Heading North: St. Augustine and Fernandina, FL / Beaufort, SC

It’s been over a month since our last entry so, there is a lot to catch up on.

art deco

Art Deco in Miami Beach

Flagler Monument

Washington Monument moves to Miami

We had spent several more days anchored between Miami Beach and Miami, enjoying the buzz of the big city as well as the Miami International Film Festival. The two additional films we saw (in addition to Cuba Libre) were, Which Way is the Front Line From Here? The Life and Time of Tim Hetherington directed by Sebastian Junger of Perfect Storm fame and Crash Reel, by Lucy Walker. Which Way is about photojournalist and filmmaker Tim Hetherington who was killed by a mortar blast while covering the Libyan uprising in 2011. Crash Reel is about the rivalry between half-pipe snowboarders, Shaun White and Kevin Pearce, friends who become number one and two in the world leading up to the Vancouver Winter Olympics. They pushed each other to learn ever more dangerous tricks, until Kevin crashes on a Park City half-pipe, barely surviving. As Kevin lies in a hospital bed, Shaun wins the gold medal. The story focuses on Kevin’s struggle to recover from his traumatic brain injury.


Movie Theater in South Beach

Both stories have relevance to the film Amy is currently editing. She found it helpful to see how other directors are handling the deep back stories of young men whose tolerance for dangerous situations puts them at great risk of physical harm. She was thrilled to meet and chat up Sebastian Junger who seemed genuinely interested in Red Dot on the Ocean.

The night before we left the anchorage was truly dark and stormy. As protected as our location was, we still bounced around quite a bit. At one point, Amy got up to use the head and took a look around outside. To her surprise, the 40-foot catamaran that had been anchored a good ways from us earlier, was now just a boat length away. We scrambled on deck and contemplated strategies. The crew of the cat was sound asleep below and oblivious to the situation. We got our powerful high beam light out and shown it through their ports but to no avail. We were ready to pull up our anchor and skidaddle but thought we’d give the air horn a blow. That did the trick. The skipper came up on deck, quickly retrieved his dragging anchor and moved some distance behind us. Disaster averted.


Spinnakers on Biscayne Bay

We went back to sleep and left later that morning for our next stop–Coconut Grove–a neighborhood south of downtown Miami. It was a nice, mellow change from Miami Beach. We had arranged to have our broken chart plotter shipped to the Coconut Grove Sailing Club. It was a big relief to find out that the problem required a very low-cost repair of a loose jockey board (whatever that is).

Ken and Paul

Ken and Paul in Coconut Grove

Our friend, Paul, from Atlantic City, phoned us from across the Bay in No Name Harbor, and suggested getting together in Coconut Grove–an area he knew well from his youth. We said we’d call after our showers and when we were settled in at some tavern or other. We eventually found our way to our favorite happy hour watering hole, “The Sand Bar.” Amy called Paul and left a message about where we were. After maybe an hour and a half with no word from him, we were getting up to leave when we heard Paul shout out, “Amy!” He was sitting only three  or four tables away but up on a different level–we were at the sidewalk tables. He said he’d been there about two hours and never heard his phone ring.

We all went out to dinner and caught up on each others’ trips. Paul’s boat, Journey, had sustained some damage from SuperStormSandy that meant repairs and a late departure for the warm waters of Florida. As a fearless single-hander, Paul always has good stories to share, like when his motor broke down on the ICW and he had to sail through a drawbridge opening and then into a marina.

After re-installing our chart plotter, we were on our way to the Florida Keys.

Crocodile Lake National Wildlife Refuge

View from our anchorage at the Crocodile Lake National Wildlife Refuge

The inside route to the Keys takes you through a series of bays and sounds that get shallower and shallower as you head south. One really has to adjust his comfort level as to what shallow means.

As it turned out, we got used to moving through 6-7 feet of water (Mary T draws 5) and enjoyed some great anchorages along Key Largo’s shore. Just by chance, we landed our dinghy at the Caribbean Club, where certain scenes of the Humphry Bogart film, Key Largo, were filmed. Amy’s friends, Dan and Jane, who live in Key Tavernier, met us there and took us out to dinner. They also insisted that we come down to Tavernier and take a hot shower, have dinner, do laundry, spend a night on shore and borrow their car for food shopping–an offer we could not refuse.

