A Short Cruise on the St. Johns River

A weeks worth of great weather was all the excuse we needed to get out of the slip and do some cruising on the St. Johns River, south of where we have spent the winter. What a spectacular trip it turned out to be. The weather was perfect and the river is beautiful. This was also a good opportunity to do a shakedown cruise before heading out again for some serious time on the water. We wanted to check out some of our anchorage information for the ICW book and just enjoy some time on the boat. It also allowed us to do some experimentation with our new video camera. We left Satsuma around noon, dropped the hook for the night at Lungren Island near Astor, and continued on the next day to Sanford. A couple of days at Monroe Harbor Marina gave us enough time to explore the town and enjoy the hospitality of the marina. Sanford is a very nice historic waterfront town with lots of shops, restaurants and art galleries. On Saturday, there's a small local farmers market with fresh veggies, crafts and food vendors. Here's a rough video of the cruise on the river.

Downtown Sanford...

Our Latest Projects

Since our arrival at Acosta Creek Harbor on the St. Johns River in Satsuma, FL, we have had two priorities. Number one was to finish the Chesapeake Bay anchorage book and have it ready for distribution. Number one completed. Number two was actually several small projects to be completed before we headed out in the spring and begin the next phase of our cruise. With number one behind us, we started as soon as the winter weather would allow. It's been a cold wet winter here in northern Florida and many of the exterior projects just had to wait. But the break finally came; the clouds parted, the sun came out, the temperatures began to climb and the crew shouted "Hallelujah!"

Finding A Winter Home.

Before the day was done, upon our arrival at Fernandina Harbor Marina, the winds began to pick up and continued to increase for almost a week. This was the weather system that we were trying to stay ahead of and the reason we planned a marina stop instead of finding an anchorage or picking up a mooring. Beach House was snug and sound at one of the inner slips of the marina, even with the 4-foot depths in the slip at low tide. The shallow depths are why the marina gives discounts for these slips. Even if we settled on the bottom at lower than low tides, the bottom is soft mud, so no harm done. The full keel on Beach House also makes this a non-issue. As the winds increased, the tides did indeed drop lower than normal. The time was well utilized to wash down the boat, clean the ICW "beard" off the hull and fill the water tanks. A few other small projects were done - changing the fuel filters, doing laundry and stocking up groceries. That's what marina stops are for.

Industry Mourns Marine Magazine Publisher, Skip Allen

The industry mourns the passing of an Icon. Skip Allen gave us our first break by publishing many of our cruising articles in Southern Boating when we first starting cruising as a couple in the early 1990's. Skip's passing is sad news for us and for the marine industry. He will be missed by many. Fair winds Skip. http://www.tradeonlytoday.com/2014/03/industry-mourns-marine-magazine-publisher/

If It's Monday, It Must Be Florida

Leaving the Duplin River as soon as the fog lifted put us in the Little Mud River just past high tide. A little later than we planned, but still with a good safety margin. The 7- to 8-foot tides allow us safe passage even through the 4- to 5-foot spots along the Little Mud. This is one of the worst parts of the Georgia ICW, but with some planning and the many anchorages in the area, making a safe transit at a higher tide is not difficult. As we got underway, the fog was still around but not dense, and the day began cloudy and dreary. As we past red marker "192" in the Little Mud, our depths began to shallow up and soon we found a stretch that would be 3.5 to 4.5 feet at low tide. Even with Beach House's 4-foot draft, we would be hard aground without the help of the higher tides. The rest of the channel maintained what would be 5 to 6 feet at low tide. Although the really shallow spots are few, they are enough to cause concern for most boaters and certainly for deeper drafts.

We're Taking Orders For The Chesapeake Bay Anchorage Book

GREAT NEWS...We're now taking orders for our latest installment of The Great Book Of Anchorages, The Chesapeake Bay, Including The Potomac River . There is even more good news. If you buy any 2 books you will automatically receive a 15% discount and if you purchase all 3 books, the automatic discount is 20%. The website has been updated and you can buy your copies here. Please help us get the word out by passing this information on to your friends and fellow boaters. Here's an excerpt from our website...

" The Chesapeake Bay, Including The Potomac River is our third installment to The Great Book Of Anchorage series and has been a labor of love. Our combined 40-plus years of cruising the Chesapeake Bay was the inspiration and motivation to deliver this one-of-a-kind, unique anchorage guide to be used and enjoyed by the casual boater or serious cruiser. The Chesapeake Bay edition provides detailed anchoring information beginning in Chesapeake City in the north and extending to Lynnhaven Inlet to the south. Both the eastern and western shores of the Bay are covered as well as many, many of the tributaries, including the Potomac River."

