Georgia and the Carolinas- the Good, the Bad and the Beautiful

After leaving Cumberland Island, we headed north for the next several days in areas with lots of tidal currents, narrow channels and big differences in tide and channel depth. All of these factors contributed to how far we went each day and where we anchored. Having done the trip several times, we knew where the shallow places would be and therefore where we would not want to travel near low tide. The traveling through this tricky stretch went reasonably well, thanks to a number of resources at our disposal. First we would look at the notes we have made from our previous trips through here. We also could take advantage of our GPS chartplotter, something we did not have on our earliest trips. This chartplotter was generally pretty accurate and helpful along the way. Additionally there is a service on the Internet called “Active Captain” which provides lots of input from other cruisers about the shallow areas, good anchorages and what else to watch out for. Finally I have to give a hats off to the Coast Guard and the Army Corps of Engineers. The Coast Guard has checked the ICW regularly and moved navigational AIDS when needed to help boaters avoid the shallow areas due to the changing conditions in shoaling. The Corps of Engineers in North Carolina provides a hydrographic survey of all of the trouble spots and suggests detailed routes to avoid the shallowest water. These surveys were very much up-to-date, having been done within the last month or two. I can’t imagine what it would have been like traveling here before we had all of these resources, although we did.

Sunrise in Georgia, we start early.

This stretch of the ICW offers some of the most remote areas for viewing on the East Coast. Those who travel in ways other than by boat miss some of the beauty of this area. We feel really fortunate to be able to travel through this area and appreciate its beauty. We saw lots of birds, dolphins, fish jumping and even a deer along the way. We should really keep a list of all the different varieties of Birds along the stretch. They include bald eagles Osprey other Hawks several herons egrets different kinds of gulls and pelicans of course. We’ve seen dolphins along the way just about every day of our travels. We know that others believe this area is beautiful as well, since we go by several resorts and resort islands in our travels. These include Jekyll Island, St Simons Island, Hilton Head Island and Parris Island. Oops, I guess Parris Island isn’t exactly considered a resort by the Marines who did their basic training there, but it is also along our route.

As mentioned in the last blog update, our next stop was Beaufort, South Carolina. We thoroughly enjoy this stop every time. It is a pretty, historical community with lots of good things to see. We also enjoyed our breakfast with Janelle and Bob Proctor whom we try to visit whenever passing by. Janelle taught at Hampton Roads Academy when I was there, so we go back a ways.

Our favourite pizza stop in Beaufort, made even better by the blooming jasmine.

After leaving Beaufort, we continued north towards Charleston. We had wanted to stop for a night or so in Charleston but the anchorage we’d like to use had sunken boats in it, and the marina we like had been damaged by Hurricane Matthew and is not yet repaired. The city marina near the anchorage was full and had no room for us, so we continued north. A day later we were traveling on the Waccamaw River, one of the most beautiful sections of the ICW. Part of it goes through a Cypress swamp, and there are times when you really feel like you’re by yourself.

Lots of animal life but later in the day lots of small boats zipping by. Another couple of days and we were into North Carolina through some shallow areas and on up the Cape Fear River to Carolina Beach State Park Marina. We always try to stop here, because we can get longleaf pine needles for Sandra baskets. This is important.

Sunset from the dock

After a short run two days later, we ended in Wrightsville Beach and met with a friend of Sandra’s, Priscilla, who lives further west in North Carolina. Sandra has known Priscilla for more than 40 years Priscilla often meets us as we travel through the state by boat. We got to the beach and also did some walking in town.

Beautiful gardens in Wrightsville Beach

Traveling the next day went well, thanks to the continued help of the Corps of Engineers at tricky spots. We even passed one of their boats undertaking a survey.

The Osprey along the coast of North Carolina are into the nesting season. We saw lots of nests along the way, the birds using the navigational aids as a platform for their nests. They must really appreciate those aids. The Coast Guard has become more sympathetic over time and now does not tear their nest down until the nesting season is all over and then only if the nest impedes visibility of the navigational aids.

Our next stop was a visit to Camp Lejeune Marines base. From a distance we could see and hear their training activities.

Strange plane or was it an unusual helicopter?

