Friday, December 4, 2009

1000 miles south. Arghh!

The blog has not been updated recently as our four week, 1000 mile journey south with children has been a tiring experience. But now we are in Florida and can slow down, here is a review of the last month.

Travelling by car through the Fall from the Thousand Islands in Canada south to the Chesapeake Bay we were awed by the golds, reds and oranges of the autumn.
Back on Seraphim in Pleasure Cove Marina, Bodkin Creek near Baltimore we experienced an unexpected series of gear failures. Travis, the Dockmaster sympathised, “The hits keep coming.” Without Travis and Geoff (the boat yard manager’s) help and kindnesses I think we would have given up.

After ten days of all kinds of yacht work including the main sail re-re-re mended and the bottom anti-fouled, (plus a re-newed passport for Jack,) we set off on a three day spin from the north of the Chesapeake Bay to the south, via Deltaville, where we bought charts for the Pacific from British yacht Foxglove. For months we have been chewing the debate on whether to go through the Panama Canal, or not.

Hyperthermia and Hot Water Bottles.

Next a brief stop at Norfolk to visit friends our Ocean Cruising Club “parents” Greta and Gary, and new friends Ronnie and Frank. Four other Ocean Cruising Boats were on the dock, all going our way. The cold drove us on fast through Great Bridge to Buck Island, from Virginia into North Carolina and Albemarle Sound into Alligator River.

Most of the first two weeks John spent on the verge of hyperthermia. Marty, a pilot friend complained of the atrocious weather he had endured running south, nevertheless, his email concluded that the next day it had improved, sunny and clear, at 37,000 feet.

Heading back down the route we had come up in May and June, we motored with a fleet of over twenty boats across Albemarle Sound, with the odd optimistic sail up in Pamlico Sound.

In 03 we had spent weeks in Belhaven fixing Moonshine in Axon’s boatyard where we’d met Larry and Jean. Larry had just retired from a high profile Government position. Also, six years ago Rob’s Marina was an abandoned, run down shell where we sheltered during a storm. Now it’s condominiums hoping they’ll sell before the first paint peels. In June this year we had missed Belhaven, In early November, with time and tide against us, I insisted we stop to see Larry and Jean again. Skipper was grumpy. This half day stop meant a re-work of his meticulous tide and passage plan for the next three days. His mood was dispelled when Larry and Jean treated us to a picnic lunch, after which Larry drove us to a supermarket. Supermarkets and laundries on the ICW can be a challenge, so we were grateful. (The Museum in Beaufort, NC no longer offers a free car for two hours to cruisers. Few marinas now have courtesy cars because of the insurance.)

Larry’s good deeds were rewarded by the boys locking him out of his car which was parked in the Pungo District Hospital car park. Larry was up against the clock, students would be filling his lecture hall in one hour. John dinghy-ed Larry back to his water front home. Meanwhile, I ran to the Hospital Emergency Room . James was hunting through piles of shopping. In quick succession, a fire ant stung his wrist, and then a wasp had stung his neck. Ice and pain-killed, he was fine but it rattled me. Clambering and stunts on the yacht, we are alert to the dangerous, and contain them, but the sundry perils of land lubber life are limitless. A few days later John nearly rattled when James chewed through the sacred DVD power cable (which luckily fused, phew!) And the other notch in James incident belt? John had to unbolt the companion way ladder to release James’ trapped leg …well, maybe we’re not so savvy about all yacht japes.

Blackbeard’s Backyard

Jack was 5years old on 7th November and James 3 on 15th. On Jack’s Birthday the Seraphim crew set off on a Treasure Hunt with Captain Manley. He and the boys were in full regalia. Captain Manley conducts three hunts a day in the summer, but on this November afternoon we had him exclusively.

The boys armed with detailed, and historically researched treasure maps were led by Manley 40 steps north, and 21 south, (90 Jack steps) to discover numerous clues such as a noose, an arrow, a mallet, a logbook, and finally a large X in the sand under which they dug for … a chest with treasures.

