You would think that in a technologically advanced country like America it would be easy to get a WiFi signal on your boat when anchored close to a major centre of population, well it isn’t. My experience to date is that it was easier to get connected in the Bahamas than here. This update is brought to you courtesy of my friend Nick Mayhew and his home WiFi.
We arrived in the States just over two weeks ago having done an overnight crossing from Grand Bahama. Our chosen Port of Entry was Palm Beach where there is a Customs and Border Protection Agency office (CBP). As a foreign flagged vessel we have to report our arrival in the USA to the CBP, not once but twice. First of all we have to ring a toll free number (not actually toll free using a foreign mobile phone) and give the very polite CBP agent our details. He then gives us an unfeasibly long reference number and tells you to take it to the local CBP office, within 24 hours and report in person. I say unfeasibly long, it had 18 digits and the entire population of the world can be measured with 10 or 11 digits so I guess they are catering for extra terrestrial aliens and not just the human sort.
We were warned to take exactly $19 with us to pay the clearance fee and thats all it cost. The office process is simple and a lot easier than arriving in the US by air. However, there is a downside, we have been issued with a cruising permit and now have to report our coastal movements to the CBP every time we lift our anchor. They don’t seem interested in tracking our movements, only the boat’s.
The port of Palm Beach is sited just inside the Lake Worth inlet to the Atlantic Intra Coastal Waterway (ICW). As many of you may know Florida’s Atlantic coast is largely made up of a string of barrier islands. Between these islands and the mainland the Americans have constructed an inshore waterway which stretches all the way from Florida north to the Hudson River, New York. Indeed it is possible to get all the way to the Great Lakes with very little exposure to the Atlantic. The waterway isn’t exactly a canal, although there certainly are canalised sections, its more of a dredged channel in otherwise shallow water. It is supposed to be nine feet deep (I think) and the bridges allow for an air draft (i.e. mast height) of about 63′. Here is one at Fort Pierce…
However, as it is now only used by pleasure craft dredging is infrequent or not at all and shoaling occurs so the depth can be little more than six feet in places. We draw six feet.
This gave us the opportunity to visit a good supermarket and buy some decent beer – not something you would have heard me say of American beer 25 years ago! Having rested we moved back to Palm Beach, left Emma Louise at anchor and took a short road trip across Florida to visit our friends John and Sue Grainger who were staying in New Port Ritchie for a week to celebrate Sue’s sister Rose’s 70th birthday…
A happy couple of nights was spent with them before trekking back over one of the most boring States in the Union (I guess some of the prairie states are worse but I haven’t been there). Safely back on board we endured a whole day of thunderstorms before heading out to sea and north to Fort Ritchie. This is a rather nice Florida town with some interesting older buildings………
It was Sheryl’s birthday on 7th May so we celebrated with lunch in the “Original Tiki Bar”, I wonder how many of those we’ll come across? The 8th was spent at sea as we did the 65Nm north to Port Canaveral and the so called Space Coast. By the way the area around Fort Pierce is known as the treasure coast, I don’t know why. We went through Port Canaveral, through a lifting bridge and into the Canaveral barge canal lock. This controls the water level in the Banana and Indian Rivers to the west of the lock. Apparently it was built to move space shuttle rockets. The Banana and Indian Rivers aren’t really rivers, more like inland waterways and the ICW runs up the Indian River.
Having spent the night at anchor just outside the canal barge lock we headed west across the Banana River and into the Indian River where we turned north for Titusville and our next stopping point. The barge canal isn’t very interesting although there is a lot of wildlife including Manatees and plenty of different species of birds. Our plan is to spend two or three days in Titusville and spend some time with our friends Nick and Kathy Mayhew and their daughters Bronte and Peri. Here is Nick with me and Sheryl….
Lanier Island, Georgia
Since leaving Titusville we have been heading slowly north, mostly up the ICW which I am beginning to dislike with some passion! There hasn’t been enough wind to make it worth going to sea and we can usually motor faster in the ICW without the extra mileage associated with going in and out of tidal inlets. It does give us the opportunity to visit parts of the USA that we wouldn’t see otherwise such as New Smyrna Beach (lovely), Daytona Beach…
…(think Skegness or Blackpool, the photo is flattering) and St Augustine, the oldest city in the United States having been founded in 1565.
This is what you can see from the Fernandina Beach Marina moorings.
With some rare wind we went out of the St Mary’s river inlet and actually sailed up the coast to the Saint Simons inlet which leads into the Brunswick river and so to the city of Brunswick. It was lovely to get some miles under the keel without using the engine!
The ICW does have some attractions, not least the wildlife which includes a surprising number of dolphins, we see them pretty much every day. Ospreys are also very common and I had the delight of watching one fishing this evening, about 200m from our position at anchor. No sooner had it caught a fish than it was being harried by a gull trying to make it drop its chicks supper!
Beaufort, South Carolina
Time is ticking away and we need to get to the Chesapeake in just over two weeks from now, it is still over 400Nm to Norfolk, Virginia and we have another 100 or so to do after Norfolk. Emma Louise will be left somewhere in the Chesapeake whilst we take a road trip to Louisville, Kentucky to see our friends Robin and Joe Harland. As a result we are about to go to sea for two or three nights to get a couple of hundred miles under the keel. The weather forecast if for light south of east winds and whilst the direction is ok we won’t go very quickly! Landfall is planned as Beaufort, North Caroline. I believe the Americans pronounce Beaufort NC as the English would. Beaufort, SC, on the other hand is pronounced something like Boofert, confused? I am.
Having left Florida astern we didn’t actually set foot in Georgia and made landfall in South Carolina at Hilton Head Island where we spent the first part of the holiday weekend, it was US Memorial day yesterday.
We anchored off the Harbor Town (US spelling of harbour) marina and took a taxi to the grocery store to do our weekly shop. On Sunday we went ashore for a lunchtime beer and didn’t get back on board until early evening, oh well, it was a holiday weekend! I knew that the USA was big and there is far too much to see in a lifetime let alone a summer cruise up the east coast. However, it isn’t until you start travelling at the speed that we do that you get a proper impression of just how vast this country is.
Can you imagine being in the Light Brigade and the Confederate Army and surviving both !
Beaufort, South Carolina turned into Beaufort North Carolina after three fairly boring days and 281 Nautical miles at sea. We arrived on Friday 31st May and left again on Sunday 2nd June. The North Carolina town is just as nice as its southern namesake and is somewhat more boat oriented. Whilst there we had a new cocktail, a “Coastal Breeze” which is essentially a gin version of a Mojito. To make one replace the rum with Hendricks Gin (it has to be Hendrick’s) and the lime with cucumber, trust me, its delicious! For a couple of photographs of Beaufort, NC see the June entry.