29 November, 2007


Location: Fourmile Creek Canal, just South of Georgetown, SC
Position: N33 08.306 W079 19.645

We had a wonderful couple of days with our friends from Little River. We set off on Tuesday at around 8:00 AM and headed further down the Intracoastal Waterway. We gave Yvonne the helm early on and she didn’t relinquish it until we dropped anchor in Georgetown last night! Well, truth be told, she didn’t so much “not relinquish” it as we didn’t relieve her after seeing how much fun she was having .

We covered about 30 miles the first day and spent the night at anchor in Bull Creek, off the Waccamaw River.

Yvonne and Tom had left their truck in Georgetown, so we only had about 20 miles to cover the second day. For years we’ve been hearing from Rachel’s previous owners how nice Thoroughfare Creek is - so we decided to stop in and drop the anchor at the sand dune for lunch and check it out. What a great spot! We’ll definitely work in a stop there next time we’re going by.

Julie whipped up a delicious curry (how does she always manage to come up with such great meals on short notice??) and we all relaxed on deck and soaked up some well-appreciated sunshine. We got going again at 2:30 PM, caught the outgoing tide on the Waccamaw River, and dropped anchor again in Georgetown at around 4:15 PM for the night.

Georgetown is a great little town – lots of history and a lovely historic downtown area. We didn’t think too much of the anchorage, though, as it was already nearly full with moored boats and some pretty derelict looking boats at anchor. After one last night aboard together, we dropped our friends off at the dock at around 7:00 this morning, and started on our way again. They were great boat guests and will be welcome on our Rachel any time.

Today will be mostly a “canal day”. So far today we’ve seen a pair of bald eagles sitting together on a branch, a couple of porpoises, some kingfishers, and several heron. Try as she might, however, Julie still hasn’t seen her first alligator yet. Ooh! There’s another bald eagle! Oooh and a white morph egret!

It’s overcast and cool, but not really too uncomfortable. The sun keeps peeping out for a bit, then hiding back behind the clouds again. We’re dressed warmly and there’s little to no wind, so we’re really enjoying wending our leisurely way through the marshes. We’re not sure how far we’ll get today, but our destination tomorrow will be Charleston, SC where we’ve got a slip reserved at the city marina so we can pick up a part that’s been shipped to us, do some work on the boat and, just maybe, get some shore leave. If she plays her cards right, Julie might even get a dinner out!

23 November, 2007

Family Visit

Location: Little River, SC
Position: N33 51.7 W078 38.3

Sorry for the delay in updates. Let's see, now where were we..??

Looks like we last left off on November 12th in Southern North Carolina.

Okay. So .... let's see....

We upped anchor and left at 8am on the 13th hoping to make it to Little River (about a 50 mile run) in a day. We started off going through Snow's Cut and down the Cape Fear River, both of which can be very "interesting" with as much as 6 knots of current. Both were navigated successfully.

The next sections of interest were Lockwoods Folly and Shalotte - two inlets that we had heard were tricky and quite shallow. Unfortunately we were going to pass through just before low tide so we were a bit nervous. We did, at one point have only 6" clearance below the keel but managed to get through both spots with no groundings, thank goodness.

The last problem of the day was Sunset Beach Pontoon Bridge. It is maybe the last bridge of this type in the country, opened and closed by cables that pull the pontoon section open and closed. The openings are restricted to once an hour.

We could see the bridge closing as it came into view. We were probably a couple of miles away, so we decided to slow way down and take our time on the approach.
Mark decided to switch the VHF radio to Channel 13 so we could monitor the bridge. We'd been following a pile driver barge for a while, watching it slowly pull away from us and approaching the bridge. Suddenly we heard a conversation between the barge captain and the bridge tender - there's going to be a special "commercial opening" in five minutes! That'll save us over a half-hour wait at the bridge! We exchange glances, Julie is at the helm, she eases the throttle up to WOT (Wide Open Throttle) as we make the decision to try and make it. We are still quite a way back and we hear the horns going to warn traffic to stop for the bridge opening. Mark hails the bridge tender to let him know we are trying to make the opening. No reply.

We keep on steaming. Mark hails the bridge tender again since it looks like we can make the opening just behind the barge. Again, no reply. Maybe we should slow down since he's not acknowledging our call. We decide that if we are right on the tail of the pile driver - he'll have to let us through. Mark hails the bridge tender again, this time instead of a request he says. "We're following the pile driver through unless we hear back from you!!". Still no response. We forge on through - Woohoo we made it. As we clear the bridge Mark thanks the bridge tender for holding the opening, this is usually a nicety but today it was a bit of a dig!! Still no reply. We heard later that he has a reputation for 'not being very nice'.

