Thursday, May 18, 2017


      On Saturday morning I am up first and decide not to run the generator to make coffee. I use the microwave running on the inverter to heat water for instant coffee. it was a peaceful night considered we were on a river leading to the ocean. I think I expected outbound fishing boats to rock us after daylight, but it did not happen. We get our quick breakfast of cold cereal, and then we prepare the boat to weigh anchor and get under way. We are off anchor by 8:50 and headed into Charleston. As we head up Elliot Cut, I glance back and see a big tour boat gaining on us as we head North up the cut. There is a drawbridge with enough clearance for us, but he has to wait for it to open. My worry of having to be passed in this narrow cut by a large vessel is ended.
We pop out of the cut, and into the Ashley River leading into Charleston Harbor. The tour boats are the main movers in Charleston Harbor this morning. As we pass Fort Sumter, a tug is coming in from the ocean towing a barge.
On the ICW route, we are not near the navy base as other ports have been. The only naval ships we see are the ships on memorial duty at Patriot Point. The aircraft carrier "Yorktown" is still impressive, even from over a mile away. A couple of turns, and we are in the narrow ICW channel. This channel is pretty open to travel. But near Isle of Palms, I must have missed a "No Wake" sign. I see a jet ski tour operator motioning for me to slow down and not wash his craft sitting on a dock. I slow down, and feel bad as he is going to get some wake anyway. I am just glad I saw him as he signaled me. We are headed to Georgetown, SC, and for half the way we buck tides. We are able to run only 8.3kt at 2240rpm (normal speed @ 1800rpm), but when we hit tides the other way, we are running over 10kt at the same 2240rpm. The only looper we see on the route is "Cway", most of the other boats are small fishing boats and runabouts. We arrived at Harborwalk Marina at Georgetown at about 4:10, a little over 69mi from where we weighed anchor in the Stono River.
       On Sunday morning, we got up and walked to the Duncan Memorial United Methodist Church. It is another old church building with a lovely interior. And it still looks good because it has been well cared for.
After church we walk back over to the main street to look for a place for lunch. We settle on a "soul food" café called "Aunnys". It lives up to the hype, and we leave stuffed. For a little over $10., you get a meat entrée and three side.
And I had peach cobbler for dessert after that big lunch. We spend the rest of the afternoon resting on the boat. On Monday  I do miscellaneous chores on SummerTime. I do find the fuel leak I have been looking for. The mist has become an occasional drop where the throttle shaft enters the injector body. I wash the boat, the first time it has had a good soap wash in several months. We are only a few days from finishing the loop, and SummerTime needs to look good. We have dinner in the old town at a very nice Italian restaurant, Alfresco Bistro, that we looked at on the way to church.
       On Tuesday morning we get ready to leave. The holding tank gets pumped, and we fill the water tank. We know we probably have at least one night we will spend on anchor. We get away from the marina at 9:30. We run about 1800rpm, and the rising tide helps to push us up the Waccaamaw River at about 9-1/4kt. For the first hour we are mostly looking at saw grass swamp areas, and then the plant life starts to change. The river narrows, and there start to be cypress trees along the banks. Some are quite big. We saw some eagles flying in this area.
I think now that we may have seen eagles in every state we traveled through except for New Jersey. This part of the Waccamaw has very little development. One side of it is a "National Wildlife Refuge".  The river is relatively deep, not too crooked, and there are plenty of large cypress trees lining the edge. About 30 miles north of Georgetown, we stop at Bucksport Marina and RV park and fueled up. They are cheapest in area per "Waterway Guides" fuel listing. We put 92.9 gallons of fuel in the tank to fill up for the first time since Savannah. A few miles after leaving Bucksport we come to the place where the Waccamaw River splits from the dug canal that becomes the ICW. We decide to go up the Waccamaw River for a short ways to check out its reported beauty. A few people have told us it rivals the St. John River in Florida for natural beauty. It is impressive, mostly a large cypress swamp with a river in it. We go about 5 mile up it to marker "4", and start to see signs of civilization. We turn back for about 2mi to anchor near a creek branch.
There are lots of Osprey flying in this area. Turtles and jumping fish are the only other wild life we see on this wild river. We cook on the grill. It is a peaceful night without much wind, but cool enough we do not need a genset and AC, or heat.
