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Stiltsville ~ History Can Be Interesting.

From the Bilge is where we post picture(s) that we have not used, that don’t fit into any specific blog post or that highlight some of our favorite places. The pictures might not be stunning, but they will recall something we think is worth sharing. We hope you enjoy these non-chronological items as they pop up From the Bilge.

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Stiltsville as seen from the bow of LIB.

 During our ICW travels in Miami-Dade County, we saw buildings in the distance that were built over the water.  At the time, I had no idea what they were, but I have since learned a bit about their history.

Approximately a mile south of Cape Florida on the “Safety Valve,” the shallow sand flats that run along the Florida coast near Biscayne Bay, is a group of buildings built on stilts.

In the early 1930s a man named “Crawfish” Eddie Walker built a shack on stilts and from there he sold fish bait, beer and his own famous crawfish dish called chilau. “Crawfish” built his shack toward the end of Prohibition and because it was a mile off the coast, gambling was legal. Although I didn’t read that gambling actually took place there, one imagines there was a reason “Crawfish” chose to be a mile away from shore.

Soon a few of “Crawfish’s” friends also built buildings on stilts.  The area took on a life of its’ own and at is largest, around 1960, Stiltsville had 27 buildings!

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Image taken from Google search.

Fairly early on, some clubs were built in Stiltsville including The Calvert Club whose members were from the Miami Beach Rod and Reel Club.

The most upscale club I read about was The Quarter Deck which was built in the 1940s. Membership for The Quarter Deck was by invitation only and required a membership fee of $150.  The Quarter Deck became one of the most popular spots in Miami and I would wager the crowd was considered a bit ‘racy.’

An excerpt from an article about Stiltsville in a 1941 LIFE magazine read, “extraordinary American community dedicated solely to sunlight, salt water and the well-being of the human spirit.”   The club was described as “a $100,000 play-palace equipped with bar, lounge, bridge deck, dining room and dock slips for yachts”.[4]Stiltsville was immensely popular with the well connected and monied crowd in the 1940s and ’50s but the area was damaged by Hurricane Betsy in 1965 and other subsequent storms.

Fortunately before Stiltsville declined completely and the Florida government abolished the rights of owners to maintain the remaining buildings, a last ditch effort to save Stiltsville and claim it as historically significant succeeded.

Today Stiltsville is part of the Stiltsville Trust whose stated purpose it to preserve the seven buildings that remain of the area.

Follow this link to learn more about the Stiltsville Trust.

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Rally Termination… Goodbye (Temporarily) to Friends

Wow, it is hard to believe that our Rally has concluded.  We have traveled more than 1100 miles with the 19 boats in the Sail to the Sun 2016 Rally and it has been a fabulous experience.  Our leader, Wally Moran, has a ton of experience on the ICW and did a great job of balancing a schedule/plan with the flexibility required for sailor types.

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Wally and his faithful pup, Aduana.

The Rally officially ended shortly after leaving Vero Beach.  From Vero we headed to Peck Lake which is a small anchorage with a spit of sand that connects via a short path to the Atlantic Ocean.  We saw solid evidence of just how far the Ocean reaches because of the green buoy from the Bahamas that had washed up on this shore.  We spent a pleasant afternoon walking the Atlantic side beach, collecting shells and simply enjoying the empty ocean front.

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King of the buoy?

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Rally friends showing this buoy who is boss.

I cannot possibly complete our posts about the ICW without including a couple more bridge pictures.  Here are two of my favorites from our last few days on the ICW….

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This should be called the Disney Castle Bridge, don’t you think?

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The lines of this bridge were sleek and modern.

Moving down the Florida ICW was one monied area after another.  The houses and yachts were so large it was a little ridiculous.  Even though some of the homes were stunningly pretty, all I kept thinking was that I was very glad I didn’t have to maintain any of them.

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fl-3  I did appreciate the Christmas spirit on this little abode.

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As I said, there were some rather large yachts as well…. I kept thinking of the credit card ad asking, “What’s in your wallet.”  But instead I would ask, “What’s in your back yard?”

Enough of the money stuff….

Perhaps the most unique anchorage we stopped in was Boca Raton.  There is just a tiny bump out of the ICW in Boca where you can anchor.  You must be cautious because it is extremely shallow in the middle.  Gently nudging our way into the area allowed us to find a spot to drop anchor and enjoy a beautiful evening.  The surrounding area was a mixture of beautiful homes and sky-rises.

fl-5Our view during dinner.

The evening was cool, quiet and calm and Frank and I relished a relaxed dinner in the cockpit.  LIB gently pivoted on her anchor and gave us a changing view as we discussed the trip we were finishing and our plans for having the mast returned to our boat.

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Enjoying the view and our Christmas lights while reading my Kindle.

Our final Rally stop was at Dinner Key in Miami.  While the other Rally boats awaited bridge openings, we motored ahead and only waited on openings if the bridge was less 16 feet.  fl-8Celebratory drinks in Dinner Key

Once LIB was safely tied up we poured a drink and sat in the cockpit while we waited for the rest of the group to arrive.

Wally had planned a final dinner in Dinner Key to mark the end of the Rally.  This gave us a chance to compare plans with the others and discuss weather windows.  Many of the Ralliers will head to the Bahamas and we are very glad to know we will reunite with several of our friends in the near future.

