Fort Pierce

Friday, 11/15/19. Today was another soggy day! I could have split today’s days leg over a couple days but just wanted to get it over with. Even ran into maybe a mile or so of good (actually bad) fog but the instruments made it easy to follow the channel. My destination, Fort Pierce, will be “home” for a few weeks.

Today’s leg was just under 63 nm completed in a little less than 6 hrs. I am docked in a slip at another condo project private marina. I visited this marina by car a year ago. At that time there was a very nice 50’ Novatec for sale which I really wanted to see. I spent three days trying to arrange it through Curtis Stokes brokerage but apparently they had something better to do that week than to sell a boat. Back then, I drove into the marina parking lot and walked the dock multiple times each day before finally giving up. By the time folks got around to actually show the boat I was in Myrtle Beach looking at a different boat. So now I’m back – but by boat, my boat.

Monday I had the boat hauled out of the water and blocked on dry land at Cracker Boy Boat Yard. Cracker Boy is a DIY facility where they provide the haul out, optional bottom pressure wash and space for the boat to be blocked while being worked on. The space includes a power pedestal so the boat fridges etc can continue to operate. Unfortunately the heat and air conditioning need raw water to function so they are not operational. For work you don’t want to do yourself, that’s me, the yard is semi ringed by small bldgs etc of independent contractors who you can independently hire or you can also hire tradesmen from anywhere.

Cracker Boy Boat Yard, home for the next 3 weeks

To be free of having to accept whoever and whatever a marina sends/says is great and while a typical marina may discourage you from direct supervision (‘insurance prohibits customers past this line’ type of thing) the DIY yard is the opposite – in fact you can live, cook, sleep on the boat, if you wish, so long as you can climb the ladder up to the boat. I could and I did. The yard does keep a list of contractors by trade that they’ve found to be responsive and responsible – really nice if you are unfamiliar with the area.

After hauling, I was pleased to see that the bottom was quite clean and did not even require pressure washing. Based on the diver’s report back in June/July of a badly scratched bottom, I was expecting that the bottom might need repainting ($$$) while hoping maybe I could get away with just touch up. No painting was required!

The hull and topsides were severely oxidized and there were some areas that were marked up from docks. There are also some areas of fiberglass cracks at stress points (some cleats), some age related minute spider cracks and a couple of pitted areas. Water can intrude at these places and water under the fiberglass is a severe enemy. Some prior repair had been done without proper bonding and was chipping and flaking off. Some prior ‘repaired’ areas had paint that was not matched well and had lots of orange peel. So I hired a company that does fiberglass work and detailing. The glass work will be fixed. The boat will be compounded from top to the waterline, from front to back, first with a cutting compound followed by a second round of a more medium grit and a third round of a fine polishing grit before then being completely waxed. The crew started the morning following the haul out and has been there from 7am to 4-5pm, 6 days a week for nearly 3 weeks. Most days it was two men and some days 3. What a difference it makes to have the boat detailed.

Work starts on Last Resort

I also had Island Electronics (the company that installed the new electronics last May) install a new through hull depth finder transducer since the boat was now out of the water. The boat has never had a thru hull finder before. Until now, the transducer was located physically inside the hull and ‘shot’ energy through the hull. I was nervous watching them drill a 3” round hole in the bottom of the boat for this new transducer to go in and physically have contact with the water. Supposed to be more reliable and accurate. I was also 2 software releases behind on the chartplotter so after updating, they calibrated the transducer to display depth under keel.

Also done while out of the water was replacing all the external sacrificial zincs (will replace the engine, tranny and genny zincs when in Marathon), rebedding a 6’ section of run rail and some other small items. Both props were a bit loose and the port side had lost the cotter pin behind the jam nut. So both props were tightened down etc.. And while staying aboard but not having to travel, I sanded down and refinished some pilot house interior woodwork.

Staying aboard In an active boat yard was interesting. Boats of all sizes and styles being hauled and others launched everyday.

One morning this commercial tug come into the haul out well and the Travel Lift rolled out. The captain apparently understated the tug’s weight and as the Travel Lift started to lift, the over weight alarms went off. The tug was lowered the six inches back into the water and the tug departed.

I got to see boats being literally totally being rebuilt while others had just the bottoms painted. Watched props being taken off, new shafts installed and the yard crane taking an engine out through the cabin door while another boat receives a new engine being dropped in via the cockpit.

When Last Resort is returned to water, it’ll be time to change the engine and transmission fluid and filters. Intend to do that in Marathon and without a mechanic for the first time.

I also took a dreaded (I hate flying – the 2nd best place to get sick right after a hospital) flight north to cold northern VA for Thanksgiving with daughter Vic, Jon and grandkids. Enjoyed the holiday and of course Thanksgiving dinner, thank you. Grandkids arrived from southern VA, Oklahoma and Minnesota. And then, after a 3 am Saturday wake up, it was over and I joined a multitude on the flights back home to the boat. The airports were sure busy Saturday and I was happy to get back to a holiday-quiet boatyard. And yes, I’ve had a horrid head/chest cold ever since I got back.

