Z E N I T U D E
Blue Water Dreaming
US East Coast and ICW (Inter Coastal Waterways) - From Florida to Maryland and back
Ft Lauderdale, Florida to Beaufort, South Carolina
Arriving at John's house - 24 to 26 June 2009
It is possible to go north in the ICW all the way along US east coast but it takes time and a lot of concentration and patience. We've done ICW traveling several times before but we always like to intercalate with offshore sailing so that we can make more miles in less time.
Now we need to get to John's house before the 1st of July. Our boat insurance will not cover any hurricane damage if Zenitude is South of Savannah, Georgia.
We decided to go offshore from Ft Lauderdale directly to Beaufort. Our idea is to leave Zenitude at John's house during the Northern Hemisphere Summer while we travel back to Brazil to fulfill work commitments.
Zenitude docked at John's. It will be crabs for dinner
Beaufort, South Carolina going North to Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina
ICW Mile 536 to Mile 283 - 02 to 08 September 2009
We are back and spending a lot of time getting ready to leave. There is always the last minute shopping. Finally, leaving John's house after many farewells was short lived. Ten minutes later we are back. How could we forget the propellers could be full of barnacles after 3 months at the docks in the ICW waters? Not surprisingly, not only the propellers are bad, the hull has a thick mud made up of mini shrimps!
It was too much to clean there and then, especially in the muddy waters, so Oscar just managed to clean the propellers and we left, thinking that we would stop at a place with clear waters to clean the hulls. John mentioned he has a guy to do the work; we would have gladly paid had we thought about it ahead of time.
Sunset at Church Creek
We kept going and our next stop was at the Isle of Palms Bridge (32.47.58N-79-47-28). Space was tight for anchoring but it was calm and we did ok.
The problem in the ICW is that it is hard and dangerous to travel in the dark and you need to find anchorage with day light. Finding anchorage as recommended in the guide could be tricky, sometimes you arrive to a place just to find a new development and nowhere to drop the anchor. I suppose that nowadays it pays to check using Google Earth before deciding where to stop. Oscar was able to clean up Ĺ of the 2 hulls and when we left we could see some improvement in our speed.
Leland Oil Co Marina
The shrimp fishing fleet in the background
We tried leaving yesterday evening but ended up coming back, the seas were choppy and it looked like an uncomfortable trip.
Entering the bay at sunset and anchoring when it was already dark seems worrying but having been there already helped. Next day we expected to have better seas and left towards Cape Fear.
Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina
ICW Mile 283 - 08 to 13 September 2009
This is a beautiful anchorage, we have internet, a dinghy dock and shops at walking distance.
We are spending several nice days here. The first time we went shopping we walked a long way. On the other side of the ICW bridge and after a long walk we found a big supermarket, a West Marine shop with great deals for shoes and jackets and a huge hardware store.
The following day we walked the other way and found a beautiful beach. The weather was perfect. What else could we ask for?.
This area is really nice, lots of young people from a nearby University. The whole place has a very good atmosphere.
Luckily we have good internet and today we called Veronica for her birthday.
We did buy a lot of fresh shrimps for a very cheap price, which was the objective of this stop, and had an excellent dinner.
Next day, after a short trip we arrived to Winyah Bay, mile 410 (33.15.43N-79.14.98W) at around 2.30 PM. Difficult to understand the currents in this part of the trip, leaving at slack waters we thought we would get favourable currents, it was not to be, the current and the wind were against us. Despite this, it was good to get there just in time to anchor before a front hit Winyah Bay. This is a good place to wait for a weather window before going out at sea. Getting in and out to sea here is very easy, the channel is well marked, even at night, with a good range to mark the entrance.
A shrimp fishing boat in Winyah Bay
Continuing North towards Norkfolk, Virginia
Arriving at ICW Mile 0 - 13 to 19 September, 2009
Leaving the anchorage at first light we made the 7:00 AM bridge opening.
It was a day with several timed bridge openings and we arrived at mile 244, Hammock Bay early afternoon and decided to stay there for the night (34.33.06N-77.19.57W).
This is an anchorage of the Marine Corps of Engineers, the guide says holding is poor but there was no wind and we anchored well.
