Saturday, November 21, 2015

It's Snow Good to be Home

After spending two days in St. Augustine, we moved on to Palm Coast where Mara Beel is spending the holidays. We drove over to The Villages to visit good friends Kathy and John of Serenity fame. Having completed the Loop several months ago, they are now at home getting used to life on land again. They showed us the sights- The Villages have a lot to offer! Golf carts rule here!

John, Kathy and Mark

Golf carts of every description

Leaving Mara Beel in good hands, we flew home for the holidays- just in time for 11 inches of snow! The first snow of the year is always exciting!

The Mississippi River tow boats are running for a few more days, before the locks shut down for winter. Jennie K spent the night inside Lock 10- it was snowing that hard during the night! The tows and a few crazy duck hunters are the only boats on the water- it's gotta be frigid out there!
Lee Ann Ingram heading north
We will return to Florida in January and cruise over to Fort Myers for two months. Meanwhile, I'm breaking out my snowshoes!  Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Friday, November 13, 2015

St. Simon Island to Fernandina, Florida

Yesterday we cruised from Delegal Creek Marina to St. Simon Island, Georgia. We are traveling fast, so it's all a blur! We enjoyed cocktails on board Proud Mary last night with Barrie and Mary Ann- gracious hosts and a lovely boat. And I do mean lovely! And what are the odds of meeting a fellow school librarian on a boat??

We stopped briefly at Brunswick Landing Marina this morning for fuel, since their price is the best around. We cruised around Cumberland Island, where we anchored in the spring,  (wild horses and lots of history)  I bought the book and read about the Carnegie family that owned much of this unspoiled island which is now a natural seashore.  JFK Jr. and Carolyn Bessette were secretly married here. The ICW through Georgia is interesting-- many twists and turns, which add 38 miles to the 100 miles of waterway, and several shallow areas that needs to be coordinated with the tides- and marshes aplenty.

We passed Kings Bay nuclear submarine base unchallenged, and crossed the Georgia/Florida line. It was just a few miles more to Fernandina Harbor Marina. We spent most of the afternoon cleaning the boat, inside and out. It was sorely needed.

Sunset in Florida, cocktails -- it's all good!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Port Royal, SC to Skidaway Island, GA

To backtrack a bit, yesterday we traveled from St. Johns Yacht Harbor, Charleston, to Port Royal. We continue to retrace our route from last spring, but in reverse, heading south instead of north. We spent several days  in Port Royal in April and thoroughly enjoyed seeing the sights. This time, however, our sight-seeing was limited to a quick trip to Publix in the marina's loaner vehicle.

We started out early again this morning, at 0630- 8 minutes before sunrise. No fog today!!

Sunrise at Lady's Island Bridge at Port Royal
Time to leave the dock!

We crossed the Georgia line and cruised right past Savannah's Bonaventure Cemetery, one of the city's biggest tourist attractions. It was well known even before "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil."

The shallow "skinny water" parts of our route were no problem, since we timed the tides right. The only moments that caused elevated heart rates were those when we exited Fields Cut and entered the Savannah River- part of the city's shipping lanes. This is where the big boys travel. The ICW crosses the shipping lane here, so it's vital to look both ways and broadcast a securite call on the radio. We managed to cross between these two behemoths- they each seemed as big as a city block. Yikes!

The "APL Qatar"
The "Zim Vancouver"
We arrived at Delegal Creek Marina in the early afternoon. We used the marina's golf cart to tour Skidaway Island. The entire island is a planned and gated community of luxury homes called The Landings. Some of the homes are vacation homes while other residents commute to Savannah to work. 

Tonight's sunset was a great one!

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Isle of Palms to St. John's Yacht Harbor

We covered just 16 miles yesterday but it seemed longer. The light rain became heavy once we were underway. On this part of the ICW we need to have enough water when we get to the shallow spots like the shoals near the Ben Sawyer bridge. That means scheduling departures and arrivals according to the tides. The recent heavy rains in SC have made the tides higher than usual/ good for boaters but not so much for dirt dwellers. 