The crew finished their detailing on Friday (12/6/19) afternoon but the yard’s scheduling for splashing boats was already full for Saturday so I did some reprovisioning in anticipation of a Monday morning splash. The weather has warmed back up a bit so the last couple of nights have been more comfortable for sleeping. I think there were 4 or 5 straight nights of temps in the low 40s and without heat, it was a bit chilly sleeping. Guess the head cold I got should not be surprising.

Saturday night, feeling crappy, I headed to my bunk early only to hear loud noises shortly after. Very unusual as the yard is like a morgue at night. As far as I can tell, I and the guy next to me are the only two who stay on their boat – he’s been here 70 days rebuilding his bow pulpit and will also be relaunched on Monday. So I got in my sweats and went out on my bow. There were dozens of cars in the lot and young rag muffins running all over – even using the big straps on the boat hoist as swings. Doesn’t today’s generation have any sense of control over their kids? Let me answer that. There was a car parked in the narrow passage between my boat and the boat on the other side of me (where you see the scaffolding in the first repair picture above). There were kids running and playing ‘tag’ under our boats. Then another carload came and tried to park their car in the same narrow passageway.

Ever the ogre and not thinking anyone of those folks could begin to pay for the damage they could do if they only hit one of the blocks holding the boats up, I told them to move. The guy got very argumentative and I thank his wife for calming him down and convincing him to park elsewhere. Not sure where security disappeared to.

So my neighbor and I were on our respective bows and he told me that the Fort Pierce Christmas Boat Parade was supposed to come into the basin between Cracker Boy and the very busy Harbortown Restaurant across the basin. I abandoned my plan for an early shuteye, opened up a seat on the flybridge and awaited the festivities.

Am guessing, but perhaps the story got around down by the dock edge because maybe a half hour into the wait, 4 kids came near the boat and called up to me that they and their parents were going to go get some meatball subs and would I like to join them. I didn’t but appreciated the gesture.

The parade consisted of about a dozen or so boats most of which were modestly decorated. One of the better boats was probably 24-26’ with a sleigh fashioned in the stern and white reindeer rising up over the bow. The captain, I think, had imbibed a bit for he seemed rather reckless in crowded quarters on a dark nite. The star of the show was a three story tug boat that was festooned with lights and music (and loud horn). I enjoyed watching it and getting some pics from my perch on the flybridge. It was fun and the yard returned to solitude within 15 minutes of the parade ending.

One last surprise while here was that my niece from MI came down to her place in Nettles Island, about 15 miles south on the Intracoastal, and called today so got to have lunch and a nice visit along the Fort Pierce inlet. Thanks Joan!

Monday 12/9/19, a beautiful cloudless day, the boat was splashed at 11 am. It was so nice to be back in the water and, since the weather is warming up again, it is good to be able to open the through hull to the air conditioning water pump so as to have AC or heat for the first time in 3 weeks.

Off the blocks and driven down to the wet slip for launch. The travel lift is guided ahead or reverse, with turning and with raising and lowering the boat by wireless remote control. The man walking near the front wheel of the travel lift, has a control box with a joy stick hanging around his neck which directs all movement.

Took all of two or three minutes after touching the water to being underway to the Harbor Isles Condominium’s marina for a few days to wait out some weather and to put the boat back together for travel before resuming the southward trek.

And so, after a month in Ft Pierce, I headed out on a boat with all nicks and blemishes freshly repaired on a shiny clean boat.

Short and Sweet

Thursday. This was going to be my last blog post till some time after Thanksgiving or early December. Now it’s not only the last for awhile but it will be short. Seems like after my voyage from Daytona Beach to Cocoa Beach, instead of stopping the voyage on NEBO, the mapping/tracking program I use, I tapped on the Delete icon instead of Stop. So the program dutifully deleted the log. So I’ll substitute a screenshot of my nav chart with all the planned waypoints.

Total mileage for the day was just over 60 nm over 5.5 hours. Found a slip at Cocoa Village Marina associated with a cond development in Cocoa Beach. Another grey day. Finished it off with a dinner of Bangers and Mash at a English style pub a block away

Off to the Races

Well no race but off to Daytona Beach. With one exception, it was an easy calm travel day. About 10 miles south of St Augustine I came to Mantanzas Pass.

There have been reports of dredges working the pass over the past month plus. Literally not a day goes by without reports of numerous boats going aground. In addition to severe shoaling, the channel, such as it is, is narrow. This is complicated by the fact that there are 3 dredges working plus 3 tugs all of which take up what channel there is. It’s a game of Dodgem. The captain on the main dredge is helpful — if only he was understandable. The directions for southbound traffic was to head starboard to the western bank and when you get to the bow of the dredge, hard to port and cross right in front of it and immediately past it, head starboard again right along side the dredge – like close enough to shake hands with the dredge operator. The problem has been the boats can’t turn fast and close enough and are too far away from the dredge. So I’d been dreaming, bad dreams, and dreading this pass for a few days.

