Today the lakes shores are far less concerned with commerce and slave smuggling and more to do with relaxation.

Today the lake’s shores are far less concerned with commerce and slave smuggling and more to do with relaxation.

 

From Lake Erie we drove up to Lodington on the east shore of Lake Michigan. After an uncomfortable night in the back of the car, we boarded the morning ferry bound for Manitowoc, Wisconsen...........and Yes that is steam rising above Marcus' head!

From Lake Erie we drove up to Lodington on the east shore of Lake Michigan. After an uncomfortable night in the back of the car, we boarded the morning ferry bound for Manitowoc, Wisconsin………..and Yes, that is steam rising above Marcus’ head!

 

Leaving port with a view of our 'Badger's' sister ship tied up. They were both built in 1952 and Badger is the last surviving steam powered ferry in the northern hemisphere.....there is one other in NZ. Her sister is kept alongside for spares. I felt a bit sad for her:(

Leaving port with a view of our ‘Badger’s’ sister ship tied up. They were both built in 1952 and Badger is the last surviving steam powered ferry in the northern hemisphere…..there is one other in NZ. Her sister is kept alongside for spares. I felt a bit sad for her:(

 

We picked the rainiest day, but there was worse to come, so it was probably just as well!

We picked the rainiest day, but there was worse to come, so it was probably just as well!

 

Built in my birth year and commissioned in Marcus's!

Built in my birth year and commissioned in Marcus’s!

 

Leaving Lodington. Waves can build to 15ft on the lake. The week before they had to cancel a crossing.....

Leaving Lodington. Waves can build to 15ft on the lake. The week before they had to cancel a crossing…..

.......Yiiiikes! Not really. Just slight of hand with the camera!

…….Yiiiikes!
Not really. Just slight of hand with the camera!

 

We weren't quite sure to go once we left the ferry, but having spotted a town named after us, there was no question about it...... we were Hayward bound!

We weren’t quite sure to go once we left the ferry, but having spotted a town named after us, there was no question about it…… we were Hayward bound!

 

Having strolled around the town, we found a tranquil site, by the river and on the edge of the town. Hayward makes its money from tourism, but puts on at least two big events in the year. A national fishing competition and a national logging competition!

Having strolled around the town, we found a tranquil site, by the river and on the edge of the town. Hayward makes its money from tourism, but puts on at least two big events in the year. A national fishing competition and a national logging competition!

 

Hayward at the centre of his world!

Hayward at the centre of his world!

 

The Logging competition has its own purpose built arena with designated logging skill sections: as far as I could gather these include tree felling, log hauling, log rafting and log walking. Good to see Hayward keeping the skills alive!

The Logging competition has its own purpose built arena with designated logging skill sections: as far as I could gather these include tree felling, log hauling, log rafting, log walking and of course the slippery pole thingy. Good to see Hayward keeping the skills alive!

The following morning we were up, packed up and the gas strut mended on the tail gate of the car, all by 7.30……..yes you’ve guessed it…..all our battery driven watches were flat AND we’d crossed another time zone!! so off we went for breakfast at the best Mc Donalds we’ve ever seen, and we have certainly seen a fair few on this trip! …..A log fire, rocking chairs, comfy sofas and the interior all done in log cabin style aaand they had good Wifi!!

With T shirts purchased printed with Hayward, we were ready to move on towards Minnesota’s capital, Minneapolis. Being a Saturday night, we knew campsites might be busy, but usually they can squeeze a small tent in…..not tonight though! We made our way to a Truck Stop and were given a space next to the kitchen and the bins and after a trip into town, we settled down to a smelly night, but with the benefit of a great shower in the morning. Sleeping in the car entails shifting our bags into the front seats, blowing up the air bed and laying it on top of the three storage boxes and ice box and the back seat. Marcus then lies diagonally across the bed and I fit into any space left!

We then had to cross South Dakota on our way to Mount Rushmore in the Black Hills. This scenery didn't change for hour upon hour. We did come across a small town called Miller and stopped at a roadside shack for an ice cream. There we met Brett, who runs the ice cream parlour and take away for 6 months and lives the other 6 months in Honduras on the island of Roatan......we said we will probably see him there in 2019!

We then had to cross South Dakota on our way to Mount Rushmore in the Black Hills.

This scenery didn’t change for hour upon hour. We did come across a small town called Miller and stopped at a roadside shack for an ice cream. There we met Brett, who runs the ice cream parlor and take away for 6 months and lives the other 6 months in Honduras on the island of Roatan……we said we will probably see him there in 2019!

We traveled on to Pierre, the capital city of S Dakota and camped just below a dam. It was the day of the solar eclipse, but we were a little too far north to see anything more than twilight. That day there was a severe thunderstorm alert for the campsite so, rather than stay and get drenched, we took off in the car for Piere and some lunch. We have never seen such a torrential, monsoon like, tempest like, biblical deluge! When the hail stones started, we made for cover and drove under a petrol station forecourt, before we were smitten with frogs and locusts !!!……this was the 22nd of August and the same day that my Mum fell and broke her hip! Having received the news, it put a dampener on our journey to Mt Rushmore, but the news from home, by the end of the day was looking a little more hopeful.

En Route to Rushmore, we got sucked into the advertising for Wall Drug. What was it, where was it and what was it?.....we were to find out!

En Route to Rushmore, we got sucked into the advertising for Wall Drug. What was it? Where was it? and Why was it?…..we were to find out!

 

Set next to the bluff that rises of this high plain, is the small town if Wall. Naming places in the US is simple.....you either call the town after where you came from in the old country or use a description!

Set next to the bluff that rises off this high plain, is the small town if Wall. Naming places in the US is simple…..you either call the town after where you came from in the old country or use a description!

 

Wall Drug is a drugstore that set up in the late 1800s. the new road bringing settlers and prospectors west, ran slightly to the north of Wall. Things were hard for Wall Drug, until the pharmacist's wife hit on the idea of offering free iced water for travelers who detoured. The bills boards are now up as far away as Minneapolis and they certainly worked on us! This is Marcus enjoying his free water!

Wall Drug is a drugstore that was set up in the late 1800s. The new road, bringing settlers and prospectors west, runs slightly to the north of Wall. Things were hard for Wall Drug, until the pharmacist’s wife hit on the idea of offering free iced water for travelers who made the detour to Wall and sent her husband and son out with hand painted signs to put up on the highway. The bill boards are now up as far away as Minneapolis and they certainly worked on us! This is Marcus enjoying his free water!

 

Wall Drug is an emporium par excellance! There is something for everyone and they are ready to take you money at every turn.

Wall Drug is an emporium par excellance! There is something for everyone and they are ready to take you money at every turn.

 

The famous last poker game of Wild Bill Hicock!

The famous last poker game of Wild Bill Hicock! Who’s that in the background?

 

It had to be done!

It had to be done!

 

At last we arrived at Mount Rushmore and managed to find a free dispersed campsite right behind the illustrious gentlemen!

At last we arrived at Mount Rushmore and managed to find a free dispersed campsite right behind the illustrious gentlemen!

 

Behind Mount Rushmore.

Behind Mount Rushmore.

Our home for the night. This site was too small for the big tent, so our 'Little Blue' came out again.

Our home for the night. This site was too small for the big tent, so our ‘Little Blue’ came out again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So so sorry to have left You, my dear reader, in the dark for so long!!

As you can see from the date of this posting, time has moved on……..I had a 5 week break in Blighty, to attend to my mum’s break ……of her left hip!!  For a 98 year old to have made such an incredible recovery is astounding. I have been dismissed from my rehabilitation duties and am writing this in an hotel in Orlando, after another cock up on the transfer flight front!! If all goes to plan I will meet up with Marcus later today 12.10.17 in Austin Texas…..fingers crossed!

Before I get onto updating the early part of our road trip, I should put your mind at rest and tell you that although Irma tried her damndest to destroy everything in her path, thankfully IK sustained fairly superficial damage to her sugar scoop (stern) and the wind steering in the furore that hit Jacksonville. We will be back onboard in the next 3 or 4 weeks and get our sleeves rolled up to make her good again. Jacksonville seems to have been both our saviour and our nemesis!

I have got so far behind with news and events that I have decided to use pictures to update you as far as our road trip goes…….all packed up with everything including a kitchen…….if not exactly the kitchen sink, we were ready for the road. Our friends, Cecil and Robin, had loaned us said camping kitchen and a good sized tent for the adventure and on the first of August we set off. Not wishing to go too far, incase the car failed at the first hurdle, we decided to head up the coast to Savannah.

Our trusty stead for the road trip of a lifetime!

Our trusty stead for the ‘road trip’ of a lifetime!  …….A 2002 Chrysler Voyager ‘mini van’. Only 67,000 on the clock……one carefully lady owner??! Fully checked out by mechanic, new brakes, wipers and hoses fitted by Marcus and we’re ready for the off!

 

Our first night in Savannah.

Our first night in Savannah. Camp sites come complete with raised well drained platforms, a fire pit and picnic table provided…….just add tent!

 

Glamping with camping kitchen and double camp cot!

Glamping with camping kitchen and double camp cot! At our age who wants to spend 3 months grovelling on the floor?…….Certainly not Marcus!

Home from home n Savannah.

Home from home in Savannah. 

 

A town built with the possibility of flooding in mind.