Anyway, we encountered heavy rain and minimal visibility as we drove from our lower helm.  Radar and AIS helped us feel our way across Charleston Harbor and no huge cargo ships were in the immediate area. As Mark said, it was a good test of our seamanship skills. (I have never enjoyed tests of any kind. )

After we dried out Glenn and Brenda picked us up and took us to their James Island Yacht Club for dinner. It is an informal, fun group of people. They put on various dinners regularly, and this one was a full blown turkey dinner. Great food!

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Georgetown to Isle of Palms

The captain set a wake up call for 0500 today so we could "practice getting away early and quickly." As it turned out, we were enveloped in a thick fog and couldn't leave until around 10:00. Oh well. We are controlled by the weather when cruising.

We docked near the Coast Guard Station last night. The fog carried the sound of Reveille this morning, along with another call I didn't recognize. To quote our friend Andy, too fun!

We expected to experience a few transition "pains" as we re-adjusted to life on board Mara Beel after 5 months of "dirt dwelling." It didn't happen! Once we stepped on the boat, it felt as though we had never left. I was a little anxious about cruising solo, which we had not done since last fall. But, traveling by ourselves is comfortable. We come and go as we please (well, except for weather) and are re-tracing our route from April and May- so the bread crumbs are on our chart plotter. It's all good!

After an uneventful 5 1/2 hour trip we arrived at the Isle of Palms, Charleston. We had a wonderful shrimp dinner at the Long Island Cafe with friends Betsy and Mason. I forgot to snap a photo, darn it!

Friday, November 6, 2015

Georgetown, SC

We had another great day of cruising, arriving in Georgetown in the early afternoon. The Socastee Swing Bridge was broken just 3 days ago and closed to boat traffic. Fortunately it has been repaired and is swinging happily so we cleared with ease.

We are seeing Spanish moss and palm trees again! The Waccamaw River portion of our ride was much more scenic than the "ditch" around Myrtle Beach. 

We are docked on the Great Pee Dee River at Georgetown Landing. We enjoyed a leisurely 3 mile walk through this historic town-- the third oldest in the state.  63 buildings here date back to 1737, when rice and indigo were booming crops. The main industries today are shrimping and the paper mill. 

We will move on  to Charleston tomorrow.

We left Barefoot Landing early!

The Rice Museum

One of the town's historic homes

A  downtown shop 

Thursday, November 5, 2015


We finally untied our lines and left the Cape Fear River in Wilmington, NC, as soon as the morning fog lifted. 28 miles down the river and we were back on the ICW. We covered 70 miles today, humming along at an impressive 10 mph. We had no issues whatsoever. Our twin 3208's ran beautifully, the water was calm, and traffic was light.

We are docked for the night in North Myrtle Beach, and had a terrific dinner with Andy, Julie, Dave and Di at the Flying Fish restaurant.  It's great to be on the move again. 

Cargo ship on the Cape Fear River

Barefoot Landing Resort Marina

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Still Stationary

We are still stuck in Wilmington. We planned to leave this morning and head south. Mark did a routine check of the engine room at 8:30 last night and discovered diesel leaking from the port engine-- ugh! So we will see what Monday brings. 

Meanwhile we used the extra time here to further organize the interior of Mata Beel after our summer hiatus. Andy and Julie from Fruitcakes were in town visiting friends Bob and Sharon, so the 4 of them joined us for docktails. Julie's yummy tomato pie vanished before I thought to snap a photo!

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Still Waiting But Having Fun

There is not much new from Wilmington since our boatyard friends don't work on weekends. Our Looper friends Julie and Andy (Fruitcakes), invited us to stay with them at their home in Little River, SC, for the weekend. Little River is an hour's drive from Wilmington, and we were more than happy to accept their generous invitation. We arrived at their place Friday afternoon and then went to a house-warming party at Dave's and Di's (Phat Cat) lovely new condo.

On Saturday Julie and Andy drove us around nearby Cherry Grove, North Myrtle Beach, and Myrtle Beach to show us the sights. Luckily the main tourist season is over. We had a delicious dinner at Flying Fish at Barefoot Landing- a restaurant we loved when we were here in the spring.

Today we were treated to a cruise on Fruitcakes along with 2 other couples. The 8 of us nosed out of Little River inlet into the open sea to check out a shrimper and a few dolphins before eating a picnic lunch while anchored off Bird Island. It was a great afternoon!