      We get up on Wednesday morning, and after more microwaved hot water for coffee, we head out the river. There is not as much mud on the anchor as I was expecting, in fact almost none. We follow the river back to where the ditch split from it, and follow the dug ICW north. We pass through Myrtle Beach, which is now putting development on both sides of the ICW.
We travel at 1500-1800rpm to keep our wake in a more acceptable range in the ditch.
A little after 1 we get to Little River. Here we somehow get into a pack of lunatics. It starts with the boat "Capt. Rick" that comes barreling down a marina fairway from the side, and nearly "T-bones" a small skiff traveling south on the ICW. The "Capt Rick" turns north and drives on the left side of the ICW, going slow now, and impervious to any boats headed south bound on the left (inland) side. I am following to the right side of the ICW, and trying to think where, or if to pass him. A high speed, 40+ passenger thrill tour boat and a charter boat come up behind me. A Charter boat is returning from the inlet to the north. The skipper of Capt Rick, in the returning boat's path, steps out of his pilot house and starts to make gestures to the north bound boat. Right after he passes, the thrill tour boat and charter boat come by me, and head past Capt Rick. He is having none of it, and pours on the throttle.
The two boats are now forced to follow Capt Rick as he moves side to side to block them. They all turn out to the inlet, and I am glad. I see more unprofessional "professional captains" in this 10 minutes than all the rest of our 8month trip. We come to Calabash Creek, and decide to go up Calabash Creek thinking we will try to anchor on it. We do not see a place that looks acceptable, mainly due to development. We decide to head north towards Southport NC.
We call St Jame Marina and make reservations. I program the GPS to extend our route to them from Shallotte where we had programmed to earlier. We pick up our cruising speed to 2500rpm, which gives us about 12kt +/- depending on current. We get to St James about 4:30pm, and get checked in. We eat in the Marina Restaurant for the evening. This is a very nice marina, part of a large resort area featuring several golf courses along with the marina. There are 4 restaurants within Jamestown Plantation, but only the restaurant in the marina is open to the public. And the marina has a nice deli where you can buy meats, cheeses, and breads for your day on the boat.
       On Thursday morning, we decide we are not going to delay completing our loop until Friday. We know we are close enough to Carolina Beach, and our beginning spot on the ICW to easily complete. It takes a little bit to get ready and get away, but we do it. We actually get moving fairly early for us, before 9. In less than an hour at moderate speeds, 1500rpm, we are in Southport, NC.
We go through this old fishing town/ seaport and make a NW, or left turn onto the Cape Fear River. We have the tide with us and are making good time. We pass by Sunny Point, a munitions storage and shipping depot for the US military. It is being guarded by several small boats, what I would have expected. There are no ships at their docks, but they do have a dredge in their channel deepening it. We go on by, passing a couple of commercial fishing boats. We come to the point where the waterway departs the path of the ship channel in the river. We bear east into the ICW channel, and in a few minutes we are in Snow's Cut. We pass on by the State Park Marina and head to the intersection of the channel at the Carolina Beach Inlet  and the ICW.

We go slightly past this intersection to make sure we have crossed our starting point. We have officially "Crossed Our Wake", completing our loop. We started our loop when we left the Inlet Watch Marina at this intersection on 25May, 2013 headed to New York with SummerTime.
       We record the moment, we have crossed our wake at 12:16pm on Thursday, 30 Mar017.
We did 23.2 miles this morning to get here. We have done over 5000 miles total, but it is going to take looking at some saved routes to get the actual mileage. We turn around, and head to Joyner's Marina which we passed a mile back. We fill up SummerTime with fuel so that the tank does not sit partially full and sweat inside. We leave Joyner's and back track to the Carolina Beach State Park Marina. We arrive and check in for two days on their "A" dock. Barbara's brother Kenny comes and picks us up, along with some of our belongings. We will come back another day to get some other belongings off of SummerTime ad we move back to shore.
     Friday we come back to SummerTime and take some more clothes and dirty laundry off. I also take the slip for the month of April so we have a place to rest SummerTime while we figure out what we are going to do yet.


Monday, March 27, 2017


     Saturday we do not get up quite as early. We are going to go into Savannah with our relatives and take a trolley tour of Old Savannah that lets us get off and on. We get almost all the way around the route (our plan) and get off to get lunch. We go to "Leopold's" ice cream shop, a Savannah tradition. We have lunch in there.
And we wait in line after lunch to get an ice cream cone topped with one of their fantastic home made ice cream flavors. After the ice cream, we head down to River St where the real St. Paddy's festival is going on. There is green everywhere.