A town built with the possibility of flooding in mind.

Onward and upward to Greenville and our first look at the Appalachian mountains.

Onward and upward to Greenville and our first look at the Appalachian mountains.

Near Ashville and the start of the Blue Ridge adventure.

Near Ashville and the start of the Blue Ridge adventure.

The decent from here made the brakes smoke as we sought out our first night of wild camping and a flat tyre!

The decent from here made the brakes smoke, as we sought out our first night of wild camping and awaking to a flat tyre!

Puncture repaired by a 'very nice man' we headed for a bit of local culture at the Blue Ridge music centre. Fiddlers and Flat Shoe dancers keeping the folk music alive.

Puncture repaired by a ‘very nice man’ we headed for a bit of local culture at the Blue Ridge music centre. Fiddlers and Flat Shoe dancers keeping the folk music alive.

One use for old violins in Galax......probably the most risky breakfast we've ever eaten was eaten here in a very seedy cafe/bar. Food hygiene is a thing of the future here!

One use for old violins in Galax, the home of a national Fiddlers Convention at the foot of the Blue Ridge mountains. One of  the most risky breakfasts we’ve ever eaten was eaten here in a very seedy cafe/bar. Galax….a town that is keeping old traditions alive and where hygiene is a thing of the future!

On to  historical Harper's Ferry where the Shenendoah and Potomac rivers meet.

On to historical Harper’s Ferry where the Shenendoah and Potomac rivers meet.

The general store, Harper's Ferry. The strange thing is that this history only dates back to the 1800s just before my grandparents were born!

The general store at Harper’s Ferry. The strange thing is that this history only dates back to the 1800s just before my grandparents were born!

Part of the rifle lecture at Harper's Ferry. The water powered munitions factories prospered here in the 19th C.

Part of the rifle lecture at Harper’s Ferry. The water powered munitions factories prospered here in the 19th C and they claim to have produced the first massed produced weapons in their forges…….just look what that’s lead to! 

The old canal at Harper's Ferry

The old canal at Harper’s Ferry links the two rivers to the east coast and the Intra coastal waterway. Superseded by the railway, it’s a testament to the determination and drive of this very young nation to develop potential industrial centres……even if they happen to be in the middle of nowhere!

View from our next campsite on the banks of the Potomac. We saw our first fireflies and had our first campfire.

View from our next campsite on the banks of the Potomac. We saw our first fireflies and had our first campfire……..not quite as peaceful as it looks as the railway, that I mentioned in Harper’s Ferry, sandwiches the campsite with the river!

 

En route to Pittsburgh, we stopped off to savour the scenery.....mountains, trees and rivers abound.

En route to Pittsburgh, we stopped off to savour the scenery…..mountains, trees and rivers abound.

Our free campsite south of Pittsburgh.

Our free campsite south of Pittsburgh.

This campsite is on a trail and the shelters and campsites are really meant for cyclists or hikers, but hey! We parked in the car park and walked all our gear in, so I think that qualifies!

This campsite is on a trail and the shelters and campsites are really meant for cyclists or hikers, but hey! We parked in the car park and walked all our gear in, so I think that qualifies!

We drove into town and had the unexpected treat of a Boccia tournament being played under the overpass in Pittsburgh. Then on into the Heinz museum to get educated!

We drove into town and had the unexpected treat of a Boccia tournament being played under the overpass in Pittsburgh. Then on into the Heinz museum to get educated!

The following day, back at the park where we were camping, there was a totally unexpected car festival that arrived overnight!

The following day, back at the park where we were camping, there was a totally unexpected car festival that arrived overnight!

 

........and our first funnel cake......doughnut batter trickled into hot fat through a funnel!!

……..and our first funnel cake……doughnut batter trickled into hot fat through a funnel!!

Leaving this great campsite behind, we headed north towards the Great Lakes and the old logging and fishing town town of Sandusky.........

Leaving this great campsite behind, we headed north towards the Great Lakes and the old logging and fishing town town of Sandusky………

.........on the banks of Lake Erie...........that's Canada over there!

………on the banks of Lake Erie………..that’s Canada over there! The Sandusky museum gave us an insight into its hay day as a fresh water fish supplier to major cities, a logging port and ice harvesting centre! The water here was so pure that when the lake froze, gangs of loggers turned there hand to cutting, harvesting and storing massive amounts of ice for distribution to major cities as far away as New York during the summer months. It was also and important ‘smuggling’ port at the end of the slave underground network, where local fishermen took runaway slaves across to Canada…….for a price!

………and so to the wedding!

After a week of preparation and building excitement, the wedding day arrived. The whole day had been carefully planned by Tash and Chris and it went seamlessly. Friends and family had been coopted to make things run smoothly, from the making and decorating of the cake to the gathering of ivy and construction of the wedding arch. The venue was perfect and despite a rather chilly breeze, the sun shone and everyone was more than happy.

The beautiful wedding venue with Bass rock on the horizon.

The beautiful wedding venue with Bass rock on the horizon.

All the hard work that Chris and Tash had put into preparing the site paid off, from the log cabin ‘snug’ to the fire pit…….the jazz band and pizza van to the marquee and caeleigh band!

Bride, Groom, Ring Bearer, Flower Girl and Bridesmaids.

Bride, Groom, Ring Bearer, Flower Girl and Bridesmaids.

There were so many smiles as Tash and Chris made their way to the ivy arch and after a reading about love by Charlie and Freya, and they had made their vows, there wasn’t a dry eye on the cliff top!! …….but the smiles went on and on all day and into the night…….

Husband and Wife.

Husband and Wife.

This photo frame, hung from the tree was a great idea!

Photo opportunity!

Photo opportunity!

As always, weddings are about celebrating with family and friends. This was the first time we had met Chris’ family and hopefully not the last……his mum gave one of the funniest speeches…..a natural comedienne!

Brother and sisters. Wonderful to see them all together again.

Brother and sisters. Wonderful to see them all together again.

The speeches were at 7 in the evening, so Marcus had a very abstemious afternoon, but thankfully he was ‘first up’ and could relax into the evening!!

Father of the Bride speech.

Father of the Bride speech.

Many of the guests were camping onsite and as the evening turned into night and then dawn, a few stalwarts clustered around the fire and finally dispersed around 5am. We were far more sensible and made it back to the B&B after dancing the night away at 3!!

The following day was Freya’s 9th birthday……..definitely one she will always remember! The newly weds and their children spent their wedding night onsite in a motor home, so the birthday party was well under way by the time we arrived. The marquee, with its wooden dance floor, was ideal for Freya to try out her new rollers skates!

The day after and Freya's 9th birthday.

The day after and Freya’s 9th birthday.

The party went on well into the evening, but we were on grandparent duty so we left early and drove Charlie and Freya home to Edinburgh for a good night’s sleep before school the next day.

Being the last week of term, there was a lot going on and, thank goodness, we had our schedule carefully drawn up by Tash…….only one slip up on making sure Charlie had his trombone with him, but easily remedied, as the school is only a five minute walk away!!

Charlie's last day of primary school.

Charlie’s last day of primary school.

Up Up and Away!

Up Up and Away!

We spent the rest of June with the family and headed south on the 1st of July to Birmingham, to take Dan out for a birthday lunch, before heading back to Essex to spend three days with my Mum, then back to Hampshire and Nigel’s for a curry and a comfortable bed for the night, before catching our flight back to the US.

It was good to be able to sit and do absolutely nothing for 9 hours on the flight!!

When we arrived in Atlanta, there was a computer glitch and the queues were horrendous. We got more and more nervous that the Customs and Border Patrol officer might not let us back in, because we’ve basically been here since 2015, with only short exits to Canada and the Bahamas.

All that angst was for nothing!……..the young customs guy that dealt with us was so interested in the fact we lived on a sail boat, that he didn’t even glance at our passports! He stamped them both, handed them back to us and then we had a mad dash to the other side of the airport to try and catch our connecting flight……….we arrived just as the gate closed, but not to worry……..we were upgraded to the first class on the next available flight, which gave us an hour and a half to chill in the piano lounge, listening to a great jazz duo, before boarding.

It’s a shame the flight was only two hours……or maybe a blessing?!….as we were plied with free drinks before take off and during the flight!

Coming back to Jacksonville was like coming home again, except that someone has turned up the heating since we’ve been away! One of the first things we did, after calling in at the Lake Shore bar and playing pool, was to buy a cheap, mains operated, window air conditioner, which we have fitted to the ceiling hatch above the chart table.

Our life saving A/C!

Our life saving A/C!

Without it we would have to run the generator constantly to work our 240v a/c. As we are paying for electricity and have no intention of melting in the Florida heat, the purchase was, as they say, a ‘no brainer’!

Our other major decision and time consuming adventure has been to buy a car!

You may wonder why we need a car, when we have the loan of Norman’s?…….well the plan is to spend the next three months, while the hurricane season is upon us, doing a camping road trip around America!

Island Kea is happily tucked up in a secure and relatively inexpensive marina, 27 miles up stream from the Atlantic and 30ft above sea level, so well protected from any tidal surges and sheltered on three sides from strong winds.

We spent 10 days scouting around all the car dealers (and there are many of them in Jacksonville!) for a suitable vehicle for the challenge.

