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Posted By Robin & Jim

We cruised through Charleston and we watched ugly dark clouds heading our way as we were getting close to our anchorage.  Why does the exciting weather always hit just as we're trying to anchor? 

south santee storm

The good thing is that these summer squalls don't usually last long and the worst of it passed to the south of us.  I don't mind the rain so much but the lightning makes us nervous when we're the tallest thing in sight.
The weather wasn't favorable for running offshore so we continued our winding trip through the salt marshes in South Carolina.  We usually cruise through this area in the fall or spring and the marsh grass is gold at that time of the year - now it's bright green.

marsh

The marsh is always so interesting and beautiful in its own muddy way.  Dolphins are very common hunting in the tidal shallows, but we sometimes see snakes and alligators swimming. 

alligator

Birds are the most common sight (and sound) - pelicans, spoonbills, terns, gulls, egrets, herons, red-winged blackbirds, and the little waders - plovers and willets.  The tall trees are home to bald eagles and osprey, and the osprey also take advantage of some of the bigger navigation markers to make their nests.  This time of the year the young birds are getting big but they still stick close to their parents.

osprey nest

As we moved north the salt marsh transitioned to the flooded cypress forest in the Waccamaw River - more green and lush in the summer than the spooky feel of the place in the fall and spring.  From there we traveled through the very boring stretches of golf courses up through Myrtle Beach - not my favorite area.  Finally we got to North Carolina waters and the sandy dunes of the barrier islands.  Of all the wildlife sightings we have had along the waterway, seeing this herd of goats walking along the shoreline was truly strange.  I wonder what their story is.

goats

We ran into friends Jim and Pam on DeFever 44+5 SILVER BOOTS on the waterway, and found out that they were planning to go to Cape Lookout for the weekend - the same place we were heading!  We haven't seen them in a long time, and we were looking forward to
catching up with them.  I know we say it often, but it's so true - it's a very small world on the water.


 
Posted By Robin & Jim

Despite the summer heat, we're enjoying the trip north with all there is to see along the waterway.  Leaving Cumberland Island we passed by Kings Bay Submarine Base and got to see one submarine on an outer dock.

submarine
If you look at a map you'll notice that Georgia is pretty far to the west - coastal Georgia is west of Pittsburgh, and the shape of the coast causes the tides to be quite large - up to about 9 feet.  Between the big tidal swing and the prevalence of marshes, docks are built very tall and they can be ridiculously long to reach across the marsh to the water's edge.  For us, the big tidal swings mean strong currents that either slow us down or speed us up.  You'd think that statistically the push-pull would be about even, but it always seems that the current is against us more often than it gives us a nice push.
  current
What's nice about this trip is that we're not traveling during the "migration" season, and the waterway is pretty quiet until the weekends - then it gets crazy with local boats.  During the week the waterway is like a scenic highway; on the weekends it's more like driving on I-95.  We've been trying to stay off the water on weekends and visit some places we've always wanted to see, like Beaufort, SC.  That's pronounced "byoofert" as opposed to the North Carolina town pronounced "bofert".  Near the Marine Corps' Parris Island, Beaufort has a nice downtown with cafes, little shops, and art galleries.  Most of the homes are traditional southern style architecture and the streets are lined with big live oaks draped in spanish moss.  The riverfront park has lovely landscaping and instead of traditional benches, it has benches that swing - how cool is that?
 beaufort park
One advantage of stopping to visit town was to tie up at a marina so we could run the air conditioning, but the town docks were having power problems and the breaker on the power pole kept tripping even if we minimized our electrical loads.  Very frustrating on sticky summer days!  Of course Jim found other ways to cool off...
ice cream 1
...since there were several ice cream shops in town.

ice cream 2

We found slushies to be even better than ice cream for keeping cool, so I broke out the blender and we've been experimenting with fruit slushies to beat the summer heat.


 
Posted By Robin & Jim

Cumberland Island National Seashore remains a favorite anchorage and place to explore.  It's right above the Florida-Georgia border, and is a natural barrier island with 17 miles of pristine beach, dunes, and maritime forest.  It is known for its wildlife as well as its history as a private winter resort for the Carnegie and Rockefeller families. 
There is too much to say about Cumberland Island, but our favorite part is the knarled maritime forest of live oaks (and long-leaf pine to the north), swept by ocean winds.  The trees are covered in Spanish moss and resurrection ferns, and armadillos, wild turkeys, deer, and feral horses wander the landscape.

maritime forest

The horses were left behind when the wealthy abandoned most of the mansions on the island, and the Park Service doesn't interfere with them.  We saw several colts as we toured the island - they are so sweet.

