Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Great Loop Statistics, Numbers, Answers

Hello all-
The first question most of our sailing friends ask "How much did you spend on fuel?" We have the answer to that and a few other questions.

Here are some statistics of interest:
Miles traveled 6,060
Engine hours 910.8
Locks transited 114
Time to "Loop" 245 days

Major Expenses on "Great Loop" Cruise, MV Winnie W. (rounded off)

Dockage...... $5100
Fuel............. $3800
Groceries.... $3300
Dining out... $3347
Charts......... $1200
Hank*......... $960
Insurance... $900

*Expenses accrued to Hank include inoculations & certifications needed for international travel, food, and monthly heartworm and flea & tick prevention.

Further Explanation of Expenses-
Fuel: we spent far less on fuel than most cruising powerboats; we attribute this to going slow! A 2nd factor is that our boat has good cruising range and this allowed us to buy fuel only at the less-expensive places. We arrived at our home dock with about the same amount of fuel as we left with.

Dockage: we anchored out about half the time... we could easily have saved money on dockage by anchoring out more. Part was due to cold weather at the end of the trip and avoiding ice-covered dinghy rides with Hank!

Charts: Doug bought a lot of brand-new chart kits & books, as well as a few traditional large paper charts (the kind that cover a whole table when rolled out, and you hold the corners in place by jabbing a pirate dagger thru the corners). We did not use any of the large traditional charts for actual navigation, so that was not cost-effective. The Corps of Engineers chart books for the inland rivers (Illinois, Mississippi, Tennessee, Cumberland, Tombigbee) have not been revised or updated since 1992, so it would have been more cost-effective to buy 2nd-hand ones from cruisers who finished the Loop last year. However we were very satisfied using paper charts and old-fashioned navigation methods instead of computerized chart plotters. We often heard from fellow Loopers that their chart plotter showed them someplace on the nearby land!

Insurance: we actually spent less on insurance than if we'd stayed home; the premium for the Great Lakes and inland rivers is about half what we pay for coverage in our home waters. Florida & the Gulf is more expensive, but we didn't spend a lot of time there.

Groceries: We stowed a lot of canned & frozen food on board when we left; and we arrived home with about 1/2 as much. Little of it was "original," we replenished several times along the way.

We dined out quite a lot, which adds to the expense but for us adds more to our enjoyment. It's a nice way to socialize with friends we've met along the way, and with fellow cruisers.

One of the bits of conventional wisdom that is no longer true- the Canadian/U.S. exchange rate has changed enough that groceries in Canada are slightly more expensive than in the States.

Gizmos & gadgets.... if we didn't have a chartplotter, what electronic toys *did* we have? An autopilot was the primary "toy;" ours steered the boat at least 90% of the time. It is very easy to use, very reliable, and keeps very steady course.

Would we do it again? YES! The main point of discussion is whether to do the Loop again, or to make a trip south and back and then north and back, or vice versa!

We apologize for the lack of photos today.

Best wishes- Doug and Kathie

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Back to the barn (for now)....

Hello all-
We made it home late Saturday, with rising winds and drizzle threatening to turn to sleet. There were several possible places to stop & dock or anchor, but the weather was predicted to be even worse for the next few days. So we decided to keep chugging on because we were in our home waters and know them well; we arrived at our home slip at about 10:30pm. Our diesel furnace had been running for 6 days straight!

North Carolina D.O.T. has a great ferry system. This one is headed down the ICW for some reason... maybe headed south to avoid cold weather?

Our last night was at Hampstead, a few miles north & east of Wrightsville Beach & Wilmington. A visit from newlyweds Guy & Jennifer was a nice occasion; Guy & Doug are old-time sailing buddies. We're looking forward to hearing about their adventures cruising together!

Here is a rare photo by Doug. Hank enjoys his last night of adventure, while Kathie prevents him from chasing animals or birds into the marsh.

The Winnie W.'s last passage on this Great Loop began early, so as to make a time slot for a low bridge that only opens on the hour. There was a 'winter weather warning' for the area although the forecasters also tempered this by saying the worst freeze & snow would be more likely inland; there was also a gale forecast for the coastal & offshore waters for the next day. What a nice combination! Driving all day and into the night was not a pleasant prospect, but being stopped by gales & frosts within a few hours of home would be far less pleasant.

