Claustrophobia?!

I was in a cold, dark place.  In a varnished wood coffin-sized box that was open on top.  The box was at the top of a ramp, in a cave or mine or some other sort of enclosed chute, and it was about to be launched downward.  I had no control – no means of propulsion or steering or stopping.  I started yelling out “Help me!  Help me!  Help me!”  Rick touched my leg and asked what was wrong.  As my eyes opened (no contact lenses, no glasses), I blearily took in the low ceiling and the buffed cherry all around me.  “I don’t know where I am!”

I finally regained sensibility, and realized I was having another one of the similarly-themed dreams that have been haunting me lately.  Me, in a too-small space, and no way to get out of it.

Which is curious.  I occasionally have bouts of mild claustrophobia, but they haven’t done much other than keep me from entering caves or SCUBA diving.  And despite living in tight quarters these last 6 months, I generally haven’t felt deprived of space.

But then again, the v-berth, where I sleep with my head at the peak, might not help.

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The v-berth, this morning.  The 1,987,623rd consecutive day I’ve made the bed.

And lately, with all of the foul weather gear we’ve had to wear and allow to dry, the shower hasn’t been very roomy.

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That’s Rick today, on our way to Morehead City, NC, bundled up.  At least the sun finally came out and neither of us was wearing sea boots, like we did yesterday.

And the aft cabin is serving as our “garage.”

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Is it any wonder I have a spreadsheet that tracks all of this stuff?

And the nav station needs to be tidied up.

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Every home has a dumping ground, and ours is the nav station.

But while the galley is snug, I’ve learned how to manage without feeling too crowded.

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But I still always forget to get an ingredient from the locker behind the cooktop.  And don’t remember to get it until after I’ve lit the burner.

Of course, last night we were anchored in an anchored called Mile Hammock Bay.  Anchoring is allowed, but landing on the shore is strictly prohibited.  That’s because it’s right in the middle of Camp Lejeune.  Where they regularly conduct training with live ammunition.  Either they took a break for Easter, or we just couldn’t hear it over the howling wind.

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That might inspire a nightmare or two.

*   *   *   *   *

Fettuccine with Fish and Mushrooms

I’m getting to the stage where I’m trying to use up all of the provisions we’ve stocked.   So when planning dinner, I blindly reach into the freezer and choose some random protein around which to create a meal.  Last night, I pulled hog snapper (fish from Green Turtle Cay), and this pasta dish is what I concocted with it.

6 oz. fettuccine, cooked

Olive oil

1 shallot, minced

3 oz. prosciutto, chopped

¼ cup julienned sundried tomatoes

½ cup sugar snap peas

14 ounce can mushrooms (fresh would be preferable, but they don’t last in the fridge)

½ pound fresh firm fish, cut in bite-sized pieces (I used the hog snapper)

1 tbsp oregano

2 tbsp butter

1 tbsp flour

8 ounces skim milk

¼ cup shredded parmesan

Salt and pepper to taste (don’t salt until the very end, since the prosciutto and parmesan are salty)

In a large saucepan, in about 2 tablespoons of olive oil, sauté the shallot and prosciutto until the shallot is translucent.  Add the sundried tomatoes, sugar snap peas and mushrooms and continue sautéing until warmed through.  Add the fish, and cook long enough for the fish to become opaque.  Add the oregano and butter, and cook until the butter melts.  Add the flour and toss to coat the other ingredients.  Add the milk and parmesan and cook until the mixture tightens.  Season with salt and pepper.  Toss with cooked pasta.

Makes 4 servings.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ICW Blues

Maybe they are more accurately called the ICW Browns – that has been the color of the cypress-stained waters in this part of the waterway, until abruptly the water turned back to green once we passed the Cape Fear River.  But that wouldn’t have the same ring to it.

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The water doesn’t just look brown; it IS brown.  It’s like strong tea.

The last few mornings have found me covered to the top of my head with the down comforter, moaning when Rick wakes me just before 7 am so we can move north.  I feel like a high school kid not wanting to get ready for the bus, but when I wake up, I’m reminded that I’m on a great adventure.  But it’s not been very much fun lately.  In fact, it’s been downright miserable.

