In cruising from Stuart, FL to Beaufort, SC we’ve experienced some wonderful highs and sadly, a disconcerting low. Scott checked off a bucket list item when we watched the thrilling manned launch at Cape Canaveral. It was a spectacular site from our vantage point in the launch viewing anchorage. We were as close as was possible since the Kennedy Space Center had not yet reopened. It was pure luck that the launch had been postponed due to weather and rescheduled for a date that was convenient for us.
We’ve rarely see manatees in the ICW and we’ve seen about a dozen. We’ve never seen as many dolphins as we have the past few days. What a thrill! I get just as excited now as I did seeing them for the first time when I started coming to Florida in 2013! The wildlife is definitely my favorite part of boating!
Cumberland Island, home to Cumberland Island National Seashore, had been at the top our list of places to visit along the ICW. Everything we heard was true: an abundance of wildlife, history, and beauty. The ginormous Live Oaks, dripping with Spanish Moss, create a canopy of shade for the wild horses. The Dungeness ruins from the Carnegie estate and neighboring grounds were historic remnants of the Gilded Age. Our 4.5 mile walk around the south end of the island included a long stretch along the beach during which we were accompanied by a large shark who swam lazily at the surface just a few feet from the shore. Experts, I means Facebook friends, are guessing it was a Black Tip Shark. It felt like true freedom to walk around and explore without worrying about Covid-19 for a few hours! Unfortunately, it rained on our second day there so we were unable to explore the north end. We MUST return on our way south in the fall.
So far we have spent one day on the “outside” (in the Atlantic) and the remaining days on the “inside”, meaning inside the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW). The ICW is notorious for skinny (shallow) water, narrow passages, and unmarked shoaling. We watched 2 boats in front of us repeatedly get stuck in the shallow waters between Daytona and St. Augustine. Scott is soooo good at navigating the shallow waters. There were markers way off to the side that did not exist on the charts so navigating was rather slow and tedious. See in the photo above a picture of our path on the chart traveling over what is marked as “land!”
Now for the “low” and it a dramatic and heart wrenching “low.” As we approached the Fernandina Bridge I looked up an saw a woman with one leg over the bridge preparing to jump. I looked down and police were in their boat beneath her attempting to talk her down. This scene cannot be erased from my brain. I am hoping and praying that she changed her mind and received help for whatever was troubling her.
I like to say the boating is just a series of stories to tell. If you don’t have some crazy stories to tell then you aren’t really getting out and boating. To this end, we added another story to our list at Beaufort, SC. We have enjoyed buddy boating with Carolyn and Fred on Casablanca since Cape Canaveral. They were in the lead when we pulled into our anchorage in Beaufort where the charts were marked with the shallowest part at 9′ (our draft is 5.5″). This was at 4:00 p.m. Immediately Casablanca got stuck. We went around behind them and the depth finder showed .0′! It must have been pure mud as we didn’t get stuck but managed to turned around and get out of dodge. We moved a bit further south to an anchorage that was out in the open and unprotected which wasn’t pleasing so we called Safe Harbor Beaufort Marina. They informed us that they had no space in the marina but they had a nearby anchorage. So, we plodded north to find that there wasn’t really space to hold a boat our size because it was all mooring balls that were being inspected and thus unavailable. So, we cruised back down to the anchorage that was exposed only to find that Casablanca was still attempting to get their anchor to hold in the mud in the open area. I knew that there was no way Scott would sleep if we had to worry the entire night about the anchor holding. Okay, back north we head to the marina because they had concluded that 2 other boats weren’t coming and we could dock at the fuel dock. Wonderful! As we are docking Casablanca gave up on the muddy anchorage and decided to join us on the fuel dock. One big problem… there was only 57 linear feet available and he is 63′. The wonderful dock hand stayed late to move smaller boats around and we created a whopping 78′ for Fred. Thankfully, he is an accomplished captain and was successful despite the ripping current and wind pushing him. All in all, it took us 2.5 hrs to complete the berthing process!
The unplanned 2 night stop in Beaufort was fortuitous as I was able to catch up on 3 loads of laundry, I purchased groceries from Instacart, clean heads, baked bread, and Casablanca picked up carry-out for dinner. We savored our time on the aft deck with Carolyn and Fred at about a 19′ distance (our beam)! We are quite fond of Beaufort and the lovely historic homes district through which we strolled.
When we left Stuart we planned to “take our time” traveling up the coast to Solomon’s Island, MD. We are attempting to stop in new places and are looking for anchorages with safe places to go ashore and enjoy nature, like Cumberland. We had not planned to stop in big cities but Charleston is our next stop as it is convenient. Regrettably, we will definitely not venture into the city despite it being one of our favorites.