I'll probably sound like a broken record, but, these little towns on the Eastern coast couldn't be more charming. Beaufort, Georgetown and now Southport. It's like when you have a baby and your totally enamored with them from 0-3 months and then 3-6 months comes and it's even better and you can't imagine that 6-9 months could surpass that and it does. That's the way it's been in the Carolina's.
Southport, formerly known as Smithville, is one of the oldest communities in coastal North Carolina, and as such, the town has ties to virtually every major American event. From its initial discovery centuries ago by European explorers, to its role in the American Revolution and Civil War, Southport’s deep roots are as fascinating as the coastal town landscape itself.
We'd heard from Robert Creech, a presenter at the Looper conference and resident of Southport, NC, that it is an idyllic, historical setting and he was right. After we arrived, Robert who lives by the marina came down and greeted us (he greets all the Loopers that stay in Southport since he is a Harbor Host for Southport). We had a nice visit and thanked him for his cruising notes from Fort Myers to Norfolk, VA. He invited us to his porch for a glass of wine and we are hoping to stop by yet today.
Southport has been absolutely delightful. It reeks of southern charm from it's historical homes strewn down every sleepy street to the southern style food at local haunts like Fishy, Fishy, Provision Company, Moore Street Oyster Bar and Taylor Cuisine Cafe. Since getting here I feel like we've walked thru every neighborhood at least once, ogled at every turn of the century home with it's historical marker by the front door and smiled at the church steeples dotting the skyline in every direction. If you like small towns, you'll love this one!
The icing on the cake is the Southport Marina. It's a top notch marina with a great staff and location. And during the transient times of the year, they even have an ICW Navigation and Weather Briefing each night at the marina offices. We plan on attending tonight and look forward to hearing any information Hank, the presenter is willing to share about the ICW north of here.
Below are a few snapshots of our time in Southport.....
Southport has been a popular filming location for television and movies, including film adaptations of the works of novelist Nicholas Sparks. The town can be seen in the television series Dawson's Creek, Under the Dome, Revenge, and Matlock, and in numerous movies, including I Know What You Did Last Summer, Summer Catch, Domestic Disturbance, Crimes of the Heart, Nights in Rodanthe, A Walk to Remember and Safe Haven. According to the tourguide, Oprah and other acotrs have stayed in this home while filming.
A slice of Americana. Saturday night we went for a walk thru town and everyone has a front porch, every porch has a light on and almost every one has an American flag. We learned that little old Southport, population 3,700, is the location of the North Carolina Fourth of July Festival, which attracts 40,000 to 50,000 visitors annually. Reminded me of the 4th celebration in Hooterville.
We had a beautiful morning leaving Charleston enroute for Georgetown. No wind, no waves and the sun was shining. We slowly passed a cruise ship headed for downtown and then Fort Sumter. We planned our cruise around the rising tide and had good depth heading up the ICW to Georgetown. We arrived around 2pm and after tying up and washing the boat and doing some laundry, we headed out for our walk. Georgetown is even more quaint than Beaufort. Tom thinks it's Mayberry!
Myrtle Beach/Little River - Myrtle Beach Yacht Club
We untied the lines at 6:35am Thursday morning and had a beautiful, but long cruise up the Waccamaw River. The rivers edges were full of trees and vegetation. We thought we were back in the midwest on the river system. You don't realized how much you miss the green until you see it again.
Our cruise included 13 bridges, but only three had to open. The number of bridges rivaled a day on the Florida ICW! We had nice depth until we met a barge heading south. We called him and he requested that we hold our position until the river widened. We did. Upon his approach we then tried to share the middle of the channel.....kinda hard to do with a barge. We were pushed starboard and our depth went to 3.5 feet. Thankfully it was short lived and sprang back up to 6 feet and we finished the pass.
The next obstacle was "Rock Pile". We'd heard about this 3 plus mile stretch by Myrtle Beach from John and Karen Swarthout our friends from Legacy Harbour. We went through on a rising tide and couldn't see the rock ledges lining both sides of the very narrow channel. We didn't meet any large vessels and our passage thru went just fine.
