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Time Traveling In The Jungle

One of the best things about Edisto Island is that the tap water tastes vile.

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Salty, soft and slightly soapy its effect on a cup of English tea is to render it utterly undrinkable. And every time the town has a vote on improving the flavour of the water most people vote “no!”.

They said “No!”

You see Edisto Island occupies a very desirable piece of South Carolina geography, just 40 minutes drive from the sophistication, wealth and burgeoning suburbs of historic Charleston.

Only a certain kind of person will put up with either installing a reverse osmosis water treatment plant in their home or collecting their 5 gallons of free “RO” treated water each day from the town hall taps. And this is certainly enough to deter property developers from risking large housing developments in such quirky conditions.

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Hurricanes and Old Friends

Tracking two hurricanes as they head across the ocean towards the South East USA is an effective way to re-live some of the anxieties of your former yachting life.

Helen, Georgia has made its name being a Bavarian style alpine town, with Octoberfests and gingerbread roof trim on the wooden shops of the high street.

Our original sailing plan when we had a yacht (new readers please see previous boat/fire/disaster posts…) was to be well north of the hurricane zone in the critical time period of course…. in yacht insurance terms this zone ends at latitude30.5`N which is about where Florida turns into Georgia.

We had scooted the bus back down from Canada on the last day of September, to our “boon-docking” spot near Atlanta, Georgia (free camping in other words) on Rob and Angela’s driveway, to do some anxious/urgent/boring vehicle admin’. However, you can only spend so many hours in the day stressing about that and watching the weather so meantime I tasked myself with:-

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On Borders, Campfires and Double Plaid

“Oh Ca-na-da” as they sing…getting in was easy, getting out again not so much!

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Rideau Lakes campground at sunset

The Thousand Islands region is a beautiful and handy spot where the border between the United States and Canada runs East West-ish through the waters of the St Lawrence River, as it exits a corner of Lake Ontario.

Visions of the bus breaking down again before the border and simply abandoning it to jog the rest of the way passport in hand played in my mind as we approached…

You can peer down at picturesque riverside holiday homes dotted along the shore of New York State as you drive over the green painted metal toll-bridge and arrive in Ontario, Canada. It is so handy that many Canadians take a day trip in the other direction for a bit of duty-free shopping.

Definition of an island here? Two trees and at least 1 square foot of land above water all year. Many of the smaller rocky outcrops appear to have just enough room for the tiny wooden shed bolted onto them, some larger versions also feature docks and green gardens creating an enviable little rocky one-house universe in the midst of the river.

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The border! And a few of the Thousand Islands.

Our mission in Canada was two-fold.

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Virginia and The “Accidental Tourists”

A confession. To me, the “countryside” of North America is frankly intimidating in comparison to quaint English woodlands and footpaths.

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The Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia

…how do you get out and enjoy these places without a machete, a compass, a bear gun, a tent and a wilderness guide?

Our first proper RV campsite, after setting off from our friends driveway in Georgia, was a little one with just 20 spots! Owned by the whiskery Patrick – who would wander each evening in his Frank Lloyd Wright T-shirt, glass of whisky in hand – the campsite followed a river bank in the small and homely Virginia town of Damascus.

The Blue Ridge Mountains are a wonderful and very popular part of the Appalachian Mountain chain, which runs along the eastern USA from as far south as Alabama and even pokes up into Newfoundland, Canada. It has been one of L’s ambitions to see these rolling blue-green ridges and ranges up close for many years, so now that we are no longer “at sea” it’s the perfect time to do that!

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Taking the Jeep out onto the Blue Ridge Parkway, one of Americas favourite scenic roads
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An Ending and a New Beginning – Part 2

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From our bedroom window

We sailed out of Edisto Island, South Carolina in early July with two things. A fridge rammed full of Kings’ Farmers Market veg. And a determination to make some proper progress north as planned. Actually three things! An Edisto Island Yacht Club burgee (small pointy flag) flying in our rigging.

..we confirmed the problem “techno-cologicaly” by poking a mop handle into the water off the swim ladder and hitting the sandy bottom almost immediately.

We covered a lot of water over the following days and nights and had some good experiences and some not so good. I will summarise a little…

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An Ending and a New Beginning – Part 1

Partly I have been a bit side tracked…partly our world went up in flames. Hence the delay in making any new blog posts – apologies!

