Navionics.
I was not happy that when Garmin bought ActiveCaptain.com they killed the integration with other iPad navigation apps in favor of integration with their own chartplotters.
I had been using Charts & Tides for the last 15 months because it was not very expensive to purchase the Navionics charts for the US & Canada ($30 or so) and the app gave me ActiveCaptain integration. ActiveCaptain.com was a web page that had a live map and a database of crowd sourced data and reviews of marinas, anchorages, local knowledge and hazards to navigation. Better yet iPad navigation apps could download the ActiveCaptain database of information for offline display in any compatible iPad navigation app. ActiveCaptain integration is a must for cruising the ICW. It puts small icons right on your navigation screen that show you marinas, places to anchor, hazards to navigation and local knowledge of inlets and difficult areas. Charts alone don’t list the nearest place to anchor when it’s dark and you need to stop for the night. Knowing there is a shoal around the next bend in the ICW and the only way to safely get past it is to hug the red daymark to within 30 ft is knowledge that active captain gives to you right on the navigation app’s screen (if the app has active captain integration). The Charts & Tides app which is extremely easy to use and very intuitive had ActiveCaptain integration until Garmin bought them and they seem very slow to fix the broken integration. You can however buy a Garmin Chartplotter and get ActiveCaptain. hmmmm?
I did not want to be forced to buy an expensive Garmin chartplotter. When we purchased MV Simple Life we chose to outfit our trawler with Raymarine electronics for navigation. Expensive navigation electronics like chartplotters, radar, depth and AIS are essential but when cruising the ICW you need to use an iPad with a navigation app that supports ActiveCaptain.
Aqua Map has ActiveCaptain integration and also allows you to purchase the very detailed Explorer charts for the Bahamas. I have never sailed around the Bahamas so step one was to purchase the charts and start studying the different islands and cays to plot my own safe routes to anchor locations of interest.
When we awoke our friends Jim & Wende had left squid wings and fishing tackle on our swim platform. I had been asking Jim for tips on catching fish in this area of the Atlantic and advice from someone who fishes the area is exactly what we need.
Soon we were making our way past ICW MM 325
We made it through the Lockwood Folly section of the ICW without touching bottom near low tide.
We passed many amusing sights along the ICW shore.
We passed this sailing catamaran that must have just gotten to tired to continue or find a place to anchor off the ICW so they just dropped anchor on the edge of the ICW. They used both a bow & stern anchor to prevent swinging into the channel but I would not be comfortable with the fog that another boat would not hit us.
There were hazards that were floating down the ICW like this dock.
As we came into Myrtle Beach area we started to see lighthouses & golf courses.
It was raining and foggy.
Soon we were tucking into the Waccamaw River to anchor for the night.
Kelly made an amazing chicken fajita dinner to enjoy as the sun was setting in our swampy anchorage. It was yummy!
We had spent the night on anchor in Mile Hammock Bay. The shore around this bay is on the property of Camp Lejeune. Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune is a 246-square-mile United States military training facility in Jacksonville, North Carolina. The base’s 14 miles of beaches make it a major area for amphibious assault training, and its location between two deep-water ports allows for fast deployments.
I woke up in the middle of the night and it was cold.
I spent some time in awe of the stars that felt so close you could touch them. I’d have taken a picture of them but it just doesn’t work when you’re aboard a rocking boat. It reminds me that we are all spinning around on a rock in space surrounded by an endless cosmos. I like feeling small and insignificant in the cosmos. It means my life is more intimate. I chose to spend it with the folks around me and that is what gives it meaning.
It was still dark at 6:30AM as I was pulling out of the bay and onto the ICW. Disappointed that I could not share a picture of how amazing it was to lay under the stars I thought I’d leave the helm and walk to the stern to snap a picture of the proto-sunrise that was taking shape behind us.
Whenever I leave the helm on the ICW you must be quick. There are many times you find yourself looking down at an iPhone or iPad to measure the distance to the next bridge or calculate your arrival at your planned anchor location. Take your eye off the helm for more than 10 seconds and you may find that you’ve run over a crap pot, hit a shoal or just ran into the bank of the ICW. This fellow ICW boater ran aground when his teenage daughter spaced out while at the helm. The boat and crew were fine and while it can be embarrassing it’s something that can happen to anyone when you’re pulling 10-12 hour days staring at the helm and things passing you by.
