Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Slip ….Sliding Away to North Bimini, Bahamas

So…….Here we sit in Miami waiting for a good weather window to cross over to N. Bimini. We’ve had two days of 20+kts winds from the North. The forecast for the sea state is 8-10 ft swells with a short period. I really do not even want to back the boat out of the slip with 20 its on the stern! Sunday has a better forecast for 10-15 kts out of the East and dropping to 5-10 its Sunday night/Monday morning. The good news is this is extra time for boat maintenance. The temperature gauge for the engine has stopped working. Yesterday I inspected the connection plugs from the engine wiring harness and the connection plug behind the gauge panel. They were firmly connected and seated. Stanley at Beta Marine has send me a new gauge overnight.

The new gauge has arrived and we don’t leave until tomorrow. Judy helps me install it since someone is needed in the cockpit to hold it in while lay on my back in the crawl space under the cockpit to thread on the retaining ring. It goes smoothly. We fire up the engine and after 20 minutes no change! Dejected, I decide that I have all day to do this in a methodical fashion. I drag out the wiring diagrams for the engine and instruments. Next, I ground the temperature sending unit and confirm that so I can trace it thru the harness and each of the connecting plugs (2) to the temp meter on instrument panel. I slide back the rubber boots on the starboard engine connector and use my ohm meter on both sides of the connector. Beeps and beeps from the meter. This connector is OK and the signal is headed to the connector in the crawl space beneath the cockpit. One beep on the first side of this connector but none on the other side!! I take the plug apart and there it is……..the little copper connector, there are 11 of them, for the temp meter is pushed back slightly! I pushed it forward. Problem solved. The temp meter now works. Nice to have the better part of the day to do this. I check the weather and we’re good to go on Sunday. The distance to North Bimini is 60 nm as the crow flies, but we will be crossing the Gulf Stream. With currents of 2.5 to 3.5 kts the standard advice is do not go straight across. Rather go south as long as possible on the western edge and when approaching the central part head north with it and towards the eastern edge. The turn south again while on the eastern edge. Its described as an S course. Our course was 15nm of SE by 30 nm of NE by 15nm of SE. We decided to leave about 13:00 hrs on Sunday to arrive off N. Bimini at first light on Monday.

1300 hrs 12/23/2012 Miami Beach Channel

After doing the ups (fueling, watering, eating, resting) we headed out government cut into the channel on a light wind 600 day. Four miles out to the save water buoy.

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Miami Beach from Government Cut as we enter the channel

1503 hrs @250 44’.824N 0800 03’.982W

We turn southeast on a course of 1370 M to head into the Gulf Stream for approximately 15 nm before turning northeast. Winds and seas at the moment are very light. I pull out the genoa to see if we can sail for a while. After 30 minutes of moving the boat about in the wind the closest into the wind is SW (hello FL. Keys) or NE but far too early if we want to go to Bimini. I started the diesel and we motored at 2000rpm and 4.5kts. The next several hours were instructive about the Gulf Stream on a good weather day. As we motored into the early night over the next 4 hours our SOG slowed to all of 1.5kts. I maintained 2000 rpms on the motor. Close enough to our way point so I changed fro 1370 M to 0510 M and sure enough we rocketed up to 6.2 kts. Additionally our COG prior to the turn was 1370 but our heading was 1600. Basically, we were slip sliding sideways into the GS. The GS is a powerful and difficult force and between it and the winds weather windows are complex.

2000hrs @ 250 42’.377N 0790 52’.057W in the Gulf Stream

Judy staggers up to the cockpit since we’re rolling and takes over the helm for her 8pm to 2am shift. We exchange info about the last 4 hours i.e.: traffic, course, course changes, sea state. I recount that all the cruise ships (5) came out during the evening and two freighters. The cruise ships are like floating palaces with christmas tree lights all over. At night you can see their lights above the 7 mile visible horizon when they are over 10 nm off. Radar and night vision are great assets at night. Judy maintained our course as I went below got out the lee cloth on the stbd settee so I could sleep in a confined area and not roll back and forth. This was nice seas with only 4-6 ft swells on the front port bow quarter of the boat. The problem was they had about a 6 second period. Too steep and close together.

