After months of meticulous planning and unraveling of events we planned and unplanned and planned again, and finally headed south. No matter how we dice it, the only thing we really have control over is our direction. And as beautiful as Maine must be in the winter; I choose south.
My ideal picture of how this was going to look:
me and the kids, at the pool, at my parents house in Florida, sippin on something nice…. waiting for Adam to sail the boat offshore to Florida.
We went back and forth (for about 20 seconds) as to who should take the boat off shore, and who should drive with the kids south.
I picked the long straw (or is it the short?). So I packed up the car, and packed up the kids with all things sunny and aquatic and drove south while Adam drove to the boat in Oriental. He was going to have help from a captain to go offshore to St. Augustine. He would cut weeks off the trip by avoiding the slow and windy ditch that is the ICW. And most importantly, he was going to learn about off shore sailing from someone with plenty of offshore experience. After our last adventure, we vowed never to have the kids on the boat in the ocean again until at least one of us learns more about sailing. Well, we do know a little bit about sailing. I think its more of all the other stuff that we need to know about. Weather, being all that other stuff.
Sailing and weather are inseparable. Like farming and soil. So while Adam intended to learn all that stuff first hand by sailing in the ocean, I signed up for Chris Parker’s weather forecasts.
He’s the sailing weatherman. As in the sailing weatherman.
I subscribed to his email weather alerts, and read his weather book. It was so far above my head I think it may have landed in the stratosphere shortly after I opened it. But at least I have a better grasp on what weather is, and how it works. Not to mention a great reference book that will live amidst my navigational charts and books on the boat.
His emails are invaluable. They give a detailed account of what the seas are doing, and what they are predicted to do with immense detail. But, being as detailed as it is, it does require a bit of a primer to even begin to interpret his predictions.
Finding him has been a game changer in my generally bewildered mood of sailing hesitancy. And once subscribed to his email updates, he is available for any passage making advice by email or SSB radio.
Okay, back to my poolside fantasy in the sunny state of Florida in the shade of the lovely palm trees at my parents house. Eating Cuban food and sorting through sea shells with my stepmom…
Wait- hold that thought, Adam’s calling.
“You want me and the kids to go down the ICW with you all the way to Florida??!”
Speaking of weather. Adam didn’t get the weather window he was waiting for to go south on the ocean. In case none of you have noticed, the weather has been crazy. Making the seas even crazier.
I had made it to Charleston with the kids, headed south as planned. And, well, plans changed. So I drove north to Oriental with the kids and met Adam at the Boat.
I knew it was going to be cold. I knew it was going to be terribly cold. but I did not know it was going to be this cold.
The day we left, it was 34 degrees. We bundled up and took off with as much enthusiasm we could muster. Little did we know, this would be one of our warmer days.
Our first day was so cold. But it was beautiful. We made it 50 miles to Swansboro. A wonderful little town. The kind where all the locals will offer you the services of their washer and dryers when they see that your toddler is carrying a life jacket.
The evening was pristine, the Salt Water Grill at the Marina had one of the best views of the ICW I’ve seen yet.
Some may be asking: Why aren’t you anchoring? I mean, that’s what Skipper Bob’s is for right?
I’ll tell you:
because I don’t want to.
Its sub freezing right now, and picture this: my kids are on this boat all day while we motor south. That is 6-8 hours. And yeah I’ve got a cozy little space for them to play and stuff, but they need to move their bodies in a bigger space than this. And I really don’t want to put them in the dinghy at the end of a long day, and get even colder, and wet, and listen to more crying, and feel more freezing wind on my face to get to a muddy shore where I have to put my sneakers (remember, I packed for Florida) in the water and drag the dinghy up along an oyster ridden beach somewhere so we can let these kids run around before they go crazy, and by association, drive me crazy too.. and if I could bring more uncomfortable imagery to mind, I would let this sentence run on even further!
Again, call me fancy, but until it’s at least above freezing, we are going to marina hop it south.