By this morning the dredge had moved a couple hundred feet And one of the little tugs was deployed at the corner to force your turn. That plus timing to go through within an hour of high tide made the passage easy. Whew!!

Someone’s hand drawn description which was posted last night As a help to cruisers. Apparently the poster did scrape bottom. It was a helpful in building a mental picture.
The diamonds hoisted on the dredge tell you that is the safe side to pass. “Diamonds are your friend”. In this case the diamond side, though ‘safe’, was crowded.
Could almost shake hands on one side of the boat and put it aground on the other side.
Out for a nice dinner on a deck over the water

Wednesday was a horrible weather day. Rain started Tues night and it turned cold and very very windy. The wind came straight out of rhe north and down the ICW slot. I was on the inside of the outer face dock, no break wall, with the stern directly facing north. The waves, and yes there were waves and whitecaps came bashing into my stern. The swim platform was almost continually well awash with water. I have a fairly heavy step I use to get from the swim platform to a dock which I place on a heavy rubber backed mat (to keep everything from sliding) on the swim platform. This morning the rubber mat had washed away and the step was washed and pinned against the transom. Oops!

The lousy weather and wind was forecasted to continue all day and the next leg will probably end with anchoring so rather than anchor in heavy wind I elected to stay another night. Comfy day inside and got my laundry done and watched the impeachment hearing all day. YAWN!

Back in Florida and GOOD NEWS

Saturday. A beautiful morning/day. Bright sunshine all day. Chilly – -mother 10 degrees would have been nice but based on the weather in general since leaving Norfolk, I’m not complaining. Another full day running the boat from the lower station. Shortly after leaving Brunswick southbound and after passing Jekyll Island you come to St Andrews Sound – a large open bay with an inlet to the Atlantic.

There are two passages through the Sound. This Spring I took the most used route which on the screenshot above would start at waypoint 15, head westerly to waypoint 5-6 and the s northerly through 3 to waypoint 1. There are lots of shallows and twists and turns which show better when the screenshot is zoomed in. Another route heads East to the Atlantic inlet. It’s more straight forward and deep water but far more open to the ocean. I elected this second route today and you can see my blue dotted line of my actual track. You can see from the northern most point of the route where it diverges from waypoint 1, that the route is progressively exposed to more open ocean until it does a sharp 120 degree turn back at BST04 waypoint. The winds were out of the north and the current ran heavily from the south – building waves the entire way. Mostly ran 5-6’ and breaking but the boat handled it well. I haven’t found any report on the sites I frequent of anyone actually having run that route. My opinion is that it was easier. At BST03 waypoint you can see the yellow triangle with the warning “!”. The pop up window for that warning says:

So the trip today was 57.5 nm covered in 6 hrs 20 minutes. I found a vacant spot along Sisters Creek free docks on the north side of Jacksonville, FL. It is exactly as advertised. A floating face dock next to a public launching ramp that can accommodate a half dozen or so boats. No water, no power, no dock hands, no reservations, first come first served free tie up. I took the last spot. Turned on the generator, plugged in the InstantPot and made up a mess of home made chili. Delish with 2 more meals packed and in my new freezer. (The boat came with a portable Dometic freezer that was set in the Pilothouse. there are two under counter sub zero frig/freezers in the galley plus this portable unit in the Pilothouse and an ice maker on the bridge. Anyway the portable died in Charleston and two days later, my friend Amazon delivered a new larger portable to the dock.)

Good News

I’ve been trying to find availability for two months in the Keys. I had previously secured a slip for January and this afternoon I received a call back from a marina and now have February covered as well. Woot!

And back to water….

Headed south from Sister Creek to St Augustine, FL. Easy transit. Beautiful day but still a bit of a chill and breeze.

St Augustine, what a great town. I can’t count the times I’ve breezed by with my impression of SA formed from I 95. I think the one time I actually stopped at SA was 21-22 yrs ago soon after we started full timing and we had our 1st 5th wheel. And I got a bad case of PTSD From that. My rig wandered down one of their narrow streets and I knew I was in deep trouble. Then I saw the street stop and it appeared that I’d not be able to cut the corner. The choice was one. Back the rig back down the street a couple of blocks to a major intersection. Sharon got out to block traffic and direct me. Finally a cop arrived and blocked the intersection so I could ‘escape’ and escape I did, totally humiliated and never to return again by vehicle. And so I triumphantly return by water.

The current was really running strong and I had a short wait at Bridge of Lions until it opened for me and the 3 sailboats. On the north side of the bridge is a very large mooring field (where floating mooring balls are anchored to the bottom to which you can tether the boat. This is a favorite anchoring way for single screw boats to hangout without having to dock with or against the currents. Immediately south if the bridge is the St Augustine Municipal Marina followed by another large even mooring field.