0200 hrs 12/24/2012 @250 47’.304N 0790 27’.870W off N Bimini

I come up in seas that are quieting down to see the lights of Bimini on the horizon. We’ve crossed the GS wonderfully and can now back off and wait for sunrise. I have 5 hours to tour the coasts of N & S Bimini before we head into the channel. I wait for sunrise while touring the coast.

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Sunrise off the Bimini Coast (the coast is to the left of the sun on the horizon)

0700 hrs 12/24/2012 @ 25040’.562N 079021’.352W

I’m done shuttling along the coast. I go below to fix coffee for Judy and then back to the helm. one hour later and we are 1 mile from the channel.

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Approaching N. Bimini and channel

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In N Bimini Channel LOOK AT THAT WATER! 10FT DEEP……GEORGEOUS!

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NORTH BIMINI HARBOR

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SEACREAST HOTEL & MARINA

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BIMINI HOME

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@ THE BIG GAME CLUB N BIMINI

We tied up, I took the boat papers, passports etc to customs & immigration and were good for 90 days as cruising permit. Bring cash for the permit ($300.00) since its cash only. Great little place, warm people we’ve been wished Merry Christmas and happy Boxing day often.

Thursday 12/27/2012 we hope to do an overnight to Little Stirrup Cay about 70nm NE off us. Belated Merry Christmas to all from us…….Pat

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Ft. Pierce to Miami Beach FL.

Well, we really liked our anchorage in Ft. Pierce. It had all the attributes I value. Free, 12 ft of water, nice weather and good cell and WiFi signals from Verizon. There were five or six boats in the anchorage and during our stay I gained some sympathy about Florida residents not always appreciating cruising boaters. Many lovely condos no more than 0.1nm on shore and we just pull up in their paradise and drop the hook. When we lived in Colorado we had open space and trails behind our home and at times we just hated it due to its use. This seems similar. We will try to be considerate of the people who reside here. We are their guests! We lazed around four days waiting for weather to do the jump to Miami. The western edge of gulf stream is four miles offshore from Ft. Pierce down to Miami Beach. The weather that caused us to wait was 20-25 kts North winds with 8-10 ft waves with a period of 4-5 seconds. I believe Capt Jim, yes you Privette, would urge us to wait. We almost always take council from either Capt. Jim or Scout the weather dog. The weather we choose to go out on was winds from the South 10-15 kts with 4-6ft seas and 8 second period. Nice when the gulf stream and the wind are in the same direction.

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Boats at anchor in Ft. Pierce FL.

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Canadian Neighbors

12/16/12 0600 hrs Ft. Pierce Anchorage

I’m up first to start the coffee. No automatic Mr Coffee machine when you’re living off house batteries over four days. Heat the water, wait…..wait the tea kettle whistles now pour the water….wait…wait. Twenty minutes later we have coffee. Thats all I did for twenty minutes. Frankly, at 0600 thats all I good for! Lattes are a long distant memory of being coddled by Starbucks! We both have coffee and dress for the work of the morning. Bringing up the anchor and getting out to sea. By 0730 hours Judy has pulled the anchor and hosed down both the rode and anchor while bringing it into to locker with our manual windlass. Its a vigorous morning task for her to bring in 120ft of chain and a 60lb anchor. Her reward is when she is done with this she can sit and enjoy the sites while I get us our to sea.

12/16/12 0930 hrs @ 27026’.060N 080013’.122 W

Finally, we’ve reached the outer safe water sea buoy and are ready to set course to Miami Beach. So I lay in a course of 1460 magnetic to deal with the westward curve into the Atlantic from here down to Miami Beach. This will put us either in the western edge of the gulf stream of nearby. If we choose a more southerly course we would be ashore with the boat . Not a good solution. Judy has been enjoying the ride and sites four about an hour but now she goes below to fix breakfast. We are in 6-10ft seas and doing a lot of rolling. The result is bars for breakfast. Our normal oatmeal and dried fruit and nuts will wait as a pleasure for another morning.

1600 hrs 12/16/12 @ 27005’.452N 079059’.974W @ 3.8 kts

We are definitely in the gulf stream at this point. The wind is on the nose and we’re motoring at 2800rpm’s. Normally our SOG, speed over ground, would be 5+kts. Gulf stream currents in this area are 2-3kts. We stop the engine to change fuel tanks and since the seas are really rolly its bars for dinner. Its been bars and water all day. YUM!

