Tuesday, June 30, 2009

On to Oriental

22nd June

There is a strange howling noise coming from the cockpit. Not a gale, not a whale but John singing to Madness as we motor the final miles of the Intracoastal Waterway.

The Alligator River, Albemarle Sound, passing ospreys nesting on the mile markers, we’re nearly there.

13th - 21st June

A most useful, quaint and charming stop and everything was bicycle-able. With a population of 900 with over 2000 boats it was our kind of town. Original America before the strip malls turned it into generica. No KFC, Wal Mart, Sears, just the Town and Country grocery, numerous touristy shops and restaurants. Our bikes from Palma were exhumed, WD-40ed and Oriental was ours….

Seraphim was berthed in the Oriental Harbour Marina managed by Tom and Cathy McInnery. $68 a night including electricity. A night turned into a week because Will Flannery (offshorerafting.com) fixed our dinghy which was falling apart. As well as dinghies Will takes folks on eco tours around the Outer Banks.

A favourite haunt beside the pond where the Oriental dragon floats, was the Bean coffee house run by Eric (left) who is also a volunteer fire fighter. A good meeting place. On the day that the Endeavour space shuttle launch was scrapped we met there, by happy coincidence, a cousin of one of the astronauts (Massimino) on “our” Space shuttle mission STS 125.

And the second coincidence that day was meeting Jim from Green Dolphin whom we had met in Autumn 03 when he and Stephanie and their girls were cruising to the Bahamas.
Jim now runs a sailing school, charter and brokerage business.

The Toucan, the Oriental Marina restaurant, provided the most outstanding dinning we have indulged in for a long time. The Neuse River Yacht Club puts on a top breakfast too.

The marina swimming pool was an every afternoon energy spin off for the boys.

“Beware of Snakes” the sign read and when I asked, the dock master informed me that the area around A dock, our dock, was perfect for water snakes, for example the deadly water moccasin. Rattlers too but they were not so aggressive or deadly. I began to hear hissing in my head and every shadow coiled into deadly reptiles. I renamed the path to the dock Snake Alley. Thankfully the week was comparatively cool and on our last day none felt like sunning themselves in the 103 degree heat.

Dinghy fixed, friends made and caught up with, the Seraphims headed back to the wide Neuse River and on past Belhaven.

And I’ll close today as we opened with John belting it out with Dusty Springfield and her Preacher Man.

Southport Harbour Village 8th June 2009
(Trying singing it to “Sweet Home Alabama“)

A long day along “The Ditch” came to an end in Southport South Harbour Village Marina with the Southern welcome from Bill Gregory, an ex Detective Yankee from Detroit with a great deal on dockage, $1.30, a foot, yehaa! (Usually upwards of $2.00). And it got better.

A playground down the road which was even better than Brittlebank in Charleston which we’d voted no 1.

And the Dead End restaurant, where Tina, our think-of-it before-you-do waitress served us mussels from heaven, in a cream and wine sauce which beat all the many mussels we have had in many places. Tina was not just the best waitress ever (because she is) she was the best waitress ever because she lent us her Mercedes for the following day.

As we were about to leave, Tom the owner came over to chat about the Bahamas and the Chesapeake.

En route to the restrooms with James I passed the exhausted bar tender. She had been “shippin’ liquour too many hours” and “needed a break“, she dragged hard on that cigarette.

We carried Jack home, and James gambled along the pontoon, the moon was full and “awsum”, we smiled and smooched and thought of the folks we had met that day. The dock master who was a detective, our playground chums such as the retired nuclear submarine commander (who named his boat after a Greek girlfriend who left him) and the petite Mummy who was a Southport fire fighter. Meeting these folks is why we go cruising.

Saturday, June 20, 2009


Doin’ The Charleston

After an overnight sail from the St Marys Inlet, John slowed our arrival at Charleston to co-incide with the flood tide. The current in Charleston is between 2 and 3 knots and the anchorage off the town dock is tricky. The holding is poor and the bottom is littered with old moorings and other obstructions.

The Charleston City Marina is now known as the MegaDock. If anchored out it is $5 to use their dinghy facility.

Ten minutes by dinghy up the Ashley River at Brittlebank Park with a free dinghy dock, is a great playground, it is also on the downtown CARTA bus route.