Wally put a lot of thought and effort into our final dinner including awarding “certificates” for some of us.  Not at all surprising was that Frank received an award in recognition of his willingness to dive any Rally boat to check for crab pots, grounding damage, zinc levels, etc.

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Frank’s certificate commemorating at least four dives during the Rally.

I, however, was surprised, and secretly pleased, to receive an award of my own. I might not be recognized for important jobs like Frank, but I am a very positive person and I have the award to prove it. 😉

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Nice guys (girls) don’t always finish last.

Frank and I are very glad we joined the Sail to the Sun 2016 Rally and highly recommend it to others considering the trek.  We think the ICW would have been a little tiring if we had been on our own.  Having other sailors to share the experience and socialize with was a huge benefit.  We enjoyed sharing the navigation and history of the ICW as well as the adventures and mishaps with so many like minded people.  It was nice to have Wally’s guidance and experience and have other boaters to discuss ideas for future destinations.

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The sun sets on the Sail to the Sun 2016 Rally

It is especially nice to know we have 19 other boats we now call our friends and that we already have friends in future anchorages.

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Full moon rising at Dinner Key, Miami

This is our concluding post about the ICW Rally.  I hope you have enjoyed seeing a few of the places we passed during this trip.  Have you been inspired to cruise the ICW or are you more interested in island hopping?  I would love to know…

Florida ~ a Very Long State!

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Dawn at Sisters Creek Dock

While the beauty and variety of the ICW changes daily and is still captivating, I’m beginning to feel like I am back in school preparing book reports or history reports.  I am far from a history scholar, yet every post while traveling the ICW could become a mini U.S. history lesson.  This week instead of reviewing any history of the cities we visited, I am simply going to share some photos of the places we have seen this week.

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Several Rally members joined us on a Red Train tour of the city

St. Augustine was founded 55 years before the Pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock and is the oldest city in the U.S. Needless to say, a broad scope of history is available.  We spent our first day touring the city on the Red Train which allows you to get on and off the tram at about 20 stops around St. Augustine. (Ok, a tiny bit of history. It’s hard to avoid.)

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Flagler Hotel had electric lights four years before the White House!

Our day was filled with variety as we visited the pirate museum, a micro brewery, Flagler Hotel constructed in 1887 (and now part of Flagler College) and meandered through the pedestrian street filled with shops and restaurants.

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Rather impressive doorway in Flagler College.

Flagler Hotel was the most impressive building I have seen on this trip.  The architecture was interesting and such famous people were involved in its’ construction!  The electrical system was installed by none other than Thomas Edison!  If that isn’t impressive enough, the windows, in what was originally a ballroom and is now the college cafeteria, were created and installed by Louis C. Tiffany.  In fact, Flagler College has the largest collection of Tiffany stain glass windows and was filmed by The Antiques Road Show in 2013. We were unable to go into the cafeteria to see the stain glass windows, dang it.

 Sample time delighted Ron, Mindy, Frank and Tom.

Late afternoon several of us toured the St. Augustine Distillery.  Specializing in whiskey, rum, vodka and gin, this small company ustilizes local ingredients and is housed in a historical building that was once an ice house.  The tour was short and the guide animated and entertaining.  I must admit, to me, the samples were aweful, but that might be because I don’t drink any of those spirits. 😉

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A very clean pedestrian shopping area

Our final night in St. Augustine was also the final night for a couple of our Rally boats.  In celebration, or was it tourture, the group went to a local kareokee bar.  A few in the group demonstrated their considerable talent, while others shared more enthusiasm than vocal prowress.  It was a very fun evening and a unique way to send off a few friends.

This barely touches what St. Augustine has to offer.  It would be easy to spend a lot of time in St. Augustine.

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Screened pool, must be Florida.

Back on the ICW, I really feel like I am in Florida because most of the pools are enclosed by screens.  Florida was the first place I saw personal pools covered and screened.  We have seen a lot of screened pools in the last week, so I know I am in Florida.

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Stay between the red and green buoys!

Florida is, of course, full of waterways. Most of them are wide and look inviting, but actually they are often very shallow and have shoals that must be avoided.  Fortunately the waterway is pretty well marked but following the buoys is not intuitive.  In the picture above, the first two buoys are red and should be kept to starboard (right) but the third one is green and should be kept to port (left).  It is disconcerting to look down a wide river but intentionally get this close to a beach.  We did follow the path and, though the water was only a few feet deeper than our keel, we made it through without grounding.

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Open sesame!

BRIDGES! Thank you to Frank for having our mast shipped to Miami.  We only thought we had seen bridges in other states.  Florida accounts for two-thirds of the bridges on the whole ICW.  If you don’t think worrying about bridges adds to a sailors stress, think again.

Many sailboats have masts that only fit under a fixed bridge at low tide so they have to study the height of each bridge and plan arriving at said bridge according to when the tide is low.  Of course, these same boats have drafts of 4′-6.5′ which means they also have to be concerned about not running aground at low tide.

Add to this that many bridges are opening bridges and too low to pass under when closed, so they must time their approach to coincide with bridge schedules.  For example, today we are traveling only 21 miles but we have six bridges to navigate…. yep, I am very thankful LIB has been mastless on this trip.  We have affectionately referred to LIB as our “neutered cat.”

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Thankfully nothing developed from this threatening weather anchored near Daytona.