Our original dreams of an RV were soon abandoned when the reality of our budget and it’s lack of elasticity hit home. We went bargain basement hunting and thought we had found the perfect people carrier…….with the two rows of seats removed from the back it was perfect for sleeping in!!

Cecil of Lake Shore Bar fame, works for a dealership and was able to get our dream machine checked over by a mechanic………lucky for us he did!!, as our dream car would have quickly turned into a nightmare!

We sadly returned it to the dealer, only to find its spritely little sister winking coquettishly at us on the forecourt. We couldn’t resist and took her for a test drive………she was a 2002 Chrysler Voyager and had only done 67.000 miles. Despite a few rattles and squeaks, we were not deterred and took her the following day for a check over. New brakes, new wiper blades and new sway bars on the suspension, was the diagnosis and except for some saggy headlining, she’s in a very tidy state!

Our new pride and joy!

Our new pride and joy!

She is now ours and Marcus spent a swelteringly hot day replacing the brakes etc. She now runs beautifully. We are planning to head north to Savannah in a couple of days and spent this afternoon working out how to erect our expedition tent!

Robin and Cecil, of Lake Shore Bar and Scotland fame, have very generously lent us their tent, camp kitchen, camping stove, chairs and blow up mattress, we really are going to be glamping!

Everyone we meet is giving us advice on where to go and we have started annotating a big map of the US. It seems that there is a great deal to see and do, so we’ll just have try and do as much as we can!

Well here is my latest edition of the blog!
I feel like I used to when I was at school and let all my homework pile up!
We’ve done so much since the last entry that I’m going to have to keep things short and rely on photos, or I’ll never hand it in………late or not!!

Returning from the Bahamas, we made our way back up the St John’s river and, with bated breath, safely negotiated our nemesis…..the Main Street bridge!

Having settled into our new slip in the Ortega River Marina, we got down to work, fixing the broken throttle cable and the worn steering cable that was threatening to give up the ghost.

Marcus worked out the intricacies of dismantling the throttle and gear console and while he was iat it, decided to replace the gear cable too.

Replacing the throttle cable.

Replacing the throttle cable. No mean feet!!

Small places call for small people, so I was entrusted with  fixing the eyes onto the steering cables…. a job that had to be done in situe, in the space under the aft cockpit sole. The same dark hole that houses the auto helm!  It took some persuasion to mouse the cables through the 30ft of conduit from the helm, behind our head board and under the sole of the aft cabin and cockpit and then a modicum of struggle to bend the wires to shape. Hot work!!

One of the 34ft steering cables reattached!

One of the 34ft steering cables reattached!

 

The two weeks before our flight back to Blighty went very quickly and sociably! Having thoroughly cleaned and tidied, we fumigated with strong bug sprays, to deter any would be infesters. So strong infact, that Marus emerged coughing and spluttering………not good for him, but reassuring as far as a cockroaches chances of survival!!

A 5 hour drive down to Fort Lauderdale and we were off, worrying slightly that Customs and Border Control may not let us back in to the US again!  After an uneventful outward journey, we landed and paid a short visit to my Mum’s, then headed down to Exeter for a reunion with two of Marcus’s brothers. It was great to see them and their wives. There’s nothing quite like family!

Whilst we were down in the SW, we set out to visit Jim and Paula of ‘White Gold’ in Dartmouth. They have just sold their boat and returned to live for a while as ‘dirt dwellers’. On the way down to Dartmouth, I got in touch with our friends Allan and Claire, who we first met in Brazil. They were staying  next door to Dartmouth in Torquay and they drove over to spend a rainy afternoon with us. It was lovely to catch up with their adventures. Our paths have crossed and nearly crossed for the last 3 years!

As we all know guests are like food……..they should both be thrown out after three days, but Jim and Paula kept us for 5 relaxing days and we saw the draw of living in such a beautiful part of the world……… in the summer!

Onward and upward ……. we headed up to Nigel and Bridget for more family time and a comfortable bed, before picking up our daughter, Jenni, from Heathrow. Another lovely reunion. We haven’t seen her since she moved to Australia in January 2016. From there we moved onto Edenbridge and stayed with our closest friend Keith. He was on good form and looking forward to life beyond work!

Sadly we had two devastating pieces of news on our arrival in The Bridge. The beautiful Becky Fox, who was Marcus’s waitress and like another daughter to him, died the weekend before we arrived in Edenbridge. Such a shock and so, so sad.

The second sadness was that our very good friend, Carlos, had been diagnosed with a voracious brain tumour and was in hospital. Thankfully we were able to visit him and talk with two of his wonderful children, Lucy and David. All the love and care he has given them and their brother, Chris, over the years was being paid back with interest. We felt privileged to have spent a short time visiting with them and being able to say our goodbyes to Carlos. He passed away a week later and will live on in our happy memories of him over the years. Such an intelligent and loving man with a great sense of humour.

Our dear friend Carlos. We miss you.

Our dear friend Carlos. We miss you.

After the sadness of the beginning of the week, we had a great evening meeting up with Dawn and Ian, our neighbours from Brighton Marina, who were in Eastbourne for the night, en route to Holland. It was good to catch them before they left and also catch up with all the news.

Our good friends, Dawn and Ian en route from Brighton to Holland.

Our good friends and neighbours , Dawn and Ian, en route from Brighton to Holland.

The following morning we were up at ‘crack of sparrow’s…….’ Marcus drove me up to Stansted for a red eye flight to Cork, so I could visit my sisters and family for a couple of days. Liney picked me up from the airport and took me to her place……

What a view.....Liney's back garden!

What a view…..Liney’s back garden!

Liney and Jackie's Farmhouse airbnb.

Liney and Jackie’s Farmhouse airbnb.

If you ever fancy a break away from it all, look them up on Airbnb – Shiplake Mountain, near Dunmany Co. Cork. I swear I leave a piece of my soul there every time I visit!

We managed to pack a lot of love and laughs and miles and memories into the fleeting couple of days…… a walk on the Sheepshead peninsula and a trip down to beautiful Schull, to spend the day with our sister, Libby.

Three sisters, sitting in the sun. 'When shall we three meet again?'........Cuba perhaps!?

Three sisters, sitting in the sun. ‘When shall we three meet again?’……..Cuba perhaps!?

……and so, back to England and my Mum and Marcus’ aunt. On one of the hottest weekends of the summer, we were invited to a barbecue at Marcus’ cousin, Andrew’s house in nearby Bishops’ Stortford. It was lovely to see everyone and my Mum had a great time on the eve of her 98th birthday!

Auntie Betty and my Mum at the Sunday afternoon barbecue at Marcus' cousin's house.

Auntie Betty and my Mum at the Sunday afternoon barbecue at Marcus’ cousin’s house.

Visiting Betty and family.

Visiting with Betty and family.

The following day, Jenni arrived and we took the Birthday Girl out for the trip of her choosing……. to Southend on Sea.  She has fond memories of her summer holidays being spent here when she was a girl some 80 odd years ago!!…….One week with her rather dour mother and the following one with her fun loving and full of treats father. Her parents owned a tobacconist and confectioners shop in the east end of London and had to stagger their time away from it. We did a trip down memory lane, or rather a trip down the one and a half mile pier, complete with a fish and chip lunch followed by ice creams all round and a stroll along the sea front. Precious moments and memories to treasure.

On the train to the end of the pier.Two of the three OAPs and their 'carer'!

On the train to the end of the pier.

Birthday outing on Southend pier.

Birthday outing on Southend pier. All three OAPs + their ‘Carer’!

Excentric? Maybe a little, but no sunburn for us!!

Excentric? Maybe a little, but no sunburn for us!!

All too soon it was time for us to leave my wonderful 98 year young Mum and pack up and head off again. This time a 6 hour road trip up to Scotland with Jenni, in our trusty Yaris, to spend time with Tash, Chris, Charlie and Freya before the wedding and to lend a hand wherever and whenever needed.

Waving us off to Scotland.

My lovely Mum, waving us off to Scotland from her patio garden.

As always we were made very welcome in Edinburgh and after the shock of seeing that Charlie is now taller than me, we settled into family life and took on any jobs offered…….one of which was to take Freya, complete with a fairie face painting, to a touch rugby tournament. In between the action there seemed to be quite a lot of socialising and a bit of gleefull throwing oneself to the ground for no apparent reason!!

Freya, complete with face paint, playing touch rugby.

Freya, complete with face paint, playing touch rugby.

As well as being the lead up to the wedding, these were the last days of the school year, and for Charlie, his last week at his Primary school. On the Friday evening before the wedding, Charlie was going to his leavers dance, so his ‘ring bearer’s’ kilt doubled for the leavers ‘prom’

Charlie sporting his kilt for the first time.....so handsome x

Charlie sporting his kilt for the first time…..so handsome x

That afternoon we moved out to a B&B near the wedding site and Tash and her bridesmaids spent the evening together.

Our B&B was a delightful cottage in a quaint village just 10 minutes drive from the Ravenshaugh log cabin, where the wedding was to be held. Dan, who had driven up from Birmingham and was camping at the wedding venue, came over for the evening. It was great to all be together again…….the first time since February 2014!  We all spent the evening helping Marcus hone his ‘father of the bride’ speech and reminiscing.

I’m going to post this instalment of our time away and leave you all time to breath, before ‘The Wedding and Beyond!’