Then it was on to Beaufort, NC, but we decided to detour to Cape Lookout first. We’d never been there before but had heard some good things about the place, run by the National Park Service. In a couple of ways it’s like Cumberland Island in that one can only get there by boat, and while there you can see wild horses. There are lots of birds nesting, and sea turtles also come here to lay eggs. Not long after we arrived, we saw a couple surface near our boat. One was a huge leatherback who came up several times so we’d be sure to see him.

A foggy sunrise at Cape Lookout

The next morning we awoke to fog and the call of loons. How strange to hear them here in ocean waters. We dinghied over to the visitors center and lighthouse. Unfortunately, the lighthouse wasn’t open for people to climb. The interesting part of the trip over to the lighthouse was trying to find the deep route. At times we had to lift the outboard and row. This in spite of the fact that our current chart said we should be in deep water.

As we learned later, this area is among the most dynamic land masses in the world. Our charts were not accurate – not even close. Apparently the sea and wind are constantly moving the sand around. This is part of the Outer Banks. We learned that Columbus would not have found the Outer Banks if he had come this far north. They were nothing more than shoals back then, and the sea is now taking them back.

We found lots of puffer fish dead on shore, evidently discarded from fishing nets. This one was taken by a land crab who couldn’t quite get it into its hole

Today we came in to Beaufort (This one is pronounced Bofort, unlike the town by the same name in South Carolina.) for a day before we begin a five day trip to Hampton Roads. Most of this segment will be in remote areas, so we won’t go ashore to get groceries or other supplies.

Till the next update…

Captain Bob

Carpe Diem

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North to Georgia

This leg of the trip provided us with the opportunity to visit with friends we’d met while cruising. Before we left Vero Beach, we enjoyed an evening with Terri and Larry who were sailing aboard Vixon. They were heading south from Jacksonville. Then a couple of days later we spent an evening with Steve and Kathy aboard Kit in Daytona Beach. Then in St Augustine, we spent a day and night with Brian and Jann, former owners of Windchaser. Unfortunately, they lost her during Hurricane Matthew. They’d recently purchased a replacement, a Catalina 38, and are preparing her to head north soon. The following noontime, the four of us met Dick and Libby for lunch at an hotel cafe in St . Augustine. (The hotel is now a museum, but the cafe operates in the old hotel pool.)They were aboard Tarwathie before they became Clods(cruisers living on dirt).

It was great to spend time with these friends we’d met cruising in the past.

Now back to describing our travel north. As we left Vero Beach, we were greeted by a manatee and then a pair of dolphins. As we traveled up the ICW, we saw several nesting ospreys. It’s that time of year.

We anchored for the night in Eau Gallie, an artsy town filled with galleries, music studios, yoga and craft outlets. The town has a beautiful library right on the water next to our dinghy dock. We toured some of the downtown area and found a pie shop we’d visited on an earlier trip…great personal sized pies made there every day!

That evening we were treated to a rocket launch from Cape Canaveral. A SpaceX rocket carried a satillite up to look for more planets beyond our solar system. The launch was 40-50 miles away, so it was a small bright object. The sound of the rocket didn’t arrive till the light had disappeared.

Small perhaps, but impressive to witness

The next day we traveled up just beyond Titusville where we could actually see the launch pads at Canaveral. Then it was up through Mosquito Lagoon where we saw no mosquitoes but worked to avoid dozens of manatees. We also saw more dolphins, osprey and a bald eagle. The day of travel ended in Daytona Beach where we met up with Steve and Kathy as mentioned earlier.

Then it was on to St. Augustine and more visiting. In addition we visited a couple of art galleries and trekked down St. George Street, the heart of tourist shops and the best pizza in town. We indulged in all of it. Maddie was very popular among the tourist crowd.

Part the regular historical activities on St. George’s Street.

On earlier visits we’d already taken the train ride to learn about the town, visited the fort and toured Flagler’s hotel that has since become Flagler College. On this visit we went to another museum that emphasized the influence of the Catholic church in all of Spain’s settlements in Florida…very interesting.

This fort has a long and impressive history in North America’s oldest European settlement.

Although on our last trip north, we went offshore for an overnight to Beaufort SC from here, the weather was not looking favorable, so we chose the longer inside route. Because there were numerous shallow areas between St Augustine and the Georgia border, we had to watch the tides. It wasn’t pleasant, but we made it through without running aground, but we came close more than once. No fun!