We spent several days in Cocoa Village taking advantage of the quaint downtown area and long bike friendly roads along the waterfront.  The city of Cocoa Village rolled out the red carpet for our Rally, arranging welcoming receptions, dinners, space center tours and much more.  In a state where so many cities are shunning transient boaters, Cocoa Village welcomed us very warmly and is doing all they can to encourage boaters to stop and enjoy their waterfront.

Frank and I took advantage of Cocoa’s proximity to Orlando to go visit some of our friends there.  I was lucky enough to have my visit to Orlando coincide with an annual lunch my tennis friends share.  About 12 ladies gathered for lunch and I had a great time reconnecting with this fun loving, welcoming group.

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We also met with our favoirite neighbors in Orlando.  Thank  you to the Mosley Family for squeezing us into your very busy schedule.  It was a blast catching up and seeing how grown up the kids are!

Although the rest of the group chose to stay an extra night in Cocoa Village, Frank and I pressed on the Vero Beach.  This popular stop is often referred to as Velcro Beach because many boaters stop here and end up staying for a very long time.  We wanted to see why this town had earned the moniker.

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Vero Beach anchorage from the bridge.

We had a great time exploring Vero Beach on our bikes.  The town appears to be somewhat divided with the ocean area on the east side of the ICW and the main town on the west side.  We spent a long day exploring both area from our bicycles.

One bonus was meeting with some folks we had known in Coppell.  Bev and Bob had left Coppell years ago to, wait for it…. go sailing! Yep, they spent about 4 years traveling about on their sailboat before Velcro Beach caught them and they returned to land.

We apprecaited their time and the experience they shared.

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Notice all of these moored boats are sharing a ball.

Velcro is such a small anchorage that the mooring balls placed by the marina are usually shared by several boats.  This is the first time I have seen “assigned rafting” in a mooring field.  Of course we have seen boats choose to share and anchor or mooring ball, but I had not seen a marina assign raft up buddies.

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If anyone is wondering how Captain is fairing, she is QUITE comfortable on the boat these days.  Before the ICW, she tended to get a little nervous while under motor, but after more than 1,000 StM, she has become very accustomed to the engine.  In fact, we would say she is a little too comfortable as you can see from this picture taken while underway.  (We did immediately call her down from the pulpit and put on her life jacket.)

Fun pics from this week:

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LIB passing the StM 1,000 mark on our chart.

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I liked the way the ferns grew on the trees in Velcro Beach

Georgia ~ A History of Wealth

Georgia’s coast is beautiful and full of history.  But it isn’t only the history of wars and changing of ruling countries. Georgia offers a window into a lifestyle experienced by uber wealthy families late in the 1800’s and up to the mid-1900’s.   I’m talking about the opulence of the homes and clubs built on several of the islands along the Georgia coast such as Jekyll Island and Cumberland Island.

Our visit to Georgia began when we picked up Frank’s mom, Jackie, from the Savanna airport.  We went straight into Savanna and took a 90 minute trolley tour of the city.  Even using an hour and a half, the tour was a blur of Savanna and U.S. history.  We enjoyed the tour and the information our driver spouted, but the pace was too quick for pictures.

The first full day Jackie was with us, we chose to leave the ICW and head out into the Atlantic Ocean.  There was almost no wind and the seas were dead calm.  By traveling outside of the ICW, we were able to take a less winding path and cover more miles.

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s/v Destiny – a fellow Sail to the Sun Rally boat

The water is so flat, it is hard to believe that the picture above was taken out in the Atlantic Ocean.  Being in the ocean for the day was a very nice change from the ICW.  We are more accustomed to the wide open ocean and we enjoyed feeling the freedom of plenty of space between boats.  Late in the afternoon, we scooted back into the ICW and anchored in Walburg Creek.

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Sunset on Walburg Creek 

The sunset over the flat marshes was one for the record books, but the next morning we awakened to a very different view….

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Fog encased Walburg Creek

The fog was so dense when we awakened we couldn’t even see the other boats.  Our departure for Fort Frederica was delayed, but I rather enjoyed being enveloped in this blanket of mist.

At the end of our day, we anchored near Ft. Frederica on St. Simon’s Island and Frank took Captain to shore as she had a ton of pent up energy.

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One of the few remaining structures of Ft. Frederica.

Access to shore was difficult so only Captain and Frank had a chance to look around the old fort.  Very little of the buildings remained but the grounds were pretty and the trees dwarfed what still stood.

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Beautiful greens spaces define the Jekyll Island Club grounds.

Next up was Jekyll Island and the Jekyll Island Club, the playground of some very wealthy families.  We toured Jekyll Island Club via a 90 minute tram tour and learned that the Jekyll Island Club was the brainchild of several wealthy American families who were instrumental in the development of industry in the U.S. Think Vanderbilts, Rockefellers, Goulds, Morgans and Goodyears to name a few.  This remote island was developed as a private club for 53 families.

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A portion of the main clubhouse.

The clubhouse was completed on Jekyll in 1888.  It was here that these wealthy families would come during January, February and March to escape the northern winters and enjoy the exclusive company of their peers.

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One of the “cottages” within Club grounds.

Eventually some families built individual “cottages,” but the club was the main gathering spot. Hunting, tennis, cards, horseback riding, dining and balls were among the activities enjoyed by those allowed on the island.

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The Club is now a hotel.