The weather took a real turn for the worse when we left Charleston.

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Charleston’s Battery on a grey morning.

With the rains came really low temperatures and high winds.  The first night out of Charleston, we anchored at my behest much sooner than we’d intended, since the weather was so terrible.  What could have been a gorgeous evening surrounded by salt marshes in the South Santee River became an anxious night at anchor, watching the wind gusting consistently over 40 knots.   And at anchor, we can’t run our heater because it requires 120-volt electricity.

The next day, I insisted on a marina (and believe me, I LOVE being at anchor) so we could plug in and be warm.  We stopped at Wacca Wache in South Carolina, near Murrell’s Inlet.

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The Wacca Wache marina, on an especially pretty and secluded-feeling stretch of the waterway.

And then the next day, at Southport Marina just over the North Carolina border.

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The Southport waterfront, with a light-heartedly named boat Booger.

(While we’ve been sequestered in our little ICW universe, there’s so much going on half a mile from us.  Wacca Wache, for example, seems like an idyllic little backwater stop, but the sprawl of Myrtle Beach is just moments away.)

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A cypress swamp in South Carolina.

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The ocean and beaches are never far from this stretch of ICW, but become especially evident when we approach an inlet from the ocean to ICW.  Swamps give way to dunes and beach houses (Cindy L., this picture of Sunset Beach from the ICW is for you.)

Just in case you think we are being Bahama-softened wusses complaining about the weather, temperatures had been in the 30s in the morning, with wind (on the nose) in the 20-25 knot range.  That means a formidably low wind chill.  And we’re not really prepared with the proper clothing.

My typical outfit has consisted of a t-shirt, fleece, windbreaker or foul-weather jacket on top; a ball cap with a pashmina scarf wrapped around my ears; sailing gloves; foul weather pants; and Keen sandals (my warmest shoes) with socks.  Fashion plates we are not!

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Me, in some of my many layers.

With the weather woes, we’ve come to the first stretch of the waterway I’ve experienced where the chart plotter and our actual position only have a passing familiarity.  Even under the best of circumstances, driving the boat up the ICW requires attention and care as the channel is often very narrow and makes many jogs, twists and turns.  Even though we use the autopilot, we are constantly making minute adjustments to our course.  Navigational marks help, and when in doubt, we follow the channel marks and/or stay in the apparent middle of the channel.  Rick and I take turns doing 2-hour watches, and whoever is on watch is concentrating hard.

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Dare you honor that channel mark?

However, this isn’t always enough.  On Thursday, in the middle of the marked channel, both on the chart plotter and visually, I suddenly found the depth drop from 14 feet to 7 feet to 5.4 feet (we need 5 feet).  By the time I throttled down and shut off the autopilot, it was down to 3.8 feet and I was touching the bottom.  We backed off the shoal – it was soft mud – and went on our way, but I was rattled.  The rest of the day, the chart plotter showed me at times traversing through land, even though in reality I was in plenty of deep water.

In the meantime, the one of us who is off watch is busy doing other things – making lunch, reading, blogging, fixing things, washing dishes.  But one of those activities has been informed house hunting (damn you, Merlin Ed, for showing us the Zillow app!)  Whenever we see some houses we like, the GPS and Zillow functions on our iPhones show us available properties and prices.

This has dovetailed conveniently with our 2-night stay in Wrightsville, NC, at the Seapath Yacht Club.

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The dreary view from the docks at Seapath Yacht Club — a marina I would highly recommend for its friendly and knowledgable staff.

Here we are a few minutes’ walk from Wrightsville Beach – which isn’t at its best in this cruddy weather.

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It’s spring break for a lot of people, and since they’re at the beach, they WILL go in the water and surf.

Similarly, a drive to Carolina Beach and Kure Beach revealed an equally bleak seascape.

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At Kure Beach, the colorful houses do little to brighten the day.