Soon we were passing Carolina beach and the grasslands are beautiful.
We passed a pink house on it’s own rock island with a dock leading out to it.
As we made our way South we came to Snow’s Cut. A ‘cut’ is a canal that has literally been ‘cut’ through land to form a canal for boats to travel from one river to another. It appears as if this abandon bridge is a popular place for teen parties.
Next it was into the Cape Fear River. This river is deep and has a strong current. You must stay clear of the larger traffic in the channel like this tug pushing an LNG tanker.
To get to the marina we were going to spend two nights at we had to turn to starboard at the Frying Pan Restaurant. I recall seeing photos of this restaurant during Hurricane Florence. The restaurant was flooded. I can’t tell for sure but they look to be up and running as we passed?
If you are familiar with Cape Fear you’d know that this restaurant is named after the famous Frying Pan Shoals that extend out some 15 miles off the coast of NC.
There is an abandoned tower that marks Frying Pan Shoals and guy bought it at auction and is now making a bed & breakfast out fo the tower that lies some 39 miles off the coast of Cape Fear. How cool would it be to stay for a night? Here is a video of someone dropping a camera off the tower and down into the water. By the way to get into the tower you must be hoisted up on a cable.
We arrived at St. James Marina and were excited to spend some time with friends. Jim was just getting back from a fishing trip out to the gulf stream some 50 miles of the coast of Cape Fear. The weather was rough so I think it was a wet salty ride back in this fast open fishing boat.
The Marina is a beautiful place to spend time and it was worth the trip. Our trip looked something like this.
We loved our stay in Beaufort, NC but we awoke to 34 degrees and it was time to leave.
We had lots of fun in Beaufort riding around in the sexy loaner car. The car was green but the door was red. You had to pump the breaks to slow down and it had a death rattle sound as you drove down the road. We loved it. It was FREE.
We decided to do a pub crawl through Beaufort but we only made it to the Black Sheep Bar which was 20 feet from our boat. We met Capt. Scott from MV Legacy (58′ Grand Banks). Capt Scott kept us entertained with stories about his grandparents yacht that he was now the captain of. Capt Scott even gave me a tour of MV Legacy when we left the bar and she was very impressive.
Our GPS tracker was capturing our journey as we headed South. It clearly was not recording where the straight lines are shown but it gives a reader an interesting view of our last few days of travel.
I met another fella who said he noticed my Boston accent as he was also from that part of town. When I said well I’m from Foxboro (home of the Patriots to be exact) he mentioned someone he knew from Foxboro and it turned out to be a childhood friend of mine (Small World). Turns out we knew many of the same folks from back home. I snapped a selfie as it seemed like the right thing to do in the moment.
As we made our way out of Beaufort we passed a buoy tender with two gentleman who looked quite cold.
It was a small craft advisory and the whitecaps were appearing even in the small body of water we were in.
As we made our way down Bogue Sound I hailed a boat that was anchored in the channel. Turns out they were having engine trouble but were not in need of assistance.
We passed this fishing vessel that had clearly sunk in the shallow waters.
And around the next corner was the Marines Camp Lejeune. They were doing live fire exercises to we were forced to stop and drop anchor.
We dropped anchor believing that no traffic could pass during the exercises but soon a tug boat was passing us on anchor. Maybe he was just slow making his way out of the firing zone?
It was fun to watch the Osprey plane flying over the top of us. Recall the Osprey is a plane capable of vertical take off and landing.
When we were finally allowed to continue down the ICW we and all the other boats were racing to make it to the only decent anchorage within range. You must be careful when you run fast down the ICW because if you run up on a shoal going fast you may not be able to back off of it. Soon the sailboat behind us ran aground and they asked us if we would turn around and come back and wake them as hard as we could to possibly rock them off the shoal that had them stuck. We agreed knowing that it was risky as in order to wake them we’d have to run fast right next to the shoal they were stuck on. We did our best but in the end a local crab boat was the one who deserves the credit for pulling them off.
We were thrilled to see them free as it was still 2 hours away from low tide and if they had not gotten off that shoal quickly they were going to sit there into the night.
As we made our way to the anchorage at Camp Lejeune we passed many bullet riddled targets on shore.