Jane, Amy and Dan

Jane, Amy and Dan at the Caribbean Club

The next day we headed south towards Community Harbor in Tavernier where we started hitting the bottom in the middle of the marked channel. We backed off and found some deeper water in which to anchor but were about a mile and half dinghy ride to the dock across from Jane and Dan’s house. The water in the Keys is just about as clear as that of the Bahamas so, you can often visually gauge how deep it is. We took a screen shot of Google Earth’s view of the area to see how we could navigate our dinghy through the very shallow waters of our route to Jane and Dan’s. The dinghy needs about 20 inches for the outboard motor. The day before, we hit bottom a couple of times just tooling around in the dinghy.

After our night ashore (thanks again, D & J) we turned Mary T north. It was time to start moving towards Charleston where Amy’s family was to gather in mid-April for Amy’s mother’s birthday extravaganza.

Florida Sunset

Florida Sunset

The weather for our reverse trip up the sounds and bays of the northern keys was quite favorable. Maybe too much so. We had 30-35 knots of wind blowing from the south making our voyage thoroughly exhilarating. Due to the nature of the shallow waters, the waves were fairly small. The plan was to meet up with Paul at No Name Harbor in late afternoon when all the locals would be gone and the anchorage would have more room. As it turned out, we arrived there around 2pm and found the place was still packed cheek by jowl. So, we continued north to our former anchorage amidst the man-made islands near Miami Beach. Along the way we passed by the Miami Ultra Fest–an annual outdoor electronic music festival–and could feel the bass reverberate throughout our boat and bodies. We could even hear it all the way out in our anchorage.

Just about every day in the Miami area and the Keys, you hear the Coast Guard announce the following on the VHF radio: “An unseaworthy raft overloaded with people was spotted in the middle of the Florida Straits. Please be on the lookout and report any sightings.” This, we assume, refers to Cuban or Haitian refugees trying to make it to Florida. We never hear the outcome of these announcements but can only hope that these desperate people have survived. It’s certainly a stark reminder of how lucky we are.

Mary T

Mary T in Miami

The weather forecast for the entire week was for strong winds out of the north–not what we wanted to hear. But again, that’s why we allow extra time to move from point A to B. Amy continued editing while I did various chores such as fetching water from shore, food shopping, scraping the barnacles and seaweed off the bottom of the dinghy, and the never-ending task of de-moldification in the dark recesses of Mary T. Around 4pm or so, we’d head into South Beach to get some walking in and maybe a drink and appetizer. During our previous visit we had learned of some of the best happy hour deals in town and availed ourselves again. The question I pondered on more than one occasion was, what’s the difference between “happy hour” and “early bird specials?”

flying fish

Catch of the Day! A few flying fish landed on our deck as we sailed to Cape Canaveral.

On Saturday, March 30, the wind finally went east so, we motored out through Miami’s Government Cut and headed north. We were hoping to go all the way to Saint Augustine but kept Cape Canaveral in mind as a fall back plan. The wind was extremely cooperative making Mary T fly up the coast. We were going so fast, that we figured we’d hit the St. Augustine inlet in the middle of the night. That left us with the option of heading into Canaveral in daylight Sunday, or slowing down to make St. Augustine the following morning. We opted for Canaveral and just continued on up to Titusville for a 4pm anchorage. The next night was spent anchored near Daytona and we arrived in St. Augustine on Tuesday, April 2.

While out on the high seas, we heard someone on the VHF radio calling our friend, Paul, on Journey. We couldn’t hear any more than that but the next day, I got a text from Paul saying he heard us on the VHF. We had called another boat in the night trying to figure out which way they were going to pass us. Paul mentioned in his text that he was doing an incredible 9 knots while headed for Charleston. Journey is not a particularly fast boat so, way to go, Paul!