But a bonus has been the opportunity to visit the historic, active and attractive town of Wilmington.  Although it’s cold and rainy, the town looks lush and green, and there’s plenty of life in the old-fashioned downtown commercial district.

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An old-style downtown district with no chain stores, as well as rows of attractive restaurants and cafes along a waterfront walkway on the Cape Fear River.

And the historic residential district is equally appealing.

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I’ve already picked out “my” house….

Add another one to the list….

From Calypso’s Galley II

From Calypso’s Galley II

Now that we are back in the US, we have some different factors at work in the galley.  While we have greater access to some ingredients, they are not always practical to carry, keep or cook with in a boat’s galley.

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Fresh basil would be great to have.  But if you can get it, it doesn’t keep very long.  And my thumb is too brown to grow it the way some cruisers do.   So I keep several tubes of basil paste in the fridge, where they’ve kept for months.

We’ve also been dealing with some unexpectedly cold weather, as well as an ocean passage.

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Last night at anchor, we had gusts in the 40+ knot range.  Not a pleasant combination with cold temperatures.

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The cypress and salt marsh lined shores of the Waccamaw River in South Carolina are beautiful.  But 37 degrees in mid-April?  Seriously?

A handful of new or adapted recipes have emerged.

What To Do With FRESH Fish

Thanks to Alexis and Berwick (M/V Moondance), we had some fresh caught mahi on hand.  But we were in a marina the night I proposed to cook some of it, ruling out grilling.  My philosophy with pristine fish is to do very little with it – it’s just wonderful by itself.  So I quickly pan seared the mahi, drizzled a little Soy Vey Island Teriyaki on it, and served it alongside a salad of dark greens and boat-ripened tomatoes and balsamic vinaigrette.

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If I’m inspired, I’ll make my own Dijon balsamic vinaigrette.  My recipe is unconventional.  The typical ratio is 3 parts of oil to 1 part vinegar.  However, to reduce fat, I flip the ratio.  To combat the sour-ness of the extra vinegar, I add a little Splenda.  To make my vinaigrette:

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

9 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon coarse Dijon mustard

½ packet Splenda

Salt and pepper to taste

Whisk all ingredients together and serve over salad.

What to Do With FRESH Shrimp

We could hardly leave Charleston without laying our hands on some fresh shrimp – from a seafood market right near the City Marina.  10 years ago, I’d have cooked the shrimp in a pound of butter, but we try to be healthier these days!  So I used them with my go-to Thai seafood recipe (which I’ve adapted for the boat from Running on MT’s Julie’s recipe).

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Shrimp with Thai Red Curry

1 14.5 ounce can lite coconut milk

2 tablespoons Patak’s red curry paste

2 tablespoons fish sauce

2 packets Splenda

2 tablespoons basil paste (ideally, I’d use a bunch of chopped fresh basil)

¼ cup julienned sundried tomatoes (normally, I’d use cherry tomatoes….)

1 cup sugar snap peas (you can use snow peas, broccoli, etc.)

1 pound shell-on shrimp, peeled and deveined

Cooked brown rice noodles

In deep skillet or large saucepan, combine coconut milk, curry paste, fish sauce, Splenda and basil paste and bring to a simmer.  Add basil paste, sundried tomatoes and sugar snap peas and simmer for about 3 minutes.  Add shrimp and cook until just barely pink and no longer translucent.  Serve over brown rice noodles.

What’s Better Than Chili When It’s Chilly?

 We did an ocean passage from Cumberland Island, GA to Beaufort, SC.  When doing a passage, you can’t count on calm seas.  And regardless of the temperature inland, the wind and sea often combine to make things feel cooler.  Chili is a great meal to prepare in advance because it keeps well and is easy to eat from a deep bowl.  It’s also warming and satisfying.

In my case, I made a batch of turkey chili, which we ate not only on the passage, but have also served over tortilla chips with parmesan cheese as “nachos.”  As cold as it was this morning, the very thought of having it for lunch today gave us something to look forward to.

