The Great Loop Cruise of the Salty Turtle    

 
The Adventure Begins!
 
September 28- October 13, 2006

Provisioning and Starting the Trip
Crossing the Okeechobee Waterway

 


Steve & Nancy on aft deck

Getting her new name

Ready to head north

Steve and I spent the last two weeks provisioning the boat; the first week at the Charlotte Harbor Yacht Club and the second week at the Ft. Myers City Yacht Basin. We made countless trips to West Marine, Walmart and various other assorted stores and finally said enough is enough! Our most fun purchase was a pair of Sun Drifter aluminum bicycles (designed with a comfortable pedal motion for old people like us…). We bought them from a colorful salesman named “Captain Otto”, who owns a bike shop on Old 41 in Ft. Myers, and who sported a live parrot on his shoulder the whole time he was giving us the pitch. The bikes will definitely widen our scope for exploration.

We cast off our lines in Ft. Myers early Wednesday morning (Oct. 11). Several porpoises escorted us as we left the west coast, which we took as a good omen. We decided to keep our first two travel days short. We stopped the first night in a little town called La Belle (home of a guy who sold honey bees to Steve in the 70’s) where we stayed at the River’s Edge Motel / Marina. The second night we stayed at the Roland Martin’s Marina in Clewiston, a town noted for its large sugar cane fields.

Today, October 13, we crossed Lake Okeechobee which is the 2nd largest fresh water inland lake in the United States. It took us close to 3 hours to cross at 8 knots. We had a light chop, but it was a quite pleasant crossing. Wiley, our cat, chose to stay buried behind the main salon settee during the crossing, but that was probably safer than on deck. We continued on to Stuart on the east coast of Florida and are staying tonight at the Harbor Inn Marina. Our first three travel days have been delightful. There has been very little boat traffic, so we have had plenty of time to enjoy the scenery. We saw lots of alligators and herons, a few cows and horses and two bald eagles today. Beautiful waterfront homes are near the towns, but many long stretches of scenic undeveloped land with sawgrass, palms and cypress trees still remain.

We experienced our first locks and swing bridge and went through them all unscathed. The boat is running great and we’re having a ball!


Docked in La Belle
 

Great Blue Heron
 

Waterway Railroad Bridge
 

Waterway swing bridge

Okeechobee Lock

Okeechobee Lock opening

 

    
October 14-20

Stuart to St. Augustine, FL


Dolphins Playing

More Dolphins

More Dolphins

Saturday morning we left Stuart and headed for Melbourne. We were treated to another performance by several lively porpoises who frolicked in our boat wake. One preferred to swim on his back which was fun to watch. I have to smile every time I see these creatures because they always seem to be happy and to have so much fun! They turn on their sides as they pass by the boat and it appears that they are looking up at us and smiling too!

We were headed into a stiff North wind all day, which slowed us down by about a knot. It was a bit choppy, but not uncomfortable. The protected harbor of the Melbourne Harbor Marina provided a calm ending to the day. We ate yummy burgers at their on-site restaurant.

Sunday we decided to try our anchoring skills. We cruised from Melbourne to Titusville (above Cape Kennedy) and anchored just north of the Titusville Bridge. This was my first experience using a windlass with a brake, which will take some practice, but it went fine under calm conditions. There were probably 25-30 boats there for the night, but they were well spaced and quiet, so we had a very pleasant stay. It was nice being “on the hook” again because you can enjoy more privacy and rocking motion of the water than in a marina.

Monday was a scenic wildlife trip from Titusville to Daytona Beach. In the Haulover Canal we saw six manatees which was fun. We also spotted a pair of Scarlet Ibis flying over the Mosquito Lagoon. Lots of Herons and Pelicans. And the porpoises are becoming expected visitors every day. They really like to play in the water churned up by the boat.

Wiley, our cat, vacillates between being cowardly (hiding either under the blanket or behind the settee) and overly curious (climbing up on the flybridge while we’re underway or calculating the leap from the boat to the dock when we’re in the marina). We’re hoping for a compromise. Sunday he ventured outside while we were at anchor and while I was talking on the phone I saw him crouch into position to jump up on the 3” slick varnished perimeter railing. Fearing that he didn’t understand this precarious perch and the wet landing on the other side if he miscalculated, I shrieked and he retreated back down below. Another crisis averted!