Looking across the barrier islands at Topsail Beach, birds & marsh & beach front development... this is the standard mix along the Carolina coast.

The ICW crosses through one of the largest Marine Corps training grounds. There are signs warning of possible live artillery exercises ("listen to radio when lights flashing"). We think that this old troop carrier has been used as a target.

One of the nice things about cruising nowadays is that it's easy to keep in touch, and it's easy to gather data about your cruising area. For example, we heard about navigation difficulties & shoaling at several places along the ICW. Some spots have been known for trouble for years, such as Lockwood's Folly. However there is now a set of temporary marker buoys near Brown's Inlet (south & west of Swansboro), placed to guide cruisers around a new sandbar.

That's some sandbar- you can tell how shallow the water is by the land sticking up above it! This is marker 62, going thru this area is pretty straightforward although the buoys are well off to the side.

We kept going. Fortunately we made it thru the difficult parts, like the Newport River (above Morehead City) with its twisty channel & strong tidal currents, before dark.

Doug shows his confidence in navigating Adams Creek & the Neuse River at night by smiling for the camera... or is he grimacing at having to wear his glasses to read the chart?

The new camera takes great photos, it was much darker than this picture looks... the commercial vessel 'PAMLICO' is pushing a barge ahead of us into lower Adams Creek. Visibility was not good and the rain tended to blind the radar. From here it is about a 4 hour run until we docked.

So, now we have our feet up at home! It is comfy and Hank doesn't appear to miss his morning dinghy ride. The boat was still well stocked with canned food so we brought that up to the pantry. Now we're seeing friends & family face to face, in some cases for the first time in a year... there are a few changes to get used to.

Life moves on and we are already thinking about our next adventure! We'll post updates here about prep for future trips and trips in our local area at erratic intervals.

Here is a photo of Winnie W. leaving her slip for the Great Loop, back in May of 2007. Thanks to John J. for this shot!

Thanks so much for your attention to our travels! Best wishes to all- Doug & Kathie

Friday, January 18, 2008

Almost Home!

Hello all: Yesterday we crossed the North Carolina border, and docked in Southport. This is a pleasant small town near the mouth of the Cape Fear River, south of Wilmington NC. We've been here before, on previous cruises south in the Winnie W. and also visiting for various sailing events including the Leukemia Cup Regatta (link).

Another encounter with fog... this time not as thick, but still not our favorite cruising conditions.

We were met in Southport by cruising friends John & Kathy who completed the Great Loop cruise themselves a couple of years ago in their DeFever 41 Rosetta, now up in the Chesapeake with her new owners who rechristened her.

A familiar sight on the southern IntraCoastal Waterway, a shrimp boat preparing for ... or coming home from... a day's hard work. You can see the trawling gear, including the "trawl doors" and nets, hanging from the booms.

Next we cruised up the Cape Fear River to Snow's Cut, another area of strong tidal current. Snow's Cut (link to Google Map) is a short canal which connects the river to Myrtle Grove Sound, the narrow bay behind the barrier islands of Wrightsville & Carolina Beach. From here, the ICW runs mostly east-west through narrow & shallow bays & sounds until it reaches the ports of Morehead City and Beaufort.

Here is the bridge to Figure Eight Island, undergoing maintenance work. It's a great idea, since we don't want bridges to corrode & collapse! But it's a serious hassle when one looks at traffic stoppage on both highway & waterway.

Only one lane of this bridge is open for road traffic, and that has people (and work & food trucks) backed up for hours. The bridge *only opens for boat traffic once a day* at noon, and only for a short time. We were told that earlier in the season during the usual fall heavy southbound traffic, over 80 boats were waiting to pass, and only 50 were allowed through before the bridge closed again.... the rest wait until tomorrow! We are very fortunate (or planned better than we knew) that the Winnie W. has only 12' of air draft, allowing us to pass under the bridge!

Here is one of the most unusual sights along the ICW, and a unique lawn ornament... a full-sized giraffe!