After about an hour here, we head back up the steps to Bay St to catch our trolley for the rest of our tour.
We end up walking farther than the shown stop, as the police have closed the side street to the trolley stop. There is a music festival going on in Savannah this same weekend, and there is a music stage set up near the trolley stop for the music festival. The day is near the end, so we go back to the trolley beginning and back to the car. We drive over to "The Pirate House" to get dinner. On the way we go by Forsyth Park with the big, Forsyth Fountain to take some photos.
We get to "The Pirate House" later than planned, and are in the queue for a table for dinner. The dinner is great, but alas they no longer have the great dessert menu I remember, and certainly do not "flambee" anything at the table now. We get back to SummerTime in time for bed.
     My sister and her husband pick us up for church Sunday morning. We are going to the First Baptist Church of Savannah which is quite old. It is quite nice inside, but not as full as expected. One regular church goer states that a lot of people leave Savannah during the St Patricks Day weekend due to the craziness. After church we head back to Thunderbolt, GA where SummerTime is docked. We are going to have lunch in "Tortuga Island Grille" . We have to wait again, but we are not disappointed. After brunch we are dropped at Thunderbolt Marina, and my sister and her husband head back to their home in NC.
     On Monday we decide to stay another day and take care of some chores aboard the boat. It is a mostly productive day. On Tuesday we get up, get a pump-out, fill the water tank, and fuel SummerTime. I think we are going to take near a hundred gallons as we last fueled before returning to Ortega Landing.  And we have run Mr. Perkins kind of hard some times when the tides were against us. We barely get in 80gallons, so I apparently misinterpreted the gauge and how hard we had run the Perkins. We get off towards Beaufort, SC about 11am. It is not a long run, and most of the ways the tides are with us. We meet a tug pushing a barge right as we cross off of the Savannah River.  The runs today are rivers, cuts between rivers, sounds, and more cuts. We do not see a lot of pleasure boats until we pass by Hilton Head Island.
There are actually people parasailing behind boats. It is warm, and you do  not have to get in the water to parasail behind a boat.
It just seems cool as I started the day in long pants and a wind breaker. We meet two more tugs pushing construction barges at various points. It is nice to see commercial traffic on the ICW, which was the purpose of the ICW creation. And we pass by the American institution that is Parris Island.
It is only a few miles before Beaufort. We get to Beaufort right at 4pm, when we told the dock master we would be there. We dock at Downtown Harbor.
After securing the boat, we go just a block from the marina to old town and one of  its many restaurants.
      For Wednesday we borrow the marinas courtesy car and go to the grocery store to stock up. We go to one of the many eating establishments and get hot dogs for lunch. After lunch we decide to tour the town differently than we have in the past. Beaufort has a lot of old houses (more than 200yr old) that are occupied, and so not available for tours.


But you can take a horse and carriage tour and see all of them from the outside, and get a history (and sometimes gossip) commentary on them at the same time. There are a lot of people visiting this historic city, and we are put on the carriage tour to occur in the late afternoon. It is good as we get an extra block or travel for being on the last tour for this carriage. It is a nice tour, and some of the streets you travel both directions on, so the photos on the wrong side going away, are on the correct side coming back. The slow moving horse tour is worth the cost, and it saves our legs for nearly an hour. We get back to SummerTime and decide to eat aboard. We are expecting company for Thursday. There is an 87' USCG patrol boat at the dock for the evening also. And a big R/V, or research vessel. Everyone seems to be seeking shelter from the winds forecast for Wednesday night and Thursday.
On Thursday we have old friends aboard who arrive in Beaufort to spend the day. It is the first time in many years we have seen each other, so the first part of the day is spent catching up. We go into town for lunch at a different establishment offering sandwiches and light entrees. The food does not disappoint. Afterwards we visit some shops and do some touristy things. Barbara buys chocolate at one of them. We visit some more, and our friends drive us across the river for dinner at another great seafood restaurant on the water. They drop us back at SummerTime after dinner, and head back  to their home in SC. It has been a very pleasant day with friends. It was not a good day to travel, the CG stays at the dock all day as well as two other cruising boats. And the R/V "Silver Crescent" shows back up.
