Friday 1st November, Great Bridge, Virginia
We actually got here yesterday morning and plan to leave tomorrow to head down the Atlantic Intra Coastal Waterway (ICW) to Beaufort, North Carolina for the end of next week. Since leaving New York harbour on Monday morning we spent two nights at sea and managed to sail most of the way from New York to Norfolk, Virginia. We didn’t stop in Norfolk and anchored in the Elizabeth River, just at the start of the ICW, on Thursday night. Yesterday we moved a grand total of six miles and stopped here. Last night was Halloween which is celebrated in a HUGE way in the US. The boat parked behind us, Shambala, have two small children on board, Samantha and Nicholas, and they called on us for trick or treat! See, even living on a boat you can’t get away from it!
The major reason for stopping here was to collect mail from the UK which we had forwarded to the Post Office. Other chores were also tackled, grocery shopping, laundry and an engine oil change.
Since leaving Nova Scotia we have seen but a handful of other cruising boats. On passage from New York to Norfolk we saw, maybe, four other yachts at sea. As soon as were into the Chesapeake and heading into Norfolk we became part of a procession of recreational boats heading south. It seems we have joined the annual, waterborne exodus of “snowbirds” from Canada and the northern states to warmer climes. On each day since then we have seen at least a dozen yachts and probably a slightly larger number of motor cruisers.
Wednesday 6th November, Beaufort, North Carolina
As noted on the front page it is raining here. We are anchored in Taylor’s Creek having had a bit of a fright at a marina just after lunch. As we haven’t filled with diesel since Rhode Island or water since Port Washington we stopped before going to anchor. On leaving the fuel berth we ran aground! Not usually much of a problem but this was on a falling tide! Not good. After a lot of brute force from the engine and ignorance from the skipper we managed to get free and are now parked safe and quiet in front of the lovely North Carolinian town of Beaufort, pronounced as we would in the UK and as in the “Beaufort Scale”.
The trip from Great Bridge has been uneventful. By using the ICW we have avoided the sometimes difficult passage offshore and around Cape Hatteras. Much of the route is through open, if shallow, water and sailing is easily possible, given the right wind. For the last three days the wind has been a perfect north easterly and we have only motored for about 20 hours in five days and most of that was on Saturday when there was little wind. Oddly though, many of the sailing boats we have seen don’t sail. A lot motor sail and many don’t have any sail out at all. In fact we have only seen a handful of boats under sail alone. I know diesel is cheap here but when you can sail in perfect quiet at 5 Knots or more why rack up engine hours and make a noise? Each to his own.
Thursday 14th November, Beaufort, South Carolina
We left Beaufort, NC last Saturday and sailed offshore to Charleston, SC arriving there after two nights at sea. We spent Monday relaxing and went ashore for a look around on Tuesday. Many of you will know that Charleston played a significant part in the American Civil War. South Carolina was the first state to secede from the Union and the first shots of the war were fired by the Confederates against the Federal Fort Sumter, at the mouth of Charleston harbour…..
Fort Sumter was actually built following the War of 1812 in recognition of the poor state of coastal defences. (I think the Royal Navy had a part in helping the US realise this fact). The original fort was three times the height you see above and was reduced to its present state by Federal forces towards the end of the conflict. I’ve heard and read different explanations as to why the Confederates fired the first shots and the most plausible seems to be that Lincoln manoeuvred them into it to unite the Northern States against the break away South. Here’s how a gun emplacement appears today, if you look closely you can see the back of a piece of Federal ordinance sticking into the brickwork (just left of centre of the picture)….
Charleston really is the most charming town and we regretted not being able to spend more time there. Another cold front together with a big gale went through the area on Tuesday night and when we left Charleston on Wednesday morning it was bitterly cold in a biting north wind; and I do mean bitterly!
I’m pretty sure I saw an alligator slide into the water this morning as we left but as Sheryl didn’t sight it I’m not allowed to count it!
We’ll be here for a couple of nights as its time to do our chores, laundry and grocery shopping, lovely!
Monday 25th November, Cumberland Island, Georgia
On our way north up the east coast in May we didn’t set foot in Georgia and promised to ourselves that we would rectify the omission on our way south. Savannah is a few miles off the ICW and we spent 24 hours there last Tuesday/Wednesday. The city dock, a floating pontoon on the Savannah River, is a relatively cheap $1.50 per foot i.e. $63 for the night. This was money well spent as the dock is as close to the centre of things as you can get in a boat. Unlike Atlanta, which was completely raised during the American Civil War, Savannah was “spared” by Sherman and so much of what what you see today pre dates the 1860s. Indeed the oldest house is something like 1734.
Savannah was first settled by British colonists led by James Oglethorpe in 1733. He was responsible for designing the squares that make the city so attractive. Each one has a park in the centre, something like 100m x 100m. There are mature Live Oak trees covered with Spanish moss providing welcome shade from the hot southern sun. This fountain is in Forsyth Park….
In fact they are built right on a steep slope that drops down to the waterfront and are actually five stories. Back in the day the Savannah Cotton Exchange and its counterpart in Liverpool. England were the only two places in the world where the price of cotton was set. Things have changed since then.
Friday 29th November, St Mary’s, Georgia
Every year the small town of St Mary’s hosts a Thanksgiving dinner for transient cruisers. We arrived on Wednesday morning, in a westerly gale. Undeterred we went ashore in the evening for an “oyster roast”. Oyster steam would be more accurate. At long last we met some of the people we have been seeing regularly across the water over the last couple of weeks. Apart from one other British couple, Graham and Wendy of Oystermist, everyone else was either American or Canadian.
Turkey and ham for the Thanksgiving dinner was provided by the town and we cruisers took either a side (i.e. veggie dish) or dessert. We were asked to take enough for 10 people and I still haven’t worked out where it all went! Not having been in the US for this event we weren’t sure what to expect, it’s pretty much like a UK Christmas lunch without the plum duff. It was a fabulous gathering, lots of like minded people having a good time and we even managed to talk about non-boaty things.
Today we are doing a short hop to Fernandina Beach, Florida where, hopefully, it will be warmer. Continued in December’s entry.