We're just a bit too far away to make our home port in one day, but we expect to park the Winnie W. at our home dock tomorrow. The weather is not very good, but we are in sheltered & familiar waters.
Best wishes! Doug and Kathie

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Chilly days in South Carolina

Hello all:

Last weekend, we were docked at Thunderbolt Marina in the little town of Thunderbolt GA, east of Savannah.

We continued heading north from there on a gloomy day. However, every day that marina treats visiting cruisers to fresh Krispy Kreme donuts and the Savannah paper, delivered to each boat, and this cheered us up!

Passing Daufuskie Island, and Calibogue Sound... I love the names of places along the Sea Isles, like Rockdedundy... we continued north past Hilton Head and into Port Royal Sound. Here we saw a yellow balloon drifting along. We both rescued the balloon and pre-emptively saved some sea creature from choking on it.

In some places of the world, this wouldn't be considered a large tide rise/fall. Here you can see the Winnie W. parked at a friend's dock near Beaufort SC; we could have fit under the dock at low tide! Our friend says there's an 8-9 foot change in water level with each tide.

We left Cowan Creek, near Port Royal SC, in morning fog. This was a mistake and Doug wished many times we'd stayed put; instead of dissipating, the fog grew thicker until we couldn't see anything! However, using the GPS, depthsounder, and radar, we picked our way up the Beaufort River and to another safe spot to anchor & wait it out. The tide was at full high so there was no current, a situation that was about to change.

This is one of the sea channel buoys; fortunately the river here is wide & deep & easy to navigate. Doug was adamant about stopping because further up, in the narrower channels above the Ladies Island bridge, strong currents would have made safe navigation impossible.

Just when we were about to drop anchor, the fog cleared!

When the fog cleared, it really cleared beautifully. You can see a hint of sunset colors in this artful photo (taken by Kathie) of scenery along the Ogeechee River. There are still natural palm trees at this latitude.

Just south of Charleston, along the Stono River, we saw this wrecked boat.

On this trip, we didn't stop in Charleston. It's a marvelous place to visit, with every attraction; there are several restaurants we love too. But we've been there before (in fact Doug lived there for a few years) and we are in a bit of a hurry. The day was cool & breezy, and we traveled down Charleston Harbor with the tide behind us.

Here is a view looking north past a sea channel buoy, at Patriots Point where the decommissioned aircraft carrier USS Yorktown is docked; you can see the new Ravenel Bridge across the Cooper River.
At the end of the day we stopped at Isle of Palms and met a friend & former student of Kathie's, who introduced us to yet another great restaurant (this one in Mt. Pleasant).

We're only a few days from home, but they promise to be cold... thank goodness for the Winnie W.'s diesel furnace! *We are able to run the diesel furnace along with the diesel engine while we are underway (cruisers reading this will know that this is a very big deal)!*

Best wishes- Doug & Kathie

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Sea Isle cruising

Hello all-
Here is a view of the north end of Cumberland Island, with a navigational buoy from the sea channel washed ashore next to the old lighthouse. Two lessons can be learned from this photo... never stake your vessel (or your life) on the location of a navigation aid... and never HIT one of those things because they are BIG and made of steel.

For the last few days, the Winnie W. has been getting closer to home, and cruising relatively familiar waters. This is a double joy because we love this area and we can appreciate it even more for having seen new strange places along the Great Loop. The Sea Islands of Georgia and South Carolina are famous for their wild beauty. Once the workaday world of the poorest and the playground of the richest, in the last twenty years, they have become increasingly developed and accessible to anybody.

Here is a view of the Brunswick bridge from St. Andrews Sound, actually looking over the southern tip of Jekyll Island.

The IntraCoastal Waterway follows the mostly natural channels winding through the river estuaries & swamps behind the ocean-front Sea Isles. The tides here run swiftly and the current often scours out the channels to depths of 30 or 40 feet, but it also piles up sand & mud in inconvenient places to block channels.

One answer to the problem of shifting channels it to put in rock jetties... this one is covered at high tide and the current sweeps over it, but the Corps of Engineers helpfully put a sign warning us of it. This is another view of the Brunswick bridge, this time from the north end of Jekyll Island, with a shrimp boat.

