Sunday, 19 April 2015

The Intracoastal waterway of the United States of America

We left Titusville, Northern Florida on the 26th of March after visiting the Kennedy space centre and watching a rocket launching. We were bound for Merrit, North Carolina to visit American friends whom we had sailed in the Pacific with in 2006.
Cathy raising the US courtesy flag

This passage took us up the Intracoastal waterway with one sidestep out to sea to avoid some winding routes and strong opposing tidal influences through a part of Georgia
The ICW is a 3000 mile (4800km) inland waterway along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts of the USA. Areas of the waterway consist of natural inlets, saltwater rivers, bays, and , sounds, others are artificial canals. It provides a navigable route along its length without many of the hazards of travel on the open sea and wonderful quiet anchorages at night. 


We entered at Port Canaveral, Florida and transited Georgia, Sth Carolina and North Carolina.
Many of the opening swing and bascule bridges which cross the waterway have been replaced with 65' high bridges and those low bridges that remain are opened at timed intervals or on demand.
We saw many fishing boats, tugs and barges along the way


Parts of the waterway are shallow where silt builds up or areas of rock which have been blasted for a canal are narrow in parts which makes navigation interesting.
This is all maintained by the Army engineering corps. Many boaters pay a yearly subscription to US towboats as it is common for boats to run aground at low tide in these shallow shifting sand areas.
We sat on a sandbank for 3 hrs until the tide gave us more water to float off. All we needed was a bit of a wash from a passing motorboat to reverse off but at the time no one who passed us would answer their VHF radio and courteously passed at slow speed.

We were amazed how many dolphin there are in the waterway and we saw lots of manatee and alligators in the warmer waters in the south.

The bird life is prolific with pelican, herons and oyster catchers and we saw dozens of Osprey and their chicks nesting on top of the marker bouys and in trees up the rivers.
Canadian geese and other birds were slowly returning to the north as the spring arrived.

Up the Waccamsaw river in Sth Carolina away from the tidal flow where the water was not salty, we saw small turtles on the riverbanks and at night anchored in mirror calm black water and watched fireflies twinkling in the trees.
In our travels we have seen and experienced so much off the beaten track but we are still in awe by what nature serves

In some parts of the waterway we were able to sail and with a tidal flow to our advantage it was great to turn off the motor and glide along enjoying the peace and tranquility.
Mostly we motor sailed but at times with no wind or strong wind “on the nose” and an opposing current the motor pushed us along barely making 2-3 knots speed.
We averaged about 25-30nm a day

There are many marinas along the waterway for those who wish to avail themselves of a berth at night and amenities but they do not factor into our cruising budget.
There are some free public docks where one can tie up for a few hrs or less frequently overnight. We were able to do this on a few occasions and walk to supermarkets to restock and dispose of rubbish.

When we've needed diesel we've pulled into a marina to fill up and water and holding tank pump out are mostly free.
The recommended anchorages are more sparse and if an anchorage can't be made by nightfall one can be in real trouble as night navigation would be hazardous. One can't just pullover and set the anchor as it is shallow out of the channels.
One has to consider tidal flows which change constantly as inlets go out to sea and tides ebb and flow along the routes with sometimes no obvious pattern, bridges that open at designated times can be difficult to reach and waiting times can very much effect ones destination timing. It amused us as the evenings drew to a close and daylight waned how we all increased our speeds, not worrying about the fuel consumed to get to the anchorage before dark.

The scenery changed interestingly along the way. We passed populated areas with palatial homes or holiday getaways with piers and boathouses and boats of varying styles tied alongside. Some trying to outdo their neighbours with lounge furniture and bars and boathouses out of “Vogue” magazines.

The funniest we saw was a life size giraffe on one property and the neighbour had a massive highly polished futuristic man like a child's transformer toy in his yard!

We saw the fronts of houses completely screened in extending sometimes 3 stories high and encasing large courtyards. Initially we thought they were bird aviaries then suddenly realised it was insect screening! The midges and mosquitoes were prolific in these areas

On the other hand we passed miles of marshy and everglade type scenery as the waterway wound its way inland sharing it only with the bird life and dolphin.

We have arrived in the Oriental area of North Carolina and will settle “Erica” in a yard out of the water for the hurricane season.