Later on, 3 or 4 other sailboats came for the night. The entrance to the anchorage looks small but it is easy to get in. The bay is big with lots of space, even when it seems like blocking the channel anywhere you anchor.
Hammock Bay, anchoring at the Marine Corps of Engineers place
At noon we were entering the Palmico River and before 5:00 PM arriving at the anchorage at mile 127, just at the entrance of the Aligator Pungo River Canal. Very nice and quiet, very large and wide anchorage, nothing here, no internet. Lots of bugs though.
Next day we entered the Alligator River/Pungo River Canal, it is a long, long, long canal, but it is easy staying in the middle. After the canal we crossed the Alligator River up to the bridge at mile 84.2 that opens on demand.
After the bridge we came in the Alligator River Marina for fuel and decided staying here for the night. It is a very reasonable priced place and fuel is very cheap.
It is blowing NE and the wind is pinning us against the dock, there is no protection where we are and we are wondering how are we going to leave the dock, but that is tomorrow's problem.
Here we met Caroline and Mat in Savanah, a sailboat they just bought and are taking North.
Leaving the marina dock early morning was almost a disaster. There was nobody to help at that time of the morning and the wind was still blowing hard and pinning us against the dock. We managed to leave without damages, except a little bend in the fishing rod holder.
It was an easy run up to Coinjock where we stopped again for the night.
Coinjock is a very popular stop and the prices are high but the place is nice and the restaurant is superb. The marina gets full pretty qucikly and you have to either book or get there early.
There are no many places nearby to anchor. We decide to stay and enjoy the famous ribb steak at the marina restaurant.
Again, for the restaurant you have to book early to get the ribs and we have already done that!
The funny thing is you don't book for a table, you book for the rib steak!
Coinjock Marina and Restaurant
We met again with Savanah that stopped here for the night as well. Dinner at the restaurant was fantastic, Oscar and I shared the big rib steak and we still ended up with a doggy bag for Oscar's dinner tomorrow.
There seems to be no anchorages from here to Norkfolk so we will try to do the trip in 1 go, the major problem are the number of bridges with timed openings plus a lock with restricted opening times.
Early morning we left Coinjock and soon after we crossed with a very wide barge in this narrow channel, we made a sight of relief as we cleared from her, just to see another one coming behind. There was really not much room. We found more barges in the Sound and then the Pungo Ferry crossed just in front of us, pretty busy area. This part of the trip is a pain, you need to stay in the narrow man-made channel and there is no much room for mistakes. It is a long and shallow sound (Currituck Sound). Ahead of us lots of bridges and a lock with restricted opening hours.
We made the first bridge opening but missed the locks for 5 minutes.
Then we had a 55 minute wait painfully, compensating for current and wind. Then we managed our way thru all other bridges with the bad luck of one of the railroad bridges, usually open, just closing when we were approaching. We had then to wait for the train to pass. We counted more or less 150 carriages! It cost us about 30 minutes wait.
The railroad bridge, closing in front of us
Sailing among battle ships
The sailing town of Oriental
Arriving at ICW Mile 0
Chesapeake Bay - From Norkfolk, VA to Annapolis, MD
Sailing north inside the beautiful bay, the largest estuary in the USA - 20 to 28 September, 2009
Lazily at noon we left Norkfolk anchorage for an easy sail to Hampton.
There are public piers in Hampton and after a bit of struggle with the currents we docked and happily went out to visit town.
Hampton is the oldest English speaking town in the US and it is very charming. It has a good system of buses and it is possible to go from the marina to a very big shopping mall where you can find anything you may be looking for. There is even an Outdoor World (Bass Pro Shop) that we love.
Public Piers at Hampton
Hampton, the oldest English speaking town
The bad weather came to stay. Friday was bad and today Saturday is no better. The forecast is for this weather to continue until Wednesday. Anyway the plan is to leave tomorrow with West winds as later on the wind will turn North. The idea is to get to East Bay, Kent Island in one run.
We left Solomon Island with a strong wind happy to have it in the back with following seas. The bay can get very choppy and uncomfortable and we were trying to get to our destination fast, ahead of the cold front forecasted for the afternoon.
Arriving at around 3.30PM we anchored in Kirwan Creek which is nice and quiet, the entrance being a bit tricky as it is shallow and C-Map shows deeper waters than the ones we found. As this is the time of the year of the famous Annapolis boat show, we decided to stay in Kent Island to avoid the crowds, planning to rent a car for the week. The boat show being the main reason for us to be here.