We arrived at Cumberland Island, Georgia by the end of the day yesterday and went ashore for a really nice walk to the beach. Maddie got a good run on the sand; we did some Tai Chi and then enjoyed another sunset view before returning to the boat. We even ran across an armadillo looking for bugs under leaves. We got up really close, but he never seemed to realize that we were there.

Today we took a longer walk which included a tour of Carnegie’s estate. It was quite a complex that included between 200 and 300 paid help, earning between 50 cents and a dollar a day. According to the will of the matriarch of the family, the horses were released to live wild on the island following her death in the 1920s. Their descendants still roam free here.

These horses seemed to like scratching their backs in the grass as much as Maddie does.

We also learned that the live oaks found here as well as elsewhere in the South, were especially valuable to ship building. The natural curves of this hard wood worked well in aspects of the ship’s hull.

Live oaks on Cumberland

The main house at the estate, called Dungeness, empty after the 1920s , was burned in 1959. What you see here is what remains.

Tomorrow we are back on the road, or rather water traveling north. Our next stop in civilization will be Beaufort SC. So more to come in the next addition to this blog. And Sandra will be working on more baskets like this one.

Captain Bob

Carpe Diem

First Leg Gets Us to Vero Beach

We have officially begun our travels now. Aside from a bumpy first day on Hawk Channel and a little shower a few days later, the trip has gone well. We followed a route familiar to us, spending that first night at Rodriguez Key. We turned into Angel Fish Creek the next day to enjoy a nice sail up Biscayne Bay to Miami and anchored near South Beach, a place we’ve often used.

Sailing up Biscayne Bay toward Miami

Getting ashore in our dinghy at South Beach is no longer easy. Most of the places previously used by us and other boaters are no longer available. We tied our dinghy to a dock by the police station which has a 30-minute limit. We managed in that short time to give Maddie a walk, and Sandra was able to get to Publix to pick up a few items as well.

As on past trips, the change of scenery is dramatic as we approached Miami from the keys. Upon leaving South Beach we continued up the protective ICW the next day to another favored anchorage in Sunrise Bay in Fort Lauderdale. The views of Fort Lauderdale from the water are dramatically different from those of land travel. Waterways have lots of traffic from small fishing vessels to 200 foot yachts to water taxis and fuel boats. The shoreline offers a mix of twenty to thirty story condos to multimillion-dollar homes and marinas securing boats, most of which are 50 to 200 feet long. We also passed a few parks and outdoor restaurants right along the Waterway.

Typical sight in Ft. Lauderdale

As we continued north to the Palm Beach area, the homes along the Waterway were larger and had more land around them. I couldn’t help but wonder about the growing disparity between average people and the very wealthy. We passed by literally hundreds of houses that were in the multimillion-dollar range.

These were typical, not the most austentacious

The most modest accommodations were condos that were likely pricey for us ordinary folk. Driving down here one doesn’t see this, much of it being within gated communities so out of sight to average people. But on the water, it’s in your face for nearly 100 miles. Enough of that. For all I know, they look out at us on the water and wish they could do what we do.

After sailing through this interesting stretch while we also dealt with nearly 30 bridges, most having a specific opening schedule that we had to meet, we ended the day near the Lake Worth inlet (Palm Beach) and Peanut Island. Since our next day of travel would be short and only included six bridge openings, we decided to dinghy to Peanut Island (It’s now a city park.) and walk around the perimeter to see how it held up after Irma. This is quite a nice spot with a path around it, several sandy beaches, a campground, and an artificial reef for snorkeling. Some readers may remember our earlier visit here a couple of years ago when we ended up snorkeling with a pair of manatees.

Artificial reef on Peanut Island. Notice the inlet from the ocean in the background.

After this pleasant time ashore, we were back on our northern travels. Still on the ICW, we passed by more exotic homes. We enjoyed a quiet evening in one of our favourite anchorages in Hobe Sound which, as usual, we had pretty much all to ourselves. The next day was another beauty with some wind to help us along all the way to Vero Beach. Upon arrival we were surprised to find that the moorings were full. We’d be required to raft up with another boat. A few moorings even had three boats attached. We like being by ourselves as much as possible, which is one reason moorings have appeal. But it turned out OK. We rafted with a pleasant Canadian couple who would be leaving their boat in a couple of days and not returning for a month. So for the better part of our stay we’d be alone on the mooring.