At any rate, we managed to follow the pile driving barge all the way to about 1/2 mile before our "exit" and took advantage of the captains local knowledge - instead of feeling our way through the shallow bits, we followed his lead and stayed in deep water for the remainder of the trip. We arrived at Lightkeepers Marina almost an hour earlier than we would have otherwise!

We visited with our friends, made sure Rachel was well secured, packed our bags, and headed to Virginia to visit family (especially grandson Alex and beautiful new granddaughter Emma). Mark took the opportunity to head to CT and visit his parents for a few days, leaving Julie holding the baby. We all spent a lovely Thanksgiving day with our daughter's family. There is a definitely a lot to be thankful for. Did we mention that our new granddaughter is absolutely beautiful?

Emma sleeping

So now we've had our family fix, and have just arrived back on Rachel. We will probably hang around here for a couple of days and then take our friends further South with us for a couple of days. They are ex-cruisers and need a boat fix.

12 November, 2007

Hurry up - Wait

Location: Wrightsville Beach, NC
Position: N34 03.2 W077 53.3

You may think that we spend much of our time relaxing and having fun - and you'd probably be right, at least in part. We also spend a portion of our time every day in an exercise in logistics working our way down the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW).

First - There are lots of bridges that cross the ICW. Some are 65 feet high - no problem - we can travel right under them. Others, probably 2/3 of them so far, are bridges that are less than our mast height of 58' and need to open for us to pass. Of these, Some are on demand - meaning that we can call the bridge tender on our VHF radio and, when it's a good time for them, they open the bridge. Most, however, are on either an hourly or half-hourly schedule and we need to time our arrivals to coincide with their schedule.

Second - there are inlets, tides and currents that need to be taken into consideration. In some areas the currents are very strong so it is important to time our passage with the tides. It's easy enough to miss a bridge opening when there's a knot of current against you on your way there, and just as easy to get there early and have to do the "waiting for the bridge - let's not run into each other" dance when you've got the current with you.

Every evening we sit down and look at what we have ahead of us for tomorrow. We look at the bridge opening times and work back to figure out what time we should leave and what our average speed for each leg of the trip needs to be to make the openings on time. Then we look at the inlets to see if there are any tide considerations (we're still working on that one). Then we have a conflab about the pros and cons of bridges, tides, shoaling, etc. for the day.

Today we left the anchorage at 6am so that we could make the 4 opening bridges at just the right times and pass the inlets with the current in our favour and make our anchorage in the daylight. In one way it is a bit of a pain, but in others, it's a fun challenge and a bit like solving a puzzle. Not so hard in the long run, actually, for a couple of computer geeks.

we had a successful journey today. Made all the bridges, did not run aground, and arrived at our chosen destination well before dark - AND - we are still talking to each other.


"Nothing. Never mind!"

"Oh. Okay."

11 November, 2007

It's days like today....

Location: Mile Hammock Bay, NC
Location: 34 33.1 N 077 19.4

We need to play a little catch up.

Oriental to Swansboro - we spend an extra day in Swansboro doing laundry, etc. - what a lovely little town. Old, pretty houses and Yana's has the best breakfast we've had out for a long time!!

We get up at 6:00 am so we can be on our way by 7:00. It's cold!! Our breath frosts in the air as we don our foul weather gear, haul anchor and get on our way.

There's a tricky bit at an inlet about 8 miles ahead of us and we want to get there at high tide. We've heard lots of stories of groundings there, and we want to give ourselves every advantage. Mark chatted up the Tow Boat US guy yesterday and got the inside skinny on how to negotiate it, so we're feeling pretty confident.

We time our arrival for high tide and make it through without any problems and with plenty of room to spare, exactly as presented by our new friend. Then we only have to wait about 10 minutes for a bridge to open. We pass through and make our destination. It's a really short day (only about 15 miles after we left) and we're done at 10:30 am with plenty of time left to relax! Snow geese fly by to welcome us, it's Veteran's Day, and we're anchored in a US Marine base - how cool is that?

It's 60 degrees F and the wind is blowing between 0 and 10 mph. It's clear and sunny and we sit in the cockpit in the lee of the dodger (the windshield thingy) letting the sun warm us, napping, watching the dolphins swim by, and finally begin to thaw out after our cold morning on the water.

We listen to kids play on the shore as their parents fish off the docks, watch the wildlife, relax, and nap. We're the only boat here, it's beautiful, and we're really, really satisfied. How much better can it possibly get?

07 November, 2007

Variety is the spice of life

Location: Pungo River, NC
Location: N35 33.513 W076 28.050

Today has been quite varied. First, we knew for sure we had left the Chesapeake when we raised the anchor this morning and the entire chain was not covered in black, smelly muck! What a nice change.