 

With th the weather looking calm for a few days, we escaped from Marsh Harbour and sailed across to the nearest of the Outer Islands, Man-o-War. Although Marsh Harbour could hardly be described as a metropolis, landing in Man-o-War is like stepping back in time. Having made sure the anchor had set firmly, we lowered IKITUTU and made our way through some pretty shallow water to check out the settlement.

Man o War lagoon by dinghy.

Man o War lagoon by dinghy.

The inner ‘lagoon’ is divided in two by the inlet from the sea, allowing for deeper draft vessels to enter the west mooring field…..sadly not deep enough for us!

'Owls Nest' at the end of the MoW lagoon. My dream house!

‘Owls Nest’ at the far west end of the MoW lagoon. My dream house!

We tied up to a dock that looked free, having missed the signs on the two public docks, and strolled through the deserted streets. The roads are just wide enough for two golf carts to pass each other…..there are no cars allowed on the island…….  and the speed limit is 10mph. One bit of British legacy is that they drive on the left, but all the carts are left hand drive!!

The corner of Lovers Lane MoW.

The corner of Lovers Lane MoW.

The Bank and car park.

The Bank and car park.

We took a path that led up between the houses and only then realised just how narrow the island was as we came out onto a beach. As you can see the weather was changing!

View to the left.........

View to the left………

.......view to the right!

…….view to the right!

We managed to get back to the boat before getting the tail end of this down pour.

Back on the boat, our minds turned to the next knotty problem that IK has thrown our way. Whilst having the boards down over our bed to look at the throttle cable, we noticed that the steering cable was fraying where the water had caused some rusting. MoW is a working island and although it clearly caters for tourists, it also boasts three or four working boat yards. We decided to call in at one the following morning and see if there was a chance of replacing the cable, incase it decides to break as we approach the dreaded Jacksonville Main Street bridge!!!

We stopped by a boat that was moored at the end of Edwins Boatyard dock,to ask for advice on who to speak to. We not only got the name of the most experienced boatbuilder, but also the promise of some Mahi Mahi that the guy we asked wanted to clear from his cool box!! A fantastic result!

After our day trip round the island, (which I will get to later!), Keith, the boatbuilder offered to come out to the boat and take a look at the steering cable. Having given it a good inspection, he declared it fit enough to do the 300 miles to St Augustine, but said it did need replacing sooner rather than later!

The fraying on the steering cable. Let's hope the diagnosis is sound!!

The fraying on the steering cable. Let’s hope the diagnosis is sound!!

As I said, we decided to do a tour of the island and hired a golf cart for the day.

Our wheels for the day to explore the whole island.

Our wheels for the day to explore the whole island.

We didn’t encounter too much other traffic and as there was only one main road with side roads at right angles in the settlement, we felt sure we wouldn’t get lost. They gave us a map for the settlement, that is only about three quarters of a mile square, and then we were on our own and off piste!

Relics of the island's past.

Relics of the island’s past.

Joining the settlement end of the island and the posh second home end is a causeway that must get totally covered during storms and ultra high tides. There is a distinct  difference between the people’s buildings of the settlement and the mega rich soulless buildings at the posh end of the island.

The Low Place.......that really is its name!

The Low Place…….that really is its name!

As we took a side road off the main track, we came to the island’s new cemetery. The old one, that housed the original families that settled the island, was washed away in a hurricane and a memorial, with the names of the lost graves, has been erected. It makes interesting reading as there are only three or four surnames, but there are no two Christian names that are the same!

The new cemetery that replaced the original that was washed away in a hurricane..

The new cemetery that replaced the original that was washed away in a hurricane.

The names of the people who inhabited the original graveyard, before the hurricane.

The names of the people who inhabited the original graveyard, before the hurricane.

Continuing our tour to the posh end of the island, it was time to cool off and give the driver a rest!!

Up the posh end of the island at Manderlay.

Up the posh end of the island at Manderlay.

Island Kea at anchor.

From the private dock we found we could see Island Kea at anchor.

The golf cart in off road mode!

The golf cart in off road mode!

The following morning we returned the golf cart and decided to stay the night, before heading for the shelter of Marsh Harbour again, as strong winds and thunderstorms were forecast!

The signposting is DIY, but works just fine!

The signposting is DIY, but works just fine!

The winds arrived in Marsh Harbour and left again. We were snugly tucked up in almost the same spot we had left three days before!

Monday, being my birthday, we decided to treat ourselves to a ferry ride over to Hope Town on Elbow Cay. It was a beautiful, calm sunny day and I don’t think I’ll ever forget where I spent my 65th birthday.

The ferry dropped us on the lighthouse side of the harbour and we were soon making our way up to the top. It is the only remaining kerosene lamp, with a counterweight mechanism to turn the light, left  in the world! ( I don’t know if that is a bit like the ‘World’ series in baseball, that only has American teams!?) Anyway, there are two lighthouse keepers who have to crank the mechanism every two hours and pump the pressure chambers throughout the night!! ….worse than being on watch!

Elbow Reef lighthouse.

Elbow Reef lighthouse.

A wannabe lighthouse keeper!

A wannabe lighthouse keeper with the kerosene pressure pump.

The counterweight mechanism was built in Birmingham!

The counterweight mechanism was built in Birmingham!

Once at the top, there was a small door leading on to the balcony. A bit of a squeeze for some!

Ornate? Or a warning to hold on tight?

The door handle. Ornate? Or a warning to hold on tight?

I didn't realise I was wearing lighthouse camouflage!!

I didn’t realise I was wearing lighthouse camouflage!!

Recovering from the climb!

Recovering from the climb!

Lighthouse completed we headed off for a look a t Hope Town……..

Birthday girl appearing again!

Birthday girl appearing again!

The Main Street called The Queen's Highway!

The Main Street called The Queen’s Highway!

It's a bit like Cornwall, but no granite, only wood.

It’s a bit like Cornwall, but no granite, only wood.

Hope Town is so small you can get a glimpse of the lighthouse from most corners.

Hope Town is so small you can get a glimpse of the lighthouse from most corners.

Having walked the entire town, we returned to the harbour an Cap’n Jack’s for a birthday lunch, overlooking the water.

Lunch at Cap'n Jack's.......and yes! That is the lighthouse behind us!

Lunch at Cap’n Jack’s…….and yes! That is the lighthouse behind us!

A perfect end to a perfect birthday!

A perfect end to a perfect birthday!

Joining in with the sunset chorus of conch blowers.

Joining in with the sunset chorus of conch blowers.

We are now on our way to the US and hope to arrive in St Augustine on Thursday morning!

Having made our way to Cape Canaveral we moored up against a concrete dock for two nights, until a sheriff in a launch asked us to move. Apparently the marina had complained about us being there. Probably annoyed that a boat our size wasn’t paying into their coffers!

Looking at the weather radar we saw there was a big storm heading towards Cape Canaveral and didn’t fancy taking the brunt of it, so we decided to leave and head out to sea and south to avoid it. Once on our way we heard that the bridge to the canal in Cape Canaveral was shut until the evening because of the threat of lightening. The radar showed lighter weather to the south and we could see the main cells trooping up the coast. Unfortunately we failed to outrun the whole storm and were caught in strong winds, driving rain, lightening and hail! It was bad enough for us to donn our lifejackets and reduce sail to a minimum. After two hours huddled together in the cockpit,weathering the storm, we sailed out of the last of it and headed for West Palm Beach and the peace and quiet of Lake Worth.

Whilst there we called our Island Bum friends, Nic and Tyler and they came out to us in their friends’ boat and brought their ‘Nic’ friends who were visiting with them.

Nic, Nikki and Nick with Tyler, Marcus and me!

Nic, Nikki and Nick with Tyler, Marcus and me!

We went with them in the evening to visit Mindy and Andrew who have a fantastic house on the water. By the time we left, there was a definite chill in the air…..

On our way back home.

Huddled together under cover on our way back home.

Our stay in Lake Worth was short, as we had to take the only likely weather window within view to cross to the Bahamas. The Gulf Stream is the governing factor. It flows northwards at around 4-5knots. If there is any ‘north’ in the wind, then there is a wind over tide effect that can make for an uncomfortable and even dangerous crossing!

Needless to say, leaving didn’t go quite to plan! First we tried to mend the staysail furler that has unaccountably decided to jam. With no luck on that front we trussed the sail up, just incase it changed its mind, and will just have to manage with only the Genoa until we can consult a rigger!

While we were busy with the staysail we heard on the ‘bridge traffic’ radio that Beyzano, with our Trinnie friends, Rob and Rhian aboard, was making her way up the ICW to Lake Worth. We hadn’t seen them for two and a half years, so we delayed our trip across to the fuel dock until they arrived.
We had no sooner pulled up our anchor and said our farewells when the engine spluttered, coughed and stopped…..a quick redeployment of the anchor may have puzzled Rob and Rhian, but they were too polite to question it! We knew that we had run the starboard tank nearly dry, but didn’t realise it was down to fumes only! A quick ‘up floorboards’ to get to the fuel taps and we soon had the full port tank feeding the starving engine.