We are now preparing to return to NZ and Australia to visit family and for work after visiting family in Vancouver

Friday, 27 March 2015

Arrival in Port Canaveral, Florida, USA.....Visit to Kennedy Space centre and Rocket launching

We sadly said goodbye to the Bahamas on the 16th of March and crossed the Gulf stream to Florida. We arrived 10hrs ahead of our predicted time getting to Port Canaveral at 0200hrs. There were no ships transitting the Port at that time so we cautiously made our way into the harbour. There are no places to anchor so we tied up to a fuel dock outside a marina.. 
We waited until daybreak with the intention of booking a berth for a day for customs clearance and using the marina laundry facilities and filling with water...Before we had a chance to go up to the office a very pleasant and welcoming marina worker greeted us asking us to see the Dockmaster.
After paying $106USD she told us we had to leave by 1300hrs that day, then decided we could stay until 1500hrs. The opening bridge closes at certain times for Cape Canaveral Space employees to pass over so we had to engineer this in as well.
We questioned why we had to leave so early and she said had we prearranged a berth it would have been different and she said. “I know all about sailboats!” Being tired and in a new country it was some time later that we realised that she thought we were trying to get away with berthing and not paying!
What should have been an exciting and relaxed entry to the States became a frantic and anxious time trying to clear customs, arrange a cruising permit, get laundry done, the boat filled with water and internet and phone arranged.
We got back from a long walk to customs and Immigration and after discussing why we had got the cold shoulder Cathy decided to go and have a chat with her. Unfortunately she had gone for the day but more fortunately a very nice chap taking over for the day gave us permission to stay until the next day. ( Usually if you book a day it is all day and a night)
The next morning we untied from the Fuel jetty area and Eric called the Bridge operator to ask permission to pass. The control room has limited sideways vision so he said “I can't see you. Where are you?” Eric radioed back that we were coming from the Cape Marina. Well........All hell broke loose!......
The Dockmaster radioed the bridge operator and asked him not to allow us through as we hadn't paid our bill and said she had called the Sheriff!! Eric called her back and she unprofessionally continued talking on CH 16. When he had the opportunity to reply he suggested she go to a working channel...Well everyone within a 20nm radius who was listening in would have rapidly switched channels to hear the unfolding of the drama! Eric explained that we had been given permission to stay overnight and that we felt we had been unfairly treated and that we would not be returning. She then gave us permission to continue on but that we would not be welcome back there...Eric replying that we would not want to and we would tell our cruising associates about the incident!
We then contacted the bridge operator and as we passed by he had a great big grin on his face and gave us the “Thumbs up”
After passing through the opening bridge we entered the lock which lifted us up to the level of the Banana river and then we continued to the Indian river, part of the Intra coastal waterway.
We stopped at Titusville and spent a few days there, visiting the Kennedy Space centre and watching from the anchorage the launching of the Delta IV rocket carrying an airforce GPS satellite into space on the 25th of March...
What an awesome experience!! A dream Eric had had since he was a boy was fullfilled!


Cathy under the Space shuttle booster rockets and fuel tank at the Kennedy Space Centre, 

The Rocket Garden

Eric looking at a Gemini capsule

Saturn V

Eric dreaming

Rocket transporter

Launch pad

Delta 1V liftoff from internet photo

Monday, 23 March 2015


On the 11th of February after 2 days of gales we departed Mayaguana Island in the Southern Bahamas.   (A fellow cruisers yacht "SV Wild Blue"on anchor)

We arrived at Castle Island under motor with incredible visibility. We could clearly see the bottom at 18m!  We spent a couple of days here where we explored the abandoned lighthouse and keepers houses and beachcombed.

In complete contrast we sailed in 2-3m of baby powder blue water in the protection of the Bight of Acklins. It was an amazing experience to watch the bottom as we glided across the mirror calm water with a gentle breeze just filling the sails
Our next stop was Little harbour at Long Island where we waited as a frontal system moved over. The blow holes in the porous rocky  terrain, beachcombing  and catching squid amused us

Clarence town was a good place for some provisions at the Government market and a quaint little grocer

On Long Island there were dozens of “Blue Holes” in both the land and shallow lagoons. These soak holes are perfectly round and quite large and are filled with sea water to sea level.

A sail up the coast on the Atlantic side took us to Calabash bay where we checked out a great little lagoon by dinghy. The entrance was shallow and narrow but we estimated that we could get “Erica” inside. We spent a week here where we beached on the white sandy bottom and gave the bottom a clean off and the hull a polish.