According to our tour guide, the demise of Jekyll Island Club occurred during WWII.  Some of the club members had suffered financial setbacks during the depression and when German U boats were off the coast of Jekyll Island, the government ordered the island evacuated for safety purposes.

Today, Jekyll Island is owned by the State of Georgia.  It is a beautiful place and I spent one day riding my bike through its’ lush grounds.   If you have the opportunity to visit Jekyll, you will surely find the glimpse into this lost, exclusive lifestyle interesting!

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Driftwood Beach, on the north end of Jekyll Island, is a hauntingly beautiful place. A graveyard of once vibrant trees that are dying because of the erosion of the beach.

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I couldn’t resist climbing on this tree.

We spent an hour or so walking among these former giants, simply admiring their beauty even in death.

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Lace-work roots.

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Jackie, Frank and Captain

 

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I wonder how long this one will remain standing.

Our next anchorage was Cumberland Island which also has a rich history.  It is believed that the first inhabitants of Cumberland date back 4,000 years. The island was named Cumberland in 1933 after the son of King George II, Prince William, Duke of Cumberland.

We didn’t see much evidence of the military history of Cumberland except for the wild horses which are supposedly descendants of horses brought by the Spanish conquistadors.

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We saw about a dozen horses grazing on Cumberland.

In 1880, Thomas Carnegie bought land on Cumberland as a winter retreat.  The Carnegie Family built a modest 59 room structure designed after a Scottish Castle.  They also built a swimming pool, stables, a golf course and several other buildings.

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The remains of Dungeness

In addition to these, the Carnegies built 40 smaller structures to house the 200 servants who worked in the mansion they named Dungeness after a hunting lodge built on Cumberland by the English General, George Oglethorpe.  Dungeness was last used by the Carnegie Family in 1929 for a family wedding.  It fell into disrepair after the depression and in 1959 it was destroyed by fire believed to have been started by a poacher.

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Remnants of Dungeness.

Eventually, Cumberland was designated a national seashore, bought by the US Government and dedicated as a national park.

The Thanksgiving holiday was fast approaching and we were scheduled to spent it in St. Mary’s, a small but friendly town that has hosted a cruiser’s Thanksgiving dinner for 16 years.

Local townspeople of St. Mary’s go out of their way to help cruisers who stop in the area by offering rides to the grocery or other needed stores.  In addition, each year the locals provide ham and turkey for a Thanksgiving feast held at a hotel.  Each boat contributes a dish for the dinner and locals and boaters share the meal.

I would guess that about 100 people participated in the St. Mary’s Thanksgiving and the buffet tables were overflowing with dishes of every variety.   We had a fabulous time and I think Jackie enjoyed socializing with the others as much as we did.

The boarder between Georgia and Florida is right in the middle of the St. Mary’s River and.  interestingly, our anchor was actually in Florida, but we had Thanksgiving in Georgia.

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Evening in St. Mary’s

Our friends, Ron and Mindy, from s/v Follow Me, rafted up with us for two nights in St. Mary’s and we all had a great time preparing decorations for our table at the Thanksgiving feast.

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Martha Steward watch out!

We didn’t win any awards for “best table” but we sure had a lot of laughs creating these beauties.

Fernandina Beach on Amelia Island was the next stop and marked our first entry into Florida. What a darling town!  The anchorage is nothing to brag about and was actually off putting with an industrial plant on either side of the town.  However, once you entered the town of Fernandina, the story was COMPLETELY different.

The fact that the town was having it’s annual “Pajama Day” added to the charm of this quaint place. Families embraced the opportunity to dress up, or rather down, and groups of matching ensembles walked the streets. Near the information center a woman was performing Christmas carols using hand bells.  And later in the week there was a Christmas tree lighting ceremony.  How fun is that?!

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So cute with their carrot noses.

Fernandina was overlooked as a stop during the railroad age and as a result, the town didn’t go through a post-railway development phase.  Today there are more than 450 historic buildings in Fernandina and 50 of this small city’s blocks are listed in the National Register of Historic Places!

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Snowmen were a popular choice.

We rented a car one day and three rally members joined us for a drive around Amelia Island and a stop at Ft. Clinch.

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An overview

This site was first fortified by the Spanish in 1736 and has been used by several countries as strong holds since then.  Today the Florida Parks oversee the maintenance of Ft. Clinch.  They have “Union Soldiers” on site to talk about life in 1864 during the Civil War.

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Jackie and Frank exploring Ft. Clinch.

Fort Clinch is very well restored and allows entry into many of the buildings, so it is easy to imagine what life was like on these grounds.

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Solitary confinement cell ~ no thank you!

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The lighting gives a church-like feel.

It was interesting to walk down the tunnels and looks through the windows that were so important to defense of the St. Mary’s River and the Cumberland Sound.  The sunlight and beauty contradicted the violence seen from these walls.

Fernandina was Jackie’s last stop with us along the ICW.  We are so happy she is willing to visit us in our floating home and share our adventures.  I’m truly blessed to have such a capable, caring and kind mother-in-law.

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All of us were sad to see Jackie leave.  Captain really misses the extra love Jackie gave her as we motored along.

Photos you might like:

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Stylin’ poodle in Fernandina Beach

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Of course there is a sunset!

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Biggest mooring ball award!!

Charleston ~ Big, Beautiful, Old.