     Friday finds us doing a quick load of laundry before heading out. After all the checks and last minute errand running (PO) we get away just before noon. We are hoping to get to a creek or river a few miles short of Charleston to anchor for the night. We start out on falling tides, and fight the current some initially. Eventually we are traveling with the currents. It is another day of running in rivers, cuts connecting rivers, and sounds. I have traveled I-95 through Georgia and Southeast SC, and you cross a lot of salt marsh doing that. When you travel the ICW, you realize that a lot of the coast of these two states is nothing but salt marsh.

The colonial settlers were pretty hardy, as there are a lot of insects that live in these salt marshes. The insects are not too bad today as the wind is blowing for the most part fairly good. I did put insecticide on my arms and neck before leaving the dock and creating wind while moving. We get to our anchorage on the Stono River about 10 miles short of Charleston about 6pm. Shortly after we anchor, the wind dies down. I am glad we have screens on the windows. The small gnats are out as part of a welcoming committee. I go on the flybridge just before dark to program the GPS  for the next days run. But the "no see-ums" are a little more numerous than I wish to deal with. I go back into the protection of the screened cabin. The anchorage for this night is very still with almost no wind, and SummerTime only changes position on the anchor with the tidal changes. There is no lapping of water against the hull as most nights have with light winds.

Sunday, March 26, 2017


    Saturday is a day of chores. I help Barbara get to the laundromat early to get our linens done. And I kill time on SummerTime working on blogs I am behind on. After lunch I crawl into the engine compartment to complete fastening the sound insulation I installed several weeks earlier. The screws I was going to use to hold up the insulation I can not get started in the fiberglass underdeck. The angle is too awkward for the driver to start the screws. Gene comes by, and I am more than happy too crawl out of the engine compartment. We get cleaned up and go to dinner with him. We go to Tom and Betty's Diner, in the area we have been shopping at. It is an auto themed diner, menu items are named after car models and parts. And there are posters and signs around that I can relate to from my earlier life.
     We are supposed to go to church with Gene on Sunday morning. But we forgot there was a time change. Gene knocks on the side of the boat, and we are still eating breakfast. We send him to church without us. He is going to the early Lutheran service. We finish breakfast, get ready, and walk to the nearby Presbyterian Church. We make the 11 o'clock service. We spend the afternoon on SummerTime looking at the route north, and staying dry from the showers. Gene comes by in the afternoon, and we go to Panera Bread with him, as hot soup seems right for this day. We spend more time talking about the trip north with Gene. He keeps his boat in York and has made the ICW trek to Florida and back several times. A wealth of info for us. And I share our travels from our log book entries of 2013 with him for the Chesapeake and going north to the Hudson. He has done most of the Great Loop, except for the Chesapeake north, and cross Canada or Great Lakes leg.
     Monday we get up and ready to leave. The OL dockhand comes by and we get a last pump-out of the holding tank. I fill the water tank. And I hike to Publix to get milk as we ran out. We get away at 10:45, about an hour later than planned. It is cool, overcast, and looks like the rain we are supposed to be getting will happen.
The RR bridge is in the right position this time, and we motor straight through downtown JAX.
We pass the shipping docks, and they are all partially occupied. Only fishermen and a few tugs are moving around.
We hit rain about an half hour before the Intracoastal Water Way. I move down to the lower helm. It is not raining that hard, but the wind is making the wind chill on the fly bridge feel quite raw. After we turn north up the waterway, the rain increases. it is actually running off of the fly bridge deck and over the side windows of the salon. The initial part of the waterway is Sisters Creek, and as such it twists and turns. As we get to Nassau Sound, I see a tug coming pushing a barge.
I move way to starboard, as it appears we are going to meet in the bend that occurs as the waterway crosses the sound. I am listening to the NOAA Weather on the VHF radio. I am thinking we probably want to stop earlier than Cumberland Sound, and at a marina, not on anchor. The evening is forecast to have strong winds, and scattered thunderstorms. We call the Harbor Marina at Fernandina Beach and get one of their first come first served slips. Matthew had ripped them pretty good, and only a small part of their docks are in service. We go into town for the balance of the afternoon, and beginning of the evening.
We shop some in the assorted shops, and eat dinner at The Marina Restaurant. We went in for seafood, but their daily specials are down home type cooking. I get meat loaf, and Barbara gets Southern Fried Chicken. And they have fresh warm cake from the oven for dessert. It feels good as the weather has gotten more raw, with the rain increasing in hardness and longer duration of showers. When we turn in for the evening, the rain is continuous.