I received my slip assignment and direction by radio and after setting up for a stern in, starboard side tie, I proceeded to dock. It went easy though room was tight for spinning to back in. I’m 48’ long and the fairway, open distance between opposing docks, was showing only 36’. It was more and I think they post that so the captain doesn’t fall asleep. I know I stayed alert.

Hooked up to power and the dock power pedestal immediately blew a breaker. Kept trying to no avail. Let out motor cord and tried a different pedestal with no luck. Everyone said it was the new style GFI sensitive pedestal mandated for new marinas of ‘remodeled’ one several years back. Having had the boat retired last April and having been at numerous new installs this summer and never having tripped before, I didn’t or do think so. Checked all the usual suspects – on board tripped GFIs etc. resorted to turning of all boat circuit breakers, plugging in and turning breakers on one by one to find the culprit. It was the breaker for one of the galley fridges.

So everything was OK? Nope. ~ settled in and discovered that no electric plugs on the main level work.. flybridge plugs are fine. Engine room plugs too as are the plugs in the lower staterooms and heads. With salon and galley plugs dead, there’s no power to the salon TV, to the micro or the 2 fridges and the new portable freezer. Electric range was OK. Had to dump the fridge perishables. Ran an extension cord from below stateroom up to the portable freezer and got out the old ice chest/cooler for some new supplies. Another boat gremlin 🤬! Have some work scheduled already next week so will add this to the list. Guessing only receiving one leg off the 50amp circuit but concerned cause that should go away on generator but it doesn’t. [edit – Pluged in at the next Marina today and all was OK. Despite their protestations, their loose fitting plug was only connecting one leg 😄😅

The marina, in addition to its mooring fields, is quite large and filled pretty much with transient vessels. Very busy with lots of boat watching. Right across the narrow street from it is old town St Augustine. Restaurant and art gallery Mecca. Really cool town for walking.

View from marina lawn
Very typical old town street
Lions Bridge. Usually see the drawbridge function from the water
Looking back down the dock. Last Resort is about 1/2 way down. They use the first 3 or 4 pens, both sides of the main dock, as a dinghy dock. Boaters in the mooring field can dinghy in and tie up to fill water jugs, go get groceries, get breakfast, lunch or dinner, walk the dog or go sightseeing. This is one side of the dock and is relatively empty.
And looking, from the same spot, back towards town

South to Brunswick, GA

Shoved off this morning on another dreary day. Enough already! Never saw the sun till mid afternoon. Went through a number of areas known for shallow, narrow shoaling water, most notably Hells Gate. My depth sounder has decided to quit so it showed 19.3’ of water the whole way while the chart plotter showed the entire width for 5 miles in a deep red color – extremely shallow. I traced, slowly, Bob423’s route and emerged from the south end unscathed. The run again today (Thurs) was over 7 hours and my longest single day distance yet. At ICW speeds and curves and switchbacks, that was a long day.

I’m sure most or all of you have heard about the “Golden Ray”. It was a car carrier that grounded and then capsized in the Brunswick GA harbor a month or so ago. It had 4,200 new cars in the hold. It is still there big as life. They are erecting, or going to erect, a steel wall/dam around it. Then they will pump the water out of the entire area. Once the ship is no longer ‘in the water’, they will cut the ship apart with torches and remove it section by section. Suggest you all beware of bargain basement priced Kias and Mercedes next year. Brunswick is the host of 40 overseas car carriers per month with some carrying 8,000 vehicles. The pic below does not do it justice.

Interesting, pretty vessel at the entrance to Brunswick Landing Marina.

Friday turned out to be lousy weather as well so I extended a day and spent some time getting chores done.

South from Charleston

With a relatively long day planned, I left the dock early, or at least early for me. It was an easy run but slow due to many shallow spots and continual course changes and switchbacks. It was also cold. It was after 1 pm before I ventured up to the flybridge and even then it required a good jacket.

I barely had time to take a nap upon arrival in Beaufort SC before it started to get dark. What a bummer! Maybe we need to reconsider moving the clocks back.

Nothing shakin going on in Beaufort so it was early to bed. Woke up Tuesday to rain and rain. Decided to head back below to continue my sleeping. Late afternoon it became pleasant but it was too late to leave and head to another port. Weds proved to be a dry day albeit chilly and completely grey. Saw a sliver of a sunset and that was as close to a nice day as it got. I kept wondering all day if the fog was going to descend but it didn’t.

Beautiful ? Hilton Head Island

First time since owning the boat that I spent zero time piloting from the flybridge. Even ran a couple hours with the generator on so that there was heat.

Was planning on stopping at Savannah but since it was not even 1 pm when I hit Savannah, I decided to just continue on. Found another marina about 20 miles further south at the southern end of Skidaway Island. The entrance to Delegal Creek and the marina was a bit counterintuitive. You could see it but the way to it was a bit convoluted. By phone, the marina assured us to follow the markers and not to pay attention to the charts. I did but watched the charts as they showed the boat going across dry land. A post or two ago I mentioned that NOAA basic charts are sometimes dated. The last charting showing that dry land was 1976!…And apparently the Corp of Engineers hasn’t surveyed since.

