Monday, November 28, 2011


Savannah, by boat, is a considerable side trip off the ICW, so on our road trip back to St. Augustine after Thanksgiving, we decided to have a look at this southern city by land.

I wondered, could Savannah compete with Charleston for my affection?

While Charleston is a grand, pampered lady, who will serve you a mint julep on the veranda ...

Savannah, in a well-loved housedress, will sit down at the kitchen table with you and share some homemade biscuits and redeye gravy.

She's grit and grits, the wealthy and the homeless piled in together. She likes good old southern food, she has an ear for music and an eye for art -- and I love her too.


Savannah, GA

We crept in the darkened door of a candlelit chapel
filled with the believers, the hopeful and a homeless man in a dirty knit cap.

Angelic voices flowed over us evoking the pinnacle of heaven
or a nicely appointed movie set.

The believers silently faithful.

The two of us quietly wistful.

The homeless man warming his bones
at the hearth of a Gregorian goodnight to God.

Friday, November 25, 2011


Pumpkin pancakes.
Handsome boy, ahem, man.

The sweetest mother-in-law.
Ted! and Dylan.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


St. Augustine, FL 29º53.144N | 81º19.322W

Last year, our first year of cruising, we moped around on the holidays, thinking we were sentenced to our boat, not realizing we could do what most cruisers do: leave the boat and go visit family.

I never said we were smart.

So, this year, our son Dylan organized a rally at Chip's parents' in Delaware for a family Thanksgiving. Thus, once again, we have rented a car and hit the road. By noon, we had traveled as far as it took us to travel by boat in four weeks. Whoosh.

Our first stop after a 6-hour drive from St. Augustine, was Raleigh where we arrived just in time to see Dylan play hockey.

It was our first time to see him play -- and his second time to score a goal! The crowd (me & Chip) went wild!!!

The next day, we drove north on 95 and just as we entered Virginia got a flat on the rental car. Chip made a heroic highway-side quick change.

While he changed the tire, I kept watch on the traffic flying by a few feet away and bartered a car swap with Enterprise on the phone. We limped the few miles into Emporia, Virginia, on the spare and agreed reluctantly to take the only car they had to offer: a Ford HHR. What could be worse? It reeked of cigarette smoke.

Ah well, it was that or stay in downtown Emporia.

So, on we went in our reeky HHR, stopping in D.C. for a surprise dinner with John

Our whirlwind trip north ended with a quick stop at Baltimore Washington International Airport to pick up Dylan, who attended all his classes and then flew on ahead of us.

The three of us arrived for a happy reunion with Chip's parents in Bridgeville by midnight. Let the Thanksgiving celebrations begin!

Friday, November 18, 2011


St. Augustine, FL 29º53.747N | 81º18.607W

Bridge of Lions on a stormy morning.
Last year, we learned to love St. Augustine while at the same time coming to loath the St. Augustine moorings in a blow. With a swift north/south current here, any significant wind from north or south causes wind against current at least half the day, therefore driving the boat on top of the mooring ball so it BANG BANG BANGS against the hull. Add to that a half-mile, maybe more, dinghy ride to shore from the south mooring field, and it was, let's just say, not something we wanted to repeat.

We like to make all new mistakes.

This year we have secured a slip at a marina to leave the boat for Thanksgiving, but opted to spend one night in the north mooring field, north of the beautiful Bridge of Lions and much closer to the dinghy dock. A light and delicate wind blew all day. We settled in for a predicted windy night.

Before midnight, a tempest blew in from the northeast.

The north mooring field is just inside the inlet, about 300 yards or so southwest -- or exactly in the path of a northeast wind right off the ocean. We spent the night riding swell, getting yanked back down off of each one by the mooring ball, then, since we were right off the seawall, getting the reverberation from each on coming right back at us. Exhausting.

The only thing that made it better was that the wind was so much stronger than the current, we never got the pounding ball on the hull. Well, it's something.

We cranked up the engine as soon as the sun was up and head through the Bridge of Lions and up the calm, quiet creek to our marina.

We chose our marina on the recommendation of our friends Annie and Eric on WeBeSailing. They kept their boat here for the summer and have left it to work on a mega-yacht for the winter.

It was thrilling and quite sad to pull up next to WeBeSailing, without her crew there to smother us in big, bear hugs.

WeBeSailing and Cara Mia, together again!

Thursday, November 17, 2011


St. Augustine, FL 29º53.747N | 81º18.607W

Silly boys.