At the fuel dock it took us an hour to fill the empty starboard tank…….not due to quantity, but due to their modern ‘high speed’ pump causing air locks and back wash if we tipped more than a tea cup’s worth at a time down the old girl’s throat.
Duly filled we were off…….well almost……we decided to make a pass by Beyzona, but approaching from a different angle we somehow managed a brief, but effective grounding! They say mishaps come in threes, so we were feeling confident as we set off to cross the Gulf Stream that we had had our quota.

We arrived in Bahamian waters with no more events and spent a restful night at anchor, sheltered from strong overnight winds by an uninhabited island. We got up early to move 5 miles south to check in at Green Turtle Cay. The holding here was in patchy weed and it took us five attempts to set the anchor!

During the course of the third anchor lift, the throttle cable broke, so once again a quick redeployment of the anchor to slow down our drift and another ‘up floor boards’ so that we could assess the problem. It seems that the cable that comes down from the cockpit and turns at a right angle above our bed on its way to the engine has rusted through, so within an hour and in the best Heath Robinson tradition, we jury rigged a line that attaches to the throttle on the engine, runs to a block under the board below the companionway steps, comes up through a purpose drilled holed in said board, up to a block on the coach roof, across to a block attached to the bimini upright and then over to a jamming cleat at the helm!!

The slightly modified jury rig. The line now goes up to the block above the helm.

The slightly modified jury rig. The line now goes up to the block above the helm.

The slightly modified jury rig. The line now goes up to the block above the helm.

The slightly modified jury rig. The line now goes up to the block above the helm.

……..It actually works better than the cable, so we don’t have to panic and get spares sent out here…….a very costly proposition! We’re hoping it will do the job until we’re back in the US…….fingers crossed!!

Having completed our running repairs and satisfied ourselves that the anchor was well dug in, Marcus went ashore to check into the Bahamas in the customs office, which appeared to be an extension of the public toilets! We got some local advice about going out through the cut at Whale Cay passage and headed for Marsh Harbour to meet up with Mel and James on Blew Beyond and to transfer all their provisions weighing down our forepeak.

We dropped our anchor near BB and, after a couple of groundings, found a deep enough hole to suit our draft!

View of the dinghy dock from our anchorage.

View of the dinghy dock from our anchorage.

It was great to see Mel and James again. They left us in January and have been down to Cuba and back up through The Exumas and Eluthera……..places we will hopefully visit on our way south at the end of the hurricane season in November/December this year…………..we’ve been intending to get down to Cuba for the last two seasons, but things never seem to go to plan!!

The only negative experience we had in Marsh Harbour was having both our bike sadles and both front wheels stolen from our bikes! At first we thought they had stolen both ours and Mel and James’ bikes, but I suddenly spotted them lying on the ground over the wall we had been sitting on for the past half hour! They were still padlocked together, but the wire fence had been cut. The three lads caught on video must have had a real struggle lifting them over the wall!! We reported the theft to the police, but the wheels and seats have clearly gone into hiding!

We had a very sociable time in Marsh Harbour. Mel and James’ friends, Susan and Robin, arrived the same time as us and were staying in a villa right on the water a twenty minute walk from the dinghy dock. We ate together with them and their three girls most evenings……at restaurants, on BB, at the villa and on IK. During the days we did our own thing……for us it was shopping, boat maintenance and a bit of sightseeing by dinghy and socialising with other boats at anchor!

We met up with old friends; Wolfgang and Birta on TANAMERA and David and Suzanne on SUZIE TOO. Wolfgang  was a great help putting heads together with Marcus over our jammed furler. David and Suzanne came aboard for a quick visit and reawakened our interest in joining their OCC rally from Curaçao to Belize in 2018.

We made new friends with John and Georgina on SHAMAL. It turns out that they too knew SUZIE TOO and had taken part in the last Belize rally. We joined them on a wet and windy afternoon for Mexican Train dominos and they kindly gave us cruising guides for Colombia and Belize.

On the maintenance front, we wrestled the staysail off in light winds and Marcus managed to wiggle the foil up high enough to free the jammed mechanism……..it seems a screw that holds it up had come loose!

One of the dinghy docks.

One of the dinghy docks.

Worth the walk!

Worth the walk!

It would have been great to have had the bikes:(

Every other morning Mel, James and I went for a 30min run along the waterfront. We left together and came back together, but my little legs couldn’t keep up with their pace in the middle!! It was great to have that extra incentive to get out there and do it!

Last week saw the arrival of Hywell, Julian and Ken; friends of Mel and James who are crew for the Bermuda leg of their homeward journey. It was a quick turn around for them, but we managed a trip around to Mermaid Reef with them for some snorkelling.

A shoal of fish swam past me and one actually nibbled my calf!

A shoal of fish swam past me and one actually nibbled my calf!

There were some big ones!

There were some big ones!

Someone had to stand guard with the dinghies!!

Someone had to stand guard with the dinghies!!

We all went to Colors for a last supper and waved them off on Saturday morning.

Our last supper together.

Our last supper together.

The night before we left Marsh Harbour, we were awoken at 3 a.m. by the sound of fog horns. At first I thought it was part of my dream of a liner leaving dock to the merry blasts from a small boat flotilla. When Marcus leapt out of bed I recognised it for what it really was………in the strong winds a 60foot catamaran, JADE,was dragging through the anchorage and boaters were sounding a warning and trying to waken the crew. We quickly leapt into the dinghy and ‘Haywards’ International Rescue’ was once again in action! By the time we got to the Cat, it became clear that there was no one onboard and there were three other dinghies nudging it away from boats in its path. A young couple in a small dinghy arrived back with the spare anchor off their 26′ sailboat, TURTLE. No one thought it could possibly hold a boat nearly three times their size……but it did!!

Once tethered the rescuers could work on breaking the lock on the anchor locker and getting her own anchor deployed. Once happy that she wasn’t going to drift any further, we shadowed the little dinghy back safely to TURTLE. On our way back to IK we called by to see Paul on BELLA LUNA, another of the early rescuers, who had actually climbed aboard and attempted to steer JADE between the unsuspecting anchorage.

Another job well done! ……….If we were Sea Tow we would be claiming a six figure salvage fee!!

Leaving Jacksonville has been a big wrench. We grew roots over the enforced four months we were there. We have made good friends through our trials with the mast and experienced only kindness and helpfulness from everyone we’ve met. The stereotype that we have of Americans in Britain is completely false and does them a disservice ……..unfortunately the face of America is now Donald Trump and he reinforces our prejudice on a daily basis!!
Our sanity throughout all the mast, salvage and refitting has been being adopted by the big family that is the Lake Shore Bar! From our first foray there to find a pool table we have been made to feel at home. Robin and Cecil, who own the bar, even came down to the boat to wave us off and are changing their holiday plans to coincide with being in Edinburgh at the same time were up there for the wedding!
Marcus has played pool in the Thursday tournament every week and taken a 1st, 2nd and 3rd! He was also asked by Katie Mac, the dynamic bar maid, to play on the bar’s ‘Hot Shots’ team in the Tuesday pool league. My role has been cheer leader/groupie/designated driver and occasional darts player!

The Hot Shot pool team with chief mascot and cheerleader!

The Hot Shot pool team with chief mascot and cheerleader!

Once the new mast arrived we spent our days working to remove all the lines, cables, winches, cleats, blocks and track from the old one and measuring up, mousing, drilling , screwing and riveting everything back onto the new. Until you actually remove all the bits you don’t realise just how many adornments a mast has! The spinnaker pole track needed a hundred rivets drilled out, a hundred holes drilled on the new mast and the a hundred new rivets popped into place. Where bits had to be screwed on, Marcus had to learn how to tap a thread into the mast…….very slowly by hand at first and then a quick whizz-whizz with the electric drill by the end!
Julian, our rigger, spent a morning with us fixing the bits we had problems with and getting it ready to be lifted……….In the meantime we had totally rearranged the storage on IK, moving out the ‘elephant in the corner’ to make beds for Keith and James, who flew out for a week in sunny Florida. Unfortunately for them their arrival coincided with the coldest cold front this spring and, fortunately for us, with the craning of the mast back on to the boat. It was great to see them both and we thoroughly enjoyed their company and their help.

Leaning on the imaginary mast, waiting for the crane.

Leaning on the imaginary mast, waiting for the crane.

 

The Crane preparing to lift our new mast lying on trestles.

The Crane preparing to lift our new mast lying on trestles.

 

Quality control by Byron and Son.

Quality control by Byron and Son.

 

A very nervous moment....Hooray and.....

A very nervous moment….Hooray and…..

 

.....up.......

…..up…….

 

.....she rises!!

…..she rises!!

 

......and down again!

……and down again!

 

Last, but not least, the boom is craned on.

Last, but not least, the boom is craned on.

…….Keith helped Marcus sort out all the electric and electronic wires that come down the mast and had to be reconnected at the base. They had an hour of bottoms up and aching knees while they sorted it all out.

James hauled aloft to fit the wind vane.

James hauled aloft to fit the wind vane.

James was elected to be hauled up to the mast head to put the wind vane back in place and then we set to and hauled the sails back onto their rollers. The following day we took IK out for her first outing with her new mast……perhaps a little to eager to be sailing, we left too early and got stuck in the mud out in the channel for while before the tide came up enough to float us off. Returning we only grazed the mud……should have turned back a little sooner?! Only one mishap and potentially dangerous rig failure happened when a block at the mast foot exploded under strain and shot past me along with the winch handle that the tensioned line had whipped off the mast! That was the second exploding block in two days…..the first happened when I was tensioning the mast backwards on the running back stay for Julian to get the aft stay bottle screw on. The out haul block broke and the line flew forwards just brushing my forehead. Two close shaves in two days!