Anyway, following the markers was the trick. The marina is excellent! The dockhand was great. The area is a chichi area (wrong word since the pretentiousness isn’t there) and very typical Georgian Coastal. The marina was destroyed by Hurricane Matthew (2016) and has been totally rebuilt. The area reminds me of Jekyll Island, Hilton Head, or Amelia Is., FL.

The weather was starting to brighten when I headed to Publix.

Borrowed the golf cart and did the 6 mile round trip to Publix to ‘touch up’ the perishables before returning to the boat for leftover spaghetti. BTW, last night I made the spaghetti in the instant pot pressure cooker. All made together in one pot and under pressure for 8 minutes. Seemed strange to just layer uncooked spaghetti over the ground beef with sauce covering and no stirring. I think it was the best spaghetti – home cooked or restaurant. It was fabulous.

So I’m now back in GA and have traveled a little more than 2,250 miles since leaving the Sarasota area.

Isle of Palms to Charleston, SC

A very short travel day done, for reasons explained below, at super slow speed. I will remain in Charleston for 9 days.

Leaving Isle of Palms
Dredging south of Isle of Palms

Being a Saturday, I wanted a reasonable start to miss some of the crazy weekend traffic and afternoon rain (which didn’t materialize till 8 pm). But I didn’t want to arrive till noonish or after to minimize the heavy fast current (2.5 knots) at Charleston’s City Marina. Slack tide was to be at 1:39pm. The ocean inlet is only a few miles east and there are numerous rivers at Charleston with currents ebbing and flowing. So this run was by far the slowest that I’ve done and even so I burned an extra 45 or so minutes waiting til 1 pm to dock.

The City Marina is very large in every way befitting a major harbor. It has over 15000 lineal feet of docks and the country’s longest transient floating fuel dock. In the picture above you can see Last Resort correctly positioned on the inside of what is named The Mega Dock. The walk from Last Resort to the cross dock and then to shore is 1/2 mile. Did I say I get more exercise boating than I did living in the condo? Anyway, they can fuel from every foot along the whole length, both sides, of this massive dock. They berth boats on both sides of this face dock. When the dock is busy, as it is now, you are assigned a space along the dock and if the boats in front and behind are already in place, you need to exercise your parallel parking skills to get into your space.

The space in front and behind me were already occupied so I had to shoehorn my 50’ into an empty 60’ slot. I was glad it was nearly slack tide. All went well – EZ in. Quite different from last Feb when I bought Last Resort and it took a full month to work up the courage to take it out of the slip. This boat is sooo easy to maneuver, knock on wood.

After taking my post-docking nap 😃 I came up to the salon to find the sun disappearing even though it was only mid afternoon. The empty slot on the outside/across the dock from me was getting A new occupant And blocking the sun😄. The low cabin 70’ sailboat fueling across the dock was now gone and a larger vessel was going to dock for the night. So as to not be obvious 😂😂😂 (docking is always a spectator sport) I went up on the flybridge to watch it dock.

It” was 154’ and the slot was barely 165’ and the current was now ripping. The captain missed, significantly, on his first try. Having taken stock of wind and current, he did a 360 and tried again.

It” aka “EXCELLENCE” coming in to dock.

He succeeded. The loud sound you hear, in the video, over the wind is the vessel’s bow thruster motor (engine?) being worked overtime. Towards the end of the video you will see that the captain got his stern within 2’ of the bow of the 75’ green charter catamaran in order to have room to swing the bow in. 10 crew members and 2 marina dock hands and no panic. If I owned and had been on board the cat, I would have panicked.

Most every boat along this dock is 60’ or more. There must be well more than a dozen exceeding 100’. And then, at the end, is a “Bigger It” – one at a mere 250’. It’s beam is 44’ – only 4’ less than Last Resort’s length. ‘Bigger It” is aka “BELLA VITA”. When I walked past it this evening I surreptitiously peeked towards the lower aft deck windows. There must be at least 60’ of aft length inside space filled with two big power boat runaboutS, pwc’s and other toys. The 100’ sport fish with immense tuna tower, docked next to it, looks tiny in comparison. I found it curious that there were no power cords running to these two mega yachts. The marinas apparently do not have enough power capacity for them (despite large movable mega yacht power booster ‘carts’ scattered along the dock) and so these boats use their own generators. Not even a whisper of sound from the generator! Incidentally, the ‘ Bigger It”, a Lurssen yacht, is available for charter for a mere $650,000 and change per WEEK (includes crew and towels😎, I think).