2300 hrs 12/16/12 @ 26040’.700 N 079055’.470W @ 3.3 kts

We as far east as we need to be so Judy lays in the new course of 1880 magnetic. Its straight to Miami Beach for another 14 hours. When I take over at 0200 we are rolling 200on either side of the centerline. I can’t head west enough to change our angle to the waves so I changed course by 200 to port and things are better.

1300 hrs 12/17/12 @ 25046’.477N 080005’.137W

FINALLY, the outer sea buoy for Miami Beach. As we are approaching it , about 2 miles from it, two huge coast guard cutters come screaming by us on the port side. They idle down at the entrance and remain there on station. The Miami welcome for some unlucky boat probably carrying drugs. I quietly go astern of them and head in. My afternoon with law enforcement is not yet complete! We cruise thru the inlet into “Government Cut” and I’m respecting the no wake speed. Judy is admiring the cruise liners down ahead of us. The radio crackles and its “white sailboat heading west coming in from the sea …..this is the Miami Harbor Patrol”. So I look around and to see if there are other white sailboats. Before I finish the survey the radio crackles again and its “white sailboat heading west coming in from the sea …..this is the Miami Harbor Patrol”! I acknowledge the call with our boats name. The radio bursts again with “ this is a closed security zone. Turn around and head east immediately” I acknowledge turn around and thank them for the warning. I also inquire about a alternate route and they reference a route to the south of us. So its check the charts motor out of government cut and choose the alternate route to our anchorage.

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In the Miami Beach Inlet

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Chart Plotter with the raycon signal, pinkish, at the safe water buoy.

After using a alternate route we reach our anchorage at 1500 hrs both tired. The first attempt is not successful but in the process we got a line caught in the propeller. YUK! YUK!# These are the ugly moments!*# I get ready to go in the water. OK ..goggles, shorts and a knife and I’m in the water. I can see the line wrapped around the prop shaft. No easy fix and I can not stay under long enough to do anything useful. Thank goodness for Tow Boat US. I reach them on the VHF to at least get us towed to a marina. They offer diving at $300 above their normal fee. Our insurance will pay for the call at probably 700-800 dollars but we opt for the diver also since we want to anchor.

At last, in the dark, we got the anchor down and secure. Next morning we head for our marina which is on the ICW. However as I’m approaching the last bridge I’m looking at the chart and it says 57 ft clearance fixed bridge. We contacted the marina and they told us the contractor made a mistake and yes its 57ft for clearance. We found a new marina. So we have been at the Miami Beach Marina for several days. We went to a dive shop nearby and I purchased a hookah diving system. It will allow me to dive beneath the boat or anchors etc without a diver.

We are now looking for a weather window to cross over to Bimini in the Bahamas. Probably this Sunday or Monday. Judy & I send to each of you our best thoughts. Have lovely holidays …Be well ….We miss you all. Pat

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Port Canaveral to Ft Pierce FL

Greetings to all in Colorado. I hope all of the BMNSP folks, Rob, Mumsy, Henry, Jill, Mark, Mike J, Dr. Feelgood, Dan and so many more are having a great patrol season with lots of friendship. It was great to see the Level I Avy pixs from Second Creek. I certainly have fond memories of my time with each of you!

After I learned how to bleed the diesel engine I had more confidence. With that said we selected a 24 hour hop to Ft. Pierce FL. Port Canaveral was a great port for us. With a 1 mile walk one morning we had a lovely breakfast. We sat out and watched the pelicans diving for breakfast while we waited for our morning meal. There is a real sense of the tropics. Lots of open air restaurants, shorts, T shirts. We spent several days at the marina enjoying showers, cold drinks. Its amazing how delicious are the simple things. We were also serenaded by the cruise lines across the canal. The play tunes on their horns much like a carillon concert.

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Finally after three days in port we were ready to go again. So on the Ft. Pierce, FL. At 10:30 hrs we left our slip and stopped at the fuel dock for 62 gallons of diesel. By 11:45 hrs we were in the Port Canaveral fairway. We slipped by this lovely old ship, Romance, and then out to sea once again. There is a rhythm and peace when you are at sea. It is like coming home to a warm place. Its familiar! There are times when it is vile but not most times.