While they were with us, we took a trip with Keith and James down to Daytonna to see the ‘bike week’. Frank and Mary Anne had told us that it was a ‘must see’ event, so off we went for the day.

As eccentric as Whitby!

As eccentric as Whitby!

 

Me an ma dawg!

Me an ma dawg!

 

Quite an eclectic mix of people! Today I shall mostly be wearing me snake!!

Quite an eclectic mix of people! Today I shall mostly be wearing me snake!!

 

Now that's a real Pony Express.

Now that’s a real Pony Express.

 

Marcus' Wallace and Grommit imression!

Marcus’ Wallace and Grommit impression!

 

Alligator boots on a day of sweltering sun!

Alligator boots on a day of sweltering sun!

 

It's not what it looks like...... colors means clubs or gangs that all wear the same colours!!

It’s not what it looks like…… colors means clubs or gangs that all wear the same colours!!

 

Taking it all on board!

Taking it all on board!

 

This season we will mostly be wearing bikinis with chaps?!

This season we will mostly be wearing bikinis with chaps?!

 

......did'nt quite know where to put his hands!

……did’nt quite know where to put his hands!

 

Marcus with his hands full!

Marcus with his hands full!

 

One happy man!

One happy man!

There were thousands upon thousands of bikes and bikers of every description. Unlike the Brighton seafront gatherings of our memory, this was a non threatening, slightly ageing demographic with eccentricity rather than aggression at the core.
A good time was had by all!

On the Sunday before we left we had an ‘open boat’ for all the friends we’ve made and spent a great day at the marina with them.

Curry and Barbecue and plenty of drink!

Curry and Barbecue and plenty of drink!

Corn hole at the marina with Eric and Xavier.......

Corn hole at the marina with Eric and Xavier…….

.....Marcus and Paul.

…..Marcus and Paul.

Cecil and Marcus with Paul photo bombing!

Cecil and Marcus with Paul photo bombing!

We were talking with Frank and Mary Anne about the problem we were having in getting rid of the old mast, as the guy who was going to take it have cried off. When the conversation turned to cutting it up for scrap, Frank said he had the right tools and would do it for us the following morning!! He’s not just a great pool player and he certainly is a good friend.

Marcus' mentor, Frank........also very skilled with a sawsall!

Marcus’ mentor, Frank……..also very skilled with a sawsall!

Before setting off we were due to do another provisioning trip, so when Mel and James, who visited us over Christmas and had the gearbox problems, contacted us from the Bahamas to ask if we could bring ‘some food’ over for them we were only too pleased to help. They had eaten their way into and through most of their stores while they were in Cuba and are now preparing for a six week trip, with five people onboard, to Bermuda and then on via the Azores to Lisbon. As provisioning panic set in, Mel and I were sending shopping lists back and forth, with additions and amendments, on what seemed an hourly basis. To provision in the Bahamas is astronomically expensive……one litre of UHT milk costs $1 in the US and $4.50 in the Bahamas!
Norman and Jan kindly took us to Costco to fill two huge carts with both Blew Beyond’s and Island Kea’s dietary needs. It took another trip with Mary Anne to the naval base to fill all of BB’s list. By the time all was stowed away, the forepeak was replete and the boat had a definite forward list!

As I mentioned before, Cecil and Robin came to wave us off………..

Captain Robin...... is that a parrot on her shoulder?

Captain Robin…… is that a parrot on her shoulder?

…………we made our way out gingerly over the shallows and headed for the fuel dock, just before the dreaded Main Street bridge. Fully fuelled, we called for the 4 o’clock opening, checking twice that they had opened it high enough for us!! There were a few expletives from me, as we went under the span, but we got through with no damage except to Marcus’s delicate ears!!

Our plan was to catch the ebbing tide and to spend the night at Sister’s Creek, just before the inlet entrance. I had been told that the old lifting bridge had been replaced by a new 82’ fixed bridge, that wasn’t on the charts. Sure enough, as we approached there was a fixed bridge, but as we got closer we thought it look less than 82’!!

Probably 70ft????? Not the 82ft we were told!!

Probably 70ft????? Not the 82ft we were told!!

On closer inspection, the tide gauge on the parapet showed 67’ on the lowest mark!!……..luckily it was a low Spring tide and we guess there was a least 70’ clearance. We held our breath and ducked and the mast and aerials passed under without a twang to be heard!!

We pulled up to the dock and two men, from the two other sailing yachts, came to take our lines.

Needless to say, having survived another bridge and it being near sunset we had sundowners out before you could say ‘Jack Robinson’! Once we got talking to Steffan and Kiki on the Swedish boat, it proved yet again what a small village the cruising world is……..they knew Magnus and Sara and Kiki worked with Sara! They also knew Anders and Eva, who we met on board ‘Mahi Mahi’, with Magnus and Sara in Teneriffe and had they sailed on the Curaçao to Belize rally with Dave and Susie on ‘Susie Too’ and Rob and Rhian on ‘Beyzano’.

Its such a warm feeling making new friends and discovering where our paths cross!

Steffan and Kiki helping Michel to cast off.

Steffan and Kiki helping Michel to cast off.

Our little flotilla leaving Sister's Creek.

Our little flotilla leaving Sister’s Creek.

We are back on the radar and finally have our lives back!!
It seems ages since I updated the blog……..I fact it was last year!
Happy New Year to one and all.

The reason for our ‘radio silence’ is that we have been keeping a low profile whilst we have been dealing with what we feel are an unscrupulous, piratical towing company.

As you will remember, after we had hit the bridge, we were offered a tow from the bridge to the river wall, which we accepted knowing that there would be some charge involved, but we figured 200m and 8 minutes work would come to a couple of hundred dollars. Imagine our consternation when Sea Tow’s lawyer called us and said they were going to be claiming salvage!!

The very day that we had the mast lifted, December 14th, we received an email to say Sea Tow were claiming $35,000 for salvage and had put a high priority lien on the boat. Not the birthday present I had in mind for Marcus!

To cut a very long story short, we have spent the past three months speaking to 4 different lawyers, writing copious emails and biting our nails to the quick trying to find a way out of the nightmare of this seemingly legalised modern day piracy.

The whole of the boating and local community have been behind us and very supportive, so we have not been totally on our own, but common sense and common decency have nothing to do with the salvage laws here in the USA.

We have been told that we may have been the victims of a ‘bait and switch’ scam…….the tow that we accepted suddenly became a salvage claim once we were tied to the dock and the ‘pirate captain’ tricked us into signing a salvage form…… I gave him the boat details which he ‘jotted down’ on a form that he told me was a piece of scrap paper. He then asked Marcus to sign the form that ‘his wife had helped him with’…….you’ve guessed it……Marcus signed thinking it was a towing form!

It was two days later, after the added trauma of his untimely dip, that Marcus remembered that he had a copy of the form and we discovered that what he had signed was not a towing form, but one for salvage!……..Clearly not something he would ever have done if there hadn’t been skulduggery afoot!

The whole episode has left us emotionally and mentally exhausted. We eventually managed to persuade the towing company’s lawyer that we didn’t have that sort of money and that Sea Tow would be better off in accepting our insurance company’s offer to pay ‘reasonable’ towing costs, which they set at $1,125……..rather more than we felt Sea Tow deserved in payment for a botched tow and ramming us into the dock, causing damage to our bow roller and pulpit!

After some more posturing from Sea Tow, claiming they deserved 3 times as much, due to the conditions at the time, we sent their lawyer a couple of the 36 photos that a fellow cruiser……(who by fate, just happens to be moored in our marina!)…..had taken at the time. These clearly showed that the conditions were not a factor and Sea Tow came back with a reduced offer of $2,000 which we agreed to, in order remove the dark cloud that has been hanging over us………….Perhaps we should consider a career change……$15,000 an hour is tempting !!
So…….as of yesterday we are $2,000 poorer, but the salvage claim and the lien on the boat have been removed and we have our lives back!!!!!

On a brighter note, after arriving at Ortega River Marina, we have been visited by old friends and made quite a few more new ones. There are about 17 live aboard boats in the marina and everyone is very friendly and helpful. More of these in a later post!

Ortega River Marina.

Ortega River Marina.

 

Moon rise from the boat.

Moon rise from the boat.

After seeing on AIS that we were in Jacksonville, Serge and Charlotte on KUAKA, decided to detour on their way south and visit us. We first met them in Jacaré, Brazil, two years ago and have crossed paths as we’ve made our separate ways up through the Caribbean and on to the east coast of the USA. It was wonderful to see them again and they decided to stay until after Christmas, so we spent a lot of time with them and thoroughly enjoyed their company. We have been so lucky to have the use of our friend, Norman’s, car to get out and about and take the odd trip to the cinema and local attractions.

Both Marcus and Serge were chefs and at one point, when we were wandering the historic streets of St Augustine, we realised they were having a verbal duel of French cooking terms, trying to catch each other out……. Serge had a slight advantage as he is French Swiss and Marcus only has kitchen french, but I think they declared it a draw! We both have a son and daughter of similar ages and they appear to have similar personalities, so Charlotte and I enjoyed comparing notes! We even managed to fit in a game of petanque with them.