       Tuesday, it is cool in the boat, even though the heat was on through the night. It is still damp from Monday. And it is drafty as the winds are howling, and there are large white caps on the waterway in front of the docks. We listen to the NOAA weather on the radio and decide to stay put for the day.
We have to travel several large sounds in Georgia, and they will be very unpleasant with the strong SW winds. We see 6 other boats traveling today, 2 north, and 4 south. The damp  chill makes me think the boats going south know something that I do not.
       On Wednesday, we get up and the winds have shifted out of the NW as predicted by NOAA. and they are not blowing as hard. We get SummerTime ready to leave after a warm breakfast as the outside temp is in mid 40s. We decide to shower as we will be on anchor tonight. Bad decision. By the time the showers are done, the winds are up in speed. We get the dockhand to help us get away without hitting anything, as the wind and the rising tide are both racing in the same direction. Even though it is cold, with a terrible wind chill, I elect to run from the fly bridge. Barbara joins me on the fly bridge after she has all the dock lines secured. As we cross the St Marys River, we occasionally get some spray up on the fly bridge. The rising tide is running against the NW winds, creating some sizable (2-3') white caps. We meet three USCG boats. One small one, and two 40'+ patrol boats. They are patrolling the entry channel as the US Navy's Kings Bay submarine base is just ahead. There is a small navy vessel patrolling in front of the base as we go by. After the base, we make a right turn and are on the AICW in Georgia. We are passed by a go-fast Cruiser with a hailing port of Arlington, Va. After another bend, I think I see a ship on the horizon. I think it can not be as we are on the Water Way. I have Barbara check with the binoculars. She confirms it is a ship, and  moving. I hear him contact the go-fast boat, and ask for the middle of the channel. The go-fast boat acknowledges. I then call the "American Star" and acknowledge her presence and my intentions to pass port to port. As we go by, it is a small cruise ship.
The trip is uneventful for the next several hours. We eat lunch as we pass by Jekyll Island. We plug the small electric heater into the inverter powered receptacles to start putting heat into the sleeping area. It is supposed to get near freezing tonight. We are passed by two fast moving sport fisherman traveling together, with hailing ports of Manteo, NC. And then we are by St. Simons Island. We are pretty much alone on the waterway now. We enter the Front River, and it is almost dead low tide.
The mud flats on each side leave no doubt as to why this straight stretch is called "The Narrows" on the chart. We come to our planned anchorage just before the Sapelo River at about 5:40. Our first creek choice is too shallow across the entrance. We nudge onto a sand bar trying to enter the mouth, and back off. We move to the Ridge River Mouth and anchor. There is a 25' deep pocket in the mouth. It must have been the anchorage for a dredge at some time, as it is right off the waterway. We run the generator to cook dinner, top off the batteries, and run the furnace some before retiring.
      I got up before 5 this morning to start the generator. It is cold inside the boat, 45F by the thermometer on my portable clock. I need to start the generator so the furnace has power to run. The boat is up to 72F inside when I get up again at 7. Barbara cooks oatmeal so we have a warm breakfast. It is about 9 when we weigh anchor to continue our trip towards Savannah. It is fairly straight forward. No shallow areas to surprise us today. We come to the area called Hell Gate. We pass through this approximately .5 mile long channel connecting two rivers and I am dumbfounded. I do not see what all the fuss is about. There are cross currents. The channel is well marked. And while not deep, it is of adequate depth for all but the deepest draft sailboats. We continue on and eventually get to the Burnside River. We hit the first of a "speed/no wake" zone we have been cautioned about. It is fairly long, and as we leave it, we cross the mouth of the "Moon River" that Johnny Mercer penned a famous Andy Williams song about. It is not wider than a mile as Barbara and I both sing the parts of the lyrics we know. We get out of the speed zone, and about a mile later we are in another speed zone. We had some time saved as a comfort zone to get to the marina for the evening. But the speed zones is eating that time up. We get a fast section, and then a slow section. In one of the fast sections, I decide it is time to exercise Mr. Perkins before giving him  a few days off. With current pushing us, and some wind help also. SummerTime gets to 17.4mph at 2700rpm. We eventually get to Thunderbolt Marine in Thunderbolt, GA close to our appointed time late afternoon. We are given a slip on the back side of the face pier, and between two other boats. Getting in there test my skills and the ability to use the stern thruster and forward motion at the same time to kind of "crab" into the vacancy. We contact my sister and her husband who are driving to Savannah to meet us for a mini vacation together. They are encountering detours, and are running late. We agree to meet on Friday, and Barbara and I cook and eat on the boat.