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So, out to the sea buoy and then a coarse of 1360magnetic to get Thalia out to deep water at 8 miles offshore. This way me miss the fish havens and have plenty of sea room if we need it. We put up the sails, turned off the engine and had lunch in the cockpit as we headed south east.

18:03 hrs @ 28015’.846N 080024’.607W

Time to get ready for sunset, dinner and the night. For the time being we have decided to motor at night since the captain would like to sleep and is cautious about being up on the cabin top in the dark. We pull down the sails and fire up the diesel. A new course to 1670 magnetic since we are out far enough. The only events of the night consisted of two cruise ships coming out from Port Canaveral. They were bright to our dark adapted eyes with all their lights.

07:30 hrs @27028’.626N 080015’.382W @ the safe water buoy at Ft. Pierce, FL.

I helm back and forth waiting for Judy to get up since we will be going into Ft. Pierce and dropping the hook. She has here morning coffee as I helm us thru the inlet which is 4 nm long and at 4 its she has an hour to enjoy the morning.

09:15hrs @ 027027’.456N 080018’.189W

We dropped the anchor. Settled in and had breakfast.

On Saturday we leave for Miami. Be well.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Fernandina Beach to Fort Pierce FL..OR…?

13:00 hrs 12/6/12 Offshore Fernandina Beach FL.

It has been a busy day for me since rising at 05:00 hrs. The morning started out with the anchor first not wanting to come up and when it finally did it was twisted when the shank was presented to the bow roller. After using a second line tied onto the anchor I finally rotated the shank enough to haul it up into the bow roller. It consumed at least 35 minutes getting it right. At 06:00 hrs we headed for the inlet and out to sea. After going out 5 nm in the channel we turned SE to 140 degrees magnetic. There was East wind when we were in the anchorage but it faded by the time we reached the channel. By 11:00 hrs we had a Beaufort 3-4 with 10 kt winds from the East. At last !! I pulled out the genoa and we were getting 4kts. Put up the main and altered course slightly for a broad port reach on 140 degrees. By 15:00 we’re doing 7kts. We needed to go southeast until we rounded Cape Canaveral at noon tomorrow.

18:00 hrs 12/6/12 @ 30008’.197 N 080047’.805W (Jacksonville Fl. area)

We’ve been doing 5+kts with the mainsl and genoa up. The wind and seas have increased to 15-20 kts with 8 foot rollers off of the port stern quarter. Rocking to either side has been frequent and about 20 degrees off the centerline in either direction. My tolerance for 400swings is good for a few hours but this appears to be a sea state we will see for awhile. Moving about the boat in the cockpit is OK but down below things are moving out of cabinets, from shelves etc. Basically, the boat empties everything into the isle again and again. I know several of you will say “Why don’t the idiots have sea latches on there cabinetry?” To that I respond “You dolts! Have you done this?” We do have fairly sturdy sea latches but this would require a wooden slat over the cabinets and that does not have that polished yacht appearance. So with our mayhem circus going on down below we changed course from 1450 to 1710magnetic to put the wave on the stern. Things got better!

19:00 hrs 12/6/12

With sunset approaching we fired up the motor since bringing down the mainsl completely required me to be on the cabin top at the base of the mast. Rolling in either direction while on the cabin top, bringing down and stacking a 50 ft battened mainsl, is challenging for me in the daylight and I perceive darkness would be much harder! At the moment I do not want to go there. I can do a middle or 2nd reef from the cockpit but can not bring down the main and stack it without doing on deck.

The night watches passed easily until 05:00 hrs the next morning when the seas kicked up another 1-2 ft. So despite course changes the rolling resumed.

