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Charleston to Vero Beach

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More Charleston

January 27, 2008
by Mary

What 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 coast.



Beaufort, SC

January 27, 2008
by Mary

We 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.

Beaufort 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.



St. Augustine, FL

On 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.

St. Augustine -December, 2007
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Vero Beach

February 1, 2008
by Mary

Got 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.

Vero 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.

We 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.

Christmas 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.

We've 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.

Our 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.

It 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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