Annapolis - A historic town, home of the U.S. Naval Academy
Ready for the boat show, the place to buy, sell or dream - 28 September to 18 October 2009
Annapolis, always busy, more so with the
We booked a berth in the K.I.Y.C (Kent Island Yacht Club), rented the car and were ready for the boat show.
Donna and Austin drove from New Jersey and came to Annapolis to meet with us the weekend before the show started. We had a great time, went to eat the famous crabs, walked around the charming town and had lunch in Zenitude, the weekend was over in a split second and it was time for them to go back home.
The boat show starts and we meet Tom, our broker that helped us buy Zenitude. He is well and looks good, same as always.
This first day we visited lagoon and talked with a guy that seems very knowledgeable in catamrans' rigging. He explains he doesn't necessarily agree with Lagoon's instructions of never opening the jib without the main sail. He thinks it is ok to do it when winds are light from behind, just need to keep the mainsheet very tight to act as a backstay.
Doing it all over again, from Annapolis, MD to Cape Canaveral, FL
Sailing south - 19 October to 4 November, 2009
We start looking for shelter, either anchorage or dockage but nothing looked good or available until Coinjock. Painfully we had to keep going not knowing if we would make it before dark. At the end, we just made it after sunset with the little light left. We were extremely lucky to find dockage in Midway Marina, where they let us dock just behind the fuel dock, everything else taken. We found nice people that helped us docking, they were in a trawler, Arcadia, that had earlier passed us. They are from Vero Beach, Florida.
While feeling a sense of relief at having a hard day finally behind we see another cat looking for shelter in the dark, every space at the docks full. A situation we are really happy we avoided. Indeed this is a very popular spot.
It is Sunday morning and we leave Coinjock with good wind from the North, doing about 6.5 knots we arrive at Tuckahoe Point at around 5.30 PM. It is a good anchorage with plenty of room and very pretty.
Scorpion Marina - Cape Canaveral
Zenitude in the dry - 4 November to 12 December, 2009
Scorpion Marina is a very clean, organized and a great place to be on the dry. We are here to do general maintenance, have antifouling done to Australian standards and get Zenitude ready for the Pacific crossing.
There are not many places in Florida that can lift our catamaran and this yard is one of them. It seems that not many people know about it and they did a good deal with us to promote the yard.
We are extremely happy with this place and very happy to recommend it.
Scorpion Marina - Zenitude on the dry
Zenitude goes back in the water but we stay in the marina until we are finally ready to leave. Leaving the marina we go south in the ICW with the idea of getting out to sea in Fort Pierce Inlet. Before going out the Inlet we anchored for the night at mile 920. It is an overnight sail to Fort Lauderdale from here so we leave at around 2:00PM having the currents in our favor to go out the inlet. Winds are light from the east and motor sailing at a good speed we arrive in Ft Lauderdale for the 7:00 AM bridge opening and soon we are in our favorite spot in a mooring at Ft Lauderdale city marina.
There is still a lot of work to do to get Zenitude ready. We get a fantastic mechanic recommended by Austin to do a general revision of our engines. We also decide to change the complete house battery bank with new batteries as the ones we bought the year before in Venezuela are not doing the job. We need as well new anchor chain, but apparently with our European windlass there is no chain available in the US. Instead, we remove the chain and send it for a revamp. Tough work to do at the mooring, loading all that chain in our poor dinghy was not easy. Our safety equipment also gets checked, new batteries for the Epirb and the needed maintenance for the liferaft. And then many other boring things. We decide we will spend Christmas here and New Year in Key West.
Finding a fantastic Spanish restaurant in Miami, we plan for a feast and order more food that we can possible eat. There is a feast dinner on Zenitude the 24th. Oh well, it is Christmas Eve away from the kids, but at least we eat in great style.
Cape Canaveral to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida
Working hard - 13 to 29 December 2009
Christmas Eve Dinner
Finally with our to do list a bit shorter we leave for Key West where we plan to spend New Yearís Eve before leaving the US to start our trip south. Whatever we can't get done here it has to be left for Panama.