08:00 hrs 12/7/12 280 52’.485N 0800 23’.675W

We changed watches and I went to bed looking forward to a 2 hour nap and then breakfast in the cockpit. 09:00 hrs and I’m out of bed and heading for the cockpit. The engine has stopped! Yes just dead…..Would not restart! We’re 35 miles offshore so nothing to run into. However, it would be nice to have an engine going into port! I checked the Racors and they looked good. I switched them. The engine would then restart and run ruffly for a few seconds and die. So I concluded it was probably air in the fuel line/ injectors. I’ve never bleed a diesel engine but now would be the time to give it a try. The new sailors nightmare is here now! Lets work on a diesel in 8 ft seas with the boat rolling 20 degrees either way. Three attempts and no success. This clearly points out how important it is to practice for these moments of life stress before they occur. Maybe I’ll throw myself over the rail. Nope…..self administered dope slaps sounds more apropos!

10:00 hrs 12/7/12 Northeast of Cape Canaveral

35 miles offshore & I radio the USCG Jacksonville Sector to explain my problem and could they contact Towboat US and do a radio relay between ourselves, USCG, & Tow Boat US. Let me tell you during the next 12 hours that unfolded the USCG was incredibly professional. After doing a relay and finding the Port Canaveral Tow Boat US and a preliminary discussion the Coast Guard said “We would like to call you every 30 minutes on the hour and half our just to check how you are doing.”. We set up a rendezvous point at the beacon off the Cape Canaveral shoals with the tow boat. The rendezvous was 35 miles SW of our current location. We unfurled the genoa worked on a good wind angle and at 4.5 kts headed for the waypoint. The tow boat guy was so pleased with our downwind progress and by 12:30 hrs via the USCG relay indicated he was heading out and towards us. YEY! We would not have to sail into a harbor on sails alone! YEY TWICE OVER! Our closing speed was about 10kts so at 17:00 hours we met. I set up the towing bridle on the bow cleats and it was off for a sleigh ride in the open ocean. We were at the outer channel buoys by 19:30 hours and tied up by 22:00 hours. The most interesting moment was after the small drama at sea for us that lasted all day with us being isolated we were being towed down the Port Canaveral channel to Friday night music and dancing at outdoor bars along the channel! Viva life in a new port!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Charleston to Fernandina Beach

0500 hrs 12/3/12 Charleston Harbor

Up to start coffee and wake up Judy. Its much warmer in saloon then when we left Oriental. 53 degrees F outside and little to no wind in the harbor. We got underway at 06:15 with good visibility for the first two miles in the harbor. Then it became restricted visibility at 100yds. The radar and course thru the harbor set which allowed us to concentrate on things that can run into us or us into them. One motor yacht was coming up behind us doing 10+ its and passed safely on the starboard side. I did broadcast a Securite on our position and course because of the low visibility. As we approached Fort Sumpter the sun came up and the fog dissipated. A 20 degree turn to starboard at the fort put us in the inlet channel and the fog cleared. You could still hear Securite announcements from the harbor and as I looked back Fort Sumpter looked lake it was floating on a cloud.

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In The Fog By Fort Sumpter

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Fort Sumpter Outside the Harbor and beyond the fog.

10:07 hrs 12/3/12 32 degrees 38’.431 Lat 079 degrees 39’.577 Long

We are five miles out in the channel with 3-4ft rollers every 9-12 seconds and smooth water surface. A Beaufort 1! Kind seas but no winds. We changed course to 223 degrees magnetic and its off to Fernandina Beach! Lunch was a treat. Tomato and smoked Gouda cheese soup with cheese and crackers prepared by Judy…..Yum 60 degree F temps, sun, and lunch in the cockpit together. Quite moments together are wonderful.

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Our Dolphin escorts after lunch 30nm off the South Carolina Coast.

17:00 hours 12/3/12 at 32degrees 07’.662N 080 degrees 06’.141W off the Georgia coast?

We’ve been motoring along for hours with some dolphin visits and not much else. No other boats! A medium to high layer of thin cumulus clouds have been moving up from the SouthEast during the afternoon providing a magical sunset.

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11:45 hours 12/4/12 at the Fernandina Beach safe water buoy.

We’ve cruised thru the night without incident. Nothing to run into! Occasional dolphins would pass us in the moonlight and you could see their dorsal fins and sometimes hear them blowing as the came up. With the channel in sight we cruise into a large anchorage and drop the hook in 25 feet of water.