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Eva’s Turkey Chili

1.5 – 2 pounds ground turkey

2 tablespoons canola oil

1 large can of beans, including liquid (I like pintos because they look nice and toasty, but you can use navy or cannellini beans)

1 large onion, diced

1 yellow or orange bell pepper, diced (the color is for optics only; you can use red or green if you prefer)

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1 chicken bouillon cube

4 cups water

2 tablespoons chili powder

1 tablespoon ground cumin

1 tablespoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon chili sauce (I like Goya’s picante sauce)

Salt and pepper to taste

In a Dutch oven, sauté onion, bell pepper and garlic in canola oil until the onion is translucent.  Add ground turkey and sauté until it’s cooked through.  Add water and bouillon cube and simmer until the bouillon dissolves.  Add seasonings and continue to simmer until the ingredients are combined.  Season with salt and pepper if necessary.

If the chili is too thick, add some water.  If too thin, add a bit of flour dissolved in water and cook through.

Serve with garnishes that can include tortilla chips, white cheese (I used grated parmesan) and sour cream.

 

 

 

Carolina In My Mind

Actually, James Taylor is from North Carolina, and I imagine the song was inspired by his Carolina, but I always think of South Carolina – and its Queen City, Charleston – whenever I hear it.

After leaving Beaufort, we wound our way through miles and miles of salt marsh to reach Charleston, where we’ve spent 3 nights at the Charleston City Marina.

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Beaufort’s Lady’s Island Bridge, opening for us just after dawn.  And lots and lots and lots of marshes.

One of those nights was on its (in)famous Megadock, stretching for nearly ¼ of a mile.  It’s a fairly swank location, with all the amenities one might wish for, and then some.  Its principal appeal is its location and the courtesy shuttle running all over the peninsula.

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Azaleas at the Battery, retaining the last of their blossoms.

We didn’t have a particular agenda in mind for Charleston, as we’ve visited many times before from rented beach house bases on the nearby sea islands.  It was more a matter of absorbing the ambience of this supremely lovely and gracious town.  Inhaling the rankness of plough mud at low tide as well as the sweet perfume of jasmine.  Feeling the warmth of the sun, as well as humidity (all of which is about to change and bring us record low temperatures).  Partaking of her splendid local cuisine, inspired by the abundance of her waters and land (meals at 82 Queen, Cypress, and a lovely lunch with our friends Shelley and Peter (Lifesong) at Slightly North of Broad).

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The architecture of Charleston is so overwhelmingly gorgeous that I chose to focus on an element of it in many of my photos: the window boxes, decked out in spring flowers.

On the second Sunday of every month, King Street – a main street with lots of shops and restaurants – is closed to car traffic, and it seems all of the town comes out to stroll its length, dressed in smart Sunday afternoon clothes.  We joined them, and spent a few bucks on shoes – my feet, which haven’t been in a closed shoe since November, alarmingly fit into a Size 42 (equivalent US size 10!!!), but they were really cute, so ….

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Of course, Charleston may be best known for her gorgeous residential district on the southern part of the peninsula, so that’s where I’ll leave this post.

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One feature shared by many homes is the side gallery/porch which is referred to as a piazza here.  They were designed to catch any and all stray breezes in an era well before the invention of air conditioning.

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Chasing Spring

As we’ve been making our way back to the US and northward home, we’ve timed – or tried to time – our journey to coincide with the arrival of full-fledged, bona fide, spring.  I have NO interest in being cold.   But spring has been elusive, even in Florida, as cold fronts have had us chilled in our bunks at night, and wearing unaccustomed layers of clothing during the day.

Yet despite the weather, there are places which in my mind are emblematic of spring.  Perhaps it’s because I’ve only visited in the spring.  Or because my mental image of them is inextricably tied with spring.

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This just looks like spring!

Unlike a lot of first-time ICW cruisers, we’ve not had the luxury of dawdling because of personal deadlines (various commitments, including work).  So we’ve had to prioritize.  While I’d have liked to visit several more of the Georgia Sea Islands such as Brunswick, St. Simons and Jekyll, we limited ourselves to Cumberland.