There is about 160 miles from Ft. Lauderdale to Key West and we leave early morning. Motorsailing at the beginning until the wind increased to 23-26 knots on the back, we sailed pretty well just with main on second reef and arrived at Key West early afternoon.
There is a huge mooring area in here but many of the moorings are not available as they are under maintenance, some of them donít seem to have a right fitting for us to attach to. After a long time wondering around the mooring area we found a proper mooring, but it is quite far which means a long dinghy ride to shore. It is the end of the year and Key West is a party town and very popular with cruising boats.
Ft. Lauderdale to Key West, Florida
From working hard to partying hard - 30 December, 2009 to 6 January, 2010
Tortuguita arrives and they get a mooring next to us. We all go to shore for New Years Eve. Town is just a big party, and we have a great time. With our own champagne bottle we celebrate the New Year with Dave Booker and other friends that happen to be around, 2010 the year for our Pacific crossing has arrived.
The year starts slowly, we are waiting for John to arrive. We are smuggling him into Cuba. He arrives and we are all ready to leave. It is just 90 miles from here to La Habanna and on January 6 we leave Key West, our last stop in the US. Sadly we say good bye to our dear friends Dave and Booker. We wish they were doing the Pacific with us, but it is not yet the right time for them.
Tortuguita, at the mooring fields in Key West
Key West, a party town
Leaving Ft Lauderdale early morning on the 24 of June we had a good run with the help of the Gulf Stream current. We did a lot of motor sailing, gaining up to 3 knots from the current in nice settled weather. We arrived in Lady's Island bridge, two days later, just missing an opening. We just finished anchoring when a big squall with 30 kn plus winds hit, luckily the holding was good and we waited for next opening finally arriving at John's house when the sun was setting. Mary Ellen received us with her customary hospitality, spoiling us with all the excellent cooking and welcoming treats. John is in Europe and we are hoping to see him on our way back from Brazil.
We prepared Zenitude for a long Summer at the docks and a couple of days later we left her resting while we traveled by air to Brazil.
Going slowly with the heavy hulls we arrived at Bull River anchorage at ICW mile 521 just before sunset. There were no other boats and the anchorage was tricky with the current, a common problem in the rivers. We anchored anyway (22.30.75N-80.33.58W) and had a good first night of sleep. In the morning we found the waters still too dark for cleaning and we left. It was a great day all along arriving at a very nice place, Church Creek (ICW mile 487).
Next day we got a good favorable current to make it on time to the bridge opening. This was a very hard day of concentration, to stay in the middle of the canal all the time as the edges are very shallow. Oscar remembers that in this stretch we run aground 3 years ago when we damaged the autopilot. Sure enough we run aground again in the Bogue Inlet area, a bit before the fixed bridge at mile 229.
Our plans to anchor at mile 208 or 211 as per the guide recommendation went down the drain as these 2 places now have condos and nowhere to anchor. Next possible stop was Beaufort, NC but there does not seem to be a good anchorage either so we decided to keep going thru Adam's Creek.
Adam's Creek was nice, easy and enjoyable. A favorable current allowed us to make the 57 miles needed to arrive with good light to anchor in Cedar Creek, Mile 187, a wonderful quiet place. The anchorage is shallow, but no problem for us, we anchored in about 1.5 meters at low tide. There were 3 other boats for the night and somehow, in this lonely bay we got internet!.
We also found a guy that did wonderful splice work on our dinghy ropes for just 20 dollars.
There is also great internet on the boat from the marina.
The weather is perfect and tonight is BBQ night in Zenitude.
Our neighbors in Pelikan are from Georgia. They were already at anchor when we arrived and they tell us they are going to Chesapeake Bay as well. We might meet them there again.
We are really happy we came here to check this place. Next morning we left in an absolutely calm day, the river as a lake early in the morning.
Outstanding - Sunset at a quiet creek in the ICW
We left Cedar Creek and did a quick run to check Oriental, just across the river. Oriental is considered "the sailing capital of North Carolina". We anchored in front of the low bridge in 1.5 meters depth in front of the marina.
I got a great deal at Sailrite as part of the show prices. Just now I'm starting the project for a new sail bag. I also got all the material for a new bimini, a project to start sometime in the not so near future.
