Monday, December 16, 2013

The Berry Islands

After a lovely stay in both North and South Bimini, we had a great weather window allowing us to head east to the Berry Islands, a chain of islands and cays lying on the eastern side of the Great Bahamas Bank.  The cays are uninhabited for the most part.  Some are privately owned.  The Berry's are clearly off the well-traveled path and are not for those seeking crowds or organized activities.  For those seeking unadulterated isolation, this is paradise.  

We left South Bimini at 6:50 AM on Sunday with winds out of the south east.  After a six mile run north we rounded the light at Moselle Bank and assumed a 103 degree course through the Great Bahamas Bank to Great Harbor Cay.  We averaged over 7.5 knots for the entire 12 hour sail.  It was a great sail with 15-20 knot winds and moderate seas on the beam.  In other words we flew (by sailing standards).  Unfortunately, with the sun setting at 5:30 PM, we were not able to enter the harbor in daylight.  The entry to the harbor has two stonewalls about 30 feet apart.  It was somewhat intimidating to enter at night but all went well with the support of Tara, Chad, and Kay.  Once in, we wound through a narrow channel to a well-protected Marina.  After a sampling of the Conch fritters and other treats, it was time to call it a day.

Great Harbor Beach
We were pleased to be able to move east as easily as we have.  With the winds shifting to the east and strengthening as January approaches, we will continue to jump in that direction when the weather permits.  This is the challenge of going through the Bahamas as a route to the lower Caribbean.  It is also why so many sailers opt for the longer passages from the Carolinas or north to Bermuda or directly to the USVIs.  That will be for another trip and another time.

Shark by the Boat
For now, we feel we are in paradise and enjoying our visit with Tara and Chad.  Unfortunately, they will be returning to Vermont at the end of the week.  This will mean we have to leave the Berry's and sail to Nassau so that they can ferry back to Florida.  From Nassau we will again look east and head for the Exumas.  We hope to spend a good deal of time there before the longer passage to Porto Rico. 

Thanks for following....

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Atalanta has "Left The Building"

Bimini Coast
Atalanta and its intrepid crew have left the U.S. for foreign waters.  We are excited to say that we successfully transited the Gulf Stream and landed in the Bahamas, Bimini to be exact.  A favorite spot for Hemingway and Adam Clayton Powell.  Prior to our departure we spent three days in Fort Lauderdale preparing for the trip, waiting for Chad and Tara to arrive, and playing with friends Richard and Martin.  We departed mid-day on Tuesday and headed south to Miami so we would have a better angle to cross the Gulf Stream.

Chad and Tara

For those who are unfamiliar with the Gulf Stream, it is a river that flows through the Atlantic at a 3-6 knot clip.  Its position changes somewhat each day.  For us it began about 10 miles off the Florida shore and extended 35 miles to the east.  With the wind out of the east, it was a challenge to get across under sail.  At times we had to use the engine to assist as not to drift too far north.  The sea conditions of the Stream can also be very challenging.  We were fortunate to have a good weather window and only 2-4 foot seas.  It was very comfortable.  We entered the Stream just before sunset and spent the whole night crossing.  Our final approach into Bimini was complete by 9 AM.

We are now comfortably docked at the Bimini Blue Water Marina in Alice
Town.  It didn't take long for us to find ourselves snorkeling in blue clear
The Dolphin House
water.  We saw barracuda, small sheepsheads, and other fish that we couldn't identify.  Tara and Chad were able to find conch shells and other treasures.

Our next steps in the journey will take us to the Berry Islands and points east.  We are so thrilled to be in this beautiful country, exploring and enjoying all it has to offer.  More to come as we progress.
Thanks for following.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Southern Florida and Beyond

Saturn V
Kay getting ready to Lauch
Since Thanksgiving, we have had many an adventure.  It is remarkable how social travel by boat is.  We are connecting with friends of old and meeting new ones regularly.  After leaving St. Augustine, we headed down the ICW to Daytona.  After one night we continued on to the warmer climes and made it to Titusville, FL.

Titusville is one of those towns impacted by the down-sizing of a single employer, NASA.  This little town provided us with a gateway to the Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral.  We spent the day with John and Theresa who were also touring the Center.  We were so impressed and moved by our visit to the place where we launched astronauts to the moon and International Space Station.After our visit to Titusville, we continued south and landed in an anchorage with friends Ken and Francie sailing "Release" just off the Melbourne Bridge.  Here we were able to watch the Space X rocket launch, another thrill to see.  After spending a day at the beach and enjoying the company of Ken and Francie, we continued south.

Saying goodbye to Release, we continued to Sebastian for a short but sweet visit with fellow Mad River Valley residents, Peter and Blaine.  We anchored just outside the channel in the lee of a small island, a short dingy ride to Peter and Blaine's condo.  After lots of food, drink and catching up, we were once again on our way in search of perpetual sunshine.