Having spent time here on several occasions in the past, we know our way around Vero. Since we had brought our car here earlier, we also had the ability to get around easily. We took care of provisioning, we got to the movies and took Maddie to her favourite beach for an evening run.

One of Maddie’s favorite places
Pelicans diving for supper
Following this rainbow to its end would land us in the Bahamas.

As with a number of other stops along the coast, Vero offers opportunities to see wildlife that call the coastal area home. On this particular occasion, the dolphins were in evidence on a daily basis among the moored boats. On a couple of days, two or three would spend a good part of the day in one area. As we’d dinghy by, one or two would come a bit closer, apparently checking us out. Perhaps our electric dinghy motor made an unusual noise that had to be investigated.

We also drove north to the Kennedy Space Center for a day. What a great place to visit! We saw several rockets on display and got to walk around the shuttle Atlantis. There were two IMAX movies that were both great as well as deep space shots from the Hubble telescope. One the real highlights was learning about the plans for a manned Martian trip, and we got to see the spacecraft they’d be using. For anyone who can get there, this would be something not to miss.

The Orion Space vehicle will carry up to seven to Mars.

Sandra gets up close to Atlantis.

So our boat is now loaded with food,water, and fuel. We’ve taken our car down to West Palm Beach to my sister’s where it will stay till our return in the fall. We are ready to continue our journey north a bit further. We’ve checked the tides, the weather and the charts. Tomorrow looks good. We are ready.

Captain Bob

Carpe Diem

Another Winter (Summer) in Marathon

Another season has flown by. It seems that we arrived such a short time ago, but we’ve done so much in that time. In spite of the issues related to Hurricane Irma, the season has been normal in most respects. We were once again on our favorite mooring ball for great sunset views.

Sandra joined me this year as a volunteer at Dolphin Research Center. She especially liked feeding and caring for the parrots in addition to spending time with the dolphins. In fact we both got to swim with them on one occasion.

Sandra getting ride
Sandra’s favorite

We also continued our involvement with Tai Chi, continuing to improve a bit each year. We regularly heard from others that they watch our movements to be sure that they do it properly.

Sandra continues to introduce others the the art of weaving pine needle baskets. And through this, we’ve gotten to know several really nice winter and year-round residents.

Part of my time has been focused on keeping the boat systems functioning. Prior to getting here, I finally bit the bullet and bought two additional solar panels of the new light and semi flexible variety. They were easy to install, and we’ve spent the entire season without having to once run the engine to charge batteries. Between the solar panels and the wind generator, we also have sufficient charging capacity to keep the electric dinghy motor fully charged.

Our current charging setup

As a new project, I’ve begun to work with bonsais. I’ve bought four bonsais and also bought an outdoor plant to create yet another. It’s a bougainvillea, so it should produce some nice blossoms if I am successful.

A bonsai and one that will become one

One big difference in this year was our Christmas. Instead of traveling north to be with family, they all came south. Sam, Jeremy and the boys came as did Jenn with her friend Kevin, and of course her dog Kaya. We had great weather for the entire visit.

Sam, Jeremy and the boys swam with tropical fish.
A Christmas scene?

Sam’s mother-in-law Veronica and her husband Mark also came for a visit for the first time. Although we’ve gotten together many times, this was the first without children or grandchildren.

Our last visitor for the season will be Jenn for her second time. She’ll be arriving in a couple of days.

Because we have decided to sail to Maine again this summer, we’ve decided to leave Marathon in early April. We’ll stop for a bit in Vero Beach when Sandra’s sister will come for a visit to include Kennedy Space Center. Then we’ll continue north slowly to allow time to visit friends and family along the way. Any readers of this blog who would like to see us (or Maddie) feel free to contact us via email.

We expect to arrive in VA by late May and continue our northern travels in early June, arriving in Maine by the beginning of July.

I apologize to those who would have preferred a few updates during the winter, but I plan to do a better job while we travel.

