Category Archives: Uncategorized

Welcome summer

6/11/18
Southport NC
Posted by Bill

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Well we are glad winter is over! We picked a hell of a year to skip traveling south in the boat…coldest winter in NC for over 10 years! We were glad to have our house to be in, instead of the boat. There were many days where the docks were frozen over, and lots of people had issues with their boats because of the deep freeze. There is typical no need for winterization of the boat here as long as you keep a small heater running, but that was tested big time this year. Thankfully, we did not have any issues with Island Bound.

We thought we would be able to use the boat some, especially after February, but we only made one trip to Wilmington for St Patricks day, and had a great time. Spring brought more than the usual amount of rain and record cool temps, so that affected our time at the boat. To top it off, the dredging of the marina was delayed a year. Because it has shoaled over, we cannot leave or come back to the dock unless we have mid tide or above. That has put a damper on boating for sure. They tell us they will dredge come this fall…fingers crossed.

So, we have spent most of our time on the house, and we needed to! Still haven’t hung any pictures, but the outside is pretty much done, and the inside still needs a couple of projects and some decorating. We have been able to have parties and overnight guests, so I guess that is what is important!! Life is so different going back to the house. Lots more room, real flushing toilets, really good internet access, a fantastic shower, but most of all we spend our time so differently. Lots of TV watching, unfortunately, and only a fraction of the time with nature as compared to our cruising lifestyle. It was a nice break but we are itching to get moving again.

The weather got back to normal in May for the most part, and we have been going to the boat daily to work on her, and just to sit and hang out on the water. Many of our happy hours are sitting in the cockpit or on the dock with other friends. Also, the seasonal happenings around town have kicked in, and there is almost always live music within walking distance. Actually, that is one of the best things about living in the historic district…we walk everywhere, and the boat is only 3 blocks away. We will go for days without driving, which is awesome.

Now we start to focus on getting the boat ready to head south. We are planning to leave mid-October and take our time. We really enjoy stopping and spending time at what have become our favorite places to hang for a few days. We have a reservation for a month in Key West again starting mid-December, but that is our only scheduled commitment. Let’s hope hurricane season doesn’t wipe out our cruising grounds this year!!! The Keys really took a beating last year, but most places have done a great job recovering.

If you are cruising south this fall, or doing a beach vacation nearby, come visit!

Chillin’ in Blackpoint

3/21/17
Great Guana Cay, Blackpoint Settlement, Exumas, Bahamas
Position:24 06.177N, 076 24.082W
Posted by Bill

Well, I finally got a decent internet connection, but it is a short window. We left Sampson Cay on the 19th and sailed down to Great Guana Cay, anchoring in the bight at Blackpoint Settlement. We tucked up close to the northeast shore, expecting winds out of the north and then northeast. The winds backed to the northwest and the anchorage is very exposed to any kind of west component. We were positioned so the direct waves did not hit us, which was good, but there was a wrap around swell that hit us on the beam (side), and we rolled badly all night. Needless to say we did not sleep well at all…again! Overnight the wind shifted north and the rest of the time here, we had great conditions.

Blackpoint is a favorite stop for people cruising the Exumas. There are a couple of good restaurants…we ate at both…and a couple of bars…which we hit…a couple of stores, one of the best laundry facilities in the Bahamas…which we used, free trash collection, and free R/O water. The people are very friendly and the beaches are cool. We are leaving today and going back north to the Exuma Land and Sea Park, and Warderick Wells, some of the most scenic views in the Bahamas. We are expecting 30 knot winds for several days out of the east, so we will try to get mooring balls with east protection.

I can post a couple of pics today, but will do a “catch up” blog with more pictures as internet access allows.

Here is what it looked like coming across the Little Bahama Bank. We were in 16 to 20 feet of water believe it or not:
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A cool picture of our wake on the crossing:
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Here was us moored at Hawksbill Cay:
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Our secluded anchorage at Sampson Cay. See the anchor chain ahead of the boat in 12 feet of water:
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More pictures to come!