Serge and Marcus..... so much in common!

Serge and Marcus….. so much in common!

 

Fun and games......petanque with Serge and Charlotte complete with wine!

Fun and games……petanque with Serge and Charlotte complete with wine!

Our second set of visitors, were James and Mel on BLEW BEYOND. Good friends who we first met in Cape Canaveral with Jim and Paula and then journeyed up to New York with and met up with again in Newport RI. They also checked the AIS and saw that we were in Jacksonville and, when they heard what had happened to us, they too decided to detour our way. Unfortunately this area seems to have it in for us Brits! After sailing down and around Hatterass the wind dropped off and they put the engine on, only to be greeted by a ghastly grinding noise from below decks and no drive, so they had to sail slowly through the night and arranged for Tow Boat US to meet them 10 miles off the Jacksonville Inlet and tow them into the entrance.

We drove up to see them and to commiserate with them. The marina they were in was so awful that we were easily able to persuade them to come up to Sadler Point Marina for repairs. They were part of the merry throng for who arrived in time for Marcus’ Birthday Barbecue and the Christmas festivities. We let them have our slip and we went out to anchor……without an engine it is not safe to anchor.

Marcus' party with good friends.

Marcus’ party with good friends.

 

 

Jan and Marcus celebrating.

Jan and Marcus celebrating.

 

Marcus birthday party evening looking over the marina.

Marcus birthday party evening looking over the marina.

 

Christmas Eve aboard Kuaka. Delicious lamb shanks and apple tart mmmmmm!

Christmas Eve aboard Kuaka. Delicious lamb shanks and apple tart mmmmmm!

 

Smoked Salmon, scrambled eggs, bucks fizz and great company.

Smoked Salmon, scrambled eggs, bucks fizz and great company aboard Island Kea.

 

Pressie Time!

Pressie Time!

 

Carols played on pipes!

Carols played on pipes!

 

The Plied Pipers!!

The Plied Pipers!!

 

Serge and Charlotte paddling home after Christmas breakfast.

Serge and Charlotte paddling home after Christmas breakfast.

After a fortnight, dealing with an unscrupulous mechanic, Mel and James were towed into Sadler marina for the expert attention of the legendary Chip, who despite his age and reduced mobility, managed to reattach the gear box on the most awkward engine he had ever worked on in 60 years! While they were there, the jerk who had started working on their engine and couldnt fix it, boarded their boat while they were out with us for the evening, locked their companionway hatch and threw away the key!! An irrational way for a mechanic to behave we all thought!!! He accused them of moving away without paying their bill……they had moved all of 30yds and were’nt going anywhere with no gear box. Luckily on a freezing night they were able to break in through the aft cabin hatch. Trumpton has some very irrational people who we can only worry that without the control of a social conscience, might take over the asylum!!

We waved a sad farewell first to Serge and Charlotte and then Mel and James.
We’re happy for them, as they escaped from Jacksonville and delighted that they have become good friends. Plying their separate ways south, they have met up in St Augustine and Key West and now they are together again in Cuba.

‘Oh for a tall ship and a star to sail her by!!’

As a lot of you will already have heard, disaster struck in the form of a stuck rudder, a fast flowing tide and a bridge that failed to raise!!

We were gilling around, waiting for the construction workers to return from lunch before the bridge could be raised. All was going well until, suddenly, the rudder got stuck to port and we had to steer in circles with the tide dragging us steadily, but surely towards the bridge.

Within minutes we were in trouble and, thanks to a tow by a small power boat, we managed to get into a position to power ourselves, grinding against the bridge span, to the bridge support and make fast to it. Just then a tow boat from Sea Tow arrived next to us and asked if we wanted a tow to the nearby derelict sea wall……..of course we said yes, but it’s a bit like the AA and the RAC………We belong to Tow Boat US, so accepting a tow from their competitors we knew would incur a fee, but with enough drama for the time being we threw him a line and cast ourselves off from the bridge. After about 200 metres he towed us close enough to the wall for Marcus to steer the bow against the wall and for me to scramble ashore and tie us up……….phew!

Trussed up like a Thanksgiving Turkey!

Trussed up like a Thanksgiving Turkey!

As you can see, it was quite a climb to get up onto the wall, but all those years of gymnastics and rock climbing came in handy!! I think we used almost every rope we have to run doubled up bow, aft, breast and spring lines. There was no way we were going anywhere!!

Against the condemned river wall.

Against the condemned river wall.

In the cool light of day, we were able to assess the damage.

Shroud no longer in the top port spreader.

Shroud no longer in the top port spreader.

Wonky mast, but hopefully it will bend straight again?!

Wonky mast, but hopefully it will bend straight again?!

Duelling scar on the rubbing strake after a riposte by the bridge.

Duelling scar on the rubbing strake after a riposte by the bridge.

As part of the cover we have with Tow Boat, we arranged for a diver to come the following morning to dive on the rudder. Marcus set off in the dinghy at 8.45 to pick him up from just beyond the bridge. It was then that the next episode of bad luck struck…….

The dinghy engine cut out and Marcus made a grab for the boat, however, the tide was running so fast that the dinghy got swept out from under him and he was left hanging for a brief moment, before he dropped into the water for an unscheduled early morning dip!!  Luckily, having had to rootle through all the lines we needed the day before, I knew exactly where I could lay my hands on a suitable rope and lept ashore to the rescue.

Marcus had managed to make his way to the sea wall and was clinging on by his finger tips to some mussels on one of the supports. I dropped him a noose that he put under his arms and then, with him on the end of a leash, we made our way down stream for about 400m to a low pontoon where we managed to haul him out, complete with shoes, hat and scarf. The only casualty was his phone, which despite several baggings in rice, sadly didn’t make it!!

Just as Marcus was slithering ‘walrus-like’ onto the pontoon, a policeman arrived. He had been parked close by and was halfway through his breakfast bagel, when a passer by told him there was someone in the water. He had scaled a chain link fence to get to us, after calling the incident in. I left Marcus in the safe hands of the policeman and set off jogging down the river side to let the diver know what was happening. I was just climbing round the construction fence, when three rescue men from a fire truck arrived and were peering over the wall into the river……..surely there couldn’t be two people who’d gone for an early Sunday morning dip!!? I stopped for a quick chat and they headed for the boat while I continued on my mission. Marcus was on board, warming up in the shower when one of the first responders surprised him by coming into the saloon to check that he was alright!

The following morning the Tow Boat diver, Chase, arrived by boat and dived on the rudder. He found that there was nothing caught on it, but there was a something amiss with the bottom of the rudder support and hinge.

Tow Boat U.S. with Chase in the water checking our ruddy rudder.

Tow Boat U.S. with Chase in the water checking our ruddy rudder.

We arranged for him to come back and tow us 5 miles to the Ortega river and to Sadler Point Marina…..a boat yard that could lift us out onto the hard, but we had to arrange the tow to fit in with the lifting of the bridge at 12noon or 4pm AND to coincide with high tide at the boat yard. So, we had two more nights on the wall before all the stars were aligned for a tow on Wednesday afternoon.

Needless to say we made the most of being in the city ………..

The Bastard Bridge

The Bastard Bridge

Benign, beautiful bridge at sunset.

Benign, beautiful bridge at sunset.

……….and made some new friends!

Bruce and Bob, on TWIGHLIGHT and EZPZ, were moored at the Landing and paid us several visits just to check that we were all right and to offer moral support. We spent one evening with Jim and Barb, from JIMMY’S JUNK, who were moored for a night on the pontoon that Marcus had clambered out on, before they headed south to St Augustine.

We made good use of the wifi at the Hyatt Hotel which was just to the left of the picture below. We had the whole river walk to ourselves, as it is fenced off and is apparently crumbling away!

Static exercise.....right up Marcus' street!

Static exercise…..right up Marcus’ street!

Wednesday arrived and we were glad to see Chase arrive with his colleague…..Marcus! They soon had us ‘on the hip’ and we moved gingerly out into the stream, just as the bridge was lifting. With some trepidation, we negotiated all three bridges in the pictures above, and then switched to a bridle tow. You can see how far off straight they had to tow us to negate the effect of our port lock!

Being towed down to the Ortega River and Sadler Point Marina.

Being towed down to the Ortega River and Sadler Point Marina.

We made it to the travel lift bay at Sadler Point just before high tide and after a little slithering over mud we tied up for the night, ready for a 6 o’clock lift on high tide in the morning. True to their word, Joe, David, David and RJ arrived at ‘crack of sparrow’s’ and got us lifted safely and chocked on the hard.

The rudder failure was quickly diagnosed and mended by early afternoon. We were so fortunate to have pulled into this friendly and extremely professional boat yard. They have the added attraction of having the Gandalf of all things nautical in residence! Chip has a lifetime’s experience of working on boats and it took him no time to remove the stubs of the four bolts, that had all failed on the bracket at the back of the rudder post fixing, and to bolt in four new ones.

One of the four recalcitrant bolts being replaced.

One of the four recalcitrant bolts being replaced.

The Boatyard Wizard in Chief.

The Boatyard Wizard in Chief.