We arrived at Myrtle Beach at about 1:15pm, tied up and had some lunch and went walking. Tom washed the boat and we settled in. We are here for two nights and looking forward to checking out the area.
In South Carolina, they call it Beaufort, rhymes with New-fort, and the locals are put out if you pronounce it Bo-Fort, like their neighbors from North Carolina. What ever you call it, we liked it here. It's a quaint, small town with a friendly, southern vibe. And I guess Hollywood feels the same way about Beaufort, because they’ve filmed several movies here; The Big Chill, Forest Gump, Bagger Vance, White Squall, Rules of Engagement, just to name a few.
We learned a ton about the town from the horse-drawn wagon tour we took of the historic district of Beaufort with original homes and municipal buildings still standing from prior to the Civil War. Beaufort played a huge role in the Civil War, Harriet Tubman was a nurse in Beaufort for two years during the war and the town was the site of the “Big Skedaddle” when the Union came in and the town surrendered in four hours and then all the white towns people left. The Union then hired all the black slaves in the town to help run the homes that were turned into hospitals during the war. Also, the Ordinance of Secession was written in 1860 in Beaufort, announcing the states withdrawl from the Union.
Beaufort is also home to Pat Conroy, author of The Great Santini and The Prince of Tides. It’s also home of the Marine Corp Air Station and boasts the Marine F/A-18 squadrons that create the “sound of freedom” that you can hear overhead periodically during the day. Add a delightful downtown with shops and restaurants and a park all set on a beautiful river.
We stayed at the Downtown Marina of Beaufort and there were lots of other Loopers there as well. Saturday evening, we all got together on United 771 for docktails and had a chance to meet some of the folks we hadn’t met yet. We were originally going to stay only two nights, but the weather altered our plans when it decided to give us 45 mph wind gusts and rain most of the day Friday. But the bad weather gave us a chance to do some route planning which is so necessary when your dealing with 8-9 foot tides and a shallow ICW!
Below are a few shots from our time in Beaufort….
Childhood home of Robert Smalls, an American businessman, publisher, and politician. Born into slavery in Beaufort, South Carolina, he freed himself, his crew, and their families during the American Civil War by commandeering a Confederate transport ship, CSS Planter, in Charleston harbor, on May 13, 1862, and sailing it from Confederate-controlled waters of the harbor to the U.S. blockade that surrounded it. He then piloted the ship to the Union-controlled enclave in Beaufort-Port Royal-Hilton Head area, where she became a Union warship. His example and persuasion helped convince President Abraham Lincoln to accept African-American soldiers into the Union Army. After the American Civil War he returned to Beaufort and became a politician, winning election as a Republican to the South Carolina State legislature and the United States House of Representatives during the Reconstruction era. Smalls authored state legislation providing for South Carolina to have the first free and compulsory public school system in the United States. He founded the Republican Party of South Carolina. Smalls was the last Republican to represent South Carolina's 5th congressional district until 2010. I just love wikipedia :)
We took off Sunday, Easter morning and traveled 66 miles up the ICW to Charleston. It was a bit of a milestone for us since Charleston is where we attended a Looper gathering and learned about The Great Loop.
Charleston is such a great city both historically and gastronomically! When we were here before we toured the historical section of the city so we knew where to go and have been out walking the neighorhoods, seeing all of the landmarks and churches and of course all the eateries.
We've also had to do a bit of work on the boat. Our port engine has been acting a bit boogy so Tom got down in the engine room and replaced raycors while i worked on routes and slip reservations for the next week. We didn't get to spend a lot of time here, only two days so here are just a few pics of our time in Charleston.
Before I close this post, we want to give our condolences to the Henderson family on the passing of Apple Jack. You have all been in our thoughts and prayers. RIP Apple.