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Exhausted, eyes closed, two pairs of specs but we made it!

My last post in June 2018 left us on beautiful, wild Cumberland Island, Georgia preparing to sail to our old “happy holiday” spot of Edisto Beach, South Carolina. Which we did, attracting lots of attention as we sailed in with people waving from the beach and dodging our 39 foot catamaran through the flotillas of jay-walking kayaks very slowly.  A spot that sees few sailing yachts it seems.

Our peaceful spot on Big Bay Creek

But I have jumped ahead. Our trip would be 26 hours of sailing at the stately speed of 5 -6 knots, so we had plenty of time to check our progress, snooze, raise sails, drop sails, drink tea etc.

That night, I realised that my “VHF radio voice” needed to drop an octave at least. And I’m not saying please anymore.

Somehow, no matter how much time you have to prepare, something on the night shift will always catch you unawares and this time it was the hornet’s nest that is the inlet to the Savannah River with its to and fro of massive commercial ships.

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Cumberland Island, a Georgia wilderness

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Me and the lady bike, way off the beaten track on Cumberland Island

Some natural places are so unique and so distinctive, they are easily identified, especially by those that love them. The maritime forests and salt marshes of the southern Atlantic coast of the USA (the lower right hand edge in case you are struggling to visualise) are just such places.

Add to that mix wild horses, ruined mansions, a history involving some of Americas wealthiest families and access only by boat and it makes for a pretty special experience.

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Chop and Change

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An anchorage on the edge of the city. Palm Beach and West Palm Beach.

I’m all about the contrast me…I love the way contrast and change keep life interesting and your eyes and mind open. The wonder and privilege of travelling of course is masses of contrast and change!

..if you think you can hold your boat somewhere by dropping your anchor no one will stop you, as long as you are not in the way or doing something stupid.

We accidentally timed our arrival at the very end of March 2018 from the sleepy Bahamas into Palm Beach, Florida with an outbreak of the water-borne disease known as “boat show craziness”, but by Monday morning and after a good dose of sleep things looked better.

The amazing thing about parking your boat on its anchor is that it free.  Usually – for better or worse – if you think you can hold your boat somewhere by dropping your anchor no one will stop you, as long as you are not in the way or somewhere stupid.

This allows you to experience life in some amazing places such as Palm Beach for example, which is home to 29 billionaires. Rent free.

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Going Down to Nassau Town

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When we arrived in March, we were the only Union Jack red ensign flag flying boat to be seen anchored off Athol Island in view of Fort Montague, although the British historical links to Nassau are everywhere.

As the capital “city” of the Bahamas, Nassau is actually on New Providence Island – a place we were comprehensively warned about by the quiet living country folk on other islands who had found the “crazy” pace of life here just too much. Seems like everyone in the Bahamas has either worked there or has left children, parents or husbands there to earn money in the honey pot. The economic contrast with most other islands is stark.

Our expectations were pretty low having also had assorted drama queens paint a picture of endless cruise ships disgorging and rampant tourist muggings.

Turns out you can avoid all that by parking up at the quieter eastern end and not shopping at the “I went to Nassau…” rum & T-shirt shop.

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Little Fort Montague at the quieter end, the popular local beach park and some of our yachtie neighbours Continue reading…
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Three Times Elated in Eleuthera

I started a day of thankfulness for (probably) the best year of my life with a large papaya wiv’ a candle stuck in it.

Sometimes sleeping on a boat is like the best kind of camping, that special feeling of almost sleeping outside and nature being very close. If you like that feeling you will know it makes you sleep very contentedly, even if you do wake in the night with the noises of animals, rain or sloshing wavelets and changing sea breezes. If you don’t like that feeling…why on earth not?!

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Pretty and peaceful Rock Sound, Eleuthera Island

We awoke in the 3 mile long, picturesque natural harbour of Rock Sound, Eleuthera on a calm and sunny day.

A bit of a landmark day for me, being not only my late February birthday but the 1 year anniversary of giving up working for a living. I started a day of thankfulness for (probably) the best year of my life with a large papaya wiv’ a little candle stuck in it.

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My birthday papaya, lovingly transported from Long Island! Continue reading…