Blaine, Richard and Kay
Sebastian, FL
We motored to Fort Pierce and exited the ICW at sundown.  The current was strong and the wind opposing resulting in a steep (10 foot) chop.  It was a challenge to enter the Atlantic but once there we sailed through the night to Fort Lauderdale, arriving at 4 PM the following day.  Upon arriving in Ft. Lauderdale we were met by Bristol friends Martin and Richard.  They invited us to a wonderful dinner aboard 11-11.  We can't thank them enough for a wonderful dinner and welcome to Fort Lauderdale.

Now the time has come.  Tara and Chad will join us tonight and we will sail to Miami and then off shore to Bimini.  The non-USA portion of our journey begins and we are excited to see where it takes us.  More on that as it unfolds.

Thanks for following us and we hope all is well.

Murray anticipates getting off Atalanta

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving

Flaggler College
Every year the holiday season begins earlier and earlier and here in St. Augustine it’s no different.  We’ve been on a mooring in this beautiful city for the past week were fortunate to participate in the “Nights of Lights” celebration.  The city, businesses, and residents all go to great lengths to string over 2.5 million lights on every tree and building that they can. National Geographic twice named the event one of the 10 best holiday light shows in the world.  All at once, with thousands in the park counting down, the lights come on for the next month and a half. This is the 20th year for celebration and it’s a wonderful way to bring people together, stimulate business and make this already beautiful destination more so. 

We’ve had both beautiful days and challenging weather. Winds steady at 25 and the chop proved challenging for our little dink.  Nevertheless, we ventured in daily for walks with Murray, shopping, dining, and sightseeing. We motored about 5 miles in the dink (and about 70 years back in time) to Vilano Beach.  The 50’s vintage buildings reminded us of what Florida must have been like in that bygone era. 

Hanukkah and Thanksgiving are being celebrated aboard and our (small) turkey is roasting in the oven. Potatoes, squash, fresh green beans, and apple pie are also on the menu. A pot-luck on the dock may also be part of a progressive meal.  It’s all followed by either a long walk or a nap . . .

We have new friends including Vermonters Ken, Francie, and their dog Skipper who are sailing to the Bahamas on “Release.” We plan to leave Friday morning sailing along the Florida Coast on the outside when weather permits. Our destination is simply “south.”

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Fernandina Beach, Florida

Leaving Beaufort, we moved south along the Beaufort River and Parris Island.  The extensive Marine training facility there graduates 20,000 marines a year. While Beaufort is clearly influenced by the presence of this base, there is far more to this community with its roots in the old South, farming, fishing, slave trade, and shipping.  We strolled the streets admiring the historic homes that have been beautifully preserved and imagining life in an enormous antebellum mansion.  Beaufort revitalized its waterfront with a beautiful park, restaurants, and shops.  Public access has been preserved in a town whose history was dominated by a class system that enriched a few and enslaved many.

The trip down the Beaufort River ended in Port Royal Sound at Hilton Head where we popped out for our outside run down the Georgia coast.  The winds were light requiring us to run the engine (aka Perkins) for 6 hours.  Then the winds freshened and we were able to set full sail for the remainder of the overnight journey.  Vice Captain Kay was slightly cranky when tacking added an additional 8 or so hours to the trip. Murray wasn’t that thrilled either since he couldn’t get to shore for about 36 hours. At sunrise, we were passing Jekyll Island and made the turn into St. Mary’s Sound with Georgia is on the starboard side and Florida on the port.  The forecast called for a gale powered by a cold front scheduled to arrive on Tuesday.  We anchored off of Fernandina Beach for one night and then decided to move to the dock at the marina and weather the nor’easter there.  While winds were high and temps low (still in the 60’s) we explored town and found it to be a gem.

Atalanta At Anchor
Main Street
Fernandina Beach, despite being surrounded by a commercial port and a paper mill, is a beautiful little village with lots of interesting shops, fine restaurants, and good marine services.  When the first railroad ran cross-state in 1850, it began in Fernandina Beach.  

We will leave Thursday (Nov.21) morning for the 60-mile trip       to St. Augustine.  We plan to travel the ICW since the weather will not settle for another two days with high wind and seas on the outside and the inlet at St. Augustine is shoaling and can be tricky to negotiate when the wind and current are opposing. 

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Continuing South ahead of the Winter weather

On November 14th we departed Charleston after spending a wonderful month at the Charleston City Marina.  The weather has been spectacular.  As our Vermont friends are welcoming snow, we have been able to enjoy sunny warm weather…. That is until recently.  The weather in Charleston has turned colder for a day or two as we prep for points south. Charleston has been a combination of family time with Liam, Ben, Amy, and Jason, Rachel, Pat, Lois and Grant and visits from friends.  We have also had the chance to meet new acquaintances and perhaps future friends.

