80 Vero Beach, FL to Beaufort, SC

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Weeks earlier we sorted our travel plans out and decided on Lake Ontario. We’re curious to see what has changed on the lake we cruised for 20 years but have been away from for 8 years. Added in will be the Erie Canal and Finger Lakes on the way up. This fall we’ll explore the Rideau Canal to Ottawa and Montreal. From there we’ll head beck to the Hudson River and points south via Lake Champlain. That’s the plan, subject as always to change.

With a destination in mind, and without serious deadlines, we relaxed and begin to enjoy Odyssey and learn more about her performance characteristics. With four prior passages, the ICW now feels like an old friend, even more so now with 3′ less draft. Heading north on familiar waters, we relaxed a bit and enjoyed the passing scene.

The cement factory channel north of Daytona Beach is an anchorage we’d used before. A favorite stopping spot for cruisers, it had changed from our last stop 18 months ago. The once-abandoned cement factory is back in operation, and a sign cautions boaters to keep the channel open for barges. We anchored and decided to experiment with tying off to shore. We were curious to see if the trawlercat was easier than the sailboat to move with the dinghy. Down went the dinghy from the davits. We quickly discovered Odyssey was easy to move, but difficult to hold in place against the light wind. Once we stopped pushing with the dinghy, she’d immediately begin to drift downwind. After some experimenting we got tied off close to shore in the wind shadow of the protecting palm trees. We slept soundly through the night as the forecasted increase in wind strength materialized.

Winds were up as we headed to Jekyll Island. Taking advantage of our higher cruising speed, we took the alternate route through some of the backwaters of the Georgia marshes to stay off the choppy conditions of St Andrew Sound. The challenging navigation we’d expected became easy since the route now has many more navigation aids than are shown on the chart.

At Jekyll Island we again met Laurent and Judy on Blitzen. Daylea G with Dayton and Leanne came in. We’d met Daylea G on the rivers and last seen them in Palmetto. Early one morning we all headed out for a bike ride around the north end of the island. Stopping to check on our alligator in her tiny pond along the bike trail in the woods, we found her alone. The babies we’d seen the prior two years had disappeared. We continued on enjoying the bike trail through the live oaks and marsh at the north end of the island. Our pace quickened as we headed back to the marina. We could see storm clouds accompanying the forecasted front rolling in from the west.

The marina was active with nervous energy in anticipation of the storm. We checked our lines, adjusted fenders and closed hatches. On the Grand Banks ahead of us people were taking down their bimini and stowing loose gear. The VHF was active with boaters calling marinas and rushing to get in and secured before the storm hit. The weather alert alarm went off on the VHF. Reports of 50-knot winds, tornadoes and severe thunderstorms in the area were announced. We sat in the cockpit watching the storm visually and measuring its distance from us on our radar. We were amused as one boater came by and told us we should be watching TV because they had weather warnings up on it, and we might want to know. He didn’t seem to understand TV got their alerts from the NOAA, and we were listening live on VHF. He walked on down the dock muttering we really should turn on our TV.

Wind, rain, lightning, and hail all hit at the same time. The calm water by the marina instantly changed to a 2-3′ chop with the wind blowing the tops off waves. Visibility shrank to about 100′. Our wind speed indicator registered a gust of 40 knots. The sailboat tied behind us took on a 15-degree angle of heel as the wind pressed against her bare poles. We rode perfectly flat–just bumping around a little in the sudden chop. In 10 minutes the first squall had passed, but we could see more coming on radar. An hour later the sun reappeared. The dock quickly filled with boaters checking for damage (none) and swapping storm impressions. Ashore, many trees were down.

Breakfast at the Millionaire’s Club was elegant and delicious. The dining room has a simple yet gracious charm duplicated by few restaurants we’ve visited. In the soft glow of morning light it seem especially elegant. After breakfast wandering the Club grounds with Laurent and Judy we discovered another unique gem on the island. Behind the Club we found a garden very different from the formal gardens most guests see. Here was a scattered tangle of random paths, flowers and unique sculptures and decorations. Old discards had been welded into bizarre shapes. Carefully place empty whisky bottles lined a flowerbed. A wire strung with brightly painted metal flashed in the sun and morning breeze. We wandered all the random paths enjoying the eclectic eccentricity of garden.

Cautiously we poked into the south entrance to Walburg Creek. We found good depth all the way to our anchorage. A year earlier with 3′ more draft and and falling tide, we’d been reluctant to try the entrance charted as 4′ but reported to be 8′. Instead we had traveled extra miles to the north entrance. We relaxed and enjoyed the quiet of the anchorage for a few hours while Blitzen caught up with us. As they approached the south entrance, we talked them in providing detail about the deep-water passage we’d confirmed. In the quiet of the creek we rafted Blitzen off the side. Judy and Ruth created yet another special “boater potluck”.

A flashing blue light and siren announced the marine patrol on our stern just before Thunderbolt, GA. “You’re speeding. This is an idle speed only zone,” The officer said as we idled along together. I protested that we were not leaving a wake. “Your wake is fine. That’s why I’m not going to write a ticket. However, you must go at idle speed. The signs say: No wake, Boats over 26′ idle speed,” The officer explained. I was tempted to protest further–ask if they made sailboats go at idle speed; ask why it was ok for a shorter boat to go faster and pass us–but bit my tongue. We parted, now going more slowly and still not leaving a wake.

Chicago ‘friends’ surprised us at Beaufort, SC. As we dinghied ashore we saw a cow statue near the dock. In Chicago last fall we’d been amused to see “Cows on Parade”, wildly painted and decorated cow sculptures scattered all over the city. Now at Beaufort we learned they were hosting “Cows on Vacation” and had a number of cows on display around town. We saw some old friends we’d seen in Chicago and discovered a few we hadn’t seen before.

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