Charleston is a lovely and large city.  We visited once years ago traveling the conventional way of airplane and automobile.  I enjoyed Charleston more that first trip than I did this time.  But that isn’t the city’s fault, it has more to do with Charleston feeling so big compared to the places we have been recently.

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Hotel cottages around a small pond were a pretty backdrop for walking Captain.

We docked at the Charleston Harbor Marina which is across the Cooper River from downtown Charleston.   We were placed on the bulkhead furthest from land and we were pretty isolated from all of our rally members. The walk to shore felt like a quarter of a mile!  I was reminded of our stay in Puerto del Ray, PR and that large marina.

Also, we have enjoyed fabulous, sunny, warm weather and Charleston is where we first felt a turn in temperature.  That alone is enough to put a damper on our enthusiasm.  I am amazed at how wimpy Frank and I have become about cold weather, but we just don’t like it much.  And we didn’t really pack that much cold weather gear.

The marina provided shuttle service into Charleston and a water taxi also picked up from our marina, so it was easy to get into Charleston.

Our first afternoon in in the city, we tried to get a walking tour but had missed times didn’t work, so Frank found an online tour and acted as our tour guide.  While he did a fine job of navigating and identifying the important buildings, tour guide Frank was thirsty after only 45 minutes and required a stop in a brewery to refresh his speaking voice. 😉

That pretty much ended our tour, but we still had a great time.  Here are several pictures from our walk.

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The Pink House

This building is supposedly the second oldest structure in Charleston.  Built in the 1690s, it was originally a tavern for sailors visiting the port. I found the iron work, especially the lantern above the door remarkable.

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Hallway to a sunny courtyard.

I can’t remember the facts about this building, so maybe some Charleston person can tell me (Annie?).  I believe at one time the rooms off this hall were court rooms, but today it appears to be a residential building of some kind.  Regardless of its’ use, the age was apparent by the wood and construction.  I found the way the sun highlighted the bright, green hanging plants enchanting.

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Fountain at Waterfront Park

The pineapple fountain seems to be more photographed than this one in Waterfront Park of Charleston, but I thought the way the water was caught in this shot particularly interesting.

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Dappled sunshine on ballast stone streets.

Charleston is full of cobblestone streets made from ballast stones.  Ballast stones were placed in empty ships to balance them as they crossed the ocean. Once the ship arrived in port where it was picking up cargo, the ballast stones were thrown out and replaced with cargo.  The ballast stones were then used to build streets in many port cities.

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I liked the look of this ivy covered doorway and steps.

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Right near our dock on Patriots Point was the USS Yorktown (CV-10) an aircraft carrier which was renamed to honor the Yorktown (CV-5) destroyed at Midway in June 1942.  Also at the Patriots Point Museum is the USS Laffey (DD-724), the most decorated WWII era destroyer still in existence, and the USS Clamagore (SS-343) a cold war submarine.

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A close up to give you some size perspective.

Frank spent a long afternoon exploring this museum and catching up on his WWII history while I wandered around Charleston.  Now and then it’s a good idea to spend some time apart when you live on a boat.

Leaving Charleston provided some equally beautiful views.

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Stately commerce buildings

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And stately residential buildings

One very special happening during our stop in Charleston was a visit from Annie S. Annie is a fellow sailor who resides in Charleston.  We first met Annie in the BVI when LIB joined in the first sailing gathering of the Women Who Sail Facebook group.  Annie was on one of the WWS sailboats and Let It Be joined the rally in several BVI spots.

It was awesome to catch up my WWS friend and hear all that is happening in her boating life.  We shared a delightful dinner on LIB and spent the evening jabbering away. Thank you so much, Annie, for making time for us! (Can’t believe we didn’t take a picture!!)

Next city on our ICW stop is Beaufort, SC….

Eating Our Way Through Georgetown

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Sun up in a deserted Georgetown, SC

Georgetown is a darling little town. I am pretty sure I could live here if I didn’t live on a boat.

The day we arrived, the town was hosting Taste of Georgetown and, for a donation of $20. each, we strolled and ate our way along the main street sampling food from the sidewalk tables as we acquainted ourselves with the town.

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Captain was prepared to catch any food that dropped!

The following day there was another fundraiser, this one for a local school.  One more $20 donation bought all the steamed oysters you could eat.  I didn’t partake, but I think Frank ate for a solid three hours!

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At one point, Frank and several of our rally buddies took a break from eating proclaiming they were “stuffed.”  But not five minutes later the streamed crab was brought out and suddenly everyone found room for more food!

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The East Coast equivalent of “football fare?”

One skill Frank and I have learned while living on LIB is line splicing. We have found this very useful and have completed several projects, such as replacing our life lines, because we have this skill.

Always one to share knowledge, Frank hosted a splicing class on LIB.  Eight or nine boats were represented at the class and before it was over everyone had ideas for new boat projects. (Yippee!) I played TA to “Professor Frank,” which means he taught the class and I got to flit around and answer questions when I could.

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Professor Frank oversees line splicing.

The next scheduled marina is Charleston which is about 60 miles from Georgetown. Several members of the group, including us, broke the trip into two days and anchored overnight at Whiteside Creek, just a smidge off of the ICW.