Beaufort, SC
Beaufort, SC

Our next days will take us south.  While waiting for a gale out on the open water to settle, we decided to transit the ICW to Beaufort, SC.  The ICW offers its share of scenery but lacks the beauty of the open ocean.  Beaufort (pronounced BU-FORT) (not to be mistaken for Beaufort, NC (pronounced BO-FORT) is a charming and historic town that is also home to the famous Paris Island (Marine boot camp).  Richard has assured Kay that he has no intention of enlisting while there. Our hope is to sail on the outside for Georgia and enter St. Mary’s sound for our transition to Florida. 
Finally, Kay and Richard have commemorated their time in Charleston,  each getting a tattoo.  Yes mom, a tattoo, no Noah, it does not cover our entire body.  We will now always remember our time in Charleston, always.

Our next post will detail our time in historic Beaufort and our journey past GA on to Fl.  Stay Tuned.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Charleston, SC

It’s been three weeks since we arrived in Charleston, SC and we’re feeling right at home here in our City Marina slip.  We are within walking distance of the downtown historic district, shopping and some very fine restaurants.  Our pace is slow and the weather has been wonderful.

Grant, Lois, Kay and Richard
(Photo by Conrad)
We have been very fortunate to have visitors while here and have greatly enjoyed sharing Charleston with them. Grant and Lois (our future in-laws) came by on the way south for a lovely afternoon of conversation and drinks in the cockpit as well as dinner in Mount Pleasant.  It was great to see them before the February wedding.  Conrad flew in from Arizona to visit family in NC and dropped by for a few days.  Together we toured the historic homes of Charleston, sailed the Cooper and Ashley Rivers, and ate/drank more than our fair share.  It was great to have the time together.
Liam the Hungry

Richard and Martin arrived on “11-11” (an 85' Ocean Alexander) few days ago and docked near by.  We had a chance to visit, share a drink and a few meals as well as the Red Sox victory (which is a tad more important to some than others).  Soon they will be leaving for points south but we hope to cross paths again.

We are a week and a half from the end of our stay in Charleston and hope to spend as much time with Amy, Liam, Ben and Jason as they can stand.  Rachel and Pat will be here for the weekend.  Now that the farm has slowed down, they are able to break away and have a little time in a warmer place.  We can't wait to see them.

We are beginning to plot our courses south through GA and FL before launching off to the Bahamas in early December.  Out course south will include a combination of open water and inter coastal travel.  Each section of the inter coastal has its charm, history and interest.  Georgia tends to be a great deal of grass land, swamps and meandering creeks with a 6 foot tidal swing.  Florida's coast and the ICW tend to be more varied with a combination of populated areas and wilderness.  We are looking forward to it all.

Thanks for following our journey.

Ravenal Bridge in Charleston

Monday, October 14, 2013

Destination Charleston

Cypress Swamp (ICW)
The only lock on the ICW at Great Bridge
While it hasn’t been long since our last post, a great deal has happened.  We ended our time in the Inter-coastal Waterway (ICW) or “the ditch” with a good two-day stay in Beaufort (pronounced bo-fort), NC.  We took a slip at the Beaufort Docks right off the main street of a lovely downtown.  Kay had shops to visit and I enjoyed some very fine food.  The flash-fried flounder at Beaufort Grocery Company was absolutely the best fish I’ve ever eaten!
Downtown Beaufort, NC
The ICW from Norfolk to Beaufort was tedious; shallow, narrow, and a fairly tight channel.  Four days @ 50 miles a day was as much cypress swamp and marsh as we needed to see.  The good news is that since the weather was poor and the trip around Hatteras would have been uncomfortable/dangerous, we are glad we navigated the ICW. 

Richard looking good in his loaner Buick
Roadmaster....when America knew
how to make a car!
Sunday we left Beaufort and began the 40-hour sail to Charleston.  Winds were out of the WNW so we only had one tack in two days.  We sailed 95% of the way, using ole Perkins only to go in and out of harbors and for a short windless period in the middle of our first night.  We passed Frying Pan Shoals off Cape Fear at midnight on Sunday (an area known for challenging weather)           uneventfully.

Monday afternoon provided us with a treat. At about 3:00 PM we were visited by a pod of at least 20 dolphins for about an hour.  They were playful, surfing in our wake, and trying to splash us.  Murray didn’t know what to make of our visitors and barked loudly at them.  While I am sure that our experience is common to others, it was thrilling for us.  What grace and beauty these animals have. 
As night began to fall, we continued to Charleston ahead of schedule.  Yes, Dennis and Sue – ahead of schedule! Averaging 7 knots much of the way is not what we planned for so we faced a night arrival in Charleston Harbor.  The approach to the harbor is 5 miles long, well marked, and heavily travelled by 900’+ container ships. Good radio communication, GPS, and AIS make these encounters far safer and better coordinated than you might think.  Once in Charleston Harbor, we went up the Ashley Channel, passed Fort Sumter and into our berth at Charleston City Marina.  At 12:45 PM, celebrated with a toast and crashed. 
We are looking forward to a full month here in Charleston, visiting family and enjoying this historic city.  We’ve never been a slip in one place for so long and are looking forward to the experience.