We give a big thanks to everyone that has made The Great Book Of Anchorages series a big success. The only problem now is that we will have to start working on the next Edition. Somebodies gotta do it.

Just An Old Sweet Song Keeps Georgia On My Mind

It's always hard for us to leave Beaufort, South Carolina. There are discussions about staying for a while and talk of former good times. The folks are friendly and welcoming, and it just feels right. But the waterway called once again and we gave in to the beckoning. The winds were gone and the sun was shining. It wasn't an ideal day for departure, but ideal days are sometimes hard to come by. There was a 30% chance of rain, not too awful, but once again, it was time to point the bow south and begin our winding journey through the dreaded Georgia ICW. I say dreaded, because the Georgia waterway is the least maintained section of the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway and has a terrible reputation for very shallow stretches. Even with the winding channels and occasional shallow areas, it's still a gorgeous section of waterway, and by planning head, transiting anywhere in Georgia is not that difficult. We wrote an extensive post on the Georgia ICW that might be a good read for anyone wondering just how bad it is.

A Homecoming of Sorts

Beaufort, South Carolina has a special meaning for us. Aside from being a regular and well-liked stop along the ICW, it's also where we sold our Mariner 40 ketch, Sea Trek, and where we found and purchased Beach House. We also lived there for a year and a half and did a lot of the preparation on Beach House for cruising. Lady's Island Marina is always our choice when we stop for any period of time or need to hide from weather. Even if anchoring, we prefer Factory Creek, very near the marina. It isn't right in the downtown area, but is a short walk across the bridge. Factory Creek is very peaceful and away from the hustle and bustle of the Beaufort River, all of the traffic on the water and the very swift currents. There is current on Factory Creek, but it is not as strong as the main river.

Myrtle Beach Onward to Beaufort, SC

Myrtle Beach is one of our favorite stops that is always too short, and we have a tough time leaving. But we had to leave - warmer weather called and we had to answer the call. Between Myrtle Beach and our next stop of any duration, we would need to visit some old favorite anchorages along the way. We would also want to top off the fuel tanks, not that we needed fuel, but there is one place where the prices are always too good to pass up. The anticipation of exploring the Waccamaw River once again made moving on a little easier since the weather was cooperating, so at 0815, Beach House backed out of the slip and re-entered the ICW channel. In another 20 minutes, the Little River Swing Bridge was moving past our stern. Fifty minutes later, we were transiting the Barefoot Landing Swing Bridge past the huge shopping and tourist complex at Barefoot Landing. When this was a free dock at the shopping complex, boats would raft 3 deep this time of the season. Now that it's just another marina, there was only a handful of boats tied to the dock. By noon, Beach House was tied to the dock at Osprey Marina, a short 38-mile trip.

Happy New Year 2014

A very Happy, Safe and Prosperous New Year to all of our friends, family and followers, from the Trawler Beach House. We apologize for the blog being a little behind in our posting. The holidays and work stuff seems to have gotten in the way. Susan is currently working on our third anchorage book. We promise to get all caught up in the next two weeks. Chuck and Susan

Happy Holidays To All And Have A Great 2014

We hope all of our friends and readers have a happy Holiday season. This year, we plan to spend the holiday season in northern Florida with friends and family.

Happy Holidays And A Prosperous New Year

From Chuck and Susan, on board the Trawler Beach House

and Beach House Publications

The Journey South Continues to Myrtle Beach

From Southport, the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway runs along the Atlantic coast with no more than barrier islands separating the waterway from the Atlantic Ocean. There are many resort towns along this stretch and also a few inlets that need to be transited. Two of those inlets, Lockwoods Folly and Shallotte Inlet are famous for shoaling and being difficult passages. Once off the dock at around 8:30 a.m., we would transit both of these in one day before reaching our next destination at Myrtle Beach.  It's always better to transit Lockwoods and Shallotte at mid-tide or higher. The temperatures were cool, but it was a bright sunny day with good conditions forecast.

On to Southport, North Carolina

Southbound from Wrightsville Beach, it can be an easy run down the ICW and the Cape Fear River if you have the right wind and tide conditions. On the day we made the trip, it could not have been better. It was anchor up at 0730 in Wrightsville and we were tied to the town dock in Southport at 1045. Light winds and the outgoing tide made for a fast, comfortable trip and as we entered the basin at Southport, it was like seeing an old friend once again. The basin is just off the ICW channel as you make the turn off the Cape Fear River. This is a small basin with room to anchor a few boats, and several free docks available at some of the restaurants: The Provisioning Company, Fishy Fishy Cafe and The Yacht Basin Eatery. They allow overnight dockage if you eat at their establishment. There is no power or water at the docks and these are floating docks. The tidal range here is about 5 feet.

