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to Vero Beach
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a delightful Thanksgiving feast we had in Charleston!
There were 9 of us for dinner, including Donna and
Dave on Merlin; Sally & Steve on Dimsan, Larry & Beverly
on Chandelle; and Norm on Solidarity. The marina has
meeting and event facilities which include a kitchen
and the staff opened them for us to gather to give
thanks. We had a huge turkey and everyone brought
something. The food was delicious and the camaraderie
made it feel as though we were with old friends.
This was probably the best time we've spent here -
largely due to the easy access to the city. Also this
small marina attracts cruisers like us so we met some
great people. Neal made good use of the library while
I was in Chicago and he found a couple of new places
to eat. We watched football games at a couple of places
but I'll always remember our first visit to Big John's
Tavern. Big John's can only be described as small
and scruffy. It's been there a long time and I suspect
that the TVs are the only improvements made since
the place opened many years ago. It looks like a place
where you'd expect to find a bunch of old guys quietly
drowning their afternoon. Instead, it has a lively
young clientele. We were the oldest people in there
by at least 30 years. The regulars greeted us as new
friends; asked where we're from; and commiserated
on the virtues/faults of the various NFL teams we
favored. We had a thoroughly good time and never had
to pay for a beer.
Another highlight was the South Carolina Aquarium.
While it is not extremely large, it is extremely well
done. It showcases South Carolina aquatic life from
the mountains to the ocean. Each region is shown in
its own context with the exhibits designed to simulate
the region's environment including free-flight areas
for the birds. Additionally there is a well done tropical
exhibit room and a huge multi-story cylindrical tank
that holds every type of sea life found off the local
left Charleston on November 27. Our passage to Beaufort
was "interesting". We were delayed leaving Charleston
because a large sightseeing schooner had tied up at
the fuel dock with its bowsprit half way across the
marina entrance. We finally determined that we could
get past safely but we were getting off much later
than planned. The next issue was that we were traveling
very slowly which would make our arrival at the entrance
to the Beaufort channel quite a while after dark,
so the question was whether we wanted to try to anchor
in unfamiliar water in the dark or slow down even
more - head farther out to sea and make it an overnight
passage to arrive after daybreak. We chose the overnight
option. We'd not prepared ourselves for an overnight
- we were prepared for a 60 mile easy trip. We found
ourselves in 30 knot winds (about 35 mph) and rolling
seas. What a ride! Anything that had not been properly
stowed flew back and forth across the cabin as we
rolled in the swells. Sleep? I'm not sure that either
one of us got more than a half-hour's sleep total
while off watch. All part of the adventure, I guess,
but we should have planned better.
is a lovely city with lots of old southern mansions
and magnificent old live oak trees draped in Spanish
moss. While it has lots of tourists, it does not have
tacky souvenir shops. It does have more galleries
than you can count and lots of real estate offices.
There's a pretty waterfront park with the usual southern
tradition of lots of swings for relaxing and watching
the boats come and go. Many of the restaurants on
Bay St. (the main downtown street) have their main
entrances facing the park and the water. In the commercial
areas, all of the parking meters are free for the
holiday shopping season - a pretty nice gesture on
the part of the merchants. We walked the historic
district on a cloudy day that gave a certain atmosphere
to some of the old mansions. Some are in need of fresh
paint and one had pillars with some of the outer stucco
covering broken off exposing some of the brick core.
In front was a large oak dripping with Spanish moss
that gave the whole place a kind of brooding and slightly
decaying appearance that makes one think that there
are many dark secrets in that house if only the walls
could talk. It's easy to understand how these places
can inspire writers. The Downtown marina has a courtesy
car available for trips to the grocery store, etc.
The only problem with Beaufort is that it is not easily
accessible from the ocean - the entrance to the inlet
is 22 miles from the town and at boat speeds that's
a long ride. We probably won't make that trip again.
But for ICW travelers it is very convenient.