      Thunderbolt Marine, true to their word, delivers Krispy Kreme donuts to the boat a little before 7. It is a decades old tradition for this marina to deliver fresh Krispy Kremes to their transient guests. Barbara and I wolf the donuts down, and then head up to the bath house to get a bath before my sister and her husband get to Thunderbolt. The four of us are going to downtown Savannah. This mini vacation was to be an historic area tour. But we learned that Savannah has the second biggest St. Patrick festival in the country, only behind NYC. We know we will not find parking downtown due to the size of the parade and number of spectators. We go to a nearby mall and catch a bus to the downtown parade area. It is free to ride the bus today. But it takes over an hour to get downtown. It is worth the ride. We are an hour and a half late for the start, but the parade is still going strong.
The spectators around us are a show to themselves. We enjoy the parade, and after about two hours, we leave to catch the bus back. There is still a half hour of parade left to pass according to the CofC promoting the size of this festival in Savannah. Officially they make it a 3:45 length parade. We get back to the car, and find a fast food for lunch. As my sister has never seen an eagle in the wild, we decide to drive to the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge. When we call up the Refuge's website, we discover there were 5 eagle sightings earlier in the week. It takes us about 30minutes to get to the entry. There is a dirt road that winds about 5 miles through the refuge. There are lots of birds in here.
Mostly wetlands birds as this refuge is mostly marsh grass with some solid areas to support some tree growth and stands. We are rewarded for our efforts. About half way through we see a solitary eagle sitting in the top of a tall tree. He is quite visible in the bare tree. And on the road ahead there are cars stopping. When we get to this area, we discover why. It is not a bird, but a reptile they are all looking at. There is a gator about 8' long laying on the opposite bank. A little farther down this road, between the two bodies of water, we see another gator, longer still swimming.
He is very close to the car up on the road. We leave the refuge with my sister able to check off two of the animals she wanted to see in the wild. I have to eat crow. As we see eagles almost every week while traveling by boat, I did not think that we would ever see one by car. 
       We get back to Thunderbolt, Ga where SummerTime is tied up. We stop on the way in and go to Tubby's to eat. The food is very good with good desserts. This mini vacation with my sister and her husband is starting out very good.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017


       We are awaken early (6:30+) on Saturday morning to SummerTime rocking against the floating dock of Corky Bells. Unusual as there is no weather to speak of on this part of the river. We get going and in just a few minutes we make the detour into Murphy's Creek. It was part of the sight seeing info we got from our new Looper friends this past Wednesday at "docktales". It is a lovely, scenic creek with no habitation as we wander on it back to where it loops back into the St. John River.
Fisherman are all we see as there are no houses on this creek until we get back to the St. John. We also meet several bass boats that are flying on this creek, barely able to make the sharp turns of the creek at the speeds they are traveling. There are a number of places where the water lilies are just starting to have buds develop for flowers. And some of the hardwood trees are starting to bud out also. The St John River is now narrower, and lined on each side with cypress, palm, and other swamp type trees. Occasionally  there is a community or series of houses along the river to break up the natural beauty.
We continue south going upstream (those words sound odd together in the US) until we get to Lake George, the second largest lake in Florida. We stop at the Georgetown Marina and RV Park to take on fuel. This is one of the last places to get diesel as we head south. A power catamaran comes in from the south as we fuel. They are live aboards and former loopers also, having completed the loop in 2015. We talk to them about going to Silver Glen Spring, hopefully our stop for the night. They tell us the creek coming out is shallower than normal, and we will probably not be able to get in. The dock boy helping us to fuel confirms what they are saying, stating that the lake is down 1' in depth this year due to low rains. He also tells us that a Bass Tournament originated in Palatka this morning, which explains the early morning boat rocking. And all the bass boats flying through Murphy Creek. We thank them and head out onto Lake George. I plot the course into the GPS to get us to Silver Glen Spring. An easy plot, as we make two turns to get onto Lake George, go 3/4 the way across, and turn towards the Springs entrance. We were told by our friends back in Jacksonville about how clear the springs were if we went up the creek, and the popularity of them for local boaters, particularly on weekends.
