1 LiveBloggin' the ICW

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Going with the Flo!

Hurricane Florence was making her impending arrival in the neighbourhood known - winds were picking up and gusting to about 55. Although it had been raining off and on, the torrential downpours of later that evening had yet to materialize. It was looking to be a grim evening onboard Gypsy Wind, tied up at the head of a t-dock in River Dunes Marina, just outside of Oriental, NC.
With sunset and the onset of the heavy rains and stronger still winds imminent, I took Aduana for her walk while being outside was still not totally an irrational place to be. A white Mercedes pulled up behind me, two ladies inside with travellers of white wine. This being the south, the driver, Cindy, politely introduced herself and her friend Hannah, and told me that if I wished, I was welcome to stay in Cindy’s guest house, two blocks up the way, rather than remain on the boat.
Thanking her, I said that I would consider it but since it wasn’t too bad on the boat (yet), I would probably remain there for the night. She assured me it was no inconvenience, that the pup and I would be much more comfortable, and if I changed my mind, just come on over.
I thought as they drove off that that was a lovely offer to make to a total stranger. ‘Only in the south’ I mused, does this happen.
Arriving back at the marina, I noted that the walkway to the dock was now six inches underwater and the docks themselves were floating four feet higher than a few hours earlier. There remained about another five feet to the tops of the pilings. And this was twelve hours before Florence even made landfall. I needed to think about this.
I had chosen to come to River Dunes Marina to be safe and protect the boat. That’s because River Dunes is a well known hurricane hole. Marina manager Rich Beliveau is a friend and has been a marvellous supporter of and host to the Sail to the Sun ICW Rally participants in years’ past. 
Staying further south meant being too close to the storm if it made landfall as far north as some models predicted. Going further north, should there for any reason be a bridge closure at Alligator River, I’d be caught in an area with little protection from weather, and no resources or support. This was the best choice by far at a bad time.
My boat, while heeling somewhat in the stronger gusts, was reasonably comfortable, but Aduana wasn’t real happy about that, and the noise of the wind now roaring through the stays. She stayed close by me, an indication of her nervousness.
My big concern was the rising waters - would they lift the docks above the pilings? This would make the entire dock, and the 25 or so boats on it, one big raft floating over to the other side of the lagoon - with me on the t-dock as the greeting committee when it hit the other shore. I was considering what to do to protect my boat, with all options made much more difficult by the now significantly stronger wind, rain and darkness.
Suddenly, a knock on the boat. 
“Let’s go, we’re getting you out of here” said the man on the dock, who I soon discovered was Cindy’s husband Gene. Since I had already started to put together some items, having decided to vacate the premises, it took only a few minutes to complete that process and get onto the dock with Gene.
Within a few minutes, I was ensconced in a lovely guest house behind Gene and Cindy’s home. Wood floors, two leather reclining chairs, hot shower, bath, and streaming video. ‘What could be better’, I asked myself.
Did I mention there was a fridge full of beer?
Then Cindy brought up an amazing homemade bean soup with corn bread for a light dinner. I was very grateful for this as I’d not had enough of an appetite earlier to cook for myself. Then came some great company as Ed and Hanna Miller joined Cindy and Ed to chat and enjoy a good cigar in my new abode.
From hurricane to heaven, all in less than 30 minutes. Life was once again very good.
It turns out that Ed is the developer of the River Dunes community. He assured me that the dock pilings were well anchored and that there was no danger to my boat. 
“Once the water gets high enough, it stops rising in the marina and starts to flood the property”, he told me.
Given that the docklines were tripled, I could now relax, knowing my boat was safe.
After Flo Pool Party - see how stressed everyone is?
By the way, this is why hurricanes occur in the south - it gives southerners the opportunity to show the world what southern courtesy is all about, where total strangers become friends in a matter of moments. And it’s events such as these, when great things happen in the midst of strife or trouble, that keep me sanguine about the rough times. 
As those who know me know, in my life even the worst of times eventually turn into something great. It’s always been that way. You just have to have faith and believe in your heart that the world is a great place - because it is.