There are plentiful anchorages among the creeks & islets of this region, but there are fewer good places to walk a dog ashore. The Winnie W. is fairly bold in seeking out cozy places to anchor and Hank loves to explore. This spot is just behind St. Simon's Island. The shore is actually a bank of rough shells piled up along the edge of the marsh by the currents.

Doug rows Hank ashore, by this time a familiar routine to them both. Doug has been worried about Hank's reaction to dolphins, since they love to play near dinghies, but so far that hasn't been a problem.

The shell banks make quite a nice plot of solid land, which is a strong contrast to the marsh itself... totally unsuitable to walking the dog unless you either want to lose the dog or have him bring a ton of gluey black mud aboard.

Doug is careful to drag the dinghy ashore high enough that the rising tide will not carry it off. He enjoys a morning stroll with a cup of coffee while Hank runs on the crunchy shells... somewhat hard on his feet, we think, but he doesn't complain.

This is a pleasant way of life, which explains why we tend to get late morning starts and only make 40 or so miles per day. The channels themselves can be quite challenging. As mentioned, the depth can vary a LOT. Fortunately, unless you have hit a jetty, the bottom is soft sand or mud and running aground is not a disaster. The current not only pushes you forward or back, helping or hindering your speed, but can also push you sideways!

The answer to this latter problem is a special kind of navigation aid called a "range." The maze of creeks & rivers & islands make the tidal current go every direction imaginable (link to map of this location on the ICW). When the helms-person keeps the higher, rear range marker aligned with the lower, front range mark, the vessel is traveling right down the channel. Sometimes the bow is pointed 20 degrees askew to go straight!

The Winnie W. arrived safely at the next anchorage, this time at St. Catherines Island (link to map). This entails another romp ashore for the crew, and here's Hank doing just that!

There was another cold front coming, this one with warnings of squalls & thunderstorms, so we anchored in a place that should have been good shelter & good holding ground. We got one out of two; this anchorage was a bit rocky-rolly but the anchor didn't budge despite the strong currents pushing the boat first one way & then the other.

You can see the Winnie W. anchored over Doug's shoulder in this Hank's eye view of the St. Catherine dinghy ride. Kathie helped Hank work the camera! This was a long row, but Doug needs exercise too.

Here is the glorious sunset viewed from our St. Catherine's anchorage, the end of a perfect cruising day.

The next day we traveled to Thunderbolt, a small town just south of Savannah. But that's another story.

Hope you all are well & happy-
Doug & Kathie

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Goodbye Florida, Hello Georgia

Hello all!
We've had a great time cruising in Florida; now, continuing northward the Winnie W. has crossed into Georgia. The distance by water from Saint Augustine to our home in North Carolina is about 625 miles; we're now about 550 miles from home.

This is the view looking southward towards the town of St. Augustine, taken as we were leaving. At lower right you can see the Castillo San Marcos, above it the dome of the Memorial Church, and to the left the towers of Flagler College (formerly the Hotel Ponce de Leon).

Next we stopped near Jacksonville to meet our friend Anne. She is a Park Service curator and is in charge of an amazing collection of historic finds & artifacts. Everything from paleolithic tools, pottery from Native American and Colonial people, to parchment maps & architects' plans. We spent more time than we probably should have just looking at cool stuff which merits serious attention & study.

Northeast of Jacksonville is the Mayport Naval Station. The ICW crosses the St. Johns River at this point, with a strong tidal flow creating a maze of sandbars. Kathie took this photo of birds relaxing with the Navy ships in the background.

We also took a great hike around the park at Fort Caroline and the Timucuan Preserve (link to park). Much is made of the Spanish founding St. Augustine; if you pay attention to the story, you realize the French were here first. In fact one of the main reasons the Spanish came was to chase the French out of territory claimed by Spain (link to history).

The importance of shallow draft... here is a classic sailing ketch anchored in a tiny creek near Amelia Island. The tide is low and it looks like she's resting on the mud.

We support The Nature Conservancy, and this great park & preserve was helped by TNC and a remarkable man named Willie Browne (link) who donated a large tract of unspoiled land. Along our hike we stopped at the site of Willie Browne's cabin and read his words: "Soon there will be nothing but a concrete jungle from Jacksonville to New York" (1960).