Layover in Jekyll Island

11/13/16
Jekyll Island, GA
Position:31 02.690N, 081 25.366W
Posted by Bill

On the 10th, we departed Beaufort and cruised into Georgia, anchoring in Turner Creek at position 32 00.900N, 080 59.363W. We debated on several alternatives to position ourselves for the first of 3 major shoal areas in Georgia, Hell Gate. Neither of us had anchored in this creek and we heard mixed reviews about it’s viability as a good stop over. We were pleasantly surprised. The creek is very narrow, but the holding was excellent, and there were several shopping and eating options within a short walk of the anchorage. You have to pay a fee to bring your dinghy ashore at the local marinas, but it is worth it. We checked out the hardware store and the Publix grocery store, and then found a dive bar right on the water that was tucked away behind the surrounding commercial real estate. You really had to know that it was there, and after one look, you first thought…I think I’ll steer clear of this place. It was fantastic! No need for happy hour, the drinks were incredibly cheap, and strong! Plus free popcorn!! The place was packed with locals. One guy asked us “How did you find this place? No one but locals every comes here.” We told him we were anchored 150 feet off the back of the place, and he was very welcoming. This was a major find, and we had a great time!!!! A view of the anchorage:
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The next day we moved on to the Crescent River to stage for the next shoal area, Little Mud River. We faced a major current for the first several hours and we were worried that we would not pass Hell Gate with enough tide to keep us off the bottom, but we made it without incident. As soon as we slowed the boat to put the anchor down in the Crescent River, the no-see-ums swarmed like a plague. If you have never had to deal with them you are lucky. We ducked down below and missed a great evening and sunset because of those pests!! You can barely see them and they bite like mosquitoes. The bite itches something fierce…more than mosquitoes. We anchored in position 31 29.334N, 081 19.703W.

Yesterday we upped anchor a little later than first light because we needed to time the tide through Little Mud River and target Jekyll Creek for later in the day…both major shoal areas. We had the current with us most of the day and actually had to put the boat in neutral for several hours…still drifting at 3 to 5 miles per hour. The currents in Georgia are crazy, and the tides are 8 to 9 feet! A cold front was moving through and the wind was gusting over 35 knots for most of the day. We moved through several open water areas called sounds that provided little protection from the wind, and coupled with lower temperatures (in the low 60s), the day was horribly miserable. We have had more than a month of great weather and it made it more difficult to deal with the mess that Mother Nature dealt to us on this day. I had 3 sweatshirt/fleeces and foul weather gear on, including ski gloves, and I was shivering cold while driving the boat. The wind and current made it very challenging to steer the boat, especially through the shoal areas. We had originally planned to anchor in the Jekyll Creek area, but when we got there and tried to anchor, we changed our plan. There were about 7 or 8 boats in the anchorage struggling to keep from dragging, and the sea state and wind really made us think twice. We called the marina at Jekyll and took the last 2 spots on the face dock. We were so thankful to be able to tie up to a slip. Afterwards, we watched the boats in the anchorage struggle all night, and one power boat dragged into a sailboat. Another sailboat dragged about 300 yards overnight and was sitting just off our port beam (left side) when we awoke this morning. It was crazy and we were glad we weren’t in the anchorage!!!! Today’s forecast was more of the same, and we have had our asses kicked in the next sound on the southern route, so we stayed an extra day and explored Jekyll Island. We have always wanted to check it out but never have. The marina had a free golf cart so we drove around and checked it out. Jekyll was home of the Millionaires Club back in the late 1800s, Jekyll Island became an exclusive hunting club for families with names like Rockefeller, Morgan, Vanderbilt, Pulitzer, and Baker. They established a millionaires club and built a “Disneyland” type atmosphere for the members to enjoy. When German submarines were discovered off shore in the mid 1940s, they freaked out and donated the island to the state of Georgia. The once private retreat is now part of The Jekyll Island Club National Historic Landmark District, one of the largest preservation projects in the southeast. Here are some pictures of the historic area with the millionaire’s mansions:
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Some of these are “cottages” of Rockefeller, Goodyear, Vanderbilt, Flagler, etc… You can go inside some of them and some are now museums, but we didn’t really check that out. It is a cool island and we are glad we stayed another day to see it. As it usually turns out…fate was involved. This morning about 7:30, the shore power went out, just as I was making coffee. At first I thought it was a problem with our boat because other people had power on the dock. Through my troubleshooting, I found that we only had 60 volts coming from the shore power connection, clearly a problem with the marina, but I also noticed that we had some burn marks on the receptical where the shore power goes into the side of the boat…not good! Last summer I had to replace the air conditioning receptical for the same reason, so I swapped out that receptical for the burned one. Now I will have to replace the other before we use air conditioning or heat. These types of problems are the leading cause of fire on a boat, so I am glad I found it before we had a problem. It turned out that a fuse had blown in the marina, and that was the real problem, but had I not gone through the troubleshooting process, we may have had a major problem, and somewhere other than a dock, where the problem is easier to deal with. Now if I could only fix the problem I have with our newly installed wind generator…but that is the subject of another post!! Tomorrow we get back on the “road” again, pushing into Florida!

