“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain


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Some Thoughts From Our Travels Down the East Coast

As I write this Smitty is anchored in Miami as we wait for a front to pass and favorable weather for our crossing to the Bahamas. It has been 135 days since we left Hingham to head south.  At some point, and I can’t recall exactly when, it stopped feeling like vacation and began feeling like our life. Now things like driving in traffic, sitting at a desk and talking to clients seem foreign while studying the weather forecast, checking the anchor line and monitoring the batteries have become our normal routine. This lifestyle seems more suited to us but we are not sure how we can make it sustainable for the long term.  For the short term we will continue to follow this new path and see where it goes.

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In the time we have been cruising we have traveled 1,852 nautical miles (2,131 statute miles) in 51 days of travel  Only 9 of those days were under sail. The rest of the time we have been motoring slowly south, sometimes even north to eventually go south. But that’s how it is doing the protected water route through the sounds, bays, rivers and canals. We’ve used 292.5 gallons of diesel on this trip. That’s more fuel than we had used in the previous 5 years of owning Smitty and the 4 years we owned Splash combined. But this $702.54 has been part of the cost to see the coast.  We could have gone offshore and sailed more but we would have seen less.  For us this was a one time trip. We may go north again but we definitely won’t do the entire ICW, the Chesapeake, or the Delaware.

We have spent 58 nights at anchor.  Of the other 77 nights spent at a dock most have been free, largely helped by Tom and Nancy hooking us up at Lady’s Island Marina. We have also been at many of the free docks that towns in the south make available to cruisers transiting the area. What we have found is that we are much happier at anchor.  The boat rides more comfortably, even in foul weather. You have more privacy. You can safely swim right off your back deck. The more time we spend in marinas the more they feel like trailer parks. Even today it is blowing 20 to 30 knots with gusts up to 50 knots and I find swinging and heeling more comfortable than the short, choppy action you would get on a dock in these conditions.

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Cruising with Summer has been great but it’s not always easy. We love having Summer with us and watching her get excited to see dolphins swim near our boat makes up for any minor inconveniences. She gives us an excuse to get off the boat regularly and walk to explore the areas we are traveling through.  However, many of the great gunk holes that Chesapeake Bay sailors brag about don’t have any shore access.  People have been allowed to build walls right into the water.  The result is that there is no actual shore line in these areas, just private property or water.  We have seen this same approach in many of the areas along the ICW. That means that there are less and less anchorages where cruisers can get to shore.  When you are cruising with a dog, you might have to skip past these anchorages and sometimes anchor in a more exposed area to get shore access for your pouch.

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This has really made me think about private property vs. public access.  Areas below the mean high water line is considered common land for all to use in most states and by the federal government. In fact I am willing to bet that extensive permitting was needed to construct those walls along the shore. There was even an exhibit about this at the Maritime Museum in St. Michaels that said the public access issue has only developed in the last 20-30 years.  Most locals were able to spend summers exploring the shore and now their kids and grandkids are not going to have those same life experiences.  Access to the water and the shore for the public has been recognized since the Roman Empire. But we seem to have forgotten that. Recently, Florida politicians have reintroduced anchoring regulations that will make anchoring in front of private property illegal because it ruins the view for the property owner. The commonwealth aspects this nation was founded on seem to be getting left in the history books while the wants of the wealthy prevail. But I digress into politics better left to the dirt dwellers.

As we have been cruising, we have been looking for where we would like to live. We haven’t really found the spot yet. The Carolinas was the first place that started to appeal to us. But the weather still gets colder then we would like there. We are looking for shorts year round type of weather. St. Augustine, Florida has some really attractive aspects.  However, there is just something missing. It could be that you still need a car to get around in that town.  I would like to remain carless if possible. From West Palm Beach south to Miami the area is just too built up.  But this area holds the possibility of finding work and being able to jump over to the Bahamas in a days sail. So while no place has hit all of the wants yet but we have absolutely found some places that would be preferable to the cold northeast. I’m still pulling for Saint Thomas, USVI to be our new home but we will see how much we like it there when we aren’t just visiting on vacation.