So till the next blog entry,

Captain Bob

Carpe Diem

First Views of Marathon post Irma

Upon returning to Vero Beach from Brazil, we immediately began to keep track of how things were progressing in Hurricane ravaged Marathon. After a week or two of waiting and preparing, we determined that it was safe to head down. Mooring balls were available, although the divers hadn’t completed their checks. It seems that the route traveling down to Marathon was in reasonably good condition and the ocean weather looked pretty benign, so we might be able to avoid the bridge traffic going through South Florida.

The trip down went extremely well. We missed Fort Lauderdale and Miami by going out in the ocean and continued down through Hawk Channel arriving in Marathon 5 days after departure rather than the normal 6 or 7. Even Hawk Channel and the channel coming into Boot Key Harbor seemed pretty clear with no evidence of sunken boats or floating refrigerators etc. We got on to a mooring close to where we wanted to be and then went in to register and check out a little of the harbor. We saw a number of boats still  lying up on shore or in the mangroves waiting to be hauled out. On our first full day in the harbor we joined an afternoon clean-up crew working along the shoreline and we’re amazed at the number of trash bags and other miscellaneous items tied up in the mangroves. 

 The marina is operating in all ways including laundry, showers, pumpouts, water and dinghy dockage. The outer docks were destroyed, but the floating docks in the canal are now only for dinghies – no large boats in the canal except along the wall.

We stopped in to one of our favourite restaurants and were surprised to see that it appeared to have not been damaged. Then we learned that the palm trees were replaced and all the brick pavers were in the pool, so they too were replaced.

 We drove up to Vero Beach on Sunday to retrieve our car and returned on Monday after spending the night with my sister in West Palm Beach. The drive along the keys was enlightening. There were places where very little trash or debris could be seen, and there were other places where it look like little had been accomplished in the two months since Irma came through. There were piles of debris. There was trash along the roads, trash that included parts of boats refrigerators as well as more of those plastic trash bags. In a couple of places we saw huge piles of organic debris mostly coming off of trees or trees that were cut down because they had tipped over. These piles ranged as high as 30ft and were as long as a hundred yards. 

The trees were damaged, but they are coming back.

Since our return, we’ve been to Sombrero Beach and found it mostly closed. Huge piles of sand are still being moved around. The beach itself seems to be OK, but the grassy parts of the park were inundated with lots of sand.

All of the ground in the photo was grass covered prior to Irma.

The overall status can be described in two ways. For those who were here right after the storm, they find the progress made to be remarkable. So many have pitched in to help. In a way this storm has brought the community together with everyone pitching in to help those  in need. For those just arriving, the damage still visible is astounding. Considering that 150 boats were ripped off moorings as anchored boats and docks were blown through the harbor, it’s remarkable that the number of boats still to be retrieved is down to less than 50, and those are not impeding navigation in the harbor. But even those boats tell a story of people for whom those boats had been home, and are now they are without a place to live – very sad. Some have left while others now live in a motel room. At least one trailer park has been wiped clean. While most stores and restaurants are now open, a number are not planning to open in the foreseeable future.

We traveled down to Bahia Honda State Park now that it was reported to be open once again. Most of the island was off limits, but what we could see told a story of tremendous damage.  There weren’t many buildings there, but a few have disappeared. Much of the island’s foliage was blown away leaving cleared land and a few trees.

This is what the foliage was like by the beaches before the storm
This is after the storm in the same vicinity.
These picnic tables all had roofs prior to Irma. At least this beach is now open for swimming and sunbathing.

We’ve heard that 1300 boats have been retrieved in the Keys, most in the Marathon area. Although we see many large trucks daily taking dibry away, it will take a long time to bring the area back to its pre-storm condition.

All that I’ve shared here should not give one the impression that the Keys aren’t worth visiting. The beauty and wonderful weather are still a treat. Both Sandra and I are volunteering at Dolphin Research Center and enjoying time with the dolphins and birds. 

Blue is one our favourites at DRC.

We look forward to time out in the water and trips to Key West. All of which will be included in subsequent additions to this blog.

Captian Bob

Carpe Diem

Exploring the Rio Negro in the Amazon region of Brazil

We had decided to join our Tai Chi instructor Jeff Pinkus and his wife for this trip to the Amazon six months ago. Since making the decision, we’ve been preparing by reading, getting our visas and convincing ourselves that this was a safe thing to do. We were told that we’d see few if any mosquitoes, we’d be safe swimming in the river with piranha and that we should not worry about all the other strange and exotic wildlife. 