It’ decked out with white LEDs at night with another large yacht in blue at its bow.
Bigger It’ (white lights) with large 100’ sport fish (blue LEDs) decked out in evening finery
It’ to the left of the dock and ‘me’ (with the rear cockpit white light) on the right side of the dock.
This is a bow shot of the “Bigger It” aka “BELLA VITA”. 250’ of beauty. At the stern they have their boarding ladder running down from the gangplank to the dock. At the bottom they have person(boat)alized carpets with seating and end table on the dock. This morning when I walked past, a crew member was vacuuming the dock carpet. I requested that my boat be next on their cleaning list🤣. Don’t want dirty shoes on my ladder and gangplank either.
Bella Vita stern
Don’t know if I can portray the size of these fenders/bumpers. This is 12 foot long. They have longer ones that are less fat
Line of mega yachts. Four pictured here are part of more than a dozen 100 footer + here. None of these four are ‘It’ or ‘Bigger It
80’ speedboat
Powered by five 627 hp each outboards. Retail price PER motor is $90,000. 3100+ hp, 80’ enclosed center console boat and you can’t even fish off the stern!
When the dual 100 amp power isn’t enough, a booster comes in handy. See the plugs at the front. And when these aren’t enough, run your generator!

It’s been 3 days here in Charleston, so far, and weather has been deteriorating each day. Not nice enough to go sightseeing. Will be here for a half dozen more days (crew needs to fly north for a doctor’s appointment) so hoping weather gets better as I’d like to see a bit of the city.

Meanwhile I haven’t been wasting time. Over the past couple of months, have been researching marinas in the Keys for part of the winter. I’d also like to cross over to the Bahamas for part of the winter. Finding a place in the Keys hasn’t been easy.

I don’t want to move every day and most marinas from the middle keys to Key West seem to have repeat seasonal visitors – sort of like all of FL in the winter. Plus most marinas, it seems, lease their under water bottom from the state (vs owning your parcel of LAND and then excavating your LAND to dig a marina on YOUR land in which case you own the bottom). So most lease bottom right from the state and when dealing with a government, everything is screwed up. The leases, it appears, limit those marinas to having mariners stay on board their vessels for no more than 7 days per month. That’s a problem when you are living aboard. I find it hard to understand a state that has the country’s highest tourism budget but then discourages wintertime stays on a boat – all because there are some former live aboard boats which, after hurricanes, have become derelict and a blight on some wealthy, politically connected contributer’s visual horizon. Rather than addressing derelicts and budgeting for removal, just make the boaters move. Off soapbox. So anyway, it’s been a problem.

So yesterday I saw a post from a boater who was enjoying a 3 day stay in a marina in Marathon – my #1 choice of Keys – a stay obtained as a door prize at a northern trawler rendezvous. The boater was raving about it and I hadn’t heard of the place before. A little research showed it was primarily marketed as a gated resort community of new homes built as a rental alternative to a hotel. It was started in 2006 but the real estate turndown bankrupted the developer well before he finished. An unusual project, it languished incomplete til acquired by an investment group in 2016. It took 2 yrs to complete including a marina and so 2018 was the first season. The resort is still working on developing its clientele.

Finding the explanation to make sense, I contacted them and they returned my email inquiry with a phone call with 30 minutes. A major departure from a Keys marina tradition of not returning inquiries for days, if ever. I was told they had good and bad news. Good news – they had availability for me for both months. Bad news – under the terms of their lease, as a brand new marina, with the State, I could only live aboard for 1 month. Moderating news – they are changing their company documents which should allow them to have live aboard for 2 months and expect the entire process complete within the next two months. Would I like to take a chance?

After conversations over two days, I decided to take the month of January. The resort agreed that if the 2 month live aboard was approved, I would be able to extend in that slip for another month – in effect renting that slip in Feb to anyone else would be off the table unless I agreed. I would continue to look for a slip for Feb and if I found one I’d release them from their Feb obligation Immediately and if I changed my mind and decided to just go to the Bahamas or elsewhere earlier, I’d similarly release them. So I have a place to stay in the Keys and not just a place but a spectacular one. Hopefully I will have a signed agreement today. More on that in future posts.

I received an email asking some questions about navigation charts. I’ll try to answer here, based on my limited knowledge, on the assumption it may be of interest to others.

So what do I have?

Decades ago, when boating on Lake Michigan, I used paper charts. I think that’s all that was available. There wasn’t much more of a need than a chart being updated every 5 or 10 years as Lake Mich didn’t shoal that much and was not subject materially to tides. One just needed to pay attention to weather and, back in those days, watch out for an Ark filled with animals. The marine charts I was and am familiar with are produced by NOAA.

Speaking of today, they make thousands and thousands of changes and corrections during the year but produce the printed chart available in marina stores etc only once per year. So a chart segment printed last month can be out of date this month due to the effects of a bad storm. Printed charts can be obtained in the interim ‘On Demand’ from special sources. Paper charts are expensive and cumbersome – paper charts take storage room. Hello charts in bits and bytes!

So what do I have/use? I have a hybrid – like a layer cake – and it’s available on multiple sources.