The next morning, we made a friend at the local breakfast spot in Swansboro. A fellow sailor, but not just a sailor, a mom who raised her two kids on a boat.
I was in a mental state of feeling a little (lot) crazy for doing all this boat stuff in winter, with a toddler and a 1 year old. So to meet someone who did it, and actually encouraged this kind of insanity was just the thing I needed. Thank you Captain Suzan!
Day 2 of our adventure brought us to a secluded little place called Swan Point Marina. I can’t begin to try to do justice to the beauty of the landscape of North Carolina’s inland waterways. I could post a picture here, something serene, with waters so still that the dock looks like MC Escher paintings with stairs and pathways going in all directions. You cant even tell where the water ends and the sky begins. But a photo can’t evoke the smells and sounds and even the texture in the air. It’s pure magic. I love it here. I feel like I can breathe and simply exist in space for the first time, well, since I had the kids really.
Okay, enough cheese on that pie.
Swan Point Marina was lovely, but an absolute bitch to get out of. The ICW ran perpendicular to the Marina, so we had a tight space to back out of, at which point the current smacked us right on our asses and turned the boat so quick we hit bottom and almost hit a piling. Adam is king of getting this boat’s ass off a muddy bottom. Practice makes perfect.
So next time, we will pay more attention to the current before we unwittingly back right into its cold and swift embrace.
Next stop. Wrightsville Beach. Where the Ice man came, and stayed a while.
And now commence the trifecta of calamities.
I’ll go in order.
First: we get news of the ice storm. Like, whaaat?
Second: our boat heaters break (both of them.)
Third: Pepper has a low grade fever.
All of these things happened basically at the same time. Luckily we had a back up space heater just in case such a calamity should befall us.
I reserved a few nights at the Bridge Tender Marina where we planned to wait out the storm. Lucky me, I picked the one marina with about a quarter mile of twisting and turning docks, ramps and steps both metal and wood. The metal ramps were going to be especially fun if the ice storm really did slam the North Carolina coast as predicted.
And sure enough, the next morning we woke up to this:
Sheets of Ice Everywhere.
I told Emilia when she woke up “look, Baby! Elsa came and froze the beach!”
We needed another space heater, and some groceries, so I loaded up the back pack and headed up the ramp park to the dock house. About 20 minutes later, after not falling on my face or into the freezing cold waters, the dock master informed me that he “doesn’t let people on and off their boats when the docks are frozen like this.”
Okay dude, and what are you and your ‘bad hip’ gonna do about it?
“I have two kids on the boat and I’m going to the store now to get another space heater.”
Like. Duh. Besides, its not like he was going to walk down those docks himself and do a damn thing about it, with his bad hip and all. And his smoker’s hak.
I mean, seriously.
ANYways, I made my way happily to the hardware store on icy sidewalks. The sun was out, and the air was crisp and still.
The branches above me were bent low from the weight of the ice.
A soft breeze made them rustle and sound like chandeliers of ice above me.
The magic ended there though, the rest of the time we all went stir crazy on the boat. We were startled by the occasional explosion caused by ice falling off the spreaders onto the cockpit. The sun was melting the ice during the day, only to be frozen again at night.
Three nights we had to stay at the stuffy bridge tender marina!
We got the hek out of there as soon as the ice on the docks thawed.
We schlepped along south, still so cold, under the misguided assumption that the further south we went, the warmer it would be.
It was a whopping 24 degrees when we left Wrightsville Beach. Luckily, on my trip to the hardware store for another space heater, I got a bunch of handwarmers. And they were so necessary.
We stayed at Southport that night. On our way we passed a stag party on the shore. Must have been at least 8 bucks. Emilia calls them “deer sticks”. (heart heart heart).
Upon our arrival at south port, I decided to try my hand at docking the boat again. I wouldn’t try, since Adam is so good at it. But, there was this one time: Adam wanted to pivot off the dock and kept us on the stern line till the very last minute. He threw the stern line onto the boat and off we went, but he was still on the dock. He made it, but just barely.
That’s when I realized I need to learn to dock the boat like a pro, in case Adam forgets to get on it.
It turns out that it’s so much easier to land a boat against the current on a 200 foot long face dock than pulling into a little finger dock in the middle of a narrow canal with boats on all sides <— description of my last failed attempt at docking a boat.
Southport marina was fancy time. Great, clean facilities (always a plus.) And around the corner was a lovely little park with a beautiful beach (and anchorage – fomo here) and open ground to run around on.
The next few days were somewhat of a blur. The cold was threatening to wash away some of the more monotonous days.
We passed some houses that were so big, they barely fit in the viewfinder of my camera.
Next we stayed at Barefoot Marina, in Myrtle Beach area. We pulled along another enormous face dock, and decided to dinghy to the other side of the water way to barefoot landing.
We walked up the ramp from the public dinghy dock, and it felt like we entered a theme park. Or at least the concession of a theme park. Very on par for Myrtle Beach.
There was a small playground in the center of the landing, with a massive oak tree that had been recently transplanted from just a few hundred feet away. I guess it was in the way of a parking lot or somewthing. (eye roll.)
So that was fun. Sort of.
Next stop, Georgetown.
What an interesting town! After a cold windy day of motoring, we pulled along side another facedock at the harbour walk marina.
I went for a run at the park and came accross this amazing shrimp receptacle.
The Rice Museum is a must. What a neat shop with incredible history and art.
We kept walking and did some window shopping.
And we did some real shopping at Wildflower and Whiskey where I bought a lovely summertime dress, as opposed to the fleece long underwear and wool socks that I actually need. We left the next morning as early as the sun would allow, and headed south to Charleston area. We chose to land in Isle of Palms, since we couldn’t risk missing the 4pm opening at the Ben Sawyer Bridge. If you miss the 4, you have to wait until 6, at which point it will be dark. Nooooo thank you. I will save the Charleston Harbor for the daylight hours please.
We motored along on what started out as a mildy chilly morning. The sunrise teasing us on the horizon, threatening to make a stunning debut, only to be bested in the end by the clouds. The temperature continued to rise, but not our warmth. We took 2 hour shifts at the wheel and just got colder and colder. And then colder. I guess it was the wind, but by the time we got to our marina I was convinced I had never been so cold.
The kids were cozy and happy inside while we ran the generator to keep the heater running in the Salon.
Our landing at Isle of Palms was not so great. The wind was blowing 15- 20, right into the dock. Our fenders held true and protected our hull from any damage.
We walked that evening to the beach, only to walk right back because it was just too windy and cold. My weather app was reading in the mid 40s but it felt like it was below freezing.
I tried to go on a run the next morning, since we had to wait till 9am for an opening from the Ben Sawyer Bridge.. But I’ll be damned if it wasn’t too cold. This is coming from someone who has run long distance, in new york city, in winter, before the sun came up… and Charleston still bested me with its cold windy shores!
After a dramatic exit off the docks (with the wind still pushing 15knots into the dock), we headed to Edisto Beach. More cold! This was a 60 + mile day pretty much against the tide the whole way.
Had some visitors on the boat!
We docked beautifully at the Edisto Marina and headed straight for the beach on the sound side.
We walked along the sand looking for sea shells, and passed a woman painting the scenery. Emilia chased the little water birds along the shoreline, while I looked for shells and Pepper tried to eat the entire beach.
As we walked back, the woman we passed gave Emilia a water color painting she did of HER! It was so special, and captured her beautifully. She gave Emilia hearts for hands!
Our plan was to hunker down until Sunday, after this crazy front that is threatening to clobber New England moves off the coast.
But, we got ants in our pants after a good nights sleep and decided to push another 25 miles to Beaufort this morning. And here we are! Beaufort, SC till Sunday. When we will continue heading south, where one day, eventually, it will be warmer.