CHAPTER 14 APR 3, 2008
EAST COAST INTRACOASTAL WATER WAY (ICW) - FL Keys, FL, GA, and SC
Apr 3 – We left Marathon Key at ICW mile 1195, and stopped for the night in Islamorada Key. The following day we traveled a narrow winding pass through mangrove trees near Key Largo, and ended our day at Boca Chita Key, where at night you can see the lights of Miami 10 miles to the north. It looks like a movie set here – just gorgeous! All kinds of beautiful birds, a few buildings and a lighthouse made of coquina stones – a natural limestone formed of broken shells and coral (see pictures). We stayed for four days enjoying the perfect weather, except for the mosquitoes - it’s a national park, so they don’t spray. I’m so thankful I had cockpit screens made before we left on our trip! Everyone is reading (and trading) Florida crime/mystery writer Carl Hiaasen novels – great books! On our last night here, we were in the middle of a truly wild thunderstorm.
Apr 8 – we cruised through Miami and on to Hollywood where we stayed that night (see pictures), passing many drop dead gorgeous houses and condos on the ICW. Today we had to pass under 15 bridges ranging in height from 12 feet to 65 feet, but only had to ask for five openings - the lower bridges that we couldn’t fit under.
Apr 9 – 20 bridges to pass under today, so we decided to lower our mast and antennas, bringing our height down to apx 17 feet. This way we can fit under more bridges without asking for openings. Some bridges open "on demand", but many only open on the half hour or the hour, so timing is very important. You can see how a lot of time can be lost going under bridges! We anchored in Lantana tonight. The following day we saw several bald eagles, and anchored in Manatee Pocket at ICW mile 988.
Apr 11 & 12 were spent in Ft Pierce. Our friends Mickey and Doug live there, and we had a great visit. Their boat is a Krogen Manatee just like ours, and we cruised with them earlier in the year. They were kind enough to lend us a car, so we did a lot of provisioning in Ft Pierce. The marina also had a lovely park, farmers market and arts & craft fair (see pictures). The Manatee Observation and Education Center, next door to the marina, was very interesting. We spent the next three days on a mooring at Vero Beach (AKA Velcro Beach – it’s so nice, you want to stick around) (see picture). It’s such a popular stop that there are 2 boats on almost every mooring! We dinghied to shore and took the free bus to all kinds of shopping and the beautiful beach.
Apr 16 – We constantly have to dodge the crab pots that are everywhere in the water. We stopped for the night at a lovely anchorage in Eau Gallie. The next day we stopped in Cocoa. The quaint shopping district is a redevelopment of Old Cocoa, circa 1920 – 50’s.
Apr 18 – while cruising we spotted lots of birds including some beautiful large pink birds called Roseate Spoonbills, also lots of dolphins and manatees. Passed through Mosquito Lagoon where flocks of pelicans flap their wings and herd fish together, then gobble them up! The dense aquatic grass enables crabs, shrimp, clams, and fish to thrive here. That evening we stopped at a marina in Daytona Beach, ICW mile 830. The following night we anchored by Fort Mantazas on Rattlesnake Island, ICW mile 792.
Apr 20 – before arriving in St Augustine, we saw a bald eagle sitting on top of ICW marker 55 (see picture), then I saw and heard a loon in the water at the marina! We spent a couple of days here touring the shops, the fort, Lightner Museum (see picture), and Flaggler College which was originally the grand resort hotel "Ponce de Leon", circa 1888 (see picture). It has Greek, Roman, Moorish, Victorian, and mostly Spanish influences, and is very beautiful.
The ICW from GA to Norfolk VA is rivers and streams joined by canals far from the ocean. Tides are 8 to 9 feet.
Apr 22 – The next 240 miles, leaving Florida and heading north into Georgia, are the isolated and unpopular section of the ICW (see pictures). There’s a fresh water mix in this section, and Bald eagles, herons, egrets, alligators, manatees, and dolphins thrive here. We also saw wild horses on Cumberland Island. There are fewer palm trees and more hardwood and pine trees. In Georgia, you must watch out for shrimp boats (see picture), when they are moving, their movements are fast and erratic. They are occupied with their trailing nets, so you must be the one to take evasive action if necessary. The anchorage’s are lovely in GA, but screens are a necessity – lots of flies, horse flies, mosquitoes and no-see-ums.
Apr 25 & 26 – Stayed at Thunderbolt Marina (they deliver the am newspaper and a box of Krispy Kreme doughnuts to your boat every morning!), and took a short bus ride into Savannah, the most haunted city in the US. Savannah has really beautiful ironwork all over the city (see picture). Rice was an important early crop, later followed by cotton. My one BIG disappointment here, was that by the time we got in line at "The Lady and Sons" (Paula Deen’s famous restaurant) at 10:30 am, the restaurant was solidly booked until 9:45 pm that night! They only take reservations for parties of 10 or more. I found out that in order to have lunch that day, you must be in line at 8:30 am! We did manage to have a lovely shrimp (GA has the best we’ve ever had) lunch at another restaurant.
Apr 27 – entered SC – the ICW here is winding, low, flat marshes. Where there are houses on the ICW, the
docks are long and go way back to the house. Lots of alligators, dolphins, and brown pelicans.
We arrived in Beaufort for a few days (one of our favorite stops), and had some excellent shrimp and grits. Beaufort has many lovely restored homes in the West Indies style (see picture) – high basement with spacious verandah for maximum coolness. There are many magnificent live oaks throughout the city.
Apr 30 – a momentous occasion – we entered the harbor in Charleston and "crossed our wake"
earning our AGLCA (America’s Great Loop Cruisers Association) gold burgee (see picture). For
those that dwell on the land,
crossing your wake means that you made it all the way around the great
loop to right back where you started. We picked up our boat in
Charleston when we bought
it (starting the loop), and cruised to Old Saybrook CT. A couple of years later, we left from Old Saybrook and continued the loop heading north.
Charleston is a fascinating city. A fire in 1861 and an earthquake in 1886 destroyed a lot of the city, but a very strong preservation society was founded in 1931 with very strict rules. Nothing old can be destroyed, and anything new has to look old. Gas lights, Palmetto trees and jasmine are everywhere. The "Charleston style house" (see picture) is a very important style – a single room wide and 2 to 3 rooms deep. The door from the street leads to a "piazza" on the side of the house (a "porch" would be on the front). If the door to your piazza was open, that meant you would receive visitors. Fort Sumter is also in Savannah, and is where the first shots of the Civil War were fired. A white picket fence around your home was a "badge of honor". It meant that your ironwork was donated to help fight the war. The people in Savannah are still fiercely patriotic to the south, and many homes still fly the Old South flag.
May 1 – we saw a huge alligator swim by. Cypress trees (see picture) line the banks of the ICW now, and stain the water the color of tea, giving many boats an "ICW mustache". Anchored that night in Mimin Creek at ICW mile 415.
May 2 – stopped at Osprey Marina (one of our favorites) in Myrtle Beach. We thoroughly enjoyed our visit to "Brookgreen Gardens", a showcase for unbelievable sculpture surrounded by magnificent gardens (see picture). It covers an area that used to be four plantations. A favorite sculpture depicted the four main industries in SC history – corn/cotton/indigo/rice.
So far we have traveled 4433 miles on this trip, plus the previous 1000 miles when we brought SUMMERTIME up the Intracoastal Waterway from Charleston SC to Old Saybrook CT in 2005. We look forward to hearing from friends and family – please keep the calls and emails coming!