Jekyll Island, GA was only 36 miles from Amelia Island, but if you take the ICW, which we did, you have to cross St Andrews Inlet. Not a fun body of water. There are specific coordinates that have to be programmed into your chart plotter that are different than the Navionics charts. Community Edits on both Active Captain and Waterway Guide recommended a straight shot over to R32 buoy and then a direct heading left up to G29. The other buoys were either gone or misplaced. You have to trust your electronics BUT in this case we would have run smack dab into a big shoal, so we had to manuelly re-route the chart plotter according to advice from boaters that have recently crossed St Andrews. We went from a depth of 45 feet to 6 feet with in 5 seconds. Again, another nerve racking experience, but one to add to our boating adventure.
We arrived at Jekyll Island to find several Looper boats on the dock. Jekyll Harbor Marina has a long face dock where they put all the transient boats. They had one spot left for us. It was about 50 feet long, between two other boats. Captain Tom did a great job jockeying 46 foot BELLA into the space, but it was pretty tight! We had lunch on board, did some chores and headed out for our 'get off the boat walk'.
Jekyll Island is lovely. It has been the vacation homes of the wealthy for decades and they keep it very well preserved. Our walk included the historic district full of family cottages owned by the Rockefellers, the Goodyears and the like as well as a large lodge. All impeccably maintained. Below are pics of our time on Jekyll Island.
The trails were wonderful and full of walkers, runners and bikers all visiting the island.
Wild life in the marshes and spanish moss are both abundant on Jekyll Island
This spectacular tree is in the center of the historic district of the island. It was just beautiful!
We capped off our day with drinks and dinner with fellow Loopers - United 771, Chasing 80 and The Journey. It was fun meeting everyone and hearing their boating stories.
During dinner, we all discussed our plans for the next day. We'd been busy planning ICW routes and knew the weather would be ok for travel, but didn't realized that the wind and waves for the Atlantic were going to be perfect for a northbound outside trip. Couple that with some bad weather coming on Thur - Sat and it made us re-think our plans. All of the couples at dinner were going to travel outside the next day so after dinner we returned to the boat and decided to re-chart our course for the next day. Instead of going to an anchorage 66 miles up the ICW (Wed) and then to Thunderbolt Marina in Savannah (Thur), we decided to forgo the rest of Georgia and it's awful tides and go straight to Beauford, South Carolina on the out side.
After doing some major chart plotting changes to make sure both inlets were safe and rechecking the engine room and other prep work, we felt comfortable with doing the outside run. We woke at 5am and after coffee and wipping the boat down, we headed out 6:50am to the Atlantic by way of the St. Simons Sound Inlet. The inlet was really long, but we knew there was shallow water on either side so we took it most of the way out. We cruised at 25-28 mph and went 120 miles. It was a little bumpy (1 - 2 footers), but better than our Gulf crossing. We arrived at the Port Royal Inlet, another safe, but long inlet a little after noon. It was a good run and we were happy to be back inside. We headed back up the ICW and after fueling up at the gas dock we are slipped at the Downtown Marina of Beauford, South Carolina.
Beauford is darling and we are happy to be alittle farther up the coast and tied up. As predicted the weather started today. We've had 45 mph gusts and its raining. Not a nice day to be on the water! Below a couple of pics from Jekyll Island to Beaufort.
More from beautiful, Beauford, SC later~
As we continue to head up the East coast our time in Florida came to an end in our nation's first city St. Augustine and then Amelia Island, which were our last Florida stops. St. Augustine was really cool. It was so historical and our prior tour of Fort Matanzas was helpful in understanding the cities origin. We stayed right downtown at the St. Augustine Municipal Marina for two nights and everything was within walking distance. There was so much to see and do there. We started with a trolley tour....kind of. The trolley hit the high points: Castillo de San Marcos, Mission Nombre de Dios, The Fountain of Youth, the Old Jail, Flagler Memorial Presbyterian Church, Flagler College, Lightner Museum (formerly the Flagler Hotel), Villa Zorayda, the Spanish Military Hospital and lastly the Oldest House. We filled in the rest of the gaps with several walks down St. George Street to eateries and bars. Below are photos of our time in St Augustine.