Amy and Ponce

Amy hangin’ with Ponce

In St. Augustine, On April 4, another Mary T pulled up to a mooring nearby. Readers of this blog may recall that friends Lisa and Raffi of Windfall, had seen them heading down the ICW in North Carolina. A couple of months later, we heard from friends Tita and Corning that their friend, Gene, had come in contact with this other Mary T in the Bahamas. After Mary T tied up, one member of the crew came over in their dinghy and greeted us. We learned that they keep their boat at Shipwright Harbor Marina in Deale, MD–our home port! Imagine that? Initially, we couldn’t understand how we never heard about them before, but the gal who came to visit explained that they only recently changed their boat’s name to Mary T. What’s also coincidental is that they placed the lettering in the same place on their boat as we did. Now, we can plunder and pillage to our hearts’ content and just blame the other Mary T.

Amy, Corinne and Greg

Amy, Corinne, and Greg enjoying the Ponce Fest

Dancer of the future

Dancer of the future

Our time in St. Augustine went fast. Friends, Corinne and Greg, were in the area and came to visit us. We met them at the Rhythm and Ribs festival after watching the 500 year anniversary reenactment of Ponce de Leon’s arrival in St. Augustine.

On Monday, April 8, we headed out the St. Augustine inlet bound for Cumberland Island at the Georgia-Florida border. Departing St. Augustine,   we saw a sailboat foundering on the sand on the north side of the inlet. It was a very eery picture seeing the mast sway unnaturally and sails flopping as it was knocked around by the waves and back lit by the rising sun. It took a few minutes to figure out what was going on. There had not been any distress calls on the radio and no other radio chatter related to a rescue.

Tini Martini

Amy at the Tini Martini Bar in St. Augustine

But as we drew closer, we could see a tow boat in the process of pulling the sailboat off the sand bar. The line from tow boat to the sailboat was so long we thought they would be blocking the inlet. After some other sailboats ahead of us called the tow boat, we learned that he wanted us to pass in front of him (the tow boat). We did so as quickly as possible and just after we passed, we saw that the tow boat succeeded in pulling the sailboat free. The scene unfolded so quickly and had caught us so off guard, that neither Amy nor I thought to pick up a camera to document the scene.

The St. Augustine inlet is somewhat notorious for tricking mariners unfamiliar with the channel. We had previously contacted TowBoat US asking for advice on the inlet and received by email, a Google Earth image with the current locations of the markers along with a text description of how to approach the inlet from the outside. Thank you Captain Daily.

Cumberland Island

Cumberland Island

Our sail up the coast was delightful. We arrived at the St. Marys inlet (they don’t use an apostrophe) and  turned right and go to Cumberland Island National Seashore. In the process of setting our anchor however, we saw the temperature gauge go all the way over as high as it could and the red light indicator came on. We shut down the motor immediately and got depressed. We were about five miles from anywhere where parts or repairs could be undertaken.


Wild horses on Cumberland Island

We had come to Cumberland for some hiking and sightseeing but instead it turned into a work day for Amy and me. I went through a long list of things to check re/overheating engines, but found no definitive smoking gun. We ran the motor for about 45 minutes and saw no indication of unusually high temps. So the next day, we decided to go for a 5-mile test run down to Fernandina, FL. Again, nothing unusual occurred. Thus, we figured we would continue heading north to Beaufort, SC.

Fort Clinch in Fernandina

Fort Clinch in Fernandina

The wind forecast for Wednesday, April 10, was perfect–10 knots from the south east. We motored out St. Marys inlet, raised the sails, killed the motor and had a perfect sail until about 1:30am Thursday morning, when the wind died completely. Amy was on watch and gave the wind a fair amount of time to restore itself but to no avail. So, we motored the rest of the way and were happy not to see any more high temperatures. Perhaps we just caught some trash bag temporarily in our raw water intake. At any rate, we arrived at Port Royal Sound just as daylight broke and were in Beaufort, SC, just in time before the predicted thunderstorms showed up.

Below, in no particular order, are more photos of Miami, the Keys, St. Augustine, FL, and Beaufort, SC

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