The Wehmer clan takes the Hampton

6/14/16
Catawba Island, Lake Erie, Ohio
Posted by Bill

Last Thursday we rented a car and headed back in to the “real world”, something I was regretting, except for seeing the family. If you follow the blog, you know how we have come to hate going back into the regular dirt based lifestyle that we came from…traffic, out of touch with nature (for the most part), and back to land locked Ohio to boot (except for Lake Erie I guess). This time we were going to Canton Michigan, on the west side of Detroit, to see our niece Elise graduate from high school. We were going to go straight to our house at Lake Erie, and then on to Canton on Saturday, but we made a last minute decision to stop for a day in Columbus to see Tricia’s sister and her husband, and take care of a couple of things we could only do in Columbus. It was a busy stop over, but we managed to check out the Park Street Festival down in the Arena District. Lots of great people watching. Tricia and her sister Diane snapped this one while we were there:
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Then we hightailed it to Michigan, meeting up with our kids and grand kids, my 3 brothers and their families, all staying at the Hampton Inn in Canton, except Andy and Robin who live there. Eldest daughter Sarah had 3 of her 4 boys with her. Oskar, the youngest had come down with a fever and had to stay behind with Pete (bummer all for all). Youngest daughter Jessica was there with husband Eric, and her 3 kids. Rick and Bev had their 2 kids. Chip and Brenda came late with their oldest daughter and her boyfriend. First stop…the indoor pool at the Hampton. Thank god there was no one else in the pool, as we arrived like a viking herd, complete with beach balls and pool toys. It was like a scene from a National Lampoon movie…think – the caddie day at the Bushwood Country Club pool. It was a blast!
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Andy and Robin were brave enough to have us all over to their house for dinner. The next day we descended on the Hampton breakfast area. You could see the looks on people’s faces, as if to say, OMG what is going on here! LOL! We then attended the graduation ceremony and afterwards, Andy and Robin hosted a dinner at a great German restaurant. It was a real treat to have everyone together, something we rarely do unfortunately. Great fun, and sorry to see it end. Congratulations to Elise, and good luck at The Ohio State University!!! Elise is on the left:
Elise Grad Pic

Then we headed to the lake house. It was in good shape again this year and weathered the winter just fine…thank goodness. Last night we went to Put In Bay for dinner with our friends/family Jen and John, with daughter Allie, taking their boat over. The place was almost deserted. We had a great time catching up with them and got a good boat ride. We have a few projects here at the house, including getting the jeep ready to take back to Southport. We have kept our 1994 Jeep Wrangler in the garage at the lake house for the 16 years we have owned this place. We decided that we will try to get it back to Southport. Fingers crossed. Then it is back south early next week. This was a short and busy trip. We intend to be back for the month of August.

Two new Ass Captain award recipients

3/26/16
Posted by Bill

Those who follow the blog regularly know of the Ass Captain awards. Inspired by Ass Clown in the movie Office Space, the Ass Captain is an award that goes to boaters doing stupid shit. Here are the latest two…

Award one goes to the 50 some foot trawler that anchored on top of our buddy boat, Island Bound, in Big Majors Spot. They put out about 30 feet of scope when they should have put out at least 60, and then proceeded to drift over Mark and Jan’s anchor. When Mark and Jan went to pull anchor when we left, they had to literally get under the back end of the trawler to retrieve the anchor. Their boat name had Idaho in it, and we affectionately called them Mr Potato Head due to their stupid antics while they were anchored near us.