As I write this, I’m looking at two white stripes marked on one of the trees behind the house. As long as the water didn’t get to the second white line during the night, which signified high water at the marina, all was good. Since I couldn’t get to the boat anyway in the event of high water, I simply didn’t look at the marks. What about the other mark? If the water reached that high, you reached for your water wings!
This morning, with the change in wind direction, the water is now leaving the marina. The level is over a foot below the lower mark despite the continuing rain. The danger is past and I can relax. My biggest problem will be continuing north due to the debris picked up by the high waters from the storm. This problem will decrease as I move away from the storm battered region and head up to the Annapolis Sailboat Show, and the beginning of the Sail to the Sun ICW Rally a week later in Hampton VA.
The Rally has been described as “a two month long floating party”, which is not how I conceived it originally, but which has turned out to be a pretty fair assessment of the event.
I mean, consider all those wine and cheese parties, dinners and dock parties, dinghy raft ups, and even the occasional rum distillery tour for the pirates in the group. Most boaters heading south on the ICW worry about going aground - the Sail to the Sun participants worry about liver damage.
It truly is a good time, and along with the fun, we take away the concerns you might have of traveling this challenging waterway by providing expert knowledge of the entire 1095 miles of its route so as to avoid the various trouble spots along the way and keep you, and your boat, safe.
More than anything else, Rally folks are making new, wonderful lifetime friendships with people who are sharing the same adventure and together meeting the challenges and fun of a trip south with like minded sailors.
There is one final spot available on this year’s Rally due to a participant unfortunately having to cancel last week due to an unexpected issue. If you’re interested in joining us, you can find more information at www.SailtotheSun.com, request a brochure and even sign up there. 
If you’re planning on heading south this fall, I hope you’ll consider joining us in what will become an adventure you’ll cherish forever. 

If you’re going south, even if not this year, you probably want more information about the hows of doing it safely. In that case, you should plan on attending the third annual Sail to the Sun Annapolis Cruising Seminar.
This full day seminar is held on the Monday of the Sailboat show, making this year’s date October 8. The speakers are all experienced cruising veterans with years of experience and thousands of miles of cruising under their keels. These are people who know what they’re doing and who can give you invaluable advice to make your ICW trip, and cruising in general, much easier.
Speakers this year include Carolyn Shearlock, of the Boat Galley blog, Greg Kutsen of Mantus Anchors, Dave Skolnick, delivery captain and past president of the Seven Seas Cruising Association, and myself. This year’s seminars are also 80 minutes long. 
That’s because, in past years, we’ve found that the well motivated cruising audiences were so eager for more information, and had so many questions, that a 60 minute seminar was simply too short to convey all the valuable information that speakers had. Everyone wanted longer seminars, so we’ve made that change for you.
Carolyn discusses preparing your boat for a hurricane - and having listened to her talk last year, and applied much of it to how I dealt with Flo, I can attest to how valuable her advice is. Carolyn’s boat was one of the very few to survive the massive destruction caused last year when Irma invaded Boot Key Harbor. This lady knows what she’s talking about, although we all sincerely hope you’ll never need to use her advice.
Greg Kutson is the president of Mantus Anchors, and before creating Mantus, he cruised full time. His experiences convinced him that a better anchoring solution was needed, and thus, the incomparable Mantus Anchor was created.
Greg discusses proper anchoring techniques which you can use with any anchor design. This is one of the top five or six seminars I have ever seen, in all my years of cruising, and if you enjoy sleeping comfortably while at anchor, it’s one you must see.
Everyone worries about crossing the Gulf Stream that first time - everyone except Dave Skolnick, who has done this more times and in more boats, than he can count. His seminar on crossing the Stream is guaranteed to give you the confidence you need to make this cruisers’ rite of passage with the assurance that you’re doing it right. Dave also busts some myths about how so called ‘experts’ say you must cross, but having put his advice to the test, I can assure you, he’s got the goods.
I wrap the day up with my discussion on how to cruise the ICW, what to bring, what to leave behind, where the problem areas are and how to deal with them using my magical three word phrase, and much much more.
Along with all this great advice, you’ll have lots of time to ask your questions of the speakers. At the end of all this, we have a happy hour with drinks and nibbles during which you can meet the speakers and chat with them personally. Lunch is of course provided. For more information, or for tickets, click through to www.eventbrite.com/