After anchoring 6 miles outside of St. Augustine, Dale and Chip decided to have a sailing race into town -- in 5 knots of wind. Perhaps it was their way of extending our last trek together for a while.

And so we ghosted into the mooring field at 3 knots, taking a pleasant two hours for a 45-minute trip.

It's always thrilling to ride into St. Augustine, a cool city and home of our friends David and Barbara and their son Seth, who used to live in the Outer Banks. We have a lot of tales to tell.

Chip and I have traveled past the Tropic of Cancer and back since we saw them last fall.

Barb, to celebrate her 50th birthday, traveled from St. Augustine to San Francisco -- on a bicycle.

She dipped her tires in the Atlantic and biked solo across the entire country in less than two months to dip those same tires in the Pacific. Amazing. Inspiring. Fantastic.

You can read about it in her blog.

We compared notes on our unmechanized, slow-paced adventures, the joys of plodding oh so slowly through nature's grandeur, listening, feeling, breathing it in.

Kindred spirits.

Seth, David and Barbara at the end of the road.
*photos borrowed from Barb's blog.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


Tolomato River, FL 30º00.05N | 81º20.22W

A melancholy morning on the ICW.
Last year when we visited former cruisers Rose and Varoujan in Vero Beach, they told us the story of buying their house in Vero, sight unseen, on the strength of a phone call from old cruising buddies who lived next door. At the time, I found that astounding, unimaginable really.

This morning's trek to St. Augustine began in a heavy fog. We left Fernandina at 7:40 with Jessie Marie, straight into the beautiful mist. After hanging with us for a few hours, that fog lifted to reveal an otherwise lovely day.

Our destination today was St. Augustine, but it was sentimentality that caused us to stop just short, to anchor Cara Mia and Jessie Marie together one last time, because St. Augustine is a bit of a turning point. We will be leaving Cara Mia for two weeks, heading north by car to visit Chip's parents for Thanksgiving. Jessie Marie will sail south to Miami and eventually Cuba and Belize.

After traveling side by each for a year now, we don't know when we will meet up again whether it's just down the coast of Florida next month, in Belize next spring or somewhere else entirely.

And so, in the waning light of a super-sized Florida sun, we had dinner on Cara Mia, toasting good, good times and a super-sized friendship.

What seemed unimaginable to me one year ago, now makes perfect sense.

Karen and Dale, wherever you end up, give us a call. We'll buy that house next door.


Fernandina Beach, FL 30º40.301N | 81º26.087W

Picturesque downtown Fernandina Beach.

Before we even left our homeport last year, we started hearing the praises of Fernandina Beach.

We stopped by the day after Thanksgiving last year and were entirely unimpressed with the skyline:

Very NOT picturesque Fernandina from the water.
Turns out those praises were well deserved. Fortunately for us, there were no moorings available this year, so we anchored just as close, for free, and spent two days enjoying Fernandina with our friends on Jessie Marie and Majiks.

Despite the skyline -- and attending odor (paper mills) -- we loved it here, interesting locally run shops and yummy restaurants.

We were stunned to run into friends from the Outer Banks who live here now:

Sean and Hathaway.
Fernandina Beach: A+

A horseshoe crab tried to hitch a ride on our anchor chain.

Sunday, November 13, 2011


Cumberland Island, GA 30º45.940N | 81º26.087W

The immaculate beach on Cumberland Island.
We've once again come to visit Cumberland Island, one of our favorite spots, with its otherworldly forests, unsullied beaches and a few wild horses to complete the scene.

This time we went farther afield with the help of our bikes, although I've come to appreciate the value of fat tires. It's quite a workout to pedal skinny tires on sandy roads.

The scenery here remains unchanged and still defies my ability to describe it. We lolled in it all day, and I offer only eye candy:

Cara Mia anchored off Cumberland Island.

Friday, November 11, 2011


Jekyll Island, GA 31º2.775N | 81º25.556W

Not shown in this photo: It's friggin' C O L D.
As we passed Jekyll Island on our pilgrimage south last year, we craned our necks and went back for another look. Liking what we saw, we dropped the anchor, but it wouldn't catch -- an unusual occurence. The second time it dragged was stranger still, and the third time, we got the hint and kept moving south.

This year, with the weather guessers predicting an early-season frost, we decided to take that look at Jekyll from a marina slip. The thought of a frosty dinghy ride to the boat in the dark was just not that appealing.

We biked along a very calm Atlantic, the same one that the guessers said would be a riled up mess today, and had a good look at Jekyll Island, developed in the 1800s as an exclusive winter playground for the rich.