It would be warm. After all, we’d be within three degrees of the equator. But our sleeping accommodation would be air conditioned.  It would be an adventure for us. Of that we had no doubts. In spite of the apprehension, we were excited to make the trip. We’d be living on a boat nearly 100 feet long with 17 other guests. We’d get all our meals prepared on the boat as well. The leader of the trip spoke English, but the rest of the crew spoke Portuguese and could handle only a little English. (Of course their English was better than our Portuguese.) 

We packed carefully and headed for Miami airport after leaving our dog Maddie with my sister in West Palm Beach. We hadn’t been flying for a few years, so all the technology was a surprise. We got through without incident.  The flight left at 5:30PM and got us to Manaus, Brazil by 11PM. The contrast between the two airports was dramatic. In spite of a population of nearly 2 million, the airport was nearly empty. All went well until we got to customs, and we learned that our visas were” inactive”. After a delay of several minutes, they finally decided we could be allowed into the country, since they determined that the issue was a glitch at their end. 

We then loaded into a small bus and were driven to the boat. All went well there, and we quickly got settled in our room. Soon we gathered for introductions of the crew and our fellow passengers and were offered what was described as the national drink. Don’t remember the name, but it included a whole, crushed lime, some rum, sugar and ice – well received by most all of the weiry travelers.

The boat we traveled on for ten days

By the time we got to bed, it was 2AM, so they let us sleep in to about 6AM before our first canoe trip. Most every morning after that we were aroused earlier with the singing of Pavarotti over the loudspeaker. A canoe trip generally happened before breakfast to avoid the midday heat when possible. Because we did most of the traveling at night, we explored a new area each morning. Occasionally there would be an additional daytime trip and on other occasions we’d go out after dark to see our nocturnal neighbors.

Our mode of travel during daily exploration

The trip changed our view of the Amazon. Movies and National Geographic films gave a single impression, but for us, every day was different. We were on the Rio Negro, one of the major rivers that makes up the Amazon. As the name implies, the water is dark and not muddy. In one area the water was more acidic than vinegar and looked red. We saw steep embankments and broad, sandy flats. The shoreline was at times thick with growth while at other times showing little undergrowth. Some trees were not more than 30 feet tall while others nearby rose up more than 100 feet with most branches forming a ball at the top.

Some trees are partially under water even during low water.

 

Some areas near shore remain underwater much of the year, hence no undergrowth.
While other areas appear as classic jungle scene.
The lighter colored bark is termite tunneling. They were in evidence everywhere. But they didn’t harm the tree. They fed on the dead wood nearby.

Another new perspective related to the animal life in the Amazon. Again movies gave us the impression that it was alive with animal noises, and animals and insects would be nearly ever present.  What we found was that, like animals in more northern areas, they hide well and live in specific niches. Our guides knew where to take us, so we saw a wide variety in our ten days on the river. 

Pirahna have small but sharp teeth.

A baby caimen. Black Caimen can grow to 18 feet.

A Tree Boa about 4 feet long

Many birds did not hide well, so we saw nearly 100 different species including hawks, parrots, kingfishers, herons and songbirds. The pink river dolphins didn’t hide much, but they spent so little time getting each breath, that we got no photos. We also saw caimen (alligator family), giant otters, monkeys, electric eels, pirahna and lots of other fish, some of which we ate, bats that were described as the smallest mammal at a mere 3 grams, snakes (no anacondas), a sloth, and surprisingly few insects during the day. (plenty attracted to the light at night). We also saw some spiders and undertook an after dark hunt for tirantulas.

One of the dancers with a necklace of caimen teeth

We visited a few small villages, a town of about 10K residents, and also spent part of a day in Manaus. We found the people in each setting to be friendly even though we couldn’t speak the language. At one stop a group from a tribe way up the river demonstrated examples of their dances. They also offered snacks. I tried the popcorn termites – not bad.

Note that the homes along the river are on stilts even though they are well above the current river level.
Two great rivers, the Rio Negro (black water) and the Solimoes ( white water) meet near Manaus to form the Amazon. The two flow side by side for miles before mingling.

Throughout the trip the boat crew was terrific – helpful, friendly and always seem to know what was needed. Junior, their leader, displayed his sincere love for his homeland.