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As we were leaving Cumberland, we had to share the channel with a submarine being escorted into the river.  You don’t see that everyday!

We chose to go offshore, overnight, to skip the rest of Georgia.  The miles we did in the ocean were far more efficient than the distance we could have covered on the ICW.

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Just look at the twists and turns of the ICW we missed in Georgia by going offshore.

While we were out on the ocean, we found ourselves in unexpectedly excellent sailing conditions, and actually had to keep shortening sail to slow down.

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The Coast Guard also thought it was a good day, doing training exercises offshore.

We toyed with using the wind to our advantage and going as far as Charleston, but decided that we would rather enter the Port Royal inlet at night and NOT miss Beaufort, South Carolina.  (Pronounced Byoo-fort; the one in NC is pronounced Boe-fort.)

To me, Beaufort IS spring.

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The view as we make our way up the Beaufort River.

My first mental image of Beaufort is from the movie The Big Chill, which I saw very early in college.  While I joined my little clan of friends in trying to figure out which of the characters each of us was, or would be, I was also trying to figure out how to end up living in THE HOUSE!   Later, when I read Pat Conroy’s Prince of Tides, his descriptive (if somewhat overblown) prose transported me there.  Rick and I finally got to visit when we came to Hilton Head for one of our spring tennis trips (which have since been replaced by a yearly pilgrimage to New Orleans for Jazz Fest).

I was smitten.  The azaleas were in full bloom and life in this exquisite tidewater town moved as if captured in golden honey.  Our arrival here, after 20+ hours at sea yesterday, was no less pleasing – though the azaleas were perhaps a week past their prime.  The juxtaposition of gracious neo-Classical southern architecture, salt marsh, and rioting vegetation make for an intoxicating combination.

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Salt marshes and flowers in bloom.  Wish I could bottle it.

We were docked at the Downtown Marina, sharing space with replicas of the Nina and Pinta.

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Our dockmates.

That resulted in quite a bit more foot traffic past Calypso than I would have liked.  But the weather was mild and sunny, so who could blame the visitors for enjoying a waterfront stroll.  Our location couldn’t have been more convenient for walking around town.

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Gorgeous.

As well, we caught up with our friends Ed and Tina of Merlin, who are also making their way north to Maryland.  We had dinner with them at a terrific restaurant (Saltus River Grill) that featured small plates with a lowcountry twist and, yes, another great facet of spring: soft-shell crabs!

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You’ve got to love a place that preserves its live oaks!

We’re on our way now to another classic – to me – “spring” town: Charleston, where we hope to spend a few days.  Hello shrimp and grits!

Wild Horses

I’ve written before about how the US is a land of plenty.  Most of us have our basic needs met, so there are means left over to preserve and appreciate our human history and natural environment.  Today, we spent the day in hushed awe of our surroundings, and in grateful appreciation of the fact that we – and generations after us — get to enjoy them.  The place that inspires these feelings is Cumberland Island, Georgia.

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Calypso anchored behind Cumberland Island, Georgia.

After a 60+ mile run from St. Augustine up the ICW in wet, chilly weather, we were just happy to get the anchor down yesterday and enjoy a dinner of conch chowder and johnnycake (yes, I still have Bahamian  conch in the freezer…).  But this morning, though it was chilly, the skies were clear and we’d had a full night of rest before exploring the southernmost of Georgia’s barrier islands.

Like many coastal locations along this US east coast, Cumberland Island has changed hands repeatedly, and been the location of military strongholds.  Ultimately, parts of it were purchased by wealthy families (Revolutionary war heroes and robber barons) to serve as sites for mansions.   Those fell into disrepair and the island came under the umbrella of the National Park Service.

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The ruins of Dungeness, a mansion built by a Carnegie on the ruins of another mansion built by a Revolutionary war general.

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More picturesque ruins.

Those rich guys knew a good thing when they saw it.  The island is spectacularly, romantically, lyrically, poetically, stunningly (OK – running out of adverbs here….) BEAUTIFUL.  That is, if you’re a sucker for that kind of alley-of-Spanish-moss-draped-oaks kind of beautiful.