Award number two goes to a 50 something foot sport fishing boat that was going south near us as we went north to Ship Channel Cay. The guy actually swerved towards us to get closer so that his six foot wake could have maximum impact when it rolled our boat. I wouldn’t even give him the satisfaction of knowing it bothered us by calling him out on the radio. What a jerk!

Finally a window of weather to the Bahamas

2/28/16
Key Biscayne, FL, Outside No Name Harbor
Position: 25 40.371N, 080 09.930W
Posted by Bill

We left Tarpon Basin on the 26th and took a short hop up Florida Bay, anchoring off of a well known bar called Gilberts. It is on the road that runs from the mainland to Key Largo, and has a reputation for insane parties on the weekends. We took our dinghies in to take advantage of the rib dinner special. Gilberts has a great waterfront setup. A small beach and several large tiki huts, and tables all over, both outside and inside the tiki huts. We chowed the rib special (not very good ribs, but acceptable) and really enjoyed the drink specials for happy hour. As we departed to return to our boats, the wind had kicked up and we got pretty wet riding back. Here are some pictures.
Gilberts:
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The gang at Gilberts:
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Our boat, Island Bound, at anchor off of Gilberts:
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Then yesterday, we motor sailed up into Biscayne Bay, into Dinner Key marina and took a mooring ball. Dinner Key is in the town of Coconut Grove on the south side of Miami, and is a great place to go ashore. One of our favorite restaurants is there…Flannigans…and we enjoyed a great meal. Our buddy boats, Island Bound, followed by Sea Lyon, sailing up Biscayne Bay:
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Miami skyline coming into view:
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Today, the winds shifted and kicked up some nasty waves in our mooring field, so we decided to move across the bay to Key Biscayne and No Name Harbor to get some protection from the winds. This is also a popular place to stage to jump to the Bahamas, so we figured we would hang there and watch the weather for a few days. Any of the weather windows that looked good in the forecast seemed to fall apart, but the week ahead held promise. We went ashore in No Name Harbor and had dinner at the small restaurant there. The harbor was packed with boats and people, more than I have ever seen in there. The latest weather shows a good crossing to the Bahamas tomorrow, so we will plan on a departure at first light, checking again in the morning before we go. The plan is go head to Bimini, and if the weather is good, continue on to New Providence Island. If the weather is not good, we will stay in Bimini until it improves.

Picture of the mass of boats in No Name Harbor:
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Last day in St Augustine

11/19/15
St Augustine FL, Hidden Harbor Marina
Posted by Bill

We have enjoyed being in a slip for a couple of days. Usually, I prefer to anchor out or pick up a mooring ball as marinas tend to be like RV parks on the water. Anchored or moored, you have more space between your neighbors and a 360 degree view of the water! That part is cool. The down side is that you have to generate your own power, you have to take the dinghy ashore to get off the boat (in less than comfortable weather and wave conditions some times), you don’t have a fresh water hookup, and it is a LONG way to the restrooms other than what you have on your boat. Marinas offer convenience. We have been anchoring or mooring for a week prior to arriving here, so this was a nice change. This is the first time we have stayed at this marina. It is smaller than most and has mostly clients that live aboard their boats. It is pretty far up the San Sebastian river and is a designated hurricane hole, so it is well protected from severe weather. It is also a close walk to downtown St Augustine, just a few blocks from a great farmers market, and just across the street from a huge liquor store. The people who run this marina are really nice, and the restrooms and showers are some of the cleanest we have seen…a huge plus. They only have a couple of slips for transients like us, so it is set up mostly for people that are full time clients.