In ten days we saw a great deal of a very small portion of the Amazon. Although we traveled nearly 300 miles, by looking at a map of the Amazon, we realize that we only touched the smallest portion of this emence treasure. This recounting includes a glimpse of what we were able to see. We returned tired but also having gained a new appreciation for this part of the world. 

Our summer as dirt dwellers

Following our adventure out to the Dry Tortugas, we sailed up to Vero Beach and left Carpe Diem on a mooring, so we could travel north by car to visit family and friends and to do a bit of camping. Before leaving Carpe Diem, we prepared her for a possible storm since this would be hurricane season in Florida. Given last year’s experience with Matthew, we couldn’t be too careful. 

One of many bridges that opened for us.
One way people get around in Ft. Lauderdale.
Maddie was ready for travel!

The next two months went pretty much as planned. We visited with cruising friends in Daytona, family members and other friends in North Carolina and both daughters – Jenn in VA and Samantha, Jeremy and our grandsons in New Hampshire.  Plans only got a bit unraveled when hurricane Irma decided to attack the Keys and the rest of Florida. But I’ll get to that in a bit.

After a short visit with Jenn, we collected our camping gear and headed into North Carolina to visit my sister Kathy and family and Sandra’s sister Kim and her family. We then continued on to Asheville and the Blue Ridge Parkway for a week of camping. 

This portion of the Eastern mountains is really quite spectacular. The parkway travels a series of ridges nearly as high as 6000 ft above sea level, but to do so required the construction of a series of tunnels, making for some interesting driving.


Mountain Laurel was in bloom in many areas at higher elevations

View from Mt. Mitchell

We stayed  first at a state park by a pond, then up on the ridge and finally near the top of Mt Mitchell (the highest peak east of the Mississippi). All went well except for the one night on Mt. Mitchell ( it was supposed to be two). In spite of the heat at lower elevations, we had comfortable temps for sleeping at altitude during our camping.

As I mentioned earlier, we spent one night on Mt. Mitchell instead of the two we had planned. The ranger stopped by during the evening and told us the prospect of bad weather seemed to have diminished, so we should have a good night. (We were out of cell range, so we didn’t have another weather source. The evening was really nice. However it began to rain and blow around midnight. We were at about 6400 feet on the tallest mountain around so little protection from the weather. The rain came in torrents and the wind must have gusted around 40 or better. It was strong enough to blow the rain under our tent fly and into the tent. We gave up and headed for the car at about 5 AM. The rain soon let up some, so we packed up our drenched camping gear and head down the mountain by 7AM.

We returned to Jenn’s a day early and dried all our gear and then headed further north to Sam’s in New Hampshire. We planned to stay for most of August. We also visited Sandra’s sister Paula and brother Scott in MA as well as spending time in the mountains of NH camping. We had a great visit which also included a weekend camping in Maine with Sam and family.

A day at Lake Winnipesaukee with our grandsons

We enjoyed a number of waterfalls in NH.

This spectacular scene of the Presidential Range was shot on the grounds of the Mt. Washington Hotel
After Labor Day, we began our traveling back to Florida. Our first stop was at Jenn’s in VA. This lasted longer than expected since we decided not travel to Florida with Hurricane Irma approaching. We were concerned about our boat as well as our ultimate destination of Marathon in the Keys.
As it turned out the boat was fine, but Marathon not so good.  We waited a few days to be sure that Vero Beach City Marina had power and water. In spite of our expectation that the highway would be crowded with Floridians returning home, the traffic wasn’t bad. The motel we spent a night at in GA, was mostly full of people from Florida waiting for the best time to return. We saw quite a few power trucks and other trucks heading south to refill grocery stores. But otherwise the travel was uneventful.

Once back in Vero, we moved the boat to a slip so we could get AC and have an easier time getting it cleaned up (read mold) and restocked.  We did see evidence of storm damage, mostly in piles of tree branches and a few blow downs. 


Most of that effort is now behind us and we are preparing for our next adventure: a ten day trip on the Amazon River in mid October.  More on that in another blog following our return. We are keeping a close watch on the progress in Marathon via friends who are there as well as through social media. We feel so bad for them but are beginning to be a little more encouraged by how much help is there for their recovery. We still hope to get there this winter, but won’t know for sure for some time.

Carpe Diem

Captain Bob