Thinking on the Pacific crossing and meeting friends
We decided to dock there for the night. After an hour or so we received a visit from Homeland Security. We suspect the major of this town, who was re-fuelling his boat in the marina, called them after seeing a foreign flagged boat. Homeland Security checked our papers and had not a clue of what to do with us, after much conferencing on the phone they said we need to check with Homeland Security every time we enter a different state.
Leaving early morning the decision was to go to the town of McClellanville, where there is a shrimp fishing fleet. It was a tricky entrance but the marina was there, Leland Oil Co Marina (33.04.99N-79.27.76W) and the people was lovely. A young guy helped us with lines and fuel, he was surprised and very excited to see a sailboat with a foreign flag, apparently not a common place for visiting yachts.
After crossing several bridges we arrived at the Ben Sawyer Memorial Bridge and had to wait for about 1 hour for the 6:00PM opening time. Then we found a small anchorage to spend the night.
The main reason we are here in Annapolis is to start getting Zenitude ready for the Pacific crossing and one of the things we want to do is check the rigging. We hired one of the reputable rigging companies and had the standing rigging checked. He gave us the green light, one thing out of the 'to do' list.
Meggie and Roy, our good friends from Drum, have arrived!. They are staying with us as they are also interested in several things in the boat show for Drum. Then, Dave and Booker from Tortuguita arrive as well, (with Tortuguita). Very happy to see our friends again we all hang out together and have a great time.
On Monday morning Roy and Meggie leave and at night we go over to visit Tortuguita. Dave and Booker have been working a lot and Tortuguita looks better than ever with many new improvements, and it is all 'do it yourself', which is fantastic. Their friends, Bill and Cindy from Dragon Fly are here as well and we have Canadian Thanksgiving dinner in their boat.
Bill showed us how sailmail weather software works. We can use it with the Pactor we just bought at the boat show. We are planning to use the SSB with the Pactor for e-mails and weather info for the crossing, having decided not to invest in a satellite phone. We also bought an AIS receiver, a different story as we still have no idea how to integrate it with our navigation software without spending a lot of money. We will need to figure that out.
Motor sailing the first part of the trip was good but soon the wind turned NE and we were painfully doing less than 3 kn against the wind. Forecast wind was 10 to 15 knots but we were being hammered with 20 to 25 knots most of the way.
As we still had some mud in the hulls, it was a really slow passage. The concern was to get to Cape Fear on time before the strong outgoing current would set. We just made it and at the end we had the right helping currents all the way to the anchorage in mile 283.5, Wrightsville Beach. It seems we are going to like it here.
The town offers free docks for up to 48 hours, which is very nice, but the weather is settled and we decide to stay at anchor. It is a sleepy town and people is wonderful, they make you feel really comfortable. It seems like everybody that lives here, sails. There is a shop that lends you bicycles to go to the shops and a well provisioned supermarket at about a mile. We were going to walk to the supermarket for the exercise but a couple (Bob and Marsha) offered a ride. Very nice of them.
There is also a small West Marine shop. On the way back, when we started our walking, there they were, Bob and Marsha to drive us back. What a service in this town!
Finally we made it to Mile 0 and arrived at the Norfolk Naval Hospital anchorage at 6.15 PM with enough light to anchor between all the fishing buoys we found there all over the anchorage.
Glad that we arrived during day light. This is a very popular anchorage and it is hard to believe they are taking all that space with these fishing buoys.
The night is calm and it is good to be at anchor after a busy sailing day.
Two days later we were underway again, motor sailing in the open bay. No more canals, bridges or locks, a sense of freedom once more. We stopped at Little Bay, a bit north of Deltaville, for the night. Next day we kept going with several hours of fog in the morning, no wind of course. It turned out to be a beautiful day but no wind for sailing. We passed about 3 miles of a Navy firing exercise and could see the target ship and listen to some of the chatter in the radio between the Navy and commercial traffic.
When the current turned on our favor, our decision was to go all the way to Solomon Island, arriving late afternoon we ended up anchoring next to the mooring area. Next day we moved to a mooring as there was bad weather expected which came on the day after. The place is very protected but the marina rents moorings for a good price, the facilities are great and the people really nice. Shops are about a mile and a half from the marina. We were browsing in West Marine (as always there is something there we need) when we run into Pelikan crew, they were at anchor. A day later they came into the marina and picked up a mooring behind us.