Double dibs, Manley entertained Mummy and Daddy with his extensive knowledge of Edward Teach, Anne Bonny et al. Highly recommend.

And the treats played on. Three days after Jack’s Hunt we were holed up in South Habour Village Marina, North Carolina sheltering from Tropical Storm Ida which thankfully stormed north of us to Norfolk. It was reported as a “perfect storm“, clashing with another system.

A very wet playtime came together with the location, two children’s museums. Just north of us the excellent Wilmington Children’s Museum, and south the not so special Myrtle Beach Children Museum. Outstanding hamburgers and chocolate brownie sundae at Fuddruckers made up for the underwhelming museum.

Planes Trains and Fire Truck

As requested, (insisted) for their Birthdays Jack had a chocolate airplane with chocolate icing, and James a yellow cake (orange flavour) fire truck with yellow icing. Made by me, decorated by the skipper, undiscovered talent, don’t you think? A new Melissa and Doug train set and Playmobil kits kept them engrossed for miles, and miles. With no space and ambitious young train drivers John and I have to be highly inventive train track creators. Toys are best when they come in big boxes, but pack into a small space, such as train tracks, DVDs and the Play Mobil airplane and submarine.

On we motored to Barefoot Landing, Charleston, Fenwick Island and Beaufort pronounced Bewfort in South Carolina. Both towns were named in the early 1700s after the same aristo, Henry Somerset, Duke of Beaufort.

“Where Ever You’re Going, I’m Going Your Way”

The100th Anniversary of lyricist/sing Johnny Mercer’s death saw us by passing Georgia and “Moon River”, the first dance at our Wedding. We sailed past Georgia overnight - out of the Beaufort SC inlet and in at the St Johns, down to St Augustine.

Accentuate The Positive Eliminate the Negative

Was one of Mercer’s most popular songs. We had to hold that mind in the cold, damp grey days when the engine noise hour after hour, and children’s noise hour after hour became wearing and caused war-ing. Cooped up because it was too cold and wet for them to play on deck, the cabin seems to shrink by the hour.

Survey of the Playgrounds of the East USA, (specialising in swings and slides)

Southern Spain, the Caribbean, north east America, and now the south east. Nil points to Beaufort NC but bonus points to Beaufort SC’s ICW-side playground which was highly inventive and five minutes from the anchorage.

Whereas on our first trip we could sit and relax taking in the breathtaking marshlands and winding rivers of Georgia, not so with children. Playgrounds became our focus.

Florida. Yeaha!

After three days on the boat, the boys were bouncing off the decks. Hence a half hour stop at New Smyrna, on a dock alongside an excellent castle playground made from wood, and of course being near NASCAR town Daytona, tyres. A whistle stop to vent steam.

And on south to Titusville where the playground was above average, but the players less so.


If not quite our rainbows end, it was a good stop. Near Cocoa Village Marina there is a quaint area of shops including a vast hardware shop (Travis and Co.) and a park with a playground. Who needs more?

The village was decorated for the Christmas Tree Lighting and Space Coast Boat Parade - elf houses, ice rink and all the trimmings.

What an amazing day. “Our” space shuttle, Atlantis, flew over in the morning. In the afternoon a bouncy castle and fun slide appeared in the park. During the evening power boats turned into glittering beauties. Bands played. Choirs sang. The boys roasted marshmallows for Smoors over a bonfire. AND Father Christmas lit the tree before visiting the playground. (See previous Thanksgiving and Sonic Boom, blog entry.)

The sun is shining. The temperature is rising. The foul weather gear is packed away. Shorts are replacing jeans. Seraphim is moored in Vero Beach , then we are taking a berth in Fort Lauderdale, whilst John’s mother joins us for Christmas.

In the New Year? The Abacos in the northern Bahamas and maybe Cuba in February, but who knows, “there’s such a lot of world to see“.