My photo card stopped working so I don’t have pictures, but we had a stellar time.  Frank, Captain and I dinghied down a tiny cut with tall grass on both sides.  I feared we were going to suddenly come to a screeching halt because the engine got stuck in shallow water, catapulting Captain and me out of the dinghy OR as we moved through the reeds an alligator would jump right into the boat!

Thankfully neither happened, but we did scare a bunch of mullet fish that literally jumped out of the water to avoid us.  Captain was hopping from one side of the dinghy to the other trying to catch the jumping fish.

I SO wish I could have captured that on film!  I’m certain Frank was reliving his past when he and friends would fly through the bayous of Louisiana.  I was holding onto the dinghy and Captain telling Frank to slow down.  But actually ~ it was exhilarating and beautiful.

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Photo credit to Diane Mercaldo.

Once back at Whiteside Creek, we joined the rally group for a dinghy raft up. We shared drinks, snacks and conversation as the sun set behind us.  Sundown brought much cooler temperatures, so everyone zipped back to their respective boats.

The next morning we were up early and motored toward Charleston.  The Charleston Harbor looked huge when we left the narrow ICW and the city itself will be hard to cover by foot.

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Charleston looms large

Be prepared, Charleston is such a pretty town with it’s French Quarter and long history, that the next post will be full of photos if I manage to capture what we see.

In the mean time, here are two pictures from this week…

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Has Forrest Gump been here?

This random, happy pirate made me smile as we made our way down the ICW.  I hope you smile too.

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Serenity becomes visible at sunrise.

 

 

Another ICW Week Already?!

Phew, this week has been full of F~U~N!  It started with our return to Beaufort, NC.  We really love this little town. The people are so welcoming and we have such fond memories from our first visit in July.

Other than the usual, provision, clean the decks, walk the town and eat in restaurants, we took a ghost tour!

Seeing as how Beaufort is proud of its’ pirate history and it was very close to Halloween, we thought a ghost tour would be a perfect way to learn some history and hear some scary stories.

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Jacob weaves a tale.

We signed up for the Beaufort Ghost Walk 7:30 pm tour. Our guide, Jacob, was an excellent story teller who wove history and pirates and fear into an entertaining 70 minute walk through the oldest parts of Beaufort.  I highly recommend this tour if you are up for a bit of walking and history.

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Final stop, Beaufort graveyard.

On our motor to Beaufort, we noticed our steering had a bit of extra vibration in it, so Frank dove in and checked things out. Glad he did because our port rudder was 40 degrees different from the starboard rudder.  It appears the set screws for the port side rudder were completely stripped off and our rudder was not working properly!

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After diagnosing the problem and securing parts, Frank and Bill, of s/v Our Log, went to work fixing the rudder.  Together they through bolted the tiller arm to the rudder post.

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Our rudders are now in alignment and the port rudder connection is much sturdier and steering and docking are MUCH easier!

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Bill and Frank with the rudder arm repaired.

Thank you a ton, Bill, for sharing your expertise and time with us.  I know Frank appreciated talking with you about the repair as I was no help and you are so knowledgable!

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On the morning of Halloween, we left Swansboro, NC very early. Our reward was seeing these dolphins playing in our wake!

Frank and I got into the swing of Halloween and sported our costumes most of the day.

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There was quite the traffic jam at one of the bridges so we offered to move ahead and lead the way since we have such low clearance without our mast.

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Unfortunately we did not hear the warning about a shoal near one of the markers and LIB ran aground!  Yep, happy halloween to us ~ we get to join the “we have run aground” club!

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I am quite certain the TowBoat U.S. driver thought we had been drinking when he saw Frank standing on the deck in his shark costume!

Thank God we didn’t have any damage to LIB and Steve, the TowBoat driver, was able to free LIB from the shoal.

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Thanks for the help, Steve!

On Halloween evening we met up with Mindy and Ron of s/v Follow Me for some ‘reverse trick or treating.’  Essentially this meant we gathered our goodies, jumped in our dinghy and visited boats in the anchorage to deliver treats!  Our candy was appreciated but the mini shots Ron and Mindy dispensed were very well received.

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Ron, Frank, MG and Mindy on Halloween.

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We saw “snowbirds” Susan and Kevin on s/v Radiance.

The ICW is a thousand mile display of variety.  Each day we see changes in vegetation that can be anything from low lying marsh grass to towering bald cypress trees decorated with Spanish moss.  We see small towns, wildlife preserves and prosperous cities.  The variety keeps the travel interesting as we navigate.

The navigation itself is very different from our ocean experience because the water is shallow and the traffic is greater.   I find reading the water difficult because there are no depth hints based on the color of the water and the water is not clear.  The land signals I am accustomed to, such as deeper water near sharp banks, do not exist either.  How am I supposed to know which side of a canal is deeper when both sides look alike?

The upside is that eventually I will get much better at reading charts and daymarkers, but for now I rely heavily on Frank for guidance.

Here are some photo highlights from this week…

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Swing bridge opening.

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Almost all the way open.

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Only this small strip of land separated the ICW and the Atlantic Ocean.

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Waccamaw River late afternoon.

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Nope this area isn’t flooded, it’s the fuel sign at the entry to Osprey Marina!

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Did MaryKay relocate to the ICW?

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Of course I’ve included one sunset.

Back in the Pack Down the ICW

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After three nights on our own, we slipped back in with our group at the Dowry Creek Marina on the Pungo River.

