The Long Slog

We were so happy to be back in the states. Though we weren’t nearly as far north as we initially planned, we did great and felt proud of how far we’ve come. Its been MONTHS since we’ve felt the flat calm of the ICW. Its like a vacation after the mighty ocean.

Before we could get underway, we had to check back into the country. In hindsight, we SHOULD have signed up for the automatic re-entry program, where all you have to do is call a phone number and then be on your way. But we didn’t know that was a thing until we were already gone, so we had to do the old fashion way. And there are only a couple of places where you can check back in along the east coast. Luckily, Cape Canaveral is one of those places.

We were also slightly concerned since we just came from Cuba, if we would have any issues upon our return. But when we stopped over at the customs office (which took the better part of the first morning to find), they didn’t seem to care and we didn’t make a big thing of it.

Now we’re officially off to head north on the ICW. The first day was quite pleasant, though we really only got a half day after all the logistics. We also stopped at a marina in Titusville to fill up our fuel. Normally this sort of thing would freak me out but after everything we’ve done it felt so easy. I just had to laugh to myself.

The first few days were easy-going. Nothing much of note other than we spotted TONS of dolphins and several manatees on our way back north. The bridges weren’t a big deal, in fact nothing was really a big deal. I was happy that I could be productive down below during Jake’s shifts and vice-versa. But we soon found that we were feeling a bit bored and preferred moving on the open ocean over the cramped ICW, where you have to pay close attention all the time.

There was one day that was super eventful. We ended up going about 75 miles in that day, all the way to St. Augustine, Florida. But we also ran aground in an area marked 18-feet on our charts. The depth-sounder also said 18-feet but right next door was a big shoal and obviously we hit it. This was all at low-tide so we just had to wait it out for a bit, but it made us laugh. No big deal. We were planning on anchoring around here but opted to just keep pushing to St. Augustine proper, to which we arrived at about midnight and anchored in pitch dark, a very difficult thing to do especially in this city, where anchorages are packed and there’s so little space. Things that used to feel stressful to us are now just small nuisances at most. That’s a pretty cool discovery!

We spent a few days in St. Augustine and linked up with our buddies Calista, who were heading north to their home of Nova Scotia. They obviously have a lot more ground to cover than we do and they are super gung-ho, hardcore sailors. These guys don’t let anything stand in their way. It was great to hang out with them in town one night and catch up on life.

I think of all places, St. Augustine is the most interesting in Florida. We enjoyed ourselves immensely, both times that we’ve stayed here. We picked up a mooring ball so we could use the shower facilities and dinghy dock for cheap, but our mooring was in kind of a crappy and busy spot so we did have wakes to deal with. But again, after the ocean, these things are nothing. I love that.

From there we went back offshore to Georgia to hide out from some nasty weather that was coming our way. I recall that one evening the wind was so strong it tipped Bosco boat sideways. That was scary especially since we were in a completely protected anchorage at the time. And the dreadful lightening made it worse. Storms are always scary no matter where you are.

The bad weather stayed with us for a number of days, forcing us to stay on the ICW through northern Georgia. But actually, this was nice because most people go on the outside (or wait for good weather) so we were pretty much the only ones out on the water (which we love). And since we bypassed Georgia on our way south, it was fun to see it heading north.

Once we reached South Carolina, we were feeling a bit antsy to just get to the end of this slog. We managed to go between about 50-60 miles on the ICW (when we took it), but barely gave ourselves a break. We stopped one morning at
Port Royal Landing Marina (we stopped here on our way south), to do some provisioning. While we were there, Jake chatted with someone who knew us from our blog! This is always such a treat, since this blog is mainly for family and friends. We LOVE to meet total strangers who know us from videos.

From Port Royal, we stayed on the ICW until Charleston. It was a bit stressful because the big winds over the last few days blew out a lot of the water, so there were many areas that were EXTREMELY shallow (like 4-feet or less). We passed so many grounded boats. Even Calista grounded near Charleston a few days earlier. Actually the water was so low, they could walk around and wipe down their hull before the tide came back in and they took off (which is amazing and hilarious!)

We stayed in Charleston for a long 3-day weekend to celebrate my birthday at the city marina with the Mega Dock. Though we didn’t stay on that dock, we were glad to take advantage of the great amenities, like the courtesy van that will drive you anywhere you need within the city-proper. It was definitely strange being back on land, pretending to be normal humans in the states. It took some getting used to. Both of us felt like outsiders. I know it wasn’t really THAT long but so much happened out there on the water and in our travels we feel like we’ve changed and have a different perspective on things.

Charleston is a fantastic city. We had the best time visiting the aquarium, petting turtles, eating delicious fried chicken and visiting a haunted jail! And of course we had to visit the historic Patriot’s Point which if you haven’t been to, I HIGHLY recommend. It is so much fun and there’s so much to see and do there. We spent an entire day and still felt like we could go another 3. The waterfront is also gorgeous with a great walking path all around the city, which would sometimes be underwater at high tide). A person could make a good life for themselves in Charleston!

We hoped to go another stint offshore back to North Carolina, but our timing and weather weren’t on our side. It wasn’t THAT big of a deal, since we went offshore going south in these parts, it was all new to us. So that made it more fun.

When living and breathing all things boat, your sensitivities go up as soon as anything unusual happens. We noticed somewhere along the North Carolina border that our bilge pump would come on for long periods of time. We also noted that something in the steering column felt off. The prop definitely was making a different noise, not terrible, but very slight. After long investigation, we THINK its something with the stuffing box or possibly the stern tube. Obviously there is a leak, because our bilge pump NEVER turns on especially since we’ve replaced the engine. We made a mental note to keep our eyes and ears on things, but kept pushing because we’re so close to our final destination and would have it all checked out when we’re hauled out.