Above is the oldest home in St Augustine.
This is terrible, but I have to include it. There were alot of families enjoying spring break in St. Augustine. One was seated right behind us on the trolley. The Grampa was along. He didn't say too much during the tour, but when he did he sounded just like you'd think Pauncho Villa would sound in an old movie. At first I thought it was a joke, but no! I couldn't help but giggled everytime he opened his mouth.
Sunday we had planned to go to Palm Sunday services, but it was pre-empted by The Masters. Tom loves watching The Masters and they moved the time telecast up because of wind. He and Sam put together their "Players LIst" and they discuss who gets which player similar to Fantasy Football. Unfortunately, two days before The Masters our TV stopped working. I felt so bad for Tom. He was able to watch it on his Ipad, but spent most of Sunday morning swearing at the idle television on boat. It's a boat after all and something is always breaking or needs to be fixed. 🤔
While Tom watched The Masters, there was the Blessing of the Fleet in the St. Augustine Marina. I was able to see the priest and all of his entourage dressed in period costumes slowly make their way down our dock for the service.
Sunday night we headed downtown for some oysters and dinner at another Fish House. We've lost count how many Fish House's we've seen or dined at along the way!
Monday morning we hit the water early so we could travel on a rising tide. As we left St Augustine I was able to get a last couple of pictures of Castillo de San Marcos and the Mission Nombre de dios from the water.
Our float plan was to take the ICW to Amelia Island. We thought leaving on a rising tide to travel the 58 miles to Amelia Island would give us enough time and better water depth. Not the case. We are in a major tidal area now in North Florida, Georgia and South Carolina. Tides can vary by 8 feet or more so planning is crucial.
After Jacksonville and the Nassau Sound Inlet, there's the North Florida Marsh that is about 20 miles long thru the ICW. To say it was "skinny" water would be an understatement. Not only was it shallow, but there were a couple of large tows and a dredge taking up most of the channel in a couple of places. There was shoaling everywhere on both sides. It was nerve racking getting thru this area. We draft 3 1/2 feet and our depth meter read zero several times. We made it thru thankfully!
By the time we got slipped at Amelia Island we were tired from dealing with all the skinny water. We got tied up, worked on our float plan for the next days travel leaving Florida and crossing the state lines into Georgia and Jekyll Island, had a little dinner on board and hit the hay.
Our time in New Smyrna was brief. We arrived on Wednesday mid-afternoon and departed Thursday morning. While there we took our "get off the boat" walk to New Smyrna Beach and checked out the tourist area on the other side of the bridge, and then grabbed dinner at the marina restaurant, Outriggers. The Kennedy Space Center launch was suppose to happen, but was again delayed because of high winds. Our marina was right on the ICW channel and traffic was steady until we went to bed. We were thankful it stopped so we could get some rest for the night.
So the cars parking and driving on the beach was new to us. Above: New Smyrna Beach. $10 and you can bring your car right down to the beach for the day. We experienced this up in Palm Coast as well.
Thursday we headed out for Palm Coast. I was especially excited as my aunt and uncle, Dave and Pat Block ( my mom's youngest brother) live there and we had made plans to meet up with them. They have lived in Palm Coast for eleven years. They are boaters too with lots ICW experience. They were sailors and have now crossed over to the dark side and have a trawler, but my Uncle Dave still has a long boat that he sails on occasion.
I wish I would have taken a picture of the Low Country Boil they made us for dinner Thursday night. Shrimp, kabasa, potatoes, corn - it was delicious. Friday we met up again and they toured us around Palm Coast and then we drove up to Fort Matanzas for a tour. It's located between Palm Coast and St. Augustine. Fort Matanzas National Monument was designated a United States National Monument on October 15, 1924. The monument consists of a 1740 Spanish fort called Fort Matanzas, and about 100 acres of salt marsh and barrier islands along the Matanzas River on the northern Atlantic coast of Florida. Coastal Florida was a major field of conflict as European nations fought for control in the New World. As part of this struggle, Fort Matanzas guarded St. Augustine’s southern river approach. The colonial wars are over, but the monument is still protecting—not just the historic fort, but also the wild barrier island and the plants and animals who live there.