Our next trip will be from Fernandina Beach FL to Fort Pierce FL. It will be about a 50 hour hop. Greetings to all from Judy and I.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Offshore…Oriental to Charleston

06:00 hours Thursday 11/29/12 @ Oriental

Rise in the dark, make coffee for both. 29 degrees F outside turn on our little electric heater and get dressed for the cockpit. Haul out the binoculars, handheld VHF for the trip. Breakfast at 07:00 with Ms. Judith and then prep to leave at 08:00. First trip outside onto the deck and pier!

Wow, cold enough to ice-skate! Actually, quite true! Heavy frost is both on the pier and the boats deck. We’re going South today? None to soon! Its either get out the diesel stove pipe and comforters or leave. Our dear friends Jim, Beth and Cameron come to send us off. Its always so bittersweet to leave friends. Great sharing, moments together, and just being comfortable in each others company is a treasure. Off the boat for talk, hugs and then Jim and Cameron handle our dock lines as Thalia slips out into the fairway. Waves, Merry Christmas, see you in April are echoing across the fairway as we start South.

12:30 hours Thursday 11/29/12 @ Beaufort Inlet

The weather window thus far is perfect. A smooth ride out to the Racon buoy @ 3 nm. Slack tide and light , 5kts, north winds really help with the inlet. Consider the other side of this inlet…..Short stacked 10 foot waves and water, not spray, coming over the deck….ankle deep in the cockpit. Worth avoiding!

03:00 hours Thursday 11/29/12 off Frying Pan Shoals (Cape Fear)

The cold of the day continues and deepens thru the night. In the 17:00 to 20:00 hrs shift I was cold with long underwear, winter tights, wool socks, long underwear top, vest, foulies coat and hat. So at 02:00 hours watch I doubled up everything. Two hats and a hood are better then one etc….. I changed course at 03:00 hrs to more SE since we were past the shoals and could go back inland form 50 nm out towards 30nm offshore. Really kind seas but only 5 kt wind so we continued to motor. Lots of cargo ships around on coastal routes but only had to change coarse once for the Mersk Montana. Our closest point of approach (CPA) was 200 ft. She is 900+ ft long etc. so I went to starboard by 13 degrees which gave us a 0.5nm separation.

12:00 hours Friday 11/30/12 @ 60 miles offshore NE of Charleston

We had been motoring since there had been no winds. I started to notice little puffs out of the East so….I killed the engine to look, feel, and assess. As I’m looking over the starboard transom up saunters two bottle nose dolphins. I’m certain they stay clear of props and killing the engine was all the invite required. The were within inches of the transom about one foot below the surface. I think they whistled the all clear because the parade started. Two to three in a group came up on the transom again….and again and again. Over 5 minutes the whole pod, looked like 10, was off and around the transom. Apparently, play with the new sea toy, Thalia, was what they do. Watch me dart under you keel upside down, show up on the other side and breech! We also had speed laps around the boat and dodge’em where two dolphins would almost collide but not quite! After about 20 minutes they swam away in small groups. How auspicious for our voyage.

17:00 hours Friday 11/30/12 40 miles offshore NE of Charleston

It has been an absolutely lovely day with temps in the high 50’s F. Great sunset and then dinner below while on autopilot. Only a 20 min dinner for me since I was on watch and needed to return to the cockpit. Even after sunset it was at least 10 degrees warmer and a nice moonlight night. Kid seas but no wind.

07:00 hours Friday 12/1/12 @ Charleston outer sea buoy

We’re at the outer sea buoy and heading into the harbor (15 mile approach) and staying outside the buoys since there are several freighters coming in from the sea. The pilot boat is doing laps bringing out pilots to bring the boats in. I’m grateful to be here …….It was a good 48 hrs!!

09:00 hours Friday 12/1/12 in Charleston Harbor

Problems with anchoring and being sleep deprived. After a try we opted for the marina! Charleston City Marina was right across from the anchorage so we headed there. Several big boats there but the ABSOLUTE QUEEN was Hanuman. She is a J Class racer and a replica of Endevour II from the 1930’s . She is just the most magnificent boat you will ever see. I talked to a crew member. They had been racing in Newport, RI during the summer and are headed for the Carribean winter racing. A link to this boat follows. http://www.ycoyacht.com/yacht/hanuman/?gclid=CMmtiZT-_LMCFcuZ4Aod5HIA0w

Sunday we head for Fernandina Beach Florida. More to come.