Jake and I are a bit superstitious and we hit a snag, literally, on Friday the 13th. We were somewhere near Camp Lejeune training grounds and Jake and I were chatting about his military history and memories from this place. We passed by an area where they often do live fire drills, and may close that section of the ICW down. In our case, we were about 30 minutes early, so we were okay. And we were chatting about that and just life in general, and I must have misread the chart because all of a sudden…WHACK! We both flew forward (well, I flew into the wheel kind of hard). And we came to an abrupt halt…not that we were going super fast (about 4 knots), but still.

we definitely hit something hard. And I checked the charts to find that there was a buoy marking a shoal that was very difficult to read (based on its location it looked out of place). But sure enough, it was a shoal and it got us good. And apparently this happens all the time here (according to our charts) and everyone says there’s some old military debris (maybe a tank?) buried around here. I don’t think we hit a tank, but definitely something.

I suggested we try to throw a stern anchor out and kedge off of it. Jake rigged it all but we had no luck. We were definitely not moving. And when we tried to pull back the anchor, it too, was stuck. GRREAT. Thankfully we have Bow Tow US (which we were very friendly with when we first got Bosco boat, prior to her new engine. They said they would be here in about an hour, so we turned everything off and waited. I felt so stupid as people passed us and waved, or hailed us on the VHF to see if we were okay. Someone actually said, “lookout there’s a shoal there”. No shit sherlock (thats what I was thinking, I would never say it), since I’m pretty sure he wasn’t kidding.

When the tow boat finally came, a young man probably in his 20’s told us what to do. He said if they have to use special equipment it will cost more, but apparently he didn’t need much – just a good hearty engine and we were pushed off the shoal in less than 5 minutes. Then he also helped us grab our anchor (which he had no problem with either, making us question our strength and abilities). So I guess you can never get too cocky even on protected waters of the ICW. It was a humbling experience but not stressful.

And though we lost a few hours in that time, we didn’t have to worry about live fire or making our next anchorage in daylight. We almost got hit with a storm but outran it just in time to drop anchor and settle in.

The last couple of days were the hardest because we stayed on the ICW and had nasty weather. So I guess the bad weather isn’t as big a deal, its when there are other boats out on the water, bridge crossings (that may not open if weather is too bad) and making sure to stay in the channel so you don’t run aground. Sometimes those channels can be quite narrow and made worse through bad weather.

Our last day we passed through Moorhead City and turned up the very familiar canal heading toward the Neuse River, and Oriental NC. Our friend’s Calista were already in Oriental for a few days and we were hoping to catch them before they move up north, so we were determined. That last day was exhausting, made moreso because a huge thunderstorm pounded on us all day. Just like our initial push south from Oriental, we donned all of our foul weather gear as we headed back. Its becoming tradition!

There was one portion of the journey, where the sky was white and thick with clouds, not dark scary clouds, but heavy rain clouds. And there was fog and mist in the huge trees. The rain fell softly and there was no wind for a few minutes and it was one of those, most magical moments. Like a dream or a fairytale. I felt like we were whisked off to an enchanted forest or something and everything looked different in this light. It was so beautiful.

We were nearing the last twists and turns of the day when a big storm pounded us. It was so bad that we lost ALL visibility and the waves picked up to kind of an insane choppiness and height, for the ICW. We had to pull over and dropped anchor just across the river from Oriental. It was late in the day, almost sunset by now, and we should have just stayed here for the night. But our friend’s Calista were right over there, just a couple of miles away, and they said they were waiting for us.

Jake was not in the mood to go anymore, so I took the reigns and made the executive decision to go. The storm passed rather quickly, though the Neuse was in full action, it was okay. We pulled into Oriental proper past dusk, so it was dark, but we know this area so anchoring amongst the other boats wasn’t a big deal. AAAAAAAND WE MADE IT!

That night we hung out with Calista for awhile and met some of their other friends. We were so tired though so that won over and we thought we would maybe hang with them tomorrow. When tomorrow came, though, they were underway, with the desire to make more miles towards home (which for them was still over a thousand miles away, maybe even more than that I can’t recall).

We rested in Oriental for one more day, met up with an old pal Chuck and then hit the water to move up about 20 miles north. There is a boatyard where we decided to move in Bosco for 2 weeks where we completed tons of boat work, repairs and jobs we’ve been meaning to do. Most importantly, we discovered that there was indeed, a crack in the stern tube and the bolt connecting the rudder post to the skeg was missing, so we replaced that too. There were several engine maintenance jobs, miscellaneous boat equipment repairs and lots of cleaning to be done. It was strange to see the boat hauled out and even more-so to sleep on it outside of the water. We didn’t stay on the boat that entire time, as we needed to fly back home to pick up our van while the toxic bottom paint was being applied. Perfect timing.

It felt great to be back on familiar ground in familiar waters. What made it better is that we have a bunch of new friends around here, many of whom we met while cruising in the Bahamas. Apparently New Bern, NC is a cruiser mecca (who would have guessed?). The summer of NC was in full swing and we enjoyed it for the most part.

This is where Bosco boat’s journey comes to its end, though not forever.

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2 comments on “The Long Slog

  1. You guys really summed up your travels nicely. Do you have any further plans to travel are you are on hiatus for awhile? Look forward to any future Jake and Jill travel news. 🙂

  2. Hey Phil – thanks for your kind words. We are currently in the midst of gearing for a new trip to New Zealand. The blog is a bit back-logged as you may be able to tell :). We hope to catch up to present-day after a quick “stop over” to Iceland for the next couple of blogs and then to our plans for NZ. Thanks for following our adventures!

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