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Shorts for Christmas – St.Augustine

We spent Christmas (in shorts!) in St.Augustine.  We had heard from everyone that has been how beautiful this city is, but you really have to see it to believe it.  The city kicks it up a notch for the holidays – every tree is lighted, there are decorations everywhere, and carolers, and tour-trains pumping out holiday music complete with festive singers.  I also met my first real-person Christmas tree and Scrooge in flip flops.

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Robert Orbani “Christmas Tree” on sv Sirena

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At night

But there is so much more to this town then holiday festivities – did you know that St.Augustine has the distinction of being the oldest city in the United States?  The Pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock in 1620, whereas the Spanish explorer Don Pedro Menendez de Aviles landed ashore in Florida in 1565. He named the area St.Augustine, the patron saint of brewers. And there are so many good brew pubs here!

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We passed under the Bridge of Lions to enter St.Augustine’s southern mooring field.

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Happy Hours

Happy Hours – specials on drinks and free cigars – everyday!

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We had a White Christmas morning Fog – Florida’s version of White Christmas


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Cumberland Island, Georgia

Cumberland Island is a must-see spot if you ever get the chance (note:  you can only get here via boat but there is a ferry service from the mainland).

Cumberland Island consists of large areas of salt marshes, a dense maritime forest with gnarled live oak trees covered with Spanish moss and palmetto trees, as well as white-sandy beach which stretches over 17 miles. The island is known for their feral horses that roam freely, but we also came across an armadillo, turkeys, a raccoon, and some dolphins (when we got back to the boat). However, we still haven’ seen any alligators.

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The history of the island is pretty interesting, in summary:

  • First inhabitants were indigenous peoples who settled there as early as 4,000 years ago.
  • The Spanish arrived in 1566 and set up shop.
  • Starting in1683, pirates attacked the island and settlements – the Spanish got the heck out of town. Survivors retreated to St. Augustine (Florida) to the south.
  • In 1733, English General James Oglethorpe established a hunting lodge called Dungeness.
  • In 1786, Catharine Littlefield Greene built a huge, four-story tabby* mansion on top of a Native American shell mound. She named it Dungeness, after Oglethorpe’s hunting lodge.  *Tabby is a type of building material made from lime, water, sand, oyster shells, and ash.
  • In 1790, live oak wood from the island was used to build the USS Constitution, “Old Ironsides”
  • In 1866, Dungeness burned down
  • In 1884, the Carnegie family bought land on the island and began building a castle-like mansion on the site of Dungeness, as well as pools, a golf course, extensive gardens, and smaller buildings to house the hundreds of servants.
  • 1929 marked the last event held at Dungeness: the wedding of a Carnegie daughter.
  • In 1959 fire, Dungeness burned down (again)
  • On October 23, 1972, the US Congress established Cumberland Island as a national seashore; the bill was signed by President Richard Nixon. The Carnegie family sold the island to the federal government. With donations from the Mellon Foundation, Cumberland Island became a national park.
  • Today, there is a small private Inn located at the northern part of the island, small houses are  still used for restrooms and ranger stations, and the Dungeness ruins remain.

 

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SUNSET


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Lady’s Island

Part of our plan to head south included meeting back up with Tom & Nancy who are currently living on their sailboat, Sunshine II, at Lady’s Island Marina in Beaufort, South Carolina. We first met Tom & Nancy about three years ago when they were at the Hingham Shipyard Marina (our home port) working on the boat that they traveled across the country to purchase and move onto.  They are two incredible people, with a very interesting history, and had become one of our inspirations to get out here and do this cruising thing. We were really looking forward to seeing them again.  You can follow Nancy & Tom’s adventures and environmental insights at their blog  Tidal Life

The plan was for us to get to Lady’s Island, work on some projects at the DIY shop and then for both Sunshine II and Smtty to head to Jacksonville to be hauled out for bottom painting and hull waxing.  As can be expected when you are staying at a marina for free, with good people and friends, and a great workshop, inevitably, we stayed longer then originally planned but we did get several projects accomplished:

  • rebuilt the head pump
  • rebuilt the water pump
  • doors with screen and window inserts
  • table with storage
  • fixed stern anchor holder
  • organized tools
  • added ensign glass to our connector (thanks to Carol & Dave Brown for their old connector from sv Celebration)
  • helped other cruisers get ready to go (various dinghy and outboard engine repairs)

I cannot say enough good things about Lady’s Island Marina.  There is a large cruisers lounge, nice bathrooms, laundry with new machines, a huge workshop where you can work on your projects, and so much shared knowledge amongst the cruisers, courtesy car, courtesy bikes, canvas shop, grill, fire pit, and well maintained docks.  The people here are the most friendly and helpful that we have met anywhere, especially the Dock Master Steve.  They go out of their way to make sure everyone is taken care of here – including hosting a Thanksgiving complete with hams, turkeys, and oysters.

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Smitty in her *FREE* slip – thanks to Tom & Nancy’s coordination with a friend


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Lady’s Island Marina Workshop – complete with tools and large working area


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Cruisers’ Lounge and Dock Master’s Office


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Dock Master Steve grilling oysters for everyone to enjoy

But our visit was not all work and no play! 

First, we went searching for alligators at a park where Nancy had seen some before…we found none but did see plenty of turtles.

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Next up, Tom & Nancy borrowed a friend’s car (a very nice Lexus!) and we took a day trip to St.Helena.  This area was so different then anything we had seen so far.  It was foggy when we arrived, creating a certain spookiness and beauty to the Palmetto trees that were being assaulted by the surrounding water. St. Helena Island is considered an inland Sea Island and does not have actual frontage on the Atlantic Ocean. The island is surrounded by expansive marshes and is the largest Sea Island in the Beaufort area and is the largest island between Edisto Island and Hilton Head Island along the South Carolina coast.  Located in this area is Fort Fremont, a former military battery which helped guard the entrance to the Beaufort River.  Also located here is the Penn Center, an education, historic preservation and social justice center for tens of thousands of descendants of formerly enslaved West Africans living in the Sea Islands, known as the Gullah Geechee people.

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We topped off the day with a Grilled Donut – what is this you say – Deliciousness!!

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Grilled Donut with whipped cream and rasberries

We toured Beaufort and went to the Shrimp Fest, where we sampled all sorts of shrimp concoctions made by the local restaurants, including: shrimp sliders, coconut shrimp, shrimp & grits, and a Beaufort shrimp wrap.  All were quite yummy. There were also local vendors here advertising their services; I particularly liked these guys:

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Pictures from around downtown Beaufort, SC:

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Nancy & Tom also took us on a road trip to Savannah, GA – Link to our blog post

Our trip to the Fillin’ Station, which is conveniently located next to the marina, was our most interesting trip while in Beaufort.  No one in their right mind would go to this place to eat based on what it looks like from the outside; and it doesn’t get much better when you go inside – but you cannot beat the delicious food – especially for the price – on Fridays, for $12 you get a huge piece of steak, potato, and corn!  This is such a popular establishment with locals that one group got together and built their own deck off the back, complete with two very large flat screen TVs!

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Fillin’ Station – Thursday night $5 pork chop dinner

We made quite a few new friends, including Dave & Lori on Ubuntu, who we hope to catch up with again in the Bahamas, as they are starting a charter there on their incredibly beautiful catamaran, which we had dinner aboard before they left the marina. 

is a very talented artist and he painted the mast and canvas on sailing vessel Ubuntu.

However, I began to get rather antsy (translate to cranky) and wanted to get moving south.  The weather was getting colder and I really wanted to be in shorts for Christmas (in Florida), which was now only about two weeks away. So, after spending about three weeks in Beaufort, we started to head south once again, but this time we took Sunshine with us…sv Sunshine II that is.:)  Nancy & Tom headed south with us for a few days before they would return north to spend Christmas with their family.

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Smitty and Sunshine II (pictured) leaving Beaufort and heading South


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Good Luck

Good luck with getting sponsorship. But if that doesn’t work out, look for used equipment.  About 90% of our cruising gear is used. Look on Craigslist and eBay. If you look around you can find marine salvage yards. But the best buying option for us has been marine consignment shops. You can get brand new equipment at a fraction of the cost. 

Fair winds