Dragon Fly is going next to the Virgin Islands via Bermuda and Tortuguita is going south to the Florida Keys. We are hoping we'll meet them somewhere along the coast sometime before December as we are going down the same way. The difference with Tortuguita is that her mast is taller than the 65' clearance needed to travel ICW, not like Zenitude that has a couple of inches to spare and can make it under these bridges.
They leave and we stay waiting for spare parts (turnbuckles) to no avail as they won't have them for another week or so. The decision is to leave Friday but the weather does not cooperate. We do leave the Yacht Club and we go back to anchor in the creek to wait for weather to improve. In the meantime it rains non stop and we are freezing. At least internet is good here and we can start with some organizing projects.
Finally, on Monday we can leave with good weather, this time we decide to stop just before Solomon Is. We can see a congestion of boats going to Solomon, as everybody was waiting for weather to start going south, it will be crowded there tonight. Our stop at Cove Point is great, it is a beautiful night and this place is very quiet. There is just one more boat at anchor with us. Having arrived early we have time to install the new sail bag, I'm very proud, it looks terrific!
Next morning we keep going, our next stop is, same as during our way up North, Little Bay (37.38.10N-76.19.10W) just for the night. Then, after one more day we arrive in Hampton and spend there 2 days. We leave Hampton for a quick sail to Norfolk to spend the night.
As we leave Norfolk very early next morning we know it is a tough day ahead of us. The start of the trip is good, we make the bridges and the locks on time. Then the wind from the South starts picking up and rather than the 15 knots forecasted we get 25 to 30, gusting 35, on the nose. It is a very slow progress in Currituck Sound.
We are now repeating what we did on our way up North. Our next stop is again McClellanville, we arrived there at 2.00 PM, refueled, bought a handful of shrimps and decided to stay there for the night. An easy day.
For our next stop we are thinking in Charleston as we want to get out to open seas from there. We find the anchorage pretty lousy, crowded and with a strong current there is no way our anchor would set where we want it to be. After more or less the sixth attempt, feeling hopelessly stupid, we decide to try another anchorage shown in C-Map. It seems to be a commercial anchorage but there is nobody here. It is next to a marina, outside of the South Canal, 2 miles closer to the exit to open seas. The anchor sets well, but the place is rolly.
Lifting anchor at 8:00 AM we go out to open seas towards Cape Canaveral on Monday, November 2. The first day is good, motor sailing with 10 knots of wind . During the night the wind increases to 20 knots and we are happily sailing on second reef. Most of the trip remains the same. The only incident was a broken impeller on the Port engine which Oscar changed, painful job to do underway. There are 2 broken screws that will need replacement, but the engine works! On Wednesday morning, after 2 days of good sailing we arrive at Scorpion Marina in Port Canaveral where we plan to haul out Zenitude. A rest from sailing but a lot of work ahead!
It is now a week since we left Annapolis and this morning we leave early and with good winds arrive to Broad Creek anchorage with just enough light to anchor. Days are getting shorter now and by 6.00 PM is good to be settled for the night. Next morning, with little wind and fog we leave to pick up good currents along the way and arrive at mile 227, Swansborough. We stay at Caspers Marina for the night. The marina has good docks and facilities and people is very nice.
Next day we have a good trip all the way to Wrightsville Beach and met again with Tortuguita. They are at anchor waiting for us. We are planning to stay for at least a couple of days, to rest and spend time with Dave and Booker, before heading out to open seas. We'd like to stay longer but we need to keep going and don't want to miss the weather window. On Saturday, the weather looks good and we leave the anchorage early.
At around 11:30 AM we are in open seas, it is a feeling of freedom after so many miles of ICW, arriving at Winyah Bay at midnight where we know the entrance is good even at night. Still, a bit stressful. The current was against us and it took us a while to get to the anchorage. At least, a good thing, it was the slack time when we arrived at 3:00 AM and anchoring was easy.
We did a short trip to Australia, visited our kids, celebrated Oscar's birthday then came back and spent Thanksgiving here with a great dinner. The turkey as big as it could be fitted in our oven.
When the time came for the antifouling to be done we took a cruise ship to Bahamas, it was cheaper than staying at a hotel!
It took us longer than expected to have everything done but the first week of December we are almost ready to leave.