Hard to believe, but here we go again – our third trip south to the Bahamas. The past few weeks in Annapolis went by so quickly. We were lucky to find an absolutely perfect anchorage, where there was very little boat traffic and great protection from the remains Hurricanes Florence and Michael.
For both, we saw wind (but nothing more than 20 knots), rain (keeps the boat clean) and rising water levels (plenty of chain out, so no worries there), so we were perfectly happy.
During our stay, our good friends Todd and Linda Hiller lent us their spare car, which was a godsend. One night, they brought their power boat alongside and came aboard for dinner. Their daughter, Kaitlyn, hopped on our paddleboard and had fun paddling around the anchorage. Hobie thought he had got his own private yacht and happily jumped on to the power boat and made himself at home.
Our boat is packed within an inch of itself, from canned food to meat, veggies and fruit. Provisioning is much easier now that (1) I have the big separate freezer, and (2) I have a system on my cell phone where I record what is stored in every bin. During our Annapolis stay, I made new throw cushion covers for the main cabin, and we bought new throw rugs since the rubber backing was starting to degrade (poor Hobie was wiping out when he had one of his scat attacks, which was pretty amusing, actually!). So I feel like we have “remodeled” and have a fresh start for our third trip to the Bahamas.
So off we went on October 18 – a bit later than planned due to all the weather delays – first to Solomon’s Island, which is our usual first stop out. Sue and Garth are traveling with us once again on their boat, Jabulani, and Sue took this fabulous shot of our boat in the morning mist as we got ready to pull anchor.
Then it was off to to Deltaville, VA, where we saw Anne, but not Jonathan (miserable cold!), and had a great dinner at a new restaurant called “The Table”. From there we headed to Hampton, VA, where we connected with our good friend, Carolyn, who was nice enough to ferry us around to the grocery store and West Marine. There’s always something that we need! After two nights at Hampton at a marina (waiting out some crummy weather), we headed off through Norfolk and in to the ICW. Mile Zero! There were some interesting warships lined up in Norfolk.
Since a lot of boats had waited for the storm to go through in the Hampton/Norfolk area, it was a real bottleneck at the bridge. To top it off, both railroad bridges were lowered while we were passing through, which really delayed us. Can’t ever tell when something like that is going to happen – and here we thought we had an early start! The result was a big bunch up of boats, all jockeying for position at the bridges as they opened. Gary was chomping at the bit and trying to get away from the pack, which thankfully we could do with the 110 hp turbocharged engine. Garth and Sue weren’t so lucky and got stuck mid pack.
That night, we anchored off Buck Island, near Coinjock – all by ourselves. Very peaceful and calm. Both the sunset and sunrise were spectacular.
Then we were off to Belhaven. These places are now like familiar friends to us. It is nice to be back in the places we know as we make our way down the ICW. Belhaven is like a throw back to an earlier time of small American towns. If it weren’t for the new Mercedes parked in the street, you would think this was 1950’s American.
Unfortunately, Belhaven and many of the surrounding towns were hit hard by the hurricanes. Florence was particularly painful. We went for breakfast in town that morning, and the woman serving us said that they had 35 inches of water in the restaurant. They had just reopened two weeks ago. But other residual mud and muck in the street and some stores and restaurants still closed (our favorite restaurant, Spoon River, still under wraps), they have done a remarkable job of cleaning up after the storms.
The next night we spent at an anchorage in Adams Creek, and then it was off to Mile Hammock, which is in the Camp LeJeune military base. Helicopters and armored tanks and humvees were all part of the scenery. Noisy, but not for long. We literally left before the sun came up, and it was very nerve wracking to move along in the pitch dark, looking for red and green buoys. Thank goodness for the chart plotter! But we had no choice. We either had to move out at 6 am to get to the bridge two hours before high tide, or else we would have had to wait until late morning to get going as the tide was going back down. And since the weather was getting crummy in the early afternoon, we knew we couldn’t afford to wait for long. So there we were – in the pitch black, keeping our eyes peeled – stressful! Fortunately, the sun appeared like magic before we got to the bridge, and we got underneath it, dragging our VHF antenna, as expected.
The rest of the day was spent trying to coordinate the half hour and hourly openings of draw bridges. We were able to drag our feet at one bridge to give Garth and Sue a few more minutes to catch up and make it through. Some bridges open on the hour and half hour, but some only open on the hour. It is bad enough to wait a half hour for the next opening, but to wait an hour when you’ve only missed the opening by a minute or two is a real killer! Especially with yucky weather on the horizon.
We approached our anticipated stop in Carolina Beach, NC, where we had reserved a mooring ball for both us and Garth and Sue. Unfortunately, it was not to be, as there was no enforcement whatsoever in place, and boats had picked up all the available balls, even without a reservation. We were not happy and wasted a lot of time on the phone trying to determine whether anyone was going to show up and correct the problem. To make a long story very short, no one did, and we ended up anchoring for the night very close to the mooring field. It is very unsettling to have made plans and then find that you can’t rely on them. High winds and thunderstorms were anticipated that evening and through the night, which is one of the reasons we even booked a mooring ball to begin with. Needless to say, the Town of Carolina Beach (who runs the mooring area) got an earful. But we were happy it was a protected area, and we stayed safely anchored the whole night.
The weather has been so unlike any weather we have experienced on our treks up and down the ICW. The past few mornings, the temperatures have been as low as 41 degrees and the days have only reached temps in the high 50’s. The sun must be on vacation – we haven’t seen much of it. Apparently, it is true of the whole east coast, since looking ahead, even Charleston is only in the 60’s! And the water levels have been very, very high, which is making for some interesting bridge “scrapings”!
Last night (10/27) we stopped at the Myrtle Beach Yacht Club – always a very welcoming place. We (Gary) washed the boat down with lots of fresh water, while Sue and I went and did laundry. After an enjoyable dinner at the Officers’ Club there (they had a costume party in full swing and some of them were quite entertaining!), we took Hobie for a walk – he was a happy cat!
This morning, as we head for Georgetown, we are seeing some of the hurricane damage from Florence first hand. Not pretty. Houses have water lines half way up them, boats have slipped off their docks, sandbags are still heaped in front of houses, and docks are cockeyed. All in all, a real mess. We feel sorry for these people – at least the colder weather has probably delayed the onset of any mildew and mold!
Tomorrow we will head into Charleston, one of our favorite spots along the ICW. I do see one 77 degree day in the forecast, so we are looking forward to that! M&G&H