Heading south, Chesapeake - Florida, USA

8th - 31st October 2006

As normal after spending a while living ashore, not using all the onboard systems on a daily basis, the first few days back aboard were spent wondering which system would play up first.   On this occasion as we headed down the Severn River, past the Naval Academy in Annapolis and out into Chesapeake Bay, it turned out to be our fancy autopilot compass.   

Anju being a steel boat meant that we couldn't install a normal autopilot compass and had to mount our rate-fluxgate compass a few metres up the mizzen mast, away from the steel hull.   To compensate for the roll of the boat to port and starboard, which was greater higher up the mast, the compass had fancy, built-in electronics.   Now and again we had found our compass temperamental, often when crossing underwater cables or venturing near military installations.  However this time, the compass just didn't seem able to work out which way we were heading, causing the autopilot to send us on a wild goose chase through the waters of the Chesapeake!   Drastic action was needed, (i.e. we had to actually steer by hand, not a favourite occupation of the crew) until we reached our intended anchorage and the Captain went aloft to have a serious talk with the compass.   After the compass had been taught a few new expletives, it's connections had been cleaned and it was stylishly dressed in a fetching Ziploc plastic bag, to keep any further damp out, it seemed to find its bearings again! 

Chesapeake Fishermen

Next day we were off again, heading out into the Chesapeake Bay, past the early morning shell-fishermen, towards Solomons Island, where we made an overnight stop, before reaching Deltaville in Virginia. This was the venue for that weekend's Ocean Cruising Club rendezvous.    We weren't the first arrivals and managed finally to meet Gareth and Annie King from the British boat Merlin, of whom we'd heard and read much via the OCC newsletters and other OCC friends.   As now seemed normal during our annual visit to Deltaville, the weather turned chilly and we enjoyed the warm showers of the Fishing Bay Yacht Club.  The rendezvous gave us the chance to catch up with many OCC friends and enjoy cocktails and a club dinner together.

After a weekend of fun in Deltaville, the OCC party seemed to head south and a couple of days later we found ourselves enjoying the hospitality of Gary and Greta, Port Officers in Norfolk, Virginia, in company with the other British boats, Merlin and Al Shaheen. Later we were joined by George and Nancy on Trumpeter.   We spend a few days together and enjoyed several happy hours and dinner at Gary and Greta's apartment, with their friends Frank and Ronnie.  The Norfolk leg of our southbound "party" was rounded off with dinner at the Outback Steakhouse.   It was time to get moving before we all started to put weight on!

Annie, Greta, Gary, Gareth, Jenny, Phil, John, Christine, Nancy and George about to enjoy their steaks.

We had decided to head to Florida as quickly as possible, to set to work on some maintenance jobs, so pressed on southwards on the Intracoastal Waterway.   Our first stop (also now a regular stop) was at Great Bridge, on their free dock, which is conveniently close to the laundromat.   As we continued southwards, we anchored each night in spots we'd used previously and were surprised to find that one, in Cedar Creek, just north of Beaufort, no longer seemed deep enough for Anju, so we had to anchor around the corner in the main river.  By the 24th of October we were heading to Wrightsville Beach, another spot we'd frequented previously, however, this visit turned out to be much more eventful.   

Anju enjoying Gary and Greta's hospitality in Norfolk.

We approached the Wrightsville Beach bridge on the ICW slowly, as we would arrive early for the next opening.   We were closing on the bridge and other boat traffic was building up ready the opening.  We found ourselves in a strong current, which was carrying us more quickly than we liked towards the bridge.    With a stream of powerful motorboats coming up astern of us, we decided to circle around and motor away from the bridge, to give ourselves more maneuvering space and allow the faster boats to pass ahead of us.   We'd completed about half of our circle when we ran out of water and found ourselves hard aground.   

Despite other cruisers' pessimistic forecasts that taking a boat with a six and a half foot draft down the ICW would result in many visits by Tow Boat US, for three years we'd been lucky and never found ourselves seriously grounded.

Now, however, we were hard aground and were overwhelmed with offers of help from other passing boaters, notably the sailboat Journey and a powerful fishing boat, Getaway, both of which tried valiantly to pull us off the mud, without success.    Journey sustained damage to the plastic "wings' on their dinghy outboard motor in their attempt and Getaway lost half a mooring warp to Anju, as it parted in their attempt to assist.   It was time to call the professionals before anything else got damaged.    Within ten minutes the Tow boat arrived, it was quite a small powerboat, with two enormous 225 hp outboards on the back.    After about ten minutes of hauling, Anju was finally afloat and under tow through the bridge.    What a relief that was!   Once we were back under our own steam again, our rescuer left us saying he'd call around to the anchorage in a few minutes to fill in the paperwork, adding that as we entered the anchorage we should stick close to the "green" side of the channel to avoid a shoal.

Apparently he hadn't meant that we should stay on the "green" side all the way to the anchorage, as when we did so, although we were still in the channel, we found ourselves hard aground again only ten minutes later.   This was unbelievable.    At least we knew the Tow Boat was heading our way with his paperwork but both he and ourselves were surprised to find him trying to haul Anju off the mud again so soon.   When he finally left us safely anchored, he mentioned that we may well get a call from his head office just to check if he really had towed us twice in ten minutes!    Our annual Tow Boat US unlimited towing fee was definitely money well spent!

We were glad we'd covered almost all the ICW we'd planned to use and would be heading offshore the next day, away from the scary shallow water and bridge schedules!   After a short stop at Carolina Beach to await the change of tide, we found ourselves flying down the Cape Fear River and out to sea at around eight knots on the strong current.

We were bound for Charleston overnight and although we didn't have enough wind just to sail, the cold north wind did help us on our way, even if it made us glad to curl up in a warm bed at change of watch (an advantage of hot-bunking!).

Next morning we came on the rising tide into Charleston harbour.   Wary of anchoring in the main harbour, after a previous bad anchor fouling, we went through the bridge and dropped our hook in Wappoo Creek nearby.   No sooner was Anju settled than all-hell broke loose aboard - Christine had spotted a cockroach in the cockpit.   

I've got the bed warm for you now - your turn.


Although the amount of distress generated by the sighting of one small insect may have seemed disproportionate, one small pest if it escaped inside would be sure to invite his friends along.   The cockpit was stripped, all the debris of the previous night's passage was thrown on deck, out came the cockpit boards, the cockpit drains were blocked up and the great hunt began.   The stowaway was finally located underneath the cruising chute and swiftly eliminated.   Finally we could catch up on our sleep, after rebuilding the cockpit of course!

We spent three days in the seclusion of Wappoo Creek in company with a couple of other boats, awaiting the passage of some strong winds.   As the wind changed direction and Anju swung perilously close to the shore in the narrow creek, we deployed our stern anchor to keep us out of trouble.  

Passing time on watch with Susan Barry Blair's book

Once the wind calmed down, we headed out of the anchorage at 7 am and out to sea for the 36 hour trip to Jacksonville in Florida.    

During our passage we were entertained in the early morning by a visit from a school of playful dolphins.  We also managed to fill our freezer when Phil-the-fisherman reeled in a couple of big fish, one King Mackerel and one Spanish Mackerel.

More by luck than judgment our arrival at the mouth of the St. Johns' River coincided with a favourable tide to speed up our twenty mile trip up-river to Jacksonville, where we tied up on the free city docks at the football stadium.   Next morning we moved on to Green Cove Springs Marina, where we were greeted like long-lost friends at happy hour and in no time at all, were preparing to haul out ready to set to work......

Early morning visitors but they did leave some fish for us!

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