We spent yesterday at anchor because of the high winds but today we decided to go for it. We got up at 6am for an early start at 7am, left the anchorage and crossed the Albemarle sound in about 15 knots of wind. The Albemarle is very shallow and, when the wind is up, large, steep, frequent, and potentially dangerous waves are created. We motor-sailed and did pretty well until we were almost across the Sound. The wind (and waves!) picked up quite a bit but we managed to bounce and weave and splash our way out of the Albemarle and into the entrance to the Alligator River. And to make what was becoming a good day better, the Rt. 64 bridge tender saw us coming and held the opening for us. With a "Pick it up and bring it on, Captain" from the tender we coursed through the bridge and made our way into the Alligator River.

Out with the Genoa (the big headsail) and a nice downwind run up the Alligator. After a few gybes the shore began to close in and we came to the next portion of the trip - the entrance of the Alligator River-Pungo River Canal. This was actually a welcome relief by now; the canal is only a hundred or so feet wide and is really protected - quite different from the somewhat blustery start of the day. We relaxed, motored, and saw kingfishers, turkey vultures, lovely marsh grasses, cypress, and the ride was (thankfully) much less exciting. It was a
chilly day but the light following wind and warm sun made it quite tolerable.

9 hours and almost 66 statute miles later we are now anchored in the Pungo River just south of the end of the canal. Following a tasty dinner, a glass of wine, and some romantic music we are contented and ready for another long day tomorrow. The kerosene lamp creates just enough heat to keep the cabin comfortable . We'll turn it off soon and crawl under the quilts while the
temperature drops to the mid-30s outside. In the morning we'll leap out of bed, light the burner under the coffee, relight the lantern, and start the oven to bake some breakfast muffins and heat the cabin. Then it's off to the Neuse River and Oriental, NC.

05 November, 2007

Little boat in BIG harbour

Date: November 5, 2007
Location: Broad Creek, NC
Location: N36 11.987 W075 57.128

We finally left Zimmermans and are heading South. We know it is hard to believe. We also know that there are some among you who have resigned yourselves to the fact that we will never go anywhere! Surprise!!! Yesterday we actually started heading south on the Intracoastal Waterway ( http://cruisingtheicw.com/ ).

Of course knowing us as you do, you would have to know that nothing comes easily. Let us set the scene - we're heading into the port of Norfolk, VA - a major commercial hub and naval base. J: "Wow, look at that huge container ship"M: "Yea, it's following us in"
15 minutes later - J at the helm
J: "It's coming right at us"
M: "No it isn't. It's going up the other channel."
5 minutes later
J: "I really think it is coming this way"
M: "No, trust me, it's going to turn to starboard any second"
J: "OK"
2 minutes later
J: "Uh, I think it's following us in."Ship: "HOOOOOOOT"
M: "Holy crap!! Hard to port NOW!"

This was before we even got to Mile zero of the Intracoastal Waterway.

Luckily, though, things improved and the rest of the day was uneventful. We made it about 12 more miles to Great Bridge, where we went through our first lock. This lovely little town has free overnight dock space, and being the johhny-come-lately's that we are, we just managed to grab the last spot. On the way down We met a great New Zealand couple who had travelled beside us most of the day.

Today we had a long fairly long and (thankfully) uneventful day travelling into North Carolina. We dropped anchor in Broad Creek, just north of the Albemarle Bay and are currently anchored beside our NZ friends.

The weathermen are forecasting 20-25 knots of wind tonight and tomorrow, so we're ready to sit tight for a day or two if need be. Crossing the Albemarle in anything but "settled weather" seems to be pretty well discouraged by all our guide books.

If the weatherman is wrong, we'll probably try to add another 40-50 statute miles tomorrow. If they're right, we'll stay at anchor - at least it'll give Mark a chance to reconnect the propane heater. Then Julie won't be required to bake for every meal to warm the boat.

02 November, 2007


Date: November 2, 2007
Location: Radford, VA

Celebrations, fireworks, and sparklers are in order! We wish to announce the birth of our 3rd grandchild!

Emma Ashlyn Parks was born at 7:04 am today, Friday, November 2nd 2007, and weighed 7 lb. 7 oz when she entered our world. She and her mum are both happy and healthy. Daddy is doing fine, too, and has been observed taking her for walks and showing her off to anyone he bumps into in the hospital halls. We have not seen her yet but are sure she is beautiful.

We'll post pictures when we can. Brother Alex is very proud of his little sister as are his mum & dad.

The best part is that she shares a birthday with grandma Julie.

All our best,