Apparently our fellow ralliers had a few issued on the trip down the Alligator/Pungo Canal. One boat became grounded (stuck on a shallow spot) and in the process of backing off the shallow spot, the dinghy line became entangled in the engine propeller.  Several other rally boats stopped to help untangle the line, but in the process, one of the helper boats ran over his anchor bridle which became entangled in his propeller!

The initial boat was able to free itself and someone jumped in the water and untangled the dinghy line.  The second boat was not as fortunate and had to be towed into Dowry Creek Marina.

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Frank dives to rescue the bridle on Our Log.

Instead of hiring a diver to loosen the anchor bridle from s/v Our Log’s propeller, Frank volunteered to don his gear and try to free the bridle.

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Bill peers into the water trying to see if Frank is making progress.

Fortunately after about 25 minutes, Frank managed to free the bridle and s/v Our Log didn’t have any propeller or engine damage!

Seeing as we are in The States, Sunday afternoon we all got together to grill and watch football on TV.  A BIG priority for LIB.    Not.   But the company was good and we had fun. Just don’t ask who was playing football because neither of us could tell you.

We left Dowry Creek and headed toward River Dunes Marina which is about a 40 mile trip.  Along the way we passed some uninhabited places and some very sparsely populated areas.  The homes were pretty significant for weekend places, yet they are so isolated it is hard to imagine them being full time residences.

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This was the most populated of the riverside “communities.”

About half way into our trip to River Dunes, we passed a shrimping area where our leader, Wally, stopped to buy shrimp for those who had placed orders the night before.  At $4.95 per pound, the shrimp was a popular buy!

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Shrimp boat docked at Mayo Seafood Dock.

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Only minutes after stopping, Wally had more than 30 pounds of shrimp on board!

For those who don’t sail, I thought you might find it interesting to see the electronic charts we are using as we navigate the ICW.  On the chart below, you will see a small, solid black boat and two larger outlined boats (dashed triangles).  LIB is represented by the solid boat.  The other two are boats near us who have Automatic Identification System (AIS).  AIS is an optional piece of equipment that broadcasts a boats’ location and information about the boat (type, size, speed it is traveling, etc).  We are amazed how few boats have AIS because we think it is very helpful and is a safety feature, especially at night!

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Dashed lines show the heading of other boats.

While your intuition would tell you to steer toward the “blue water” on this map, we actually are following the white area which represents the dug out trench of the ICW.  It looks like we are motoring on land when you glance at the chart, but remember, the ICW connects bodies of water that were originally separate.

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This is the view that corresponds with the chart view above.

As we entered the channel for the River Dunes Marina, we hailed the marina on our VHF to make sure they knew we were a catamaran and to get our slip assignment.  When they heard we were a catamaran, a bit of chaos broke out because they didn’t realize they had a cat coming in with the group.  That means they didn’t anticipate the width of our boat when planning our slip assignment.

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Entry into River Dunes Marina

Following the dock master’s orders, Frank prepared lines and bumpers and I manned the helm (drove).  We were told the slip was 26 feet wide, which was sufficient for our 24 food wide boat…. well, after nudging our way into the slip, we knew the measurements were not accurate and Frank and I just had to measure to see just how tight our slip really was…

LIB is 24 feet 3 inches wide. When we put a measuring tape to the slip?  24 feet 8 inches!!!!!!!!!!!!!!   Yes, we had 2.5 inches of space to spare on each side!!!

Regardless of our tight slip, this upscale community had plenty of amenities and we took advantage of many of them. Frank and I played tennis on the beautifully maintained clay courts.  It felt really awkward to play tennis after 18 months without hitting a ball.  I’m super glad I am not competing right now. It would be embarrassing!

Among other things, we had a croquet tournament where several of us “dressed” the part and assumed properly, stereotypically, snobby names.  It was guys against the girls and I can happily report that after 3 games, we tied.  (Ok, so the women may have taken a few small liberties, but…).

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River Dunes has about 4 fire pits available for evening gatherings.

Wally scheduled a gathering to discuss what to expect further south in the ICW and we agreed to come only if we could have it by the fire pits while sipping beverages at sunset.  Not a bad way to gather intel!

Frank and I rode our bikes from River Dunes to Oriental – “the sailing capital of NC,” – where we met up with Mindy and Ron, our Jabin’s Yacht Yard buddies. Like a dork, I forgot to take pictures but we enjoyed tooling around Oriental with Mindy and Ron; then the four of us stopped for lunch at The Silo. Lunch was great and the company was most excellent.

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Pic from the archives.

BTW, as is usual for my bike rides with Frank, the “six mile” ride to Oriental was more like 9.5 each way.  Hey, but I biked off lunch, probably, and the ride was absolutely beautiful and pretty much flat (like my rear tire!), so I am not really complaining.  I just have to remind Frank of his estimation powers for bike mileage.

Here are two of my favorite pictures from this week:

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s/v Valentine (Jack and Diane) show off their sailing skills

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Sunrise as we left Dowry Creek Marina

Our next scheduled stop is Beaufort, NC.  Beaufort was our first landing when we returned to the U.S. after being away for eight months and we loved this coastal city.