I also use an app called Aqua Maps which is downloaded on my iPhone and my iPad. It has the same info as the basic charts. What it also has is, for an enhanced modest subscription fee, more features.

I choose to have my basic NOAA electronic chart via my chartplotter furnished by Garmin. It can be updated annually or by subscription anytime. Garmin adds the thousands of correction & updates but only furnishes them on demand if you pay. These basic charts show the oceans, lakes, rivers with depths, obstructions, markers, buoys, lighthouses, shipwrecks, mariner notes etc. The Garmin electronic version has a magenta line to follow mid channel and an iconic representation of your boat’s accurate gps position on that chart. The chart and your boat scrolls as you move like the little car and map does on an car gps. Also added are icons for marinas, anchorages etc which, when you touch them, expand to a drop down info box (user ratings, available services, up to date fuel prices, dockage fees, phone numbers, depth, navigation tips etc.

While NOAA is tasked with, in the US, the basic charting, the US Army Corp of Engineers (USACE) is charged with maintaining navigable depths in harbors, designated inlets and the ICW. They also maintain the country’s locks. The US Coast Guard has the responsibility for placing and maintaining in place buoys and day markers. Yes they do move or get destroyed occasionally. So the USACE surveys/sounds the waterway for shoaling and depths quite frequently and they map their findings. Aqua Map acquires the maps that show shoaling and as part of their extended subscription allows the user to download the color coded USACE map and overlay it on top of the Aqua Map basic chart. There is generally an updated overlay along the east coast ICW each day or two. I can send the updates to my laptop and from there download to a SD card which then can go into my Garmin card reader and transfer to my main chart plotter.

But the layering is not finished. I also use info from another online source – a sailboater who maintains a blog and a Facebook page under the name Bob423. He travels north each Spring from the Jupiter FL area to the mid Chesapeake area and reverses it each fall. When the USACE determines that an area needs dredging, it draws up a detailed plan‘ how deep, how wide, how long, and at what headings for each segment. USACE monitors the dredging contract to determine that it is exactly performed. So Bob423 gets copies of all the contract specs, plots a projected course to take advantage of the new dredging and overlays it over the USACE AquaMaps chart.

Those too can be imported to a card and downloaded to my main chartplotter. Another layer on the chart cake.

Finally Bob423 lays down a track when he runs north and again south showing every little turn he makes and publishes those so one can see what he ran vs what he projected. The track is also published, can be imported to a card etc – the frosting so to speak on top of the basic NOAA chart. Everything he does is available without charge.

Here is the basic NOAA Chart for an area known for shoaling called Lockwoods Folly. Water and depths shown, land area, land areas which cover or uncover with water depending on tide, red and green numbered buoys and markers are shown as of the date in the past when this chart was made.

The first overlay of the same area of the USACE Survey showing the extent of more recent shoaling. Red areas, for example are now 3.5’ deep OR LESS.
Third and fourth overlay. The red numbered line is bob423’s recommended route through this area based on the survey and dredging contract. Then about 10 days ago, Bob423 went through this area heading south and the blue dotted line is the exact track that his sailboat (deeper draft) took. When I went thru this area a few days later, I enlarged this view and the had Last Resort trace the dotted blue line (I don’t have a pic, bit that leaves a black dotted line for my route).

The yellow triangle with the “!” indicates a note from Bob423 which opens with a drop down text box if you tap it.
And here is a part of bob423’s notation from that yellow ! triangle, when opened.

So there is more to traveling the ICW than pointing the boat in the right direction and staying between the banks. Running outside, a few miles in the ocean, is easier navigation, probably bumpier waves, faster but less interesting. Either way can be tiring.

Also while here in Charleston, I took the marina shuttle van downtown for lunch followed by an hour horse drawn carriage tour through the historic area. Some fascinating logistics. Charleston is surrounded by water on 3 sides. Rigid historic preservation is enforced. The city endured two wars, is very earthquake prone and has suffered at least 5 fires of 500 bldg or more destruction size since the mid 1700’s. These beautifully restored still standing waterfront area homes are expensive – as $millions plus. There are 5 carriage companies running on the city’s narrow streets and thru expensive neighborhoods. So to avoid horse and tourist congestion and too much ‘exhaust’ defacated on neighborhood streets, all 5 companies exercise mutual cooperation. First is a 15 second stop for all carriages at a small hut – Control Central. The areas of historic interest have been divided into separate routes – color coded. The driver calls out his/her name, the name of the horse and number of passengers (a head tax is paid to the city). The driver is given a color and that is the route that particular carriage will/must follow. Infractions for deviation, for holding up too much traffic when a cut out is available (a lot of the tour goes thru busy but narrow downtown streets) incur a fine of $1,070!