Chip has found his own way to continue working into his seventies by traveling around the yard on a tricycle and towing his work bench and tools behind him. He also takes a siesta every afternoon, something that my 97yr old mum has done for years!! The boat yard now make sure there is an ‘apprentice’ at his elbow every time a new problem arrives, as his knowledge is priceless.

As we arrived the day before Thanksgiving everything stopped until Monday for the holidays, so we had time to get ourselves sorted out for living on land. Because we have water cooled compressors on the fidges, we can’t run them when we’re out of the water. We have to get ice and carry it up the ladder in boxes and put into the two fridges, to keep the food and beer cold!

On Thanksgiving Thursday, Jan and Norman came to collect us and take us to a restaurant for our Thanksgiving Feast before taking us off to the beach area in search of a Pool Hall bar.

Thanksgiving Turkey Feast with Jan and Norman.

Thanksgiving Turkey Feast with Jan and Norman.

We spent the weekend getting to know the area by bike and foot and arranging a berth at the Marina next door. Everything we need is within walking distance and Norman very generously lent us his car, so we can get around further afield.

On Saturday the rigger, Julian, arrived to work on another boat and came early to take a look at our mast. After just a couple of minutes, he hit us with the next blow………. the lower spreader had been pushed into the mast when we hit the bridge and staved in the mast, hence the kink! The upshot is that we have got to have a new mast……a very costly outcome of an easily remedied rudder failure :(

After swallowing the news, we decided to use our time out of the water cleaning and polishing the hull. After some early morning tuition from David, we spent a whole day using our buffing machine to get our battered boat clean and tidy.

Before.......

Before…….

......After!

……After!

After just a few passes with the buffer, it was clear that there was no way Marcus could operate the thing above his head for the whole boat, but where there’s a will there’s a way! We tied a rope and a bungee to the handle and I acted like a marionette puppeteer, shadowing Marcus’ movements taking the weight of the buffer. Again all those hockey player’s muscles came into their own and we both ended the day with surprisingly few aches and pains and having given the boat yard a new approach to polishing!

By Wednesday the tide was right for us to be lifted back into the water and motor the 50m to the T dock of The Ortega River Marina. We are now securely tied up and taking advantage of the monthly rates and enjoying having electricity, water, showers and a postal address for the next couple of months.

Things could be worse!!

We spent a week anchored in the very sheltered waters of Spring Cove, Solomon Island, just a short dinghy hop from Claudia and Michael.

Our anchorage in Spring Cove, Solomons.

Our anchorage in Spring Cove, Solomons.

Michael used to be a baker, so he and Marcus worked their magic in the Galley,………

Cooking dinner aboard Kassiopia.

Cooking dinner aboard Kassiopia.

……….and by car to get freshly steamed crabs from the local fishmongers.

Steamed blue leg crabs for lunch.

Steamed blue leg crabs for lunch.

Needless to say the bar on IK came into its own in the evenings!

Claudia and I catching up with friends on the internet.....

Claudia and I catching up with friends on the internet…..

 

Marcus and Michl catching up with a bottle of Jameson's.

Marcus and Michl catching up with the bottom of a bottle of Jameson’s.

 

Good friends, who we will meet again.

Good friends, who we will meet again.

 

While we were so close to Washington, we decided to hire a car and do the tourist visits to the Smithsonian Museums and of course, the White House.

The Mall, that runs from Capitol Hill down to the Lincoln Memorial, is bordered by free museums. Mr Smith, whoever he was, must have left an enormous fortune invested for the upkeep and expansion of these fantastic ‘people’s’ museums. We couldn’t possibly ‘do’ them all, so we opted for the Space and Flight museum and the Native American People’s Museum on the first day and the newly opened African American Museum and a long walk down the Mall on the second day.

Our first stop was the Space and Flight Museum, as we were starving and it houses the biggest McDonald’s we’ve ever seen!!

Mac Donalds in a very big way!

Mac Donalds in a very big way!

Once refuelled we set off for the Wright brothers’ exhibit and then on through time to the Space gallery. We could have spent the whole day here!

The Wilbur and Orville's Wright's first success.

The Wilbur and Orville’s Wright’s first success.

 

Progress in flight......the scary thing is we have seen all these types of planes in our life time!!!

Progress in flight……the scary thing is we have seen all these types of planes in our life time!!!

 

 

Next stop was a short walk down the Mall.

The Native American museum.

The Native American museum.

The building of the Native American museum is a work of art in itself and houses artefacts from tribes who inhabited the entire country, from Alaska down to Peru and Chile. The treaties and deals that lead to the Indians being squeezed out of their homeland and onto reservations are evident, but the focus is not on blame, but on the culture, beliefs, philosophy and way of life of the ‘old people’ and of the relevance of their understanding of the balance of nature, which we so need today.

The canoe entrance hall to the Native American Museum.

The canoe entrance hall to the Native American Museum.

On our second day in Washington, we visited the Museum of America, hoping to find something about William Henry Seward, but to no avail. So the next stop was the African American. This is not only a record of the plight of slaves, but a fantastic celebration of their strength of will and the massive influence that African Americans have had on today’s America, from sport and entertainment to philosophy and politics.

The newlt opened African American museum.

The newly opened African American museum. Tommie Smith, John Carlos and Peter Norman, an Australian,who suggested they share the pair of gloves that came to symbolise so much.

 

Mr Hendrix immortalised.

Mr Hendrix immortalised.

 

Totally museumed out, we walked the Mall and arrived at the west end just before sunset.

Capitol Hill from the War Memorial hill......quite a walk.

Capitol Hill from the War Memorial hill……quite a walk.

From the war memorial hill, we looked down over the ‘pool’ and the Lincoln Memorial. We recognised it from the Forrest Gump film!

The Lincoln Memorial.

The Lincoln Memorial.

Just north of the hill is the White House…..much smaller than I had imagined it to be!

The White House.

The White House.

 

Once again it was time to move on. We left just after dawn to be able to make it to Porstmouth, at the south end of the Chesapeake, in day light.

Farewell commitee.

Farewell committee.

After spending a night anchored at Hospital Point, where we know the holding is not good, we decided to move into the free town dock, as winds of 20 to 30 knots were predicted. The only worry we had with the town dock was our length, so we chalked an 0 over the faded 9 on the Taswell 49 that’s painted on the side of the hull!

Moored in the 40' max town dock in Portsmouth.we reckon no one knows what 40' looks like!

Moored in the 40′ max town dock in Portsmouth. We reckon no one knows what 40′ looks like!

We sat out the weather front here and apart from a load of leaves on the deck, it had no effect on us. Whilst here we took the ferry over to Norfolk and went to the cinema to get out of the rain. They only charge $6 for over 62s (£4.80), so it’s a great deal for us and we can relax in a comfy seat for and hour or two!!

Two more yachts pulled into the Town Dock and we met 4 new friends! Brian and Jackie on SOUL GYPSEY and Chris and Khara on DRAKKA. Both couples are just beginning their adventure of living aboard and had buddied up further up the coast. Chris and Khara have a great illustrated blog that Khara updates with beautiful paintings……if you’re interested in a good read, from a newbies boat’s point of view and a look at her other amazing artwork, go to www.kharaledonne

On Armistace day we were awoken by the sound check for the Veterans Day ceremony on the bandstand behind us and we went along later to hear the band and speeches.

Veterans day on the 11th of the 11th at 11.

Veterans day on the 11th of the 11th at 11.

With a three day weather window, we decided now was the time to venture out around Hatterass. It all went smoothly……..so smoothly in fact that we had to motor for all of the 34 hours it took us to get to Beaufort NC! With weather still set fair, we only stayed a night in Beaufort and headed off the following morning for Charleston SC.

Beautiful Beaufort for B&B.

Beautiful Beaufort for B&B.

 

Company at sea.

Company out on the briney sea.

We refuelled at the town Marina and then dropped anchor in the river. On our way into town, we dropped by our neighbour’s to say hello. SUSIE TOO was a British flagged boat and as we got chatting to Dave and Susie, Marcus realised that he had been on the same radio course with Dave back in 2013. What a small world!! Susie is organising the first Ocean Cruising Club rally to Cuba in February, so we will be meeting up again, as I think we are going to join the rally! After a quick bite to eat, we spent a very sociable evening aboard our third AT LAST, with Jackie and John, newly retired cruisers who are heading south on the ICW.

Charleston has a much more French feel about it. The houses are very grand and are set at right angles to the street. We spent our day walking her streets, finding the supermarket and socialising, before it was time to set ff again.

Charleston 'side on' houses.

Charleston ‘side on’ houses.

We were told to visit the Market if nothing else. This is a massive covered market that covers four blocks. It has a lot of artisan stalls and sea-grass basket weavers, weaving their wares at regular intervals along the way. When it was built, it was an agricultural market for animals and produce, but today, tourists are far more profitable!!

The Market that is Market Street.

The Market that is Market Street.

 

We are really getting south now and the water is much warmer. On our 36hr trip from South Carolina to Jacksonville, Florida, we were joined by a playful, plentiful pod of dolphins……..always a delight and wonder.

More company at sea!

More company out on the briney sea!

 

We arrived at the Jacksonville inlet right on the turn of the tide to take us up to Jacksonville, some 20 odd miles up river. All was going to plan until just after midday on Saturday November 19th when disaster struck!

…………to be continued!!