Sailboat sunk in the popular anchorage at Fernandina. We've shown a few photos of derelict boats; it's a big problem. So if you're thinking of buying an old boat cheap ("just needs some TLC") and living on it in Florida where the weather is so nice... DON'T

Another day, another historic fort! Guarding the entrance to Cumberland Sound is Fort Clinch (link). Amelia Island has been claimed by 7 different nations, all of whom regarded this as a strategic point. Construction of Fort Clinch started by the U.S. Army in the 1840s and never really finished. Florida State militias occupied it for the Confederacy early in the Civil War, and it was vital in sheltering blockade runners. The fort was recaptured by Federal forces in 1862 and remained in Union hands. (link to Florida history)

Low tide at the dock in Saint Marys, Georgia... the next photo shows the same spot at high tide. Since the Winnie W. re-entered salt water in early December 2007, we have had to re-familiarize ourselves with tides. On the Gulf coast, tides are small & irregular. On the Atlantic coast, they rise & fall on approximately 12 1/2 hour cycles (low to high to low tide again), and range from a few inches in southern Florida and North Carolina to 9 feet in some spots in Georgia & South Carolina. We also have to cope with the strong currents, which can hinder our progress down to 5 knots or a bit less, or speed us along at over 9!

Not quite as much of an up hill climb at high tide. Our home waters have strong tidal currents but not quite as much rise & fall as this. It's odd to think that at high tide you can comfortably cruise over what is dry land at low. This has to be taken into account when anchoring, too.

A "blast from the past:" here is a photo from our Florida-to-North Carolina cruise five years ago. The previous owner of the Winnie W. placed a cute toy tugboat on top of the pilot house next to the spot light. It's gone now, but this little "style piece" should bring a smile, and remind us that we're having fun.

We hope that you are all enjoying your past and present ventures; best wishes, Doug and Kathie

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Playing Tourist & Relaxing in St. Augustine

Hello all:

The Winnie W. has been securely tied up in Saint Augustine, Florida, for the first week of this year 2008. This is partly due to freezing, blustery weather that would be poor for cruising.

This sign welcomes people arriving on Highway 1. Our dock is less than 2 blocks from this sign, and convenient walking distance to the "miracle mile" for shopping.

One of the items renewed/replaced here is our camera. After several years of arduous service, most of it on or around boats, our camera bit the dust. Fortunately there are a lot of "big-box" retailers within bicycling distance, so with some pedaling & hunting thru the shelves we found two replacements (the first one did not have a few key components so we took it back). Kathie has taken such great photos this whole trip, and has quickly gained mastery over this new equipment... bet you can't tell which of the photos in this blog entry were taken with the old and which with the new!

Hank likes his comfort, too; he's enjoyed taking long walks and evenings with the heater running.

Shrimp boats are tied up along the San Sebastian River, just across from where we are currently docked.

Here is one of the main buildings of Flagler College. Formerly the Ponce De Leon Hotel (link) built in 1887 by Henry Flagler (business partner of John D. Rockefeller of Standard Oil), it's just spectacular inside & out. It has the largest collection of Tiffany windows now "in use." Originally an exclusive winter resort for the Newport set, the guest list was by invitation only, and Mr. Flagler required three months deposit whether guests intended to stay the entire time or merely a few weeks. The building is now partly residential and partly for administration at Flagler College.

Great Blue Herons once were on the brink of extinction, now they are a common sight. Great comeback and a hopeful sign! Kathie caught this one meditating along the edge of Otter Creek, just off the San Sebastian River where we're docked.

Saint Augustine is a thriving modern city, and it thrives on its history. An outpost of the Spanish Empire in the days of treasure galleons & pirates, this is the old main gate built in 1739 as a portal thru the town's defensive walls.

We toured the Castillo de San Marcos, a late Spanish Empire Vauban-type fortification (link) that guarded Saint Augustine for Spain, Britain, the Confederacy, and the U.S. The town's forts (this one, and the earlier fort on this same site) were assaulted many times but the defenders were always successful.

