Driving in the ditch and a sh*t show in St. Augustine

Typically I write this blog in chronological order. However, today we are starting with today! Today at 5:45 a.m. in the north mooring field in St. Augustine when we awoke to two blasts of an air horn (thank goodness we have a boat with windows that open and we typically sleep with them open). I can’t tell you how quickly we leaped up the stairs to the pilot house to see a 59′ sailboat with billowing smoke loose in the mooring field. We could see that he was having a difficult time maneuvering in 30+ kt gusts and on the radio we heard the call for help: he had lost his anchor and his engine and he was single-handed. He managed to ground the vessel on the rocks at the sea wall and, with the Coast Guard’s assistance, managed to tie up safely. Next on the radio we hear a man that is pinned against the bridge in his dinghy and his wife, 6 year old son, and pets are still on board.

Our derelict neighbor without engine or a mast.

When we arrived at the mooring on Wednesday we noticed that the small derelict-appearing sailboat in front of us had a bent mast and was tethered to the mooring with what appeared to be an extra-long line the width of a shoe string. Thursday morning we noticed that the mast had fallen over so Scott called the marina and every law enforcement agency by radio and phone until someone finally came to tie on a more sturdy line and tie on the mast. This morning the mast was gone. This was potentially a very dangerous situation.

Back to our mooring. After the sailboat was safe on the rocks we climbed out to the bow to attach a third line through the very small mooring eye and attempted to put a fourth line through which gave us some comfort about our lines but one never knows the strength of the mooring in the earth and the lines attached to it. Upon checking the weather again we learned that the forecast had worsened and tonight’s and tomorrow’s winds are forecasted to have gusts of up to 60 knots. Oh, my! At over 100,000 lbs. we were way too big to stay on that ball even if our lines held. One of our biggest fears in an anchorage or mooring field is not just about the security of our boat but of the others around us as seen in the opening paragraph. Staying on the mooring would have required one of us to stay awake all night to stand watch.

The marina had previously told us there was no space for us but after a second call they said we could tie up on the outer long dock which is right next to the ICW. This “slip” provides little protection but definitely more secure than the mooring field. Reaching the marina required us to make two 180 degree turns crossing the 25 knot winds and a very strong current…this could not have been achieved without a hydraulic bow thruster! We also had to go under the fairly narrow Bridge of Lions which doesn’t open when winds reach 40 knots. Luckily we went under with 35 knot winds and managed a smooth docking in the marina! What a relief!

Talk about a tension filled morning…as I write this blog 4 other boats have broken loose and the Coast Guard just announced that they are reaching their operational limit for operating in sustained winds! Honestly, it’s been a sh*t show and it’s only going to get worse. In fact, winds are rising and the boat rescue towing company is refusing to come out in these conditions. I’ve never been so happy and thankful to be tied up at a marina.

Appears that we are going FAST! Photo by Maria on Tuscan Sun

Now back to the beginning. Norfolk is mile 1 of the ICW (Intracostal Waterway) and Stuart, FL is around mile 1000. In a car that doesn’t seem too daunting going 60+ mph. We, however, average 8.5 nm (approx. 10 mph) which means days and days. Scott prefers to go off shore as much as possible which cuts off many miles as the shape of the country curves inward. We can also go over night allowing us to add several miles per 24 hour period. Life is simplified off shore as we don’t have to deal with crab pots, large boats waking us, slowing down to be passed, or dealing with boaters and kayakers that don’t pay attention. And the bridges…they can add hours of time or burn extra gallons of fuel. One day we had to travel at 2000 rpms on our tiny engines to arrive at the bridges on time to make an opening. Our skin was taut as we traveled at a blistering 10. 3 nm. At other times, upon just missing a bridge opening, one has to make the boat mark time in place for while awaiting the next opening. Boats are meant to move, not tread water.

Off shore sunrise with a fading wisp of a moon.

I enjoy going off shore if the weather is perfect. I used to “buck up, buttercup” and say that puking wasn’t so bad when traveling in waves and swells, I can recover quickly. These days I am not so willing to deal with the seasickness so am rather choosey about the conditions. I am perfectly happy enjoying the ICW. In some places it is down right beautiful and exciting and you never know just what is around the corner. I get a thrill visiting new towns and checking out new anchorages, typically we stay on the hook. So far, this trip has been unusual for us.

You never know what you will find around the next corner on the ICW!

Our stops from Norfolk have been Coinjock, *Dowry Creek, *Oriental, *Morehead City, Wrightsville Beach, *Myrtle Beach, Georgetown, and Charleston. (* denotes new stops) We’ve only anchored twice and we’ve had the pleasure of buddy boating with three other boats. Thus, we have dined outdoors almost every night. I’m getting used to eating with my coat on as the temperatures are dropping at night.

Cypress trees lining the Waccamaw River

Off shore boating means setting the auto pilot and propping up your feet, pretty much easy-peasy. Boating in the ICW, often called “the ditch,” can be a nail-biting experience as it can be narrow, curvy, and extremely shallow which can produce sheer mental exhaustion. This year it has also been extremely busy with an abundance of boaters. I feel there is an influx of boaters owing to the high numbers of boaters that didn’t travel last year due to Covid.

Enjoying a bright, sunny day in Charleston with our travel buddies.

Charleston, as always, was a treat so we stayed 3 nights and took a pause to rest. I love the architecture, landscaping, and restaurants. We spent our days catching up on work on the boat but did enjoy two lovely dinners in town and an afternoon on a rooftop bar with friends.

On the radar on the left side of the screen each green triangle represents a commercial mega-freighter.

I was looking forward to our first visits to Jekyll Island and St. Simons Island with a return long stay at the gorgeous Cumberland Island. However, the winds were coming and were predicted to last several days so we made a 24 hour run off shore coming in at the St. John’s River and on to St. Augustine. Sadly, there was just a tiny sliver of moon but the weather was great and the ride went smoothly. Outside of the Savannah entrance there were 23 commercial mega-freighters, presumably waiting to unload!

This bring us to our mooring in St. Augustine. Our first night I was barely functioning resulting from lack of sleep from our overnight passage. The next day we took full advantage of the warm, sunny weather and squeezed in as much as possible: coffee shop with cookies, outdoor wine bar, and a delicious blackened tofu and grits dinner! Topping that off we went all out with 6 macarons from a french bakery! Yum, yum! It’s a good thing we “made hay while the sun was shining” because now the high winds and rain will most likely keep us stuck on the boat until Sunday!

We’ve seen a lot of gorgeous sunrises in the past few weeks.

4 thoughts on “Driving in the ditch and a sh*t show in St. Augustine

Add yours

  1. Glad to hear you survived the windstorm unscathed. I echo your thoughts about traveling the ICW, there are some good points but it also has its share of challenges.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow what a remarkable adventure adventure. We are always thrilled , to read your great adventures. You are a fantastic reporter. I save each of your posts. Thank you
    Joyce and I.
    It is like sharing the adventures with you guys.

    Liked by 1 person

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