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Live oaks towering over palms.

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At left, one of the many alleys of oaks; on the right, Rick enjoying one of the trails.

But it’s not just that kind of beautiful.  I personally love the beauty of a coastal salt marsh, and the way it changes with every tide.

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With rivers of tea-colored water running through plough mud and cordgrass, it’s an environment that is outwardly placid yet teeming with secret, hidden life.

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Teeny-tiny crabs (those are blades of grass, by way of comparison) scurrying busily around.

Feral horses have the run of the island, and unlike dolphins and manatees, these trick ponies stand still for photos.  Just don’t step on one of their many offerings on the trails.

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The horses are everywhere.

And, finally, yes, there is a beach.  A good 17 miles worth.  It’s a typical sea island beach bordered with dunes and sea oats, giving way to a wide, flat, hard expanse of sand.

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Ghostly driftwood trees lean away from the wind.

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Beach grass and dunes give way to the beach.

The 6-foot tidal range means the beach is even huger at low tide.  If bikes were allowed on the beach here, it would be perfect for riding along.

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The wind and sea etch patterns in the sand.  And yes, there are horses.

We didn’t bike, but walked and walked and collected shells.

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I found one!

A ferry brings in visitors from the “mainland,” and us cruising folk can just anchor off the dinghy dock, so there are quite a few people coming in every day.  (Even though there are virtually no services on the island, it does seem to be quite popular for camping.)  Yet the huge expanses of the island, and its lush vegetation, seemed to shelter us in our own private cocoon.  This is one national park that we have done right.

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Honey, Call the Realtor!

I might as well get it out in the open right now: I’ve been planning my retirement since I started working.  And my retirement dreams (fantasies?) have always involved smallish, historic, Southern coastal cities, likely stemming from my college years in New Orleans.  If the town is funky and/or has been occupied by various different countries in its past and/or includes Spanish moss draped from live oaks, my interest level increases.  Key West, Charleston, Savannah, Beaufort SC and – yes – Annapolis, are all very much in the running.

Given that as background, one could look at this trip up the ICW as a real estate orientation tour.

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Going up the ICW is more than just nature and scenery.

Yesterday’s run from Titusville to Palm Coast, Florida featured ICW-front properties with easy access to ocean beaches, all at “affordable” (ahem) prices.  Today was even better: I added another city to my list.  Hello, St. Augustine!

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St. Augustine’s riverfront and iconic Bridge of Lions (with the drawbridge up, snarling traffic at the behest of cruisers).

You don’t get much older or historic in the United States.  St. Augustine was settled by the Spanish in 1559.  And then the British and the Spanish fought over it.  And ultimately, the US bought Florida (or, rather, “The Floridas” as there was a West and and East) for $5 million.  A good deal, I think.  The Castillo de San Marco, fortifications across the river from the inlet to the ocean, presided over all of it.

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The Castillo de San Marco looks like an miniature of El Morro in San Juan; not surprising, since the same military minds were behind it.

We are staying at the St. Augustine Municipal Marina, right in the heart of it all.   (Perhaps a little too much so, since tourists freely walk the docks, gaping at us.)

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A view of Calypso’s deck from the top of the mast, as well as a view of the bridge.  I sent Rick up the stick to change the anchor light.

The marina is right next to the Bridge of Lions, named in honor of Ponce de Leon (“Leon” being the Spanish word for lion).

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There are marble lions on both sides of the bridge, and at both ends.

And from the riverfront inland you have many square blocks of the old city.  The cobblestone streets and alleys.

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The restaurants, bars, boutiques and galleries.

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The flower bedecked old houses.

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The hidden courtyards.

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The Spanish colonial architecture.

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And it’s only a short distance from the ocean.

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You can see the inlet to the ocean, and the beaches, from the fort.

Yup, I’m in love with another town.

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But for better or worse, I’m not hurrying to make any changes just yet.  There remains the pesky little issue of paying for this little fantasy.  In the meantime, I suspect I’ll be meeting additional candidates for my list as we make our way further north.