We had a great time in Palm Coast with the Blocks. Thank you for spending time with us, hauling us around and for all your hospitality! It was fun to catch up and hear all your boating stories! Hope to see you in Minnesota the next time!
Fort Pierce was a wonderful community both in the marina and town. C dock at the Fort Pierce City Marina was so welcoming and kind to us and the events over the weekend in Fort Pierce were wonderful for vistors and locals alike. Saturday morning starts with the Farmers Market in the park next to the marina. This last weekend, Fort Pierce had it Oyster Fest. Tom was in heaven!
On Sunday we spent the day at the Navy Seal Museum in Fort Pierce. We were both enthralled with the history of the program which started because of the Under Water Dive teams that would assist with returning NASA recovery missions. The Seal program - Sea, Air and Land was instituted by President Kennedy and definitey one of our favorite stops so far.
Monday we cast off the lines and headed north 68 miles to Cocoa, Florida and Cocoa Village Marina. After arriving we checked out the darling Cocoa Village near the marina and had a bite to eat at a dive bar/grill called Murdocks. We both loved it! Then we walked the village. Below are photos of Cocoa Village.
On Tuesday we headed to Merritt Island and the Kennedy Space Center. It was great. Tom loved it. He has always loved the space programs, especially the Apollo program. We spent the day at the visitor center and then did the bus tour and the Saturn 5 center. All was a wonderful experience. The Falcon Heavy was suppose to launch tonight but was delayed. We were hoping to see it from our slip her in New Symrna but winds prevented it from launching. It is now suppose to launch tomorrow night. Fingers crossed;) Below are photos from our time at the Kennedy Space Center.
Miami Beach - Sunset Harbour (4/1)
Fort Lauderdale - BahiaMar (4/2-3)
Palm Beach - Riviera Beach City Marina (4/4)
Our trip from Key West up to Miami Beach on Hawks Channel was beautiful. We came in thru Government Cut. We have continued on this last week using the ICW. It's slow going and there are tons of bridges but we are having fun seeing all the ginormous yachts and homes along the way. The photos below are from Miami Beach up to Palm Beach.
We spent one night in Miami Beach at Sunset Harbour. Marina and facilities were really nice. It reminded us of The Wharf in Orange Beach. After a long travel day we had a fun dinner out and then prepped to travel the following morning to Fort Lauderdale. It was only 24 miles up the ICW, but with 10 bridges and no wake it took us a while. Again, we enjoyed the ride.....
We arrived at Bahia Mar Marina in Fort Lauderdale early afternoon and headed out to checkout the sites. Our marina was right across the street from the beach and a block down from the Las Olas bridge. Great location and nice marina. HUGE yachts of course everywhere. Lots of yacht crews up and down the docks with matching logo shirts. We were told that Judge Judy slipped at Bahia Mar......we never saw her or her yacht. ;0
On Wednesday we met up with an old friend, Kurt Koehler. Kurt and his family lived in Stewartville years ago. Some of you may remember his parents, Doc and Lorraine Koehler. They moved to Florida when Kurt was in 3rd grade. He lives in Pompano Beach now and picked out a great Fort Lauderdale eatery, The Downtowner, right on the New River, where we had a delightful lunch with him. He shared all kinds of Fort Lauderdale info with us and we were so happy he was able to meet up with us. Thanks Kurt for the fun time!
After lunch we took in the sites of Las Olas and the New Riverwalk. We toured the Stranahan House which is the home of Fort Lauderdale pioneers Frank and Ivy Stranahan. Built in 1901 as a trading post and converted into a residence for the Stranahans in 1906, the house is the oldest surviving structure in Broward County.