The Best Of Times, The Worst Of Times

We have had a love-hate relationship with the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway for over 20 years. Every trip is a journey of discovery and every trip we learn something new and encounter new experiences. There are days when we are so thankful for all of the years and miles we have experienced, and there are days we wish we had stayed in bed. Heading south from Swansboro might be classified as one of those days we should have stayed in bed. But in the end, it's all part of the adventure. Our destination for the evening would be the anchorage at Wrightsville Beach. The ICW between Swansboro and Wrightsville Beach requires traveling through one of the more troubling areas of the waterway. The weather was perfect, but all did not go as planned.

On To Swansboro North Carolina

From Beaufort to Swansboro, the distance is only 33 nautical miles. After running a few more errands, we left the docks at a little after noon. I can't remember the last time our day started this late. As we keep saying, there is no place we have to be and no special time we have to be there. The best channel to use from Beaufort heading south runs along the east side of Radio Island, out toward the main inlet and shipping channel. Then it's necessary to turn back into the direction of the main Port and connect back to the Intracoastal Waterway. As we neared the commercial docks we sighted a couple on their trawler that we had met in the Sassafras River on the Chesapeake Bay. A quick call on the VHF found that w both had plans for the same destination. The next three hours were uneventful and other than the light rain and drizzle, it was a normal and easy day. The next stop was to be a Swansboro, a small town right on the waterway at statute mile 229.

The Cold Chases Us South, Bath to Beaufort, NC

We spent an additional day at the docks in Bath, NC due to high winds on the Pamlico River. The morning of our departure brought temperatures in the middle 30s, which is way too cold for the crew. Sitting at the free state dock before the sun came up required running the generator for coffee, the toaster and the microwave, but mostly to run the heater to warm up the boat. It usually is 10 degrees warmer inside the boat than outside overnight, but that's still in the 40s. It takes about an hour to get the temperatures up, and by then, breakfast is over and it's time to untie the dock lines and get underway. These are the days when we really love the inside steering station and the laptop running our navigation program at the helm.

The Towns of Washington and Bath North Carolina

Washington, NC
About 30 miles upriver from the spot where the Intracoastal Waterway crosses the Pamlico River lays the town of Washington, NC. For the many boaters that speed south to reach their winter destinations, missing these side trips is a shame. We have been just as guilty in the past, but decided that on this transit of the ICW, we would stop and smell the fish fry. The Pamlico can be daunting and a careful eye on the weather is required. The payoff to visiting this well protected harbor and yet another historic site along the North Carolina waterway is more than worth the additional time and miles.

ICW Side Trips and a Disappointing Revisit

The Albemarle Sound is famous for being a body of water to be respected. After a great visit to Edenton, NC, we headed out on the Albemarle toward the Alligator River. The weather forecast was for northeast 5 to 10 and that would put the wind and seas right on our nose. To give it some perspective, if the winds were only at 10 knots and we travel at about 8 knots, the apparent wind on our bow will be 18 knots - the actual wind speed and our boat speed combined. The Albemarle can be very uncomfortable even in moderate conditions, and of course, we are well aware that the weather service seldom gets the forecast right. Our practice is to add 5 knots to their forecast for winds and 1-2 feet to the forecast sea conditions. Most of the time, this winds up being pretty close to the conditions we find. Heading east, the winds began building and soon we were experiencing 20 to 22 knots apparent. Needless to say, the steep seas, spaced closely together, were slowing our progress somewhat as water came over the bow and splashed on the windows of the lower helm. Maybe we should have turned back, but these were the best conditions we were going to get for days, so we pressed on.

NOAA Stops Printing Nautical Charts


Office of Coast Survey
Effective April 13, 2014, government stops lithographic printing of NOAA nautical charts

Frequently Asked Questions
I buy my nautical charts at my local boating store. Why should I care whether the government prints NOAA charts?
The federal government prints the NOAA lithograph nautical charts, and then sells them to commercial chart agents who sell them to the public. As of April 13, 2014, these charts will no longer be printed.

Edenton, North Carolina

From a boater’s perspective, Edenton, North Carolina is one of those destinations you have to want to go to. We left Elizabeth City and traveled some 15 miles down the Pasquotank River to the Albemarle Sound. The Albemarle is best known for its unpleasant conditions if the weather is not right. Under normal conditions, it’s no different than any other body of water we have transited. Once into the Albemarle from the Pasquotank, the trip is another 35 miles or more west to the entrance to Edenton harbor. (It is more than 40 miles off the Virginia Cut route.) The water depths are fine for the entire trip, but do keep a sharp lookout for the many commercial floats marking traps that can extend far out into the Sound.