       We get to our turning point on the lake, and turn towards the springs. I am looking through the binoculars for the "Manatee Warning Sign" that is supposed to be next to the deeper line into the Springs creek. I see it and correct the course to it. I notice that some of the smaller boats seem to be changing course as they enter the entrance to the creek. We get to the "Manatee" sign and I feel SummerTimes keel touch the bottom. It is shallower than our friends told us. I add a little power from our idle speed and power across the shallow area. The water becomes remarkably clear as we leave the brown lake water.
As I head to the buoys marking the entrance Barbara and I discuss going up the creek. As lovely as the trip up sounded, we decide the trip into the creek to the springs is too high a risk. If we were to anchor to spend the night, and the wind changed, the water level at the entrance would go down, maybe a foot as the winds at 10-15mph are currently blowing water across the lake to this area. We could become stuck inside the shallow mouth. We turn around and power back out over the shallow bar guarding the entrance. I plot a new course to Astor, the next little city on the St John River after leaving Lake George. We leave the lake, and are in a whole new part of the river. It is narrower, with more water lilly patches. We turn into Morrison Creek to anchor for the night. We anchor just before a residential area, across from the pier at the end of a cattle ranch. We have Blue Herons nesting in the tree towering over us. And one of the 5 nests has young chicks. They appear to be 1' tall, and they are not flying yet. Also, they are noisy even after dark.
        Sunday morning we get up and start thinking how to get to church. I take my shower while Barbara cooks breakfast. She gets her shower after breakfast. It appears that there are only 3 churches in Astor, and only one is near the water. We would need to dinghy to a public dock to get to a road to walk on. There are no public or dinghy docks shown in the guide books, or on "Google" maps. We do our own "Bible" reading on board, and play a gospel CD. We weigh anchor about 11 to head for Sanford. The bottom must have been very muddy and soft, as I spend a lot of time cleaning the chain. We continue south on the St. John toward Sanford. Just past the Astor bridge, we meet three wooden home built cruisers, all the same model. The front one is flying a gold (completed) looper flag, but we are by before I can get the boat name. It is warmer today than on Saturday, with more sun. I think it must be in the 70s today. We see a lot more lilies, none blooming yet, and for the first time we see turtles sunning on logs. And they are not snapping turtles, actually having some color.
But as yet we have not seen an alligator in the three days we have been traveling. I think it may still be too cold. We go by a House Boat Rental marina. There are a few missing from their docks. Farther down we pass Hontoon State Park, and have to slow for the ferry. It is an electric powered pontoon boat to take people from the mainland (east) side to the Island.
The Island Park is nice looking, and has docks for boats smaller than SummerTime. There are about 6-8 "C-Dorys" (a popular small outboard cruiser) tied to the docks. A few miles farther south we come to Blue Springs, a day tourist area. It is blocked off to boat traffic as it is a Manatee wintering area. There are a lot of kayaks in the St John and the adjacent lagoon. It is a no wake area which is okay, as there are so many errant kayakers around that it is not safe to go above an idle speed. And there are people on rented pontoon boats (identified with livery name) that are just drifting around in the middle of the river, seemingly unaware of navigational rules or courtesies. After about a mile we are through the craziness and headed to Lake Monroe. We call Monroe Harbor Marina in Sanford to verify closing time and availability of a slip. We speed up to get to Lake Monroe and make the crossing. We get to the marina about 4:50, just in time to get docked. We call Don of the sloop "John B", whom we cruised NW Florida with, and arrange to meet him for dinner. We have a lovely dinner together at the Italian restaurant next to the marina. We reminisce about our past travels, the fun and trials we had together, and discuss our future trips. Don finished the loop the end of December and is contemplating doing another loop.
       On Monday morning the wind is calm when I get up. The first time we have seen calm conditions in a week. But it is not to last. Before we can get the holding tank pumped out on SummerTime, the wind is picking up from a new direction. We had tail winds most of the journey south, and now it appears we will have tail winds on our return journey north. They are the best kind as they help speed, and increase your fuel mileage. We get away about 9:45. We get across Lake Monroe, and the normally open RR bridge is down. We call for an opening, and the bridgetender tells us there are workers on the bridge and we have to wait an hour for their paint to dry.  I look at my watch, and answer back "you mean when they go to lunch?". No response. And I tell the tender we will anchor and wait between the highway bridge and RR bridge for the next hour. After two passenger trains pass a little after noon, and when the hour is up about 12:15, I radio the bridge tender again.