Jack and James spent hours in the city Aquarium intrigued by a huge, two storey tank full of all kinds of sea life, touching and holding sea creatures and playing on a replica fishing boat.

The other big hit was the Lowlands Children’s Museum which offered a water play area, shrimper fishing boat, castle, arts and crafts room, play shop and Toddler’s area where James tumbled about with John participating from a bean bag. It is more an excellent facility for childsplay than museum but at $7 a day we didn’t care. The boys were entertained and a little educated.

The next days visit to the USS Yorktown an air craft carrier (submarine and other ships) on a permanent berth at Patriot’s Point spun Jack up even more. The boys had Top Fun in the cockpit of a WWII plane. For us it was an exhausting visit negotiating the boys through submarine watertight doors, up and down steep metal ladders which even with their boat training were intimidating. Of course it’s not so easy to order them “stop running”, when a whole hangar or flight deck with fast planes stretches out around them. Incidentally, but importantly, Jack had not seen Top Gun, he has seen the “making” of the film - lots of fast fighter jets doing tricks, Daddy’s day care.

On leaving Charleston the anchorage served up it’s final ugly experience. Our first choice was the charming, safe and good holding of nearby Wappoo Creek, but, we didn’t follow our instinct and experience, and suffered accordingly. As they left, Synchronicity pulled up an anchor, probably the same one we helped to untangle on another boat four years ago, Seraphim pulled up a twenty foot log, and Seawalk a bunch of roots

And onto North Carolina, 460 miles to Norfolk.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Toward Charleston

Charleston, South Carolina. 5th June 2009

From Cape Canaveral we headed north in the Intracoastal Waterway, (ICW) winding along from Titusville to St Augustine where we arrived in an anchorage up the Sebastian river to find mud. Tired after a long day, special help came which gave us everything we needed right there, right then, landed angels if you will, in the form of two good ole boys, Chuck and his pal who agreed a no questions asked, off the dock before the boss gets in at 9am, cash in hand deal of $40. Win win. The supermarket, electricity, water, rubbish and a secure dock in a mean current, all sorted. Officially it would have cost $90. (Another bonus was also a short walk to Theos, a top breakfast, but, our diet and early deadline meant that remained a delicious memory from 03).

From Florida into southern Georgia we motored on, dolphins, oyster catchers, ospreys and pelicans entranced us along the way. One night in a creek Jack watched egrets yanking worms from the mud at low tied, washing and gulping them. John suggested missing Georgia, which we remember as being stunning but the rivers wind in great loops, and it takes hours to travel one mile as the crow flies.

Seraphim and her companion boat Seawalk and new friends on a catamaran, Synchronicity sailed on the “outside“, in the Atlantic, which was flat. An overnight sail cut out five days chugging on the ICW. Sailing into any city is a kick, and Charleston is impressive.

Manatees and Astronauts

Mummy manatee

Whilst staying at the Harbor Town Marina near Cape Canaveral Jack and James were intrigued by a mummy manatee and her calf. A marina resident knew manatees prefer fresh, running water so left her tap running for the manatees to drink from it.

The Right Stuff

After days of Disney Jack still preferred his two days at the Kennedy Space Centre where he met a Shuttle Astronaut, Col John Fabian, played on the Space Playground, stood in a real shuttle and capsule, saw a launch pad, and stood under the massive Saturn V rocket. The real stuff outshone fake. And the boys really didn’t like best because we did, they liked it best because they did.

Reel Talk

I have lost count of the number of fishing boats that we have passed named “Reel Talk/Time“. It’s also an opportunity to cut in a segue but we haven’t had one for ages so, whilst anchored off Rose Island with the lights of Nassau on the horizon we watched “Deep Blue”, a disappointing film about treasure hunting, filled with exquisite bounty, sorry, bodies, of both varieties but filmed in Nassau.

And when we were in Titusville with the lights of the Nasa launch pads on the horizon we watched the film starring Ed Harris, (and other sculptured torsos) based on Tom Wolfe’s book about the first astronauts, Alan Shepherd, Gus Grissom and of course, John Glenn, performed by Ed Harris. (Not too many prizes for guessing my favourite.)