Here's Doug with "El Milanese" (the one from Milan), one of Castillo San Marcos' original battery of 18-pounders. Eighteen pounds refers to the weight of the round iron cannonball which fit the bore; the gun itself weighs about 4 1/2 tons! The fort's battery numbered about 70 cannons, & included several large mortars as well.

The Castillo de San Marcos fort is a National Park and is undergoing restoration. There is a chapel, a guardhouse, barracks rooms, displays of maps modern & ancient, of course a large assortment of weapons, a collection of all the national flags which flew over the fort & uniforms worn by the armies that served here. There are a lot of interesting things to learn, such as how the brims of the familiar tricorn hats came to be turned up, and which contents of an 18th century surgeon's kit are still useful in 1st aid today.

The last photo is of a volunteer cannon crew, demonstrating the complex drill for firing a 6-pounder.

We're looking forward to continuing our cruise the "wrong way," north in winter. When we first made this trip to our home port, it took 8 days of hurrying along the ICW. We aren't in as much of a hurry this time, but are looking forward to getting back home.

Hope you all are well & happy- Doug & Kathie

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Our Cruise from New Smyrna Beach to St Augustine

Hello all-
Yesterday was an exciting day for everybody, ringing in a new year and completing our Great Loop. Hopefully it isn't bad luck to start a new year by looking back, but we have some great photos & stories from the last few days cruising.

Over the Christmas holidays, some boat work was accomplished. The Winnie W.'s engine was due for an oil change, so for good measure Doug also changed the transmission fluid. You can see the engine room is fairly roomy & well-lit but it's still a chore... for one thing, the engine is a big marine diesel that holds 14 qts (14 liters) of oil, and it's at the lowest point of the boat... no easy drain plug!

Starting from New Smyrna Beach, we cruised north past Ponce Inlet and entered the Halifax River. This is another slow-flowing marshy river, more of a sound or estuary bounded by a narrow sandy barrier island, not as big as the Indian River. But the area is well known by the name of the city, Daytona Beach.

The ICW channel is fairly easy to follow, although the tidal current shifts sandbars regularly. This marker is distinguished as being for the ICW channel by the reflective yellow square on the placard; red markers have a yellow triangle. It also has a metal radar reflector atop the post. These markers have a number sequence beginning at the next sea channel, going northward.

Ponce Inlet has a picturesque brick lighthouse, built in 1887 when the inlet was called Mosquito Inlet (it's at the north end of Mosquito Lagoon) and used by commercial shipping. Nowadays it is important for sport fishing from the New Smyrna Beach and Daytona areas.

We anchored in the Halifax River, basically surrounded by downtown Daytona Beach. It was quieter & nicer than one might think. Although there are a number of new high-rise bridges, there are still a number of lower bridges that open for boats on the waterway. The bridge keepers proved to be friendly and helpful with navigation & anchoring advice... it's possible that they liked the Winnie W. because we can lower our antennas & mast and don't need them to open their bridges for us.

Daytona spent some extra money to make their high-rise bridges prettier. We appreciated it and Kathie managed to get some photos. Here you can see the bridge piers, decorated with mosaics of colored tile encircling the lower part of the pillars.

Here is a close-up of the mosiacs (they are all alike). They show a porpoise and a manatee.

We appreciated the bridges and we appreciated the waterfront parks, too. We've had a long-running series of photos of Hank in his "sports car," the rowing dinghy that Doug designed and built. The spot that we anchored at Daytona was right in front of a very nice waterfront park which Hank enjoyed. (link to GoogleMap)

One of Kathie's artsier shots, partly due to the soft light of dusk. Looks like the boat is speeding along as Doug rows.

Next we found ourselves on the Matanzas River, which connects its inlet with Saint Augustine. It's unusual in that it is relatively deep and was navigable in historic times.

St. Augustine is the oldest town in the U.S., founded in 1565 (link to old map). As a port, it was somewhat unique because it could be reached by either of two inlets. In olden days, the lure of Spanish treasure from their mines in Central & South America brought pirates & privateers to the Florida coast (link to SA history). The Spanish soldiers at St. Augustine fought the French and the English both, and the city was sacked by Sir Francis Drake (whom the Spanish considered a pirate) and by real pirates. Both inlets were eventually protected by forts.

Here are two photos of