West Palm Beach, Florida
North: 26 °44' 56"
West: 80 ° 03' .01"
Teri and I are well and enjoying the cruising life. Even two major surgeries, one Teri’s and one mine, over the past two years haven’t deterred us. We’re having fun sailing BlueTopaz, seeing the country and meeting lots of interesting people.
We left Morehead City, North Carolina to start our way south along the Intra-Coastal Waterway. The send-off from Spooner’s Creek, our base of operations for 23 months, was special.
People from the community and boaters we met during our stay, were at the dock at 6:00 AM to cast off our lines.
The send-off included: cranberry bread, coffee and tea - complements of Teri; Roman candles and fire-works - provided by Lanette, the marina manager; and VHF radio calls from boaters who weren’t able to get to the dock in time for our departure.
The send-off was something we’ll always remember. We have a special place in our hearts for the people of Spooner’s Creek.
On our journey South, we passed through beautiful wild country, visited historical cities, met interesting people and ate great food.
We traveled through North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and as far South as Palm Beach, Florida
Temperatures were in the 30's Fahrenheit at the beginning of the trip. Being from the "Great White North", we had cold weather gear to keep us warm
Reg on the bow adjusting the rigging
Thanks to Teri's insistence, BlueTopaz has a furnace that kept us toastee even on the coldest nights.
Many cruisers we met didn't have warm clothing or heat onboard. They kept saying: "It's going to warm up soon" and "It never gets this cold".
Well, it does get that cold and Teri's shorts didn't come on until the end of March in Vero Beach, Florida.
Dawn on the Intracoastal Waterway
The next day we were on the Cape Fear River with BlueTopaz traveling the fastest she has ever gone, 10.5 knots - over the ground. Of course, we were in a 5 knot ebb tide
One of our anchorages had us almost believing we had sailed into the prairies.
We anchored in the Cape Romain Wild Life Refuge in South Carolina, a hundred square miles of marsh land with grass as tall and golden as ripe Kansa wheat.
Only masts moving in the distance and the reversing currents gave it away as the South Carolina coast.
Cape Romain Wildlife Refuge, South Caroliana
Isle of Hope is a beautiful suburb of Savannah, Georgia.
Walking around this island, you are transported back to an elegant 19th century community complete with antebellum homes, Spanish moss draped oaks and acres of green lawns.
Rounding a corner, you wouldn't be surprised to see horse drawn carriages carrying women in hooped gowns and men in morning suits.
You can catch a bus on the Isle of Hope and be Savannah in about 20 minutes. Those of you who have read "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil" know more about the characters and places of Savanna than I can tell you here.
Savanna like Charleston, is a beautifully restored southern city.
Starting at the "Factors Walks" (warehouses on the river-front used to store cotton in the this grand old lady's hey-day) and walking inland, each block represents about 50 years in the city's development.
You can see the style of architecture changing as you walk. Many houses have bronze Naional Historic Monument plaques, indicating who had them built and the year. Most of the townhouses have been restored to near original condition. While the outsides may look 19th century, inside are all the modern amenities of the 21st century.
“the richest, the most exclusive, the most inaccessible club in the world….”
Munsey's Magazine 1886
An easy three day's cruise South of the Isle of Hope and Savannah is Jekyl Island. Jekyl Island originally belonged to the Jekyl Island Club. The Club was started in the 1860's by the American royalty of the time, such as the Gettys, Vanderbilts, Rockefellers, Pulitzer and the Cranes. It was a private preserve whose members represented 1/6 of the world's wealth at that time.
The Jekyl Island Club
This was an era before Florida was developed and it was where the elite went to escape the cold winters of the Northeast.
Originally families stayed in the "Clubhouse", an imposing white Victorian structure surrounded by elegant gardens, tennis courts and croquet greens.
Eventually members wanted more privacy and built "cottages". Cottages were 18-20 room mansions. While each "cottage" was different, reflecting the owners tastes and the fashion of the time, they all had one peculiarity - none had kitchens. Members continued to take their meals in the Clubhouse.
The State of Georgia purchased the island from the Jekyl Island Club in 1947. the island was turned into a park and the Clubhouse was opened as a grand hotel. Some of the cottages have been restored and are open to the public.
The island is a magnificent park with golf courses, beaches and gardens. It's a great place for riding bicycles, playing golf or just walking. You can tour the "cottages" and/or have dinner in the Clubhouse. Both are great ideas
Reg taking a leisurely ride around Jekyl Island
The sun rises over the Lions Gate Bridge yet a shadow shimmering on the edge of a dream
January 14th, we arrived in St. Augustine, Florida - the oldest continuously inhabited European settlement in the United States. We anchored under the protection of the guns of Castillo de San Marcos, a 15th century Spanish fort.
Swinging with the tide, in the shadow of the Lyon's Bridge, we imagined that Topaz was a trader just arrived from the old-world, ready to make her fortune in the new.
Each morning we watched the sun, rise orange over the palm trees of the barrier islands.
The view from our anchorage aboard BlueTopaz
We explored the streets, shops and restaurants of St. Augustine for two weeks
Guarding the Lions Gate Bridge
Each evening the lavenders and pinks dazzled us as the sun set behind the Moorish spires and turrets of historic St. Augustine
We first heard the praises of Vero Beach sung in Annapolis and arrived there with great expectations. Vero is affectionately know as "Velcro Beach". Cruisers often get stuck there.
It's a meeting place for cruisers on their way to and those returning from the Bahamas. Some stay for a week. Some stay for a month. And some just stay. The weather is great and the community makes cruiser welcome.
There is everything the seasoned cruiser looks for: Wal-Mart, Sam's Club, Publix, Winn Dixie, three chandleries, a library, a 24 screen movie theater - with stadium seating and free bus service.
We planned to stay a few days in preparation for crossing Lake Okeechobee on our way to visit Tom and Jean Colvin. Tom designed BlueTopaz and has been waiting seven years to see her.
The water level in Lake Okeechobee was too low for us to cross. The Corp of Engineers released too much water the previous year in anticipation of a severe rainy season, then following year brought a drought. We waited patiently for the water to rise enough for us to cross - we waited and waited and one month turned into four.
We were having a good time and were really in no hurry to leave. We met cruisers from the US, UK, France, Ireland, Australia and Quebec. There were pot-luck dinners in the park, cocktails in the cockpit at sunset, weekly street carnivals sponsored by the city, Sunday caravans to the local jazz club and a lot of cruiser comradery.
We decided to take Topaz to a spa for some long overdue maintenance and leave her in safe surroundings while we are away during hurricane season.
We took her to the Rybovich-Spencer boatyard in West Palm Beach. We heard repeatedly from people in the industry that Rybovich-Spencer was the best yard in Florida. So, we decided to give them a try.
When we asked our project manager if they have room for Topaz at that time of year, he laughed and said "oh, I think we can find a little shed to stick her in." We understood the humor when we arrived. The yard was filled with boats from 50-150 ft. Emphasis on the 150.
BlueTopaz is just about the smallest boat in the yard. There were a couple of smaller boats, a magnificient 30' antique varnished mahogany and stainless speed boat and 25' tender in for its annual service.
The project manager was as good as his word. They put Topaz into a "little shed" about 75' long and four stories high and that's where she sits as I write this note.
and so it is with cruising....Sailors plans are written in the clouds and the forecast changes daily