We had a quick stop in Georgetown, Great Exuma Island for reprovisioning of food and water. There were still around 300 of the 450 boats here left over from a big regatta. It was not our scene so we continued on up through the many beautiful Exuma Cays.
 Short passages and gorgeous anchorages to be had.
Rat Cay will always be remembered as this is where my good canon camera went for a swim never to work again! So the GoPro and Eric’s little Fuji will have to suffice.

Big majors spot, Staniel Cay and James Bond’s movie setting at Thunderball Grotto were a real highlight where we enjoyed the swimming pigs, nurse sharks up close and swimming in the cave.


We spent hours snorkelling in the crystal clean clear water


Then on to Shroud Cay where a kayak from the western to eastern shores took us through mangrove estuaries to the most beautiful private beaches we have seen

On the way back the tide had flooded the waterways and we got lost. The sun was going down and we feared we would have to spend the night in the kayak with the night insects! Luckily using the direction of the sinking sun and some commonsense we got back to “Erica” just on night fall.

On our way north to Great Bahama island we stopped overnight at Nassau but didn’t go ashore. On passage at night to Freeport and Lucayan we were surrounded by cruise ships and tankers. We counted 10 in our visual range at one time .  Having AIS is just wonderful to prevent collisions.

We stopped for a couple of days at Lucayan in a sheltered waterway/ canal and left for Port Canaveral, Florida on the night of the 16th of March.

Monday, 9 February 2015

Mayaguana Island Bahamas

We left the British Virgin islands on the 6th of January, arriving on the 12th, covering 570nm.
The following movie is of the passage


We arrived at night then proceeded to Abraham bay in daylight. Just after we had got through the tricky reef entrance our gearbox failed but we were far enough in to anchor safely. Eric proceeded to get the gearbox off the motor which was a tedious and difficult task. Lifting the whole motor out was not an option with the boat rolling in the seas and swell. We needed the motor to be operational for charging our batteries and to keep our freezer full of food frozen, so we sent a message ashore with another yachtsman to inform the administrator (There are no customs/immigration officers on Mayaguana Island) that we couldn't clear in immediately.

Then a frontal system came through and the wind was up so we didn't want to leave the boat unattended. Once the gearbox problem was diagnosed the next task was to clear in and use the internet to order parts. ( A new gear shaft and dampening drive plate which were worn )
We spent a lot of time in the communications office over the next few days emailing suppliers in NZ and Boston.

The local folk were extremely helpful and friendly putting us in contact with a mechanic who was here from Nassau working on the roading, The gearbox was taken apart on the back of a ute

A very nice man organised the parts to be put on the flight to Mayaguana Island when they arrived in Nassau from the USA. Local folk also gave us rides from the dinghy dock and in ferrying water from the well.

Eric was able to do some electrical work on a boat in return.

While we waited for the parts we explored a wrecked yacht on the foreshore and after getting permission we managed to salvage a furling system.

Time was spent snorkelling the reef and fishing, but we both came down with a sickness.( Lethargy, heavy legs and fullness in the head and sinuses) Not typical of Ciguatera poisoning but it made us a bit wary of eating the volume of fish and lobster we had been eating, even though we had only eaten small fish and safe species. We called in at the nurses clinic to see if there was a virus going round with these symptoms but not so.

We had a great time beachcombing and enjoying the birdlife.

We hired a motorbike for a day and toured the island visiting Pirates well and Betsy bay settlements and the northern lagoon

An interesting site was the old Nasa Thor missile radar tracking towers overlooking the runway

Water collection was tedious. Usually we get enough rain water from a deck filling system but there had been no rain of significance since we arrived and our water maker failed so it was a long dinghy ride ashore followed by a km walk along a road being ripped up for water reticulation. A community well of rain water was available where we required a dipping bucket to reach down. Then it was a long walk with the jerry can on a wheelie back to the dinghy then to the boat. Usually by this time the wind had got up and our clothing was soaked in salt water!
In 8 yrs we had needed to use our water maker once and when we needed it most it failed!!
(But often we got a lift by a friendly local or the community police)

Evenings were spent enjoying the sunsets at the end of full days and making new friends.

When the parts arrived by Bahama Air, the gearbox was put back together and after some initial problems it was reunited with the motor...

After 4 weeks at Mayaguana Island we were underway again

SV Erica

SV Erica

About Me

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We met in 1971 and it was Eric's dream to build his own yacht and sail the world. This became a joint dream but it was not until 1994 that we were able to start building. "Erica" was launched in 2001 after 7yrs building her. It then took us 5 yrs to prepare her and ourselves before leaving NZ to see the world