107 Jacksonville, FL to Hampton, VA

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During summer the last leg of Joe’s morning commute is on an ATV along the beach. On this cool winter day we comfortably rode the route with him in his SUV. We stopped at his office, a counter and platform from which he runs his umbrella and beach chair rental business in front of a large resort. During the winter he multiplies his earnings investing in a variety of entrepreneurial activities. The next day we reciprocated and took him out on Odyssey to explore the marshes off Fernandina Beach, FL. With a bit of exploring we found the waterfront lot he’s purchased in anticipation of building a dock for the Endeavour Trawlercat he’s planning on purchasing.

We had a longer trip in mind when we started out from Fernandina Beach. However, as we got closer to Jekyll, the temptation became too much, and we pulled in to enjoy the island for a couple of days. For first time in all our visits we couldn’t find any evidence of alligators in the little pond we visit on each time we stop at the island.

A new marina for us on the north tip of St Simons Island at Hampton Point caught our interest. Three miles off the ICW, cruising boaters rarely visit it. We stayed a night, exploring the residential community isolated from the hassle of the developed southern end of the island by a large marsh area.

Sunny days heated our enclosed cockpit as we continued north in mid February. Along the ICW we met a few local boats fishing and a few boats heading south but hardly anyone going north. The VHF, normally busy with boat chatter, fell silent for hours at a stretch. Just before Beaufort, SC we pulled into Bryans Creek for one last anchorage before crashing back into civilization. One concern–a brief odd noise along the hull prompted a quick dip to confirm we hadn’t lost a zinc from the propeller shaft.

Lady’s Island Marina at Beaufort, SC became home for Odyssey while we drove north to Rochester, NY to be on hand for the birth of Heather Elizabeth our second grandchild. While Debbie and Jeff were at the hospital we took care of Danielle learning first hand how much energy a two year old has, but having a wonderful time. We were able to fit in visits both to Cindy and Mike’s “Magic Kingdom” and Linda and Steve’s gourmet restaurant (Brian is an exceptional chef).

Three weeks of shore living grew a desire to be back on the water. We left Rochester at 4 AM and 15 hours later were back aboard Odyssey enjoying the subtle boat motion as we snuggled into bed. Taking advantage of the rental car, we spent a day getting supplies and exploring land areas too distant to be reached by bike or foot.

I crossed another of life’s milestones by signing up for Social Security. First try was at the tiny Social Security office in Port Royal next to Beaufort. We opened the door and walked into a waiting room that gave us pause. Staring back at us from two rows of chairs arranged theater style were fifteen people of various ages. Facial expressions were blank, no one was talking and not one person had anything to read. At the service window we could hear one person talking. Five minutes later nothing had changed, and we elected to try an alternative method. It took less than a minute to register using the Beaufort Library’s computers and a half hour later I’d completed the Social Security application questions using the Internet and had my confirmation number to include with the documentation we needed to send to Social Security.

The next morning we returned the rental car, took advantage of the fine weather and walked the five miles back to Odyssey to get some exercise. By noon, we were moving north. Just short of Charleston we anchored behind Wappoo Island for the night.

The man’s wave looked different, his outboard was tilted up, and he was in the bow paddling with a single paddle. We stopped and after a brief conservation took him in a side tow. Dwayne makes his living as a waterman. He runs his crab traps in the morning and catfish lines in the afternoon. The outboard quit working at 9 AM. It was 11 AM and we were the only boat he’d seen on the ICW. We refused his offer of crabs as payment for our tow and offered him a Diet Coke instead. For an hour we chatted back and forth as we towed him to his boat launch at the ferryboat crossing just south of Winyah Bay.

Tug Theadore TOO

Tug Theadore TOO

My casual comment about all the plastic fencing ringing Osprey Marina generated a surprising answer. “We’re getting ready for the arrival of Theodore TOO” came the reply. We’d seen the re-creation of the children’s story in person at the Miami Boat Show; now the famous tug would be paying a visit to a small marina on the Waccamaw River. Not only had they put up fencing, but they were paying Theodore TOO to come and had gone to considerable expense to advertise their open house for kids to tour the boat.

Even if we slowed, we’d end up waiting a half hour for the hourly Sunset Pontoon Bridge opening. Instead we headed out the Little River inlet just north of Myrtle Beach, SC for a look at the ocean. Seas were running as forecast at 3-5 feet and the wind would be on the nose. It was bumpy but not uncomfortable so we headed north offshore for the 35-mile run along the coast to Cape Fear. Three hours later the Cape Fear light was abeam, and we were picking our way through shoal waters inshore to keep from having to go further offshore to pick up the main shipping channel. Our first run offshore in over a year had been a good shakedown and shake up. We again had a mess in the cabin to clean up.

The Coast Guard came along side with lights flashing and signaled us to slow down. Puzzled we complied. They then explained they were doing Springtime random boardings for safety equipment checks. We invited them aboard and passed without problems. It was nice hearing one officer comment “We figured you’d pass as soon as we came along side and got a closer look.” The Coast Guard headed south looking for another boat to board.

We stopped at Beaufort, NC and met up with Allan and M. J. Mokita has been sold, and they now have a joint project in process to produce a book of M. J.’s marine paintings with text done by Allan. Off we went to tour the Marine Research facilities Allan and M. J. at Duke University Marine Lab Allan and MJ Brushmaintained by Duke University. It made no difference that it was Saturday, they had access to the entire complex 24/7. The lab M. J. is using is fascinating. It’s filled with row after row of specimen jars of various marine creatures. Books filled other shelves. One picked at random looked like an encyclopedia volume that only covered details about a specific oyster.

A short ride in Odyssey’s dingy took the four of us out to the island dedicated to Rachel Carson.

Horse on Rachel Carson Island.

Horse on Rachel Carson Island.

The wild horses were interesting, but we loved Allan’s expert abilities to spot and identify birds and the close up views we had of the crabs wandering the shoreline at low tide. Ruth and M.J. collected sand dollars.

It’s called the Neuse River, but looks more like a large, long lake. Waves were only 3-5’ but instead of the more widely spaced ocean swells, they were close together making for a very rough ride as we pounded directly into them. We almost cut short and ducked into Oriental, SC to escape the extremely rough conditions but decided to take the pounding and keep moving north. Once we cleared the open water on the Neuse, the remainder of the run was in sheltered canals so we made good time.
Just at dusk as we neared Coinjock, NC we passed offshore of the huge marsh fire whose smoke we’d been watching for hours. We reached Coinjock well after dark. Asking about the fire as we reached the marina we learned that various hunting clubs set fire to the marshes each spring to improve the grass growth and resulting duck hunting. We’d covered 154 miles, in about 12 hours.

It was a routine lock passage. The tug pushed the barge into the lock, and we followed once the prop wash settled down. I threw a line over a bollard, and Ruth began backing us down against the lock wall. Seconds later we were perpendicular to the wall and still swinging out and toward the tug’s stern. It took a couple of tries and a bit of discussion before we had Odyssey back under control and properly against the lock wall. As we waited for the lock cycle we figured out what the prop wash was doing and what we’ll do differently next time we ride in close to a tug’s props.

We discovered we’d come north so early that we’d outrun water supplies. Water on the dock at Coinjock had not yet been turned on for risk of freezing. We found the same condition at Hampton, VA. On board water got reserved for drinking and showers. Laundry accumulated until we could find a place to connect to water or at least refill the tank.

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