If all goes as promised, our pump will arrive from Raleigh tomorrow morning and be installed in the afternoon, and Mara Beel will go into the water on Tuesday. We will then need a  couple of days to clean and re-provision before getting underway. Keeping our fingers crossed!

Kids playing

Dinghy on Bird Island

Shrimp boat 

North Myrtle Beach

Casting a seine net to catch bait

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Waiting (not so) Patiently

We are back in Wilmington, almost reunited with Mara Beel. After 5 months, work on her is still not finished. It's a long story, that shouldn't have happened, but here we are. We might be waiting another week- hopefully we will know more about our fuel injection pump tomorrow.

Meanwhile, we are taking advantage of this time to explore Wilmington. Today we visited Airlie Gardens, a beautiful collection of gardens featuring 100,000 azaleas, Bradley Creek, butterflies, sculptures, and more. It was almost deserted, which made for a delightful 2-hour stroll.

Monday, October 5, 2015

So Much Rain!

We are concerned about our friends in Charleston, Southport, and Little River, SC, and thankfully all are safe and relatively dry today. Mara Beel is on the hard in Wilmington, NC, wet on the outside, but safe. We are planning to start the drive back to NC on October 12, unless something changes. We have mixed feelings about leaving friends and family, but we have come to realize that dirt dwelling is much more complicated than living on our boat!

We've been busy here winterizing the pontoon boat, jet ski, runabout, lawn mower and golf cart; pulling the dock; cleaning up the yard; packing, etc. The weather turned much cooler and windier the last few days, so it's time....

The pontoon boat is tucked away for the winter- the dock is next!

Watching the various passenger ships cruise up and down the river this summer has been a treat.

Queen of the Mississippi headed upriver. Darn those trees!

Monday, September 14, 2015

Counting the Days...

This evening we met Loopers in the Dubuque Marina. We had dock tails with Lon and Pat on C.A.R.I.B. II and Becky and Wes on their boat, Nauti Cs-Ta! We are happily making our plans to return to Mara Beel in a few weeks. 

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Living on Dirt for the Summer

Mara Beel is sitting out the summer in North Carolina while we are loving life on the River in Iowa.

It's always sad to see her pulled out, but the River and our family beckon enticingly.

We miss our sweet boat, but Life on the Mississippi is wonderful. We will be back on board in the Fall to head south for the winter.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Journey's End- For Now

Days: 182-183
Miles: 45/25
Total miles: 3,655

Yesterday we started early and cruised 45 miles from Myrtle Beach, SC to Southport, NC. We made it through the infamous "Rock Pile" without incident. It was very windy, but the scenery was great!

Docks need to be extremely long here!

We were welcomed to the Southport City dock, and North Carolina, by Harbor Host extraordinaire Robert Creech, who helped us tie up. A bit later we enjoyed porch time at the Robert and Kay's home just across the street. It turned into a Looper reunion, with Patsy, Mark and Jane, and Roger and Mary. A couple of neighbors joined us, too. It was Southern hospitality at its finest!

Porch time!
Later we walked over to the Yacht Basin Provision Company for dinner- fresh fish, of course. Along the way we picked up Michael, another visitor in town. After dinner we went back to Mara Beel, along with Roger and Mary, Mark and Jane, and a new Looper acquaintance, Tanya. Tanya is well-known among Loopers for single-handedly doing the Loop last year in her 25-foot Ranger Tug- a brave woman!

New friend Michael

Today, Friday, was another 0600 start for us to take advantage of the tide. We needed to travel 20-plus miles up the Cape Fear River, so an outgoing tide would really slow us town. We traveled on the rising tide and tied up at Bennett Brothers in Wilmington at slack tide- perfect! The scenery was entirely different today. We saw military installations, huge tankers and container ships, several tugs, small crab boats, and plenty of pelicans.

Off to an early start

Cape Fear lighthouse

Takeoff is slow for pelicans

The bird on the left has a band on his right leg.

Pelicans just love crabbers!
Notice the orange lifeboat on the stern of this tanker.

Unloading containers
Tug boats

They must love pelicans around here!

Wilmington and lift bridge

USS North Carolina

BIG guns!

Mara Beel will be spending the next few months tucked away in this "hurricane hole" marina while we head home. We will miss our Looper friends a lot, but we are so excited to be with family and friends at our river house.