It is interesting to see the boats and people here in the marina. Everyone is friendly for the most part. Many of the boats never leave the dock and are in really bad shape. There is evidence that there are some people living here with meager incomes and some health issues. For a 40 foot boat, which is quite a bit larger than what most of these people are living on, you can live for $500 a month, including all utilities. For St Augustine, FL, that is probably a major bargain. Smaller boats would cost less. Seeing the boats that some of them are living on kind of gives you a different perspective on what some people do to survive. Here are some pictures of the marina and looking down the San Sebastian River:








And here is our Island Bound at dock:

We have hit most of our favorite spots in St Augustine while here, including the liquor store and the farm market. In addition, I have checked off a few boat projects. One was to change the spark plug in the generator, and in typical boat project fashion, it took 25 minutes to get the spark plug and all of the tools out. Then 5 minutes to change the spark plug. Then 25 minutes to put everything away. Sometimes that can be downright frustrating. Another one was to troubleshoot the AIS system and the GPS, which have been a little flakey lately. I had to take all of the crap out of the cockpit locker, filling up the cockpit, and then spend some more quality time in my favorite dungeon…the cockpit locker. I did resolve both issues after a couple of hours of work, so I guess it was a good time!!

Tomorrow, we will work our way to Vero Beach, arriving on Sunday to spend Thanksgiving there with some of our friends from last year, including Kurt and Sharon on Byrd Ketcher. They are going to catch up with us there on Wednesday! Looking forward to that.

We got out asses kicked, but we made it to Florida

11/15/15
Fernandina Beach, FL
Position:30 40.264N, 81 28.143W
Posted by Bill

On the 13th, we left our anchorage at sun up and motored through the next major shoal area; Hell Gate. No issues. We caught the tidal current very favorably and made great time, overshot our intended anchorage and ended up anchoring in the Darien River; position: 31 23.015N, 081 20.175W. It was a great anchorage in the middle of nowhere.

Yesterday, we left the Darien River at sunrise:

Our stretch goal was to try and make it to Fernandina Beach FL, but we really needed the tidal current to help us. It was a real stretch. We made it through the last two bad shoal areas with plenty of water beneath us and we were moving great…until we came out of Jekyll Creek and rounded the tip of Jekyll Island into St Andrew Sound. Winds were forecasted to be out of the north at 10 to 15 knots, and it was pretty windy inside the ICW, but when we came out into the sound we got hit with 25 knots, 5 foot seas and a 4 second wave period! Caught by surprise, the boat was getting tossed all over the place, and stuff was flying around in the cockpit and down below in the cabin. We had to go way out into the sound to get around a shoal area. The picture below shows our intended path with a magenta line. We were going from top to bottom and the wind was coming in the direction of the big red arrow:

It was a long slog through a washing machine. After 30 minutes or so of getting slammed, I cut the shoal area short (it was high tide and I took a calculated risk), which put us on a course with the waves behind us. That helped significantly, but it was a good hour and a half before we got back into more protected waters. It was a good lesson to make sure you are always ready for bad seas and winds, even in the ICW. This area is atypical of the usually protected waters of the ICW, but from now on…we will secure the boat better.

The tidal current helped us and we made it into Fernandina Beach before 4:00 PM! Glad we are out of Georgia! We will probably stay another day here and then work our way to St Augustine where we intend to wait out the next weather system that is coming Tuesday through Thursday.

Passage planning

11/8/15
Charleston, SC
Posted by Bill

It is blowing up to 30 knots today and starting to rain here in Charleston, and we are rocking and rolling in the marina. The Cooper River is not looking too nice:

We walked to the grocery store a couple of hours ago, but otherwise we are stuck inside. Based on that, I decided to share our passage planning process. Several people have asked about it and I also thought that it might also help someone who is new to traveling the ICW.

The major components that go into the process are as follows:
1. Kettlewell Guide to the ICW – this is a publication that has nautical charts for the Atlantic ICW. Each page is about a 5 mile segment of the ICW, and in the margin there is information about marinas, anchorages, bridges, etc… We didn’t have this on the way south last year, but used my friend Matt’s copy on the way back. It has made tracking and planning much easier than the standard charts and chart books. One caveat, they stopped updating the charts and information in 2006, but it is still the best publication we have found.

2. Active Captain – this is a web site and associated database that has electronic nautical charts that highlights marinas, anchorages, local knowledge points, and hazards on the map. On top of that, people provide comments and can add/delete/maintain the data in a crowd sourcing fashion. Kind of like Yelp for the cruising community. Since it has grown in popularity, many marine navigation vendors have incorporated the database in their products. It is a valuable resource. www.activecaptian.com

3. Weather – we primarily use Weather Underground (wunderground.com) for weather forecasts and radar. In addition, we use NOAA Marine Weather (marine.weather.gov), Passage Weather (passageweather.com), Wind Finder (windfinder.com), Mikes weather page on Facebook or spaghettimodels.com, and for tropical storms…tropicaltidbits.com. These are all internet resources but in addition we use the following apps for iphone/ipad: Marine Weather (tides, marine weather, currents), Pocket Grib (similar to Passageweather.com data), the Wind Finder app, and the Weather Underground app.