Away We Go ~ ICW Week One

Nearly 2 1/2 years ago, I mentioned to Frank that I really wanted to join the Snowbird Rally which traveled from the Chesapeake to Miami down the ICW.  Ironically, one June evening this summer, while in the Bahamas, we introduced ourselves to a fellow boater who is the administrator for several FB pages; Wally Moran.  Turns out, at one time Wally was the coordinator for the Snowbird Rally and he was planning his own rally down the ICW this year.  We talked with Wally for a bit and he sent us information about Sail to the Sun 2016 ~ his ICW rally.

That chance meeting put us on the path we are now taking ~ a trip down the ICW in the company of 20 other boats, led by Wally. 

Our two month trip from Hampton, VA to Miami, FL will cover more than 1,000 miles of inland travel through backwood, deserted rivers and fast paced, modern coastal cities.  We will navigate narrow cuts dug years ago to connect rivers and we will traverse large open sounds that will make us miss our sails.

MISS OUR SAILS?!  Yep.  My incredibly smart husband made arrangements to have our mast removed and shipped to Miami!  A sailboat with a high mast like ours, usually has to exit the ICW and go out into the Atlantic Ocean to avoid fixed bridges that are too low for the mast to clear.  Without the mast, LIB’s maximum height has gone from 68 feet to 14 feet.

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No mast means no stress on the ICW

As a result we clear ALL of the bridges! Plus there are several bridges that open but the closed clearance is high enough for us to pass without waiting for the bridge opening.

Trust me when I tell you this GREATLY reduces the stress of traveling the ICW.  Already a few boats in our rally have had to remove their antennae and wind vanes.  Two other boats had to weight their boats to heel as they passed under a fixed bridge so they could get the mast through. 

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Thank you to Brad and Terrie for the picture.

Brad and Ken are hanging off of the boom to tilt s/v Reflections.  Additional people were recruited to weigh the boat before she was heeled enough to fit under the fixed bridge!  

I salute their ingenuity but I do not envy them the stress of watching their masts clear bridges by mere inches!  Plus that trick obviously only works with a monohull so LIB doesn’t qualify.

Hurricane Matthew’s pounding of the east coast created some high water, a lot of debris and unknown shoaling changes to the Dismal Swamp which was scheduled to be our entrance to the ICW. 

Caution dictated skipping the Dismal Swamp and heading to the Virginia Cut as our entrance to the ICW. I am disappointed that we skipped the Swamp because of it’s age and history, but the Virginia Cut is an easier and wider passage.

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Heading toward our first railroad bridge.

Day one we crossed the Newport News Channel which is a huge military area and a large commercial shipping area plus the hub of several channels for recreational boaters. In land terms, the Newport News Channel is like a highway interchange, but there are few lane markers and overtaking vessels hail you on the VHF when they are about to pass.  Dallas folks, think of this as the I635 of boating ~ without brakes. 

Just after leaving that channel, we approached our first lock!  Most of us in the rally had never been through a lock so we were all inexperienced. But the lock tenders were patient and efficient, so everything went well.

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Boats are tied to both sides of the lock.

EXCEPT, the second we were tied up to the wall, Captain jumped off the boat and made use of the lush green grass across the concrete barrier.  I wish I could have snapped a picture, but I was busy tending lines.  I don’t think the lock workers were very pleased with Captain, but she certainly felt much better!  Once she was back on board we could laugh about our very independent dog.

Rather than bore you with a detailed account of each day, I expect the documentation of our ICW trip will be mostly photographs.  The scope of the scenes will be difficult to capture, but I hope to give you a glimpse of the areas we see. 

If there is something you think we should watch for on our trip or some place you loved when you traveled here, please share in the comments so we can try to see it!

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Leaving the Carrituck Sound.

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Waiting on a very low bridge to open.

On the third day, our group was heading across the Albemarle Sound and up to Elizabeth City, but because the anticipated weather showed we would be motoring across the Albemarle in high winds, we chose to skip Elizabeth City and spend a few nights on our own schedule.  I think after so many months in the dock, we wanted to anchor out and hang on our hook for a few nights.

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The only structures were fishing camps built on stilts in the water.

After reading about the 150,000 acre Alligator River Wildlife Refuge across the Albemarle Sound, we aimed our bow in that direction.  Apparently the red wolf in the wild became extinct, so in 1987 a pair of red wolves from a zoo was reintroduced to this Refuge because the environment is perfect for them.  Well over 60 pups have been born in the wild since 1987 and some nights a series of howls can be heard from the pack.  We didn’t have the pleasure of hearing the wolves, but we still enjoyed the natural beauty of the Little Alligator River.

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Fog the morning we awakened on the Little Alligator River.

The next morning we were surrounded by fog and the visibility was minimal.  This was the perfect excuse to spend a leisurely morning on LIB and watch the day develop.

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Loaded up Day Tripper for a trip to shore.

The fog burned away to reveal a spectacular day, so a trip to shore and a bike ride along the levy was in order.  Cappy was super happy to run, sniff and explore while Frank and I tootled along at a casual pace.

The next night we anchored in the Alligator River.  We found another quiet bend in a finger off the main river and dropped the anchor.  Once again we awakened in a cloud!

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This time we lifted anchor and motored on as soon as we had reasonable visibility.  The patterns the clouds created on the gray water were beautiful.

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As we motored toward the Alligator/Pungo River canal, the clouds and landscape made me think of Jurassic Park.  I kept waiting for a T-Rex to lift its’ head among the trees.

Once past the Alligator/Pungo Canal, we will reconnect with Rally and hear all about the stops we missed.

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