The horses are outfitted with leather ‘aprons’ behind their tail which funnels road apples into a container so streets stay clean. The driver has a device that looks like a remote control. If a road apple 🍎 misses the mark and reaches the street or if the horse decides that some portion of the street needs to be washed, the driver pushes a button on the remote and it ‘pings’ the exact GPS location to Control Central which dispatches a super dooper pooper scooper truck, funded by the 5 companies, to clean up the scene. I thought it interesting to see how private enterprise works together to keep the peace vs relying on government which would inevitably resort to one of two solutions – ban the carriage tours altogether

or let the crap just stay on the street until evening when residents can be further disturbed, in addition to a daylong lingering smell, by a nighttime clean up crew. The system here in Charleston must work as frequently these southern residents, walking the sidewalks or sitting on their porches, called out friendly greetings to us.

Control Central intersection from which carriages head in different directions
Charleston receives on average an earthquake each year. One, in the 1800s, would have registered a 7.6 on the Richter Scale had it existed back then. The effects of that earthquake can be seen on the steeple tower of this old church. Many old houses that were built before that time and which are still standing have hurricane bolts evident. Holes were drilled at each floor level through the home with with steel rods running through the building and capped with decorative large bolts on the outside. A turnbuckle was accessible inside for each rod and was tightened annually. Many houses are only a few feet from each other and as you ride by, you can easily see ‘waves’ in the building lines and tilting of houses towards each other.
Congregational Circular church (so there’s no corner for the devil)
A fairly typical non downtown, non waterfront street scene. On the bldg to the right you can see facing the camera one of the franchise hurricane bolt ends at the top of the first floor. Following at the same height you can see two more on the side facing the narrow street. Across the street, on the left, the first floor bolts are hidden behind the balcony iron work but the bolt at the end of the steel rod is visible at the second floor ceiling level. Homes from the mid 1800s. Many/most of these homes are built one room wide by several deep With the side oriented towards the ocean to facilitate good cross ventilation of cooling ocean breezes. The bldg side towards the street had a privacy door. Owners often stayed cool inside by removing the excess clothing layers, corsets etc so if the privacy door was closed, the message was “I/we aren’t receiving visitors”. If open, it was “ you’re welcome to come to tea” etc.
There are many half numbers for street addresses. The homes back in the day would have a stables and a kitchen bldg. Separate bldgs were required by law to try to reduce fire risk. These outbuildings often in later years were converted to housing and assigned half numbers for an address.

These are located on Meeting Street – a major street that bisects the town. Again back in the day, ruled by England, the only churches allowed were those of the Church of England. Since others were not allowed, they were not called churches but rather, Meeting Houses and the street that was home to most, called Meeting Street. All the Churches pictured above were Meeting Houses (as rebuilt post fires) located on Meeting Street.
Largest (25 rooms) of the historic homes (very deep) and owned by one man who lives on the first and second floor. His staff ‘readies’ the home each morning for show and it is then open for tours. This and other homes have been settings for movies. When ‘The Patriot” was filmed across the street, trucks full of dirt were brought in to cover the asphalt and sidewalks. A female (I think 🤔) extra was outfitted with a big hoop skirt placed over the fire hydrant in order to hide it. Amongst all the commotion in the street shown in the film, there she stood – stock still.

There is a “Rule of 75” enforced in the the historic areas – if something is 75 years or older, it cannot be removed nor the exterior changed except by the hand of God. Explains why some sidewalks just end at a big tree forcing one into the street before it is recommences on the other side. Also explains why I can’t have a face lift or tummy tuck.
And here’s the beautiful front entrance to the home pictured above. Back in the day, the owner, a jeweler, gave his daughter $75,000 on her wedding day for her to build a house. She did about a half dozen doors down. Her husband was a Tiffany and she would receive a new Tiffany window for the house each year – windows now each valued for more than the original cost of the home. Unfortunately, our route did not allow us to turn the corner so I could get a pic.
And when built ‘new’, exterior architectural standards must Be adhered to.

Another interesting area was the Charleston City Market. It is a 6-7 block long (narrow but long blocks) area which was built with basically open air buildings curb to curb. Kind of reminded me of Detroit’s Eastern Market or Seattle’s Pike Street Market, amongst others. Plantation owners would send their slaves here to provision the plantation and to bring plantation produced products to sell. The northern most bldg was near the Cooper River on the north side of the peninsula and was used in the early days for the fishmongers. I’m slipped on the southern side -the Ashley River. Some 6 or seven blocks away, the southern most building was for the butchers where you could have a cut of beef from a freshly, on-site butchered cow. In the 100 degree, 100% humidity of SC summers, there must have been quite a smell from one end to the other.

One of the open air, block-filling market buildings.
Now mostly filled with artisans
One of the features are the displays of sweet grass baskets which the Gullah artisans weave on site. I was reminded of the many roadside stands along Hwy 17 around Mt Pleasant, SC where these baskets are also sold.

My 9 day stay here has turned cold and daylight continues to wane. Mornings are in the very brisk low 50s with afternoon highs in the mid to upper 60s. Time to start the ‘in earnest’ run to FL now that insurance restrictions vis a vis hurricanes no longer apply. Hoping the weather warms up and winds and rain cooperate.