Tides and Currents – we use the NOAA tides and currents website and/or apps: Ayetide, Marine Weather, Garmin Blue Chart Mobile

Here are some screen shots of some of the above resources to give you an idea of the information that they provide:
Windfinder:

Passage Weather:


NOAA marine forecasts:

AyeTides:

Pocket Grib:


Active Captain:

The colored boxes denote marinas (red), local knowledge (blue), hazards (yellow), and anchorages (green). You click on a box to get more info, including comments and ratings.

The process:
We plan on 50 – 60 statute miles per day generally. Looking a the Kettlewell guide, you can see how far that takes you. Then using Active Captain, you look at available anchorages and marinas in that general area so you know where you might want to stop for the night. I usually look at 40 miles and 65 miles as alternatives in case the currents work for or against you.

Next, look at the hazards in Active Captain, which tells me what shoal areas are going to impact us, and how other people dealt with them successfully. I do this with the web site or using Garmin Blue Chart Mobile on the iPad. Garmin has Active Captain data integrated and also tides and currents. I go page by page on Kettlewell and look up the area in Active Captain, writing the results on a post it note that goes in the Kettlewell page as an instruction of how to deal with this area of the charts. I use tide and current information to formulate the plan as well. After all is considered, I write up a plan in my passage composition book as to when to leave, when to hit certain mile markers/areas and pertinent information. While underway, I use this book and the Kettlewell charts with my sticky notes to follow in the cockpit.

Sample of the Kettlewell book with my notes:

Some people just write in the margin of these pages, but the conditions change all the time and I opted to use the post its so they can be swapped out.

Off shore passages require a different type of planning which is heavily dependent on data about wind speed, wind direction, wave height, wave period, wave direction, tides and currents. We use NOAA nautical charts and Maptech Chartkits for off shore. For the Bahamas, we use Explorer Charts.

You are never quite sure what the speed of the boat will end up being, so you need to have alternate plans for both ICW and off shore that take into account multiple scenarios.

For weather forecasting, I use all of the resources mentioned and develop my own idea based on all of them as input. They are never the same, so you need multiple sources and have to interpolate. You also need to watch the sky…duh! As for weather…we don’t plan to go out in anything uncomfortable, but plan to get surprised for the worst while we are out there.

It is definitely more of an art than a science.

False start

11/3/15
Southport NC
Posted by Bill

Well, we worked our butts off getting the boat ready for the trip south the last couple of days, and we were all set to leave today. Then the forecast imploded and we got a day of unexpected solid rain and higher winds than we expected. It was nothing drastic, but it was going to be uncomfortable, and since we have a few days of slack in the schedule we decided at the very last minute to delay a day. It’s too bad because the tides aligned very well to transit the shoal areas and bridge openings all the way to Charleston SC, but a day delay should not hurt us except it will keep us in Charleston a few days longer than we wanted. This primarily due to a strong system that is expected this coming weekend that is going to bring winds over 30 knots, and with a delay of a day, we will need to weather it out in Charleston. As usual, traveling via boat requires putting together the best plan based on available daylight, weather, tide schedules, bridge openings, available anchorages and available marinas. It is like a big puzzle, and if one thing changes, the whole plan can get screwed up.

So for now, the next 5 days look like this:
Tomorrow 11/4 – Myrtle Beach
11/5 – anchoring in Georgetown SC or some back creek further south (which ever we can make)
11/6 – Isle of Palms SC
11/7 through 11/9 – Charleston SC

It has been emotionally difficult leaving Southport. We love this area and we have made so many good friends here. We will miss everyone badly. To be honest, it is one of the things about this lifestyle that is really hard for me. It feels like everywhere we go, we are leaving someone who is special to us. Family and friends in so many places now…we need everyone to come south, ’cause I ain’t doin’ cold weather if I can help it!!