The island shares the same vegetation as the gorgeous Cumberland Island just south of here, but much of that vegetation has been hacked away for the gilded age rich folks to build enormous houses and for more modern folks to put in a golf course.

I couldn't get motivated to take photos of rich people's houses, but here are a few by Chip:

The restaurant at our marina had a good singer/songwriter playing. He lives and plays around St. Augustine. If you're in the area, check him out: Just Dave.

Next stop: Cumberland Island

Thursday, November 10, 2011


REENACTMENT: This is not the ACTUAL piling.
"Anybody can cruise for one year. It's the second year that's hard."

A fellow cruiser said that the other day, and it has been haunting me ever since with its illogical truth.

It seems to me there are two reasons the second year is more challenging.

Number one: Shit starts breaking. All that hard work before leaving the dock pays off that first year. Systems are in fairly good working condition, and, I suspect, King Neptune offers a one-year grace period.

We sailed through an entire year with relatively few problems, but while we were aging a year, so was Cara Mia. Just this week the solenoid on the propane went out (who knew? Chip), a fuse blew on the electronics and the dinghy motor had a near-death experience. Oh, and the aft cabin door locked itself closed -- while we were underway.

Number two: The French call it laissez-faire. By the second year, you develop that Sophomore bravado, a certain toss of the hair, twitch of the shoulder, been-there-done-that sort of mentality that when exhibited by a movie character, signals certain impending death -- or a least an imminent dose of humiliation.

I had my own dose last week.

Hours at the helm, without the terror of everything being new, gets rather, well, boring. There is a short list of things that have to be monitored while motoring: engine rpms and temp, water depth, speed, traffic, course, upcoming hazards or bridges, sails if you have them up. It's just enough to stave off boredom -- except when you're in a long, straight stretch with no traffic. There's where my problem settled in.

A minor stomach bug had seen me sequestered below for several days, and feeling better, I was chomping at the bit to get back in the action, any action. But my turn at the helm had us going through, on the one hand, a beautiful stretch of water, on the other, a tedious one.

My mind was bouncing all over its echo chamber thinking about book projects, boat projects, Halloween, everything. Well, everything but driving.

In one hideous moment I looked up to see a huge piling just off the starboard bow. AAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!

Cara Mia had a near miss, but the whole episode hit me head on, square on my nose, and I've not yet recovered.

It was the aquatic equivalent of texting while driving, and I'm lucky -- if you can be lucky in the midst of really bad luck.

I have to say though, I've been back in Freshman paranoid mode ever since, barely trusting myself with even the autohelm.

But back to the whole point of numbers one and two: that second year of cruising has an all-new set of challenges that require concentration, homework and a good set of tools. It also helps if you have Chip, who either knew or figured out how to fix all the things that broke this week.

All I could do was pay attention at the helm. A+ for me.

A quiet anchorage in Beaufort, SC.


Redbird Creek, GA 31º51.220N | 81º09.781W

Sunset in Redbird Creek.
A narcissistic Redbird Creek lies still and utterly peaceful tonight, navel gazing, clearly oblivious to the tempest raging offshore, just a few miles to the east.

How nice for us.

Sean, the latest in a series of tempests barreling north,  has sent us barreling south on the ICW, if you could call toodling along at 6 knots barreling. You can't really, can you?

An offshore sail from Charleston to Florida would have taken us 24 hours. By the ICW, it takes at least a week, although in actual mileage it's not that much farther. The thing about the ICW in Georgia, is that it's twisty, turny and, in many places, excruciatingly shallow. Its tides swing by a daunting 9+ feet, its currents shift mysteriously every few miles.

Sound awful?

I have to admit that I'm secretly (until now) glad that the tempests have sent us back through Georgia, because it's my favorite part of the ICW, like floating through a majestic painting with sound effects. If you look at a map of coastal Georgia, it looks like a mess of spider veins, but those veins are winding creeks meandering through golden marshes, refuges for wildlife that squawk and grunt and caw somewhere just beyond the shore. The air is crisp and clean but for the occasional waft of a far-off paper mill.

We plod slowly through rivers, sounds and creeks never seen by land dwellers. In fact, in some lone anchorages there is no evidence that land dwellers even exist. How often does that happen in our sprawling culture where we spread around concrete and asphalt like butter on toast?

Bobbing here in Redbird Creek under an almost full moon, it's hard to remember why we should pick up and move again tomorrow. Should we?

A shrimp boat ambles home down Redbird Creek.