We toured up and down the river and boardwalk and took some shots of life along the New River....
The scooters are on every corner. They are for use downtown. If you have the app you can grab one and take it to your destination and then just leave it there for the next person to use. It was so funny watching business people downtown zoom around on them. It reminded me of my nephew Jeff and his scooter!
Thursday morning we took off at first light and headed up the ICW to Rivieria Beach City Marina in Palm Beach. It was just starting to mist when we cast the lines off. By the time we exited the marina, it was a full on rain. We had 20 bridges and 46 miles to get to our Palm Beach destination. Not all bridges needed to open for us....only 12 of the twenty. Our height is approx. 16 1/2 ft., so anything under that we had to request or wait for an opening. Some bridges open on the hour and the half hour. Some open on the quarter and three quarter hour. Some shut down all together during rush hour and the majority are done opening by 7pm. Timing your bridges is important if your vessel has substantial height. Luckily, we aren't that tall so we can scoot under anything 18 ft or higher.
In this neck of the woods, both the boats and homes are ginormous! This area is where Trumps Mar-a-logo home is located. If you are traveling on the ICW while they are there, security is around and you must stay underway at the same speed unless you have to stop for the bridge opening in that zone. If you are waiting for the bridge, they have the authority to board your vessel. I read all this in the ICW guide book we use for navigating. Not sure if it's all true. Luckily, the Trumps were not in residence and well....we aren't a threat!
We got docked at Rivieria Beach and realized the Port of Palm Beach was right next door. Big cruise ships arriving/departing. We got a kick out of our neighbors boat name below~
We did our typical 'get off the boat' walk and lunch at the Tiki restaurant. We thought the marina mural was cool and loved watching the water jet riders.
It was another early morning. We headed out for Fort Pierce again at first light. Only 10 'high' bridges, so no waiting and 52 miles. We bypassed Jupiter and Stuart to spend a couple of days not underway in Fort Pierce. It again started to mist as we left the marina, but then cleared up on the way. As we passed Jupiter, we saw a few golf courses, but no Tiger. Sorry Sam ;)
We got to Fort Pierce by noon. We are on E dock and have met some super friendly boaters already. We are looking forward to being tied up a few days here. We are hoping to take in First Fridays, the Farmers Market and Oyster Fest, as well as do a little Loop planning.
As I finish this blog post up for today, it's raining cats and dogs and thundering and lightening! I'm glad we got here before the weather did.
A quick shout out to my niece, Karly, her husband, Adam and their little guy, Parker. Congrats on the birth of your new baby boy/brother, Payton!
More from Fort Pierce next week~
We had an amazing travel day yesterday for our first trip back on the Loop. We left Marlin Bay at 8:45am. We decided to split the trip up and took the intracoastal on the Florida Bay or gulf side (ICW) to Channel 5 bridge and then crossed over to Hawks Channel on the Atlantic side of the Keys.
We took our time for a while on the ICW since it was pretty shallow and then decided to get up on plane for a few miles before crossing over. The marina we booked for the night was pretty shallow and all of our navigation aids as well as the dock master recommended, we come in and out on rising or high tide since the entrance into the canal that was .40 miles to the marina measures 4’ 6” at low tide. So we looked at the tide tables for Key Largo and saw that the tide wouldn’t start going up until midafternoon. With that in mind, we took our time on Hawks Channel and arrived around 3:30pm.
Tom did a great job navigating the channel and marina. We tied up, checked in and Tom commenced to washing the boat and I decided to do a load of laundry. We ended up eating at the Pilot House right in the marina. We called it an early night since we were heading out in the morning to Miami Beach.
It was great being back on the water again and big water at that 😉.
More later from Sunset Harbour Yacht Club, Miami Beach~
Tom & Sue Slightam
Read along as we circumnavigate the eastern half of the United States and southern Canada on the Great Loop on our boat BELLA, a Cruiser 460 Express.
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