December 2, we headed back out to the Atlantic bound
for St. Augustine, FL This overnight passage was pretty
rolly, but was still comfortable enough for us to
be able to sleep off watch. We stayed a the Municipal
marina again. The park and downtown buildings were
lit for the holidays. We had dinner with Mary and
George from Takes Two who we'd met last summer on
the C&D canal. Herb & Ursula Glover invited us to
spend a night at their home. We had a wonderful visit.
We were in time for St. Augustine's holiday boat parade
- sail and power boats all decorated with Christmas
lights. Some people really go all out. We bought a
wreath to hang on our bow - not exactly all out, but
festive in our own way. Weather kept us here longer
than planned. It was the 10th before we left for our
next destination: Vero Beach.
to Vero Beach on December 11, coming in at the Fort
Pierce inlet and going the short distance north to
Vero. We're on a mooring at Vero Beach Municipal Marina.
There's more demand than there are moorings so boats
get rafted together - up to 3 boats to a mooring.
For you non-boaters, rafting means that you tie up
to another boat - side by side. Each boat is also
tied to the mooring. This is our first experience
with this. We were the third boat on our mooring.
It was an interesting operation when the middle boat
left. Wind and current worked in our favor as lines
were undone. The three boats separated slightly and
the departing boat began slowly moving backward. It
was really pretty slick. The two remaining boats came
back together and we tied up. As I write we don't
have a third neighbor yet.
Beach is commonly known among cruisers as "Velcro
Beach" because people come here and stick around -
sometimes all winter. It is a very cruiser-friendly
town with free bus service that takes us to all kinds
of shopping as well as to the beach. Just about anything
you'd want is withing walking distance of the bus
stops. There's a great Publix supermarket, restaurants,
sports bars, doctors, dentists, vetrinarians, WallMart,
Sam's Club, Target, Home Depot, Lowes, etc. etc. At
the end of one line is a regional mall with major
department stores and all the other chains you find
at malls. It's no wonder that people stay here.
had a spot of trouble here early on. We started the
engine to charge the batteries; heard a strange noise;
and then smoke began coming out of the engine compartment.
The starter motor had fried itself. With no generator
on board we went into extreme power conservation mode
for a couple of days. We ordered a new starter motor
which had to be shipped in. Of course the wind generator
chose this particular time to stop working so we then
decided to get a portable Honda gas generator which
also had to be shipped in because the local dealer
had none in stock. We're lucky it happened here instead
of some remote anchorage somewhere. So Santa came
early for us. Neal got a new starter motor, and I
got a new Honda gas generator - or vice versa. It's
not clear which item was for whom.
dinner was a potluck affair. The person who organized
it collected $1 from each participant which was used
to buy 2 turkeys and 2 hams. Everyone brought something.
The laundry room served as the buffet area. There
were probably 50 or 60 people. The food was delicious
and a good time was had by all.
also been perfecting our dinghy skills. In the past
we've spent far too much time in slips or been on
moorings where there was a launch service to haul
us back and forth so we hadn't mastered our technique
for getting in and out of the dink. Here' we're using
it daily andI I'm finally comfortable climbing in
and out. My next challenge is getting skilled at driving
it. Steering the outboard is not yet second nature
to me and to make matters worse, the speed control
is pretty touchy. Just a matter of practice, I guess.
neighbor on the mooring has an African Gray parrot
who provides daily entertainment. She has an impressive
repertoire of bird calls and various other whistles;
she also talks, meows (there are also 2 cats on board)
and barks. When a boat on a nearby mooring had a yappy
little dog, the bird would bark back at the little
pooch. We enjoy listening when she decides to put
on a show.
is already February. We've been goofing off, getting
some boat chores done and then goofing off some more.
The winter climate here is very comfortable. Cold
fronts bring some very cool nights, but winter in
the sub-tropics is not exactly a hardship. We hope
to finally get out of here next week.
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