93 Dowry Creek, NC to Vero Beach, FL

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Brilliant white stretching to the horizon gave the illusion of snow-covered fields as we biked toward Belhaven. A white haze covered the road shoulder adding to the snow illusion. However temperatures were in the 70’s, and the sun was shining. Close to the road individual plants with their burst balls of cotton waiting to be picked broke the illusion before they blended into the sea of white. We continued on pedaling against a stiff wind heading for a reunion six miles away.

We’d first met Allan and MJ in Mystic, CT on our way to Maine in 1998. Land dwellers then, they were just getting Mokita ready for a live-aboard life. Now we sat aboard enjoying a unique view. Mokita was on the hard, and we looked out over a jammed Belhaven boat yard filled with fellow cruisers who had encountered problems serious enough to require a haul out. For Mokita it was grounding in Albermarle Sound and an ominous crack in the rudder that brought her ashore. Within a day the newly applied fiberglass would have cured, new bottom paint would be in place, and they’d be again heading down the ICW. For the moment we swapped travel notes and heard the story of their grounding.

After two days we said goodbye to old and new friends at Dowry Creek and headed for Oriental. The wind was still blowing but while it reached gale force conditions just offshore it never got very bad along the ICW. Odyssey was freshly cleaned, oil changed and fuel tank full. It was time to move on again.

We easily threaded our way through the crowded Oriental anchorage at 5:30 AM on a moonless morning. Blazing work lights from shrimp boats tied up at the harbor edge made all the anchored boats easy to see. Leaving the harbor, cool inky blackness folded around us. Off in the distance a flash every four seconds from the mark at the canal entrance became our steering beacon. The faint glow from our instrument lights provided just enough helm illumination to find our morning cups of coffee and tea. It’s a magic time to be moving, steering for a mark while anticipating the subtle change along the horizon hinting at first light for the upcoming day.

It was still early as we passed Morehead City. Always interested in technology I couldn’t help but notice the line of cell phone towers marching down the shoreline. My test proved successful and for the first time was able to send and receive e-mail while under way.

Sea Dragon had a whole new look from our last encounter a year earlier in Georgian Bay, Ontario. Don and Barb’s hard work resulted in the open cockpit now being enclosed and a new coat of paint for the whole boat plus many more refinements. It was fun hearing what they had gone through to join us as live-aboard travelers. Early the next morning we indulged in a mutual interest and walked through the Barefoot Landing Outlet Mall to a McDonalds across the road. Then after an artery-clogging breakfast we said our good byes knowing we’d meet again.

A shallow cove along the shore became home as we floated in quiet seclusion on Bull Creek just off the Waccamaw River. A sandy bank close by gave way to a lovely forest quietly releasing faded leaves to float idly in the glassy waters. Over the VHF, when we chose to listen, we could hear the steady chatter of southbound boats. In our quiet anchorage we went for an entire day with only one boat venturing into the creek to explore. Each evening the brilliant sunsets filled in the sky framed by our surrounding trees giving us a great finale to a pleasant day.

Our cruising guide mentioned famous Bucksport Sausage, and we decided to stop and try some. The funky marine/general store is out in the middle of nowhere. The only person we saw during our stop was the old southern gentleman behind the cash register. He appeared very dapper in his trendy dark dress shirt, tie, dress slacks and shoes. In his deep southern drawl we learned the world would be a better place if the Arabs would only read and follow their Bibles. We let it pass, got our sausage, learning as we did so that Bucksport doesn’t make sausage, but does sell sausage made elsewhere because boaters keep stopping and asking for sausage.

The next day we found a creek that was not documented in any of our cruising guides but looked doable. Curious we slowly headed in carefully watching the depth sounder and checking our chart. Finally at the head of the creek we dropped anchor and had a pleasant undisturbed afternoon in our own private spot. We considered sending our various cruising guides updates documenting our find, but decided to keep it to ourselves.

We took a chance on Palmer Johnson Boatworks at Thunderbolt. They cater to super yachts of the 100′ and up variety. They also run a marina for us ordinary folk and as we found do an outstanding job. Tom and Marilyn met us there, and we spent a day poking around Savannah together. However, for Tom and I it was just as much fun seeing the PJ staff turn a super yacht in for workPJ staff working on a 150′ mast in the yard. We also wondered how the yard bill would read as we watched six PJ people spend over a half-hour turning one of the super yachts around for additional work. Just that simple task would bill out at $150. These are serious boats.

Jekyll Island captured us for five lazy, enjoyable days. We have our “Special Jekyll Routines”, but finally after a long bike ride along the beach at low tide we escaped and continued drifting south. We gave Fernandina Beach another try. They have added new face-docks to overcome the silting in the harbor. The downtown is still lovely and filled with delicious restaurants and “gifte-shoppes” to explore. We found a brief mention of Old Fernandina being a national historic district. We discovered, after a three mile hike, that it was the last Spanish city platted in the U.S. It’s hard to sense the history with ordinary homes of fairly recent construction, lining streets where each street sign proclaimed the historic status. It would be interesting to know if the historic commission takes an interest if someone decides to paint the front of their home many of which needed painting.

On a whim we stopped at Palm Coast Marina Resort, a complex of canals, homes, golf courses, hotel and restaurants. Outstanding homemade ice cream was our reward for biking into a shopping center two miles away. Then returning to the marina we dropped the dinghy into the water and went off exploring the canals and an old ICW route nearby that is now closed.

We throttled back to idle and watched the activity directly in our path. Ahead were hundreds of white pelicans and cormorants tightly filling the channel just before the Haulover Canal. Birds scatter as we head along the ICW They didn’t seem to be feeding, just getting together for afternoon gossip or to see what boaters would do if they filled channel. As we slowly closed the distance they reluctantly gave way and then panicked and flew off scattering from their afternoon get together.

Angie and Jerry live aboard Unchained at Titusville. We stopped and finally met in person after having communicated for many months by e-mail. We had a great time learning more about Titusville, seeing their boat and showing them Odyssey. Unfortunately we missed Gone With the Wind who we had met our first year and who had introduced us to Unchained. Next year we’ll meet up somewhere as we all head north.

We weren’t quite ready to crash back into civilization so close Vero Beach we anchored behind a spoil island for protection from boat wakes on the ICW. To the west there’s nothing but lush Florida vegetation. To the east just beyond the overgrown spoil island are multi-million-dollar homes. Just after sunrise a family of dolphins slowly circled close by Odyssey as they hunted down their breakfast. We decided to stay and enjoy the quiet of the anchorage for awhile longer.

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