We pass under the RR bridge about 12:25. I push SummerTime a little harder today, as we would like to get back to Jacksonville about mid day Wednesday. We need some good miles today, and waiting for paint to dry was not in my plans. At Blue Springs, there is almost no traffic this Monday. After seeing the people floating on the previous cool Sunday, I can not envision how many people would be on the water there on a July weekend. It is hard to imagine no one there, even on a winter week day. Only the tour boats are moving about. And one errant rental house boat backing into the middle of the river with no watch on the stern. We ease into neutral gear to let him get out as he obviously has not seen us coming. We pass Hontoon Springs and there are even more "C-Dory"s at the docks today, apparently having some kind of rendezvous.
We make good time, and the weather is a little warmer. As we approach Lake Beresford, I see something in the water ahead. I am thinking a stick, but then it disappears in a small swirl. Barbara tells me I can not count this suspected alligator as seeing one as I have no photos to prove it. We continue northward, pass Morrison Creek, as we have determined we can get comfortably across Lake George today before needing to anchor. We cross Lake George, and make a hook around the island to the west. We anchor for the night in the protection of a large, nearly uninhabited Drayton Island. The wind is calm for the evening and night's sleeping.
        Tuesday we are up and moving north again. We have cereal and instant coffee so we do not start the generator. As we are already across Lake George, the goal is to get well past Palatka today before anchoring again for a night. Our plan is to get to Palmo Cove. It is an uneventful run until we get on the wide part of the river above Palatka. In the distance we can see a USCG helicopter continuing to move over the same area. After a bit a small boat arrives under the helicopter. As we pass we see the boat is also labeled USCG. It is not the normal Coast Guard Patrol vessel you see every day on the water, but a narrow go-fast center console with 3 big outboards on the back.
 We go by and it looks like they are going to put a rescue swimmer out of the helicopter. But they never do. It is obvious they are working together doing some kind of practice.. We get to Palmo Cove and decide to go up Sixmile Creek to anchor. It is narrow, and there is a restaurant up the creek with a long floating dock. We decide we should not tie there. We see two alligators on the way out of this creek.
We come back down looking for a place to anchor. We try to anchor near the mouth, but the bottom is too soft, the anchor does not hold. We go out into the cove and try to find an anchor spot. We go over to the south shore between houses and anchor out of the SE wind. It is a quiet night except for the two USCG helicopters that keep flying overhead. I think that they are looking for something, but there is no chatter or warnings on the radio. Maybe it is night search practice.
     The wind changes before we get up. It is light out of the SW. There are small waves lapping against the hull of SummerTime. I am thinking we may swing on the anchor and increase distance causing the anchor drag alarm to go off. After a bit of not hearing the alarm, I doze off back to sleep. I look at the GPS screen on waking, and it has been tracing our movement during the night. We did move when the wind changed, but not far enough to set off the anchor drag alarm. That is good. We get breakfast again without the generator and head back north on the St John north towards Jacksonville. We pass by Green Cove Springs and their piers look the same. As we move north from them two helicopters, marked USN, approach. They appear to be playing tag with a small boat, which as it gets closer turns out to be a USN boat.
They also are obviously practicing some maneuver as they take turns buzzing the small boat as they move south. We detour into Doctors Lake. It is time to refuel, and the Doctors Lake Marina has the least expensive fuel in the area. We take on 86gal for the 26hr of running time we have done and 2hours of generator time(about 1.8gal). As it is noon, we take our lunch alongside the fuel dock. We head back under the bridge over the Doctors Lake entrance and continue North on the St. John. We see a big jet approach and land at Jacksonville Naval Air Station. We get to Ortega Landing after about another 2 hours. They put us in a new slip just 4 places down from our last slip.
        Our trip on the St John River was very nice. It was cool almost every day we traveled. Sunday was the only day it got above the low 70s. It was too cool for most plants and trees to be blooming. We did see water lilies with buds, but no blooms. We saw azaleas blooming in some yards. Some of the trees were starting to bud, or leaf out. We saw a lot of birds, some in nesting pairs. And we only saw a few wild animals or the reptilian variety.
        On Thursday we do chores and hang around the marina. On Friday we do more chores and hang around the boat. I work on replacing the through hull for the bilge pump, and seem to be successful. We go to dinner in the evening in the Avondale area with Gene as he has a car. We have a nice BBQ dinner at MOJO4. And later ice cream at an ice cream shop there. It has been a very good week where we have done some nature touring and had quality time with friends.

BIRD PHOTOS ALONG THE ST. JOHN. Most were unidentifiable from our Wildlife handbooks.