Mickey Mouse

Mid May 2009 M I CK E Y MOUSE

From Fort Lauderdale we pushed hard for 200 miles to Cape Canaveral to arrive in time for the Space Shuttle launch. Orlando was 45 minutes from Harbor Town Marina, a useful stop for the Space Coast and theme parks.

Our first park was the Magic Kingdom, which with boys of 4 and 2, was by far the most appropriate. The morning procession with dancing through the shimmering heat was a cracking way to start the children’s first day. Way after bedtime, at 9pm, came the procession of lit up floats in front of Cinderella’s castle followed by fireworks and Tinkerbell “flying” from the castle. Disney at it’s most spectacular and slick. It was a joy for us to see Jack and James’ simple delight in snuggling the Disney characters and giggling on rides such as it’s a “Small small world”, (which Sergej our Dutch friend informed us had nothing to do with Disney and was a copy of a famous Dutch ride in an Award winning park).

Other high points included, “Soarin’” at Epcot where we “flew” on a journey across the States, after which Jack was literally high as a kite. Flying over London with the Peter Pan ride, the spinning saucers in the Mad Hatter’s Tea party, the famous Dumbo ride, the huge “Honey I Shrunk The Kids” playground were other favourites, but watching a youngster being trained to fight Darth Vader was a bit “scaredy”. My favourite was the “Encounter” with Crash, the “dude” cartoon turtle from Nemo who really did interact with the audience. “Cooool.”

Dizzy-ing Nausea

Our name for Disney after two parks. $600 plus $12 a day parking, plus exorbitant food and tolls on the roads surrounding the parks, we felt that we’d been pummelled by Pete the thuggish dog (wolf) who demands payment from Mickey even when he’s trying to save Daisy and Minnie, to hell with them, pay up.

Fast Pass

I wish we could Fast Pass some experiences in life, supermarket queues, adolescence and heart ache. At least in Disney if you secure a fast pass you can return later and jump the “line”. Otherwise it can be an hour and a half wait for a 3 minute ride. Our only long line was 40 minutes for Winnie the Pooh, out of date, but thankfully the children did not notice. We got wise about the Fast Pass after that.

English Tea

I ran out of my favourite tea, Lap Sang Souchong, mid Caribbean and finally found it in the Twinnings cottage in the Great Britain part of Epcot’s World area. Charlotte from Hedge End, (fifteen miles from my mother) served us. Long dark hair and green eyed Charlotte is spending her gap year “having the time of her life” working in "England" in the plastic UK.

Six Packed

By this time we had done six parks: Magic Kingdom, twice, The Disney Studios, twice, Epcot, and the Animal Kingdom ,which we left appalled by the desperate gorilla in it’s plastic jungle, and hippo in a dirty pool, we were jaded by stroller police, (park your pushchair in the wrong place and you‘re told where to put it), and the trudging from ride to ride with tired children and worst of all the overt commercialism. Off the ride, through the shop to the exit.
Gradually the dream was fading. By our fourth parade the smiles on the melting dancers were grimaces. It was a pop rock version of the Red Shoes. The bubble was beginning to wobble. We were resenting every penny. As we were dragging ourselves home from the Studios, a fresh faced manager asked me to put my 2 year olds shirt on. I pointed out it was wet with ice cream, the automaton told me it was company policy. I told him we were leaving.

For three of our six days it rained, not just pitter patter, but, torrential, vengeance of God stuff. It thinned the crowds and stopped the rides. But whilst on our mission to “do” Disney, we carried on. The boys seemed to have more fun playing in the puddles.


We are currently cruising north on the East coast of the USA along the ICW, the Intracostal Waterway, a system of rivers, lakes and canals that stretches over a thousand miles from Florida to the Chesapeake Bay.

Controlling depths vary from 7 to 12ft. Non-opening bridges have a 65ft clearance with one exception at 56ft in Miami. (The latter can be passed by a brief stretch in the ocean). Other bridges open on demand or to a published schedule. Bridge operators can be contacted on either vhf channel 13 or 9.

An excellent resource for those wishing to make this trip can be found by clicking here.

Our intention is to go to New York via the Chesapeake Bay both in the ICW or “Ditch”, and in the ocean. In early June we cut out most of Georgia, and four days on the ICW, by sailing in the Atlantic ocean. Four years ago we spent days winding through the beautiful grasslands of Georgia, breathtaking but felt like we only made about a mile an hour.