We are now enjoying a visit in St. Augustine (10/17-20). This is a lovely city, with lots of interesting architecture, shops and restaurants (delicious Cajun style food at Harry’s and tasty Mahi Mahi sandwiches at Scarlett O’Haras). Lots of history here. We are also catching up on laundry, grocery shopping, and computer work.

 
    

Wiley Cat Stories


Checking out a new marina

Helping steer

After a long day at sea

 

    

Wiley has been quite a good sport throughout this most recent boating adventure.  Each day is something new!

 

During our anchor drill at Amelia Island, Steve came down from the fly bridge and saw Wiley crouched on the aft deck looking over the side with his eyes bugging out of his head.  It was his first close encounter with the porpoises and he was sure that they were sea monsters!  It made Steve laugh.

 

 Most of the time when we are underway, Wiley stays below (inside the boat).  At first he hid under the covers on the bed.  Then he graduated to behind the recliner in the Main Salon.  Each morning, even before we crank up the engines, he generally starts out behind the recliner, but then comes out after a short time to wander around or snooze on a chair. He seems to be adjusting to the engine noise and boat rocking.

 

About one mile before we reach Hilton Head, SC, Steve and I were on the flybridge and Steve said, “This navigation program is acting weird.  Is that cat sitting on the computer down below?”  Sure enough, I went downstairs and looked inside the cabin.  There was Wiley sitting comfortably on the laptop keyboard. He looked at me like “What???” and was quite indignant when I gently removed him and put him on the settee.

 

 If we are in calm water and I can keep an eye on him, we sometimes leave the cabin door open and let Wiley wander around outside while we are cruising along.  He sometimes likes to sit on Steve’s lap and “help” him drive.

 

At the marinas, while under our “supervision”, Wiley occasionally jumps off for a brief stroll down the dock.  He walks very tentatively and tries to be very brave, but so far, all we have to do is yell “Wiley!” and he hightails it back to boat.   A dog barking on another boat does the trick, too!

 

 
    
Amelia Island-Foiled Anchoring Drill

 

October 21

 


Fernandina Sunset

Jacksonville Power Plant

White pelicans

 

 A flock of white Ibis flew overhead as we passed through the Bridge of Lions, exiting St. Augustine.  What a wonderful time we had there!  Headed north, we saw several pink Spoonbills and also some Wood Storks along the way. Around Jacksonville, we saw a huge Nuclear Plant looming in the distance, which gave me a creepy feeling…

 

Then, around Amelia Island we saw 100’s of white pelicans in flocks of 40 or 50.  They were really big birds! We decided this would be a good day to try out our anchoring skills again, so picked a spot recommended in the Anchorage book.  I let out all of the chain, which appeared to be shorter than the length we anticipated, plus some of the rope attached to the chain.  Steve backed down with the boat, and the anchor kept dragging and refused to grab in the mud.  We decided that I should pull in the anchor, but in doing so, the rope doubled back on itself in the windless and jammed  immediately.  Steve had to come down off the flybridge and disassemble part of the windless to release the rope and then we managed to pull the rest of the rope and chain back in the boat with the windlass. Thank goodness this was all in calm conditions, with no boats or other obstacles to avoid! We voted that we should go to a marina for the night and pull out all of our anchor rode for both anchors, mark it in 25’ increments and figure out exactly what we were dealing with before attempting another anchor drill.

 

The only option for dockage within a reasonable distance was Fernandina Beach Marina.  The no-seeums (small bugs that look like little black specks, but have a BIG bite and like to get in your hair and on any bare skin they can find) were ruthless!  The marina was remodeling and had no electric, so we closed up the boat and turned on the generator and AC for the night. Noisy, but bugless! Not one of our better afternoon and evenings, but they can’t all be paradise!

 

St. Simons Island, GA

 October 22-23

 


St. Simons Lighthouse

Shrimpboat trawling

Our navigator

 

On our way to St. Simons Island, GA we passed several shrimp boats, dragging their nets and followed by hundreds of seagulls.  The gulls get confused sometimes and follow our boat for a while, hoping that we are fishing, too.  It entertains Wiley!

 

 We spent two nights at Golden Isles Marina at St. Simons Island and really enjoyed our stay.  The dock mistress, Melissa, was handling the marina single handed and did an admirable job.  She was still tying up boats at 8 PM Sunday night, and then delivering complementary muffins and newspapers to the transients at 7AM Monday morning.  Steve said maybe she made the muffins, too, but I saw the bakery box in the dumpster…  We asked Melissa’s recommendation for lunch in town and she said without hesitation that we should try Barbara Jeans, which was noted for its crabcakes and homestyle vegetable dishes.  We rode our bikes to town on a very nice bike path which meandered through the sprawling live oaks.   We did eat at Barbara Jeans, which WAS delicious and then climbed the St. Simons Lighthouse, which gave us a panoramic view of the area. 

 
    
   

Charleston,SC

October 27-29

 


Rainy day traveling

Charleston home

Carriage in Charleston

 

Friday morning was rainy and forecast to really blow that night.  This was the first rainy weather we’d had the whole trip, so we couldn’t complain.  Steve started out driving the boat from the flybridge (which has clear vinyl windows), but found the visibility better from inside the cabin below since he could use windshield wipers there (glass windshield).

 

We arrived in Charleston mid afternoon and requested an inside dock hoping it might offer us more protection (which it did).  Later that night, boats on the outside face dock were really bouncing in the waves.   While docking, Steve easily turned our 44’ boat 180 degrees in a 55’ space and impressed me!  He LIKES those twin engines for maneuverability.

 

After a long day cruising in the rain, we were treated to TWO care packages, one from Mom and one from Stephanie.  What a treat!  All of our mail is forwarded to a mail forwarding place in Florida and then they send us packages of mail at our request (usually every couple weeks).  It’s always fun to get our magazines and mail from friends and family.  Most of our bills come via internet which expedites things and is handy.                                                                                                                      

 

Friday night the predicted front blew over 40 knots.  I woke up around 1 AM and was concerned about our outside aft deck furniture.  The furniture is heavy and the cushions are tied on, but I decided that maybe we should turn them upside down to protect them more.  Only 15 minutes after moving the furniture, the wind calmed down dramatically, so I’m not sure my worries were warranted.   Steve was cooperative in helping me, but too bad I woke him up from a sound sleep…                                              

 

The sky was clear Saturday morning with still a strong wind, but a pretty day.  I was startled to see 3 plump otters on the dock near the laundry room about 7 AM.  They quickly flopped back in the water when they saw me.  Apparently they are frequent marina visitors at both dawn and dusk, but disliked by the employees because they poop on the dock and make quite a mess.  So much for being cute…Wish I’d had my camera, though.

 

Charleston City Marina provided a free shuttle to the Historic Downtown District, every hour on the hour.  They dropped you off anywhere you wanted to go and picked you up whenever you called.  We made several trips on Saturday and Sunday; once for groceries at Harris Teeters which was a wonderful store and other times to sightsee and dine out.                                                                                                      

The Battery was a magnificent display of old homes on the waterfront.  There are lots of sidewalk minstrels, horse-drawn carriages and black ladies selling hand-woven baskets.  Charleston was a great place to explore.

 
    

Georgetown, SC

October 30-31

Typical shrimpboat

Seagulls following us

Sunrise in Georgetown

Georgetown is an interesting mix of heavy industry and tourism. The two main employers in this community are the International Paper Mill and a huge steel mill which turns iron ore (brought in on big freighters) into steel rods for export. The Historic Downtown District has a variety of seafood restaurants and stores which cater to the tourists, so that is also significant part of the community. At one time, Georgetown was the largest exporter of rice in the United States, but that was in an era gone by.

Michael, dock master at the Boat Shed where we stayed in Georgetown, recommended that we eat at the Rice Paddy for dinner. His sister-in-law was the restaurant night manager and we noticed that the boaters from the other two transient boats were eating there, too… I hope Michael gets a kick-back for the referrals. It was a good restaurant (also highly rated in one of our guides), and we enjoyed the ambiance as much as the delicious food. Michael warned us that we should wear long pants, but jeans were acceptable. It was easy to distinguish the boaters from the well dressed locals. Even on a Monday night, the place was packed. The tables all had pretty lace table cloths and the wait staff exuded Southern hospitality. When eating out at these various places, we generally stick to lunches, but it was fun to “splurge” on this one. I had rack of lamb and Steve had a garlic shrimp pasta. Great salad and veggies, too.

Tuesday morning we were greeted with a beautiful sunrise. We spent the day doing some sightseeing in Georgetown; first by bicycle and then by dinghy. This was our first day to try out our “new” dinghy, an 10.5’ Alliance with a 25 HP Nissan motor. The previous owner rigged an easy system to get it on and off the boat with the davits. The center console configuration makes the dinghy much more comfortable for riding and driving than our previous dinghies. We had a great time exploring the harbor and watching the freighters offloading.

 

 
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