Wilmington River

When I looked at Savannah they showed no marinas there so I booked one at Thunderbolt on the Wilmington River to the south.

It was an easy trip up:

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We arrived at the river mouth at dusk and not wanting to enter a shifting estuarial river in the dark we anchored for the night.

In the morning we proceeded up the river to Thunderbolt.

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Submarine

On the next leg we came across a submarine being escorted by two tenders. It was very shallow water and if they had dived the watch on the conning tower would have stayed dry.

I bet they were a bag of nerves.

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St. Augustine.

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We arrived midday off St. Augustine, the guide said it was a tricky inlet due to shifting sand banks. To make life more interesting the buoys aren’t charted as they have to move them as the channel shifts. The guide put me onto someone and he gave me the number for Towboat US. It seemed a bit odd to ring the people who would come and do the salvage for advice. But they were excellent and texted an overhead photo with the buoys marking the channel on it, gave good advice and were available for follow up questions. In the end it was fine, plenty of water and the buoys easy to find. Before we knew it we were in the harbour and the chart was useful again. Had to wait for the timed opening of the bridge on the hour. As it was a timed opening I didn’t call on the radio and steamed through as the two halves opened. The bridge operator was out of the cab holding her radio and tapping on it, oops got that one wrong. St Augustine is the eldest city in the US and is celebrating its 450th anniversary this year, the sailing vessel seen in some of the photos was sent over from Spain to take part in the celebrations. A look round her was quite pricey so the Spanish are still plundering the Americas of its treasure. IMG_0287 It is very touristy but extremely well done, in character over the life of the city with Spanish, Colonial English, Spanish (again) and early American all represented. The city changing hands several times. The fort, built between 1672 & 1695 was well worth a visit with soldiers in various uniforms and cannon firing on the hour. IMG_0299 IMG_0288IMG_0285

Turtle Tears

In the past I sailed with a man who had been Master longer than I had been alive, Peter Zimmer was a consummate Master Mariner who handed to me the best of a lifetime of marine experience.

One of his previous jobs was looking after a fleet of laid up big tankers in Brunei Bay. He lived ashore with a small team and each day they would go round the fleet in their boat checking moorings, bilges and the general status of the ships.

Times being hard and ship owners canny they made their feeding money go a bit further by laying a fishing net going out and recovering it on the way in.

One day they found a large turtle in the net, exhausted but alive. Happy times, food for several days and a gourmet’s delight as Turtle soup is a delicacy. With some effort the turtle was brought on deck and freed from the net.

Peter told me that as he looked at the turtle and savoured the feast a large tear welled in the turtle’s eye, slid down its sad face and dropped onto the deck at his feet.

The turtle went back into the water and he never had turtle soup again. I never have and never will.

Passage to St. Augustine

After a rest in Palm Beach we resumed the passage to St. Augustine. Initially OK but as we approached Cape Canaveral the wind built up to 25 kts and we had a bumpy ride until the morning. Over night leg so we went on the 2 on / 2 off system during the night.

No launches at Canaveral, very disappointing, if I had known I would have taken a milk bottle and a rocket of my own.

Bad Weather & Palm Beach

Just north of Miami we ran into some bad weather, first a thunder storm came off the coast quickly and we got a very good fresh water wash down and some distant lightning.

No sooner had that finished a front came through, 35 knot winds with the front and a steady 27 – 30 knots once it had passed.

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After a few hours the sea built up, we were taking spray over the bow and pitching quickly. A nuisance but our first look at Kapowai in any sort of sea, she handled it well.

However we decided to put into Palm Beach for two nights and had a relaxing stay, never saw the town itself as the Marina was too far away.

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Miami Onward

After Dinner one of the many thunderstorms arrived, initially the wind dropped to dead calm and Kapowai took all the weight off the anchor chain and the snubber dropped off. Another lesson learnt.

A wild couple of hours swinging all over the place and being rattled by thunder but luckily not being connected to the heavenly grid. When we anchored Lois asked why so far from the others, in the morning it was clear one of them had dragged some distance. That’s why, you can anchor yourself securely but you can’t rely on others.

The morning was much nicer, breakfast and up came the ironmongery to be stowed for passage. A much gentler departure this time and a sedate passage toward Miami.

We used the ICW to pass along the front of the city and then turned into the main ship channel to head out into the atlantic. The night before there was 4 cruise ships in port but this morning there was only a couple of tugs and their barges.

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There was a huge digger near the entrance doing some dredging.

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Before long we were out side and heading north past Miami Beach.

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Looking on the chart I saw we were passing straight over a dangerous wreck just on the 300 ft contour. How dangerous could that be, unless the Eiffel Tower had sunk. As we passed over the depth sounder went from 299 ft to 3.9 ft. Instant heart starter! However, it seems in depths over 300 ft the depth sounder goes to 3.9ft as a default.

Passage to Miami Anchorage

Key West was as far south as we were going, time to head North. Sailed on Sunday the 26th into lovely calm conditions. We spent a pleasant day watching dolphins, occasional turtle and flying fish that couldn’t really as there was no wind.

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Initially, I had done the passage plan off the coast but changed it to a rock hop after reading the guides. We were never in water deeper than 40 ft and could clearly see the bottom a lot of the time.

As dusk approached we came to a nice anchorage hidden behind Rodriguez Key off Key Largo. There was already a few swinging on the hook as we arrived.

Slowed down, got the hydraulics on line but no windlass. Checked all the breakers, re-started and still no windlass. As it got darker we just about gave up when I remembered a comment about the thruster panel needed to be activated. One push on that and we had a windlass.

First anchoring went well, Lois drove the boat and I went forward. 70 ft of chain in 10 feet of water and we were ready for dinner.

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The anchorage next morning as we left.

Next morning we did the reverse, said to Lois once the anchor is up starboard the rudder and engine ahead and off we go. I was on my hands and knees securing the anchor and next thing Kapowai is away, full revs, hard a starboard and a destroyer turn out of the anchorage, everything not secured including me slides to starboard, pinned to the railing by G forces.

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Another perfect day, scaring sunbathing turtles and being over taken by fast movers.

As we came up toward Miami had a sudden change of plan and entered into Biscayne Bay through the Florida channel to anchor for the night in Hurricane Bay in the lee of Biscayne Key.

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This is a the lighthouse at the southern tip of Biscayne Key.

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Anchored nicely in the early afternoon so dropped the swim steps and dived in, afternoon nap and up for dinner and a spectacular thunder storm over Miami.

Key West

We arrived at the entrance to NW after breakfast and followed the channel to the port of Key West. It is a big cruising destination, a coast guard base and also has a US Navy air station. Busy place with loads of recreational craft as well.

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Arrived off the dock just before lunch and with the help of dock hands were all tied up for a lunch time beer.

The first noticeable thing was the heat, 35 C. Time for a siesta, no mad dogs in sight and no need for englishmen either.

The harbour is full of fish, pelicans and a very lazy manatee that lies under a fresh water tap and has a drink when thirsty. The fish get fed and there are an amazing number swimming round, wouldn’t like to fall in.

In the evening we walked up to Mallory Square where there is sunset market, buskers and cocktails. Had a lime one each, cold and delicious. Mine was a margarita and Lois had some slushie concoction. Dinner at one of the eateries on the waterfront.

Key West is a tourist destination, popular for fishing and weddings – the biggest catch of all. We shared the wharf with about 6 game fishers who went out in the morning and came back with happy clients in the late afternoon. They even filleted the fish for them.

Town is packed with bars, restaurants, art & craft shops, and tour offices for the boat cruises, hiring jet skis etc ┬áthe odd bikers bar, and several places doing henna tattoos – why?

Hemingway was here for awhile and President Truman was a frequent visitor. We enjoyed the stay. Sunset cruises are very popular and the exodus just before was something to see, surprising there wasn’t any collisions.

The last night went to a place in town and Lois had Key Lime pie, I tried for a photo but they don’t make shutter speeds that fast.

A selection of photos showing Key West.

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