colt and mother

The Park Service started offering a more extensive tour of the island last summer - Lands and Legacies.  It was a perfect way to see the more distant sights, especially since the road is rutted sand and dirt and the distances are too long for walking and difficult for biking.  On a hot July Fourth, the air conditioned van was just perfect!
We got to see the elegant Plum Orchard mansion, with amazing luxuries and capacity to entertain many people in high style (and it was only a small mansion!).

plum orchard

One of the highlights for me was to see the tiny little First African Baptist Church (founded in 1893) at the north end of the island.  This is where John F. Kennedy, Jr. got married.

first african baptist church

Some of the live oak trees on the island are incredibly old - some may be 500 years old or more.  The older ones have branches that droop to the ground and then angle upwards - they're huge and dramatic, and I wonder about all the history they have lived through.

old live oak

Temperatures were in the mid-90's and humid with the awful heat wave, but we spent the late afternoons swimming in the ocean to cool off, and then running back to the dinghy to avoid the mosquitos that thrived after all of Tropical Storm Debby's rain.
It was a great visit to one of our favorite places, and yes, we realize how lucky we are to be able to enjoy all this.


 
Posted By Robin & Jim

North of St. Augustine we have a favorite anchorage in the salt marsh called Pine Island.  I've always wanted to stay there and explore with my kayak - it's a great birding area.  So this time, we spent a day and I had a ball (despite temperatures in the mid-90's).  I'm always happy to see the herons and plovers and other shore birds, but one of my favorites are the roseate spoonbills.

flying spoonbills

They are not very common to see and I was hoping to get close to some.  They were flying overhead but landing well to the north of where I could paddle, but as the tide started to fall they came in to feed in the shallow water.  Lots of them! 

spoonbill

I also saw a lot of snowy egrets - another favorite bird because of their long, elegant feathers, black legs, and bright yellow feet.  The yellow also goes up the back of their legs like the seam of an old fashioned pair of stockings. 

snowy egret

I saw plenty of other birds - herons, white pelicans, willets, red-winged blackbirds, wood storks, and a bald eagle.  The dragon flies were the biggest I've ever seen... clinging to the tall marsh grass.

dragonfly

I went out just before sunset for another long paddle, exploring deeper into the marsh because of the very high tide.  The marsh seems inhospitable, but it really is a beautiful place and I'm so glad we took the time to stop and enjoy it!

pine island

 
Posted By Robin & Jim

We enjoyed our month-long stay in Cocoa and the time really flew by.  We got our important repairs completed as well as a few other projects and chores.  We never got the chance to tour the Kennedy Space Center this visit - by the time we got everything wrapped up and could take a day off to play Tropical Storm Debby was dumping torrential rain on us. 

We had fun spending lots of time with our friends Sunny and Jim, visiting Jim's Dad for Father's Day weekend, seeing Helen and Bob, and I had a ball hanging out at the Knit & Stitch shop a short walk from the marina. 

I've been an on-again, off-again knitter, but that shop was so incredibly friendly and fun that I ended up taking two classes and spending several afternoons a week at their big table knitting with the gals and the occasional guy.  It was just wonderful - I grew my skills and confidence and finished a few projects.  Now my needles are clicking away every evening, though I really miss the all lovely knitters at the shop very much.

knit & stitch
Cocoa Village is a great town with interesting shops and little cafes and restaurants, a farmer's market on Wednesday mornings, and a big old-timey hardware store all within a short walk of the marina. 
cocoa village

The muddy Indian River is a big change of pace from the crystal clear water in the Bahamas, but there is plenty of nature and beauty in its own way.  Our daily sightings included manatee, dolphins, anhinga, cormorants, pelicans, ibis, herons, catfish, and even a diamond backed terrapin (turtle). 
The day we left Cocoa there was a Delta rocket scheduled to launch at the Space Center.  The launch was delayed for a few hours, but we ended up getting a front row seat as we passed directly abeam of the rocket just as it took off!  It's still an amazing feat no matter how many times humans have sent things into space.  The rocket goes out of sight quickly and all that's left is a little trail in the sky.

delta rocket trail
It feels good to be underway again - cruising!  We have some favorite radio shows we like to listen to underway like "Science Friday" and "Car Talk" and "Wait Wait Don't Tell Me".  The temperatures have been hot, but we make our own breeze and we have lots of shade so it's comfortable, until we anchor and the late afternoon heat catches up.  But then the sun gets low and the breeze picks up and the evenings are cool and nice.
Do you realize that if you're driving down I-95 in Florida the distance you can cover in 1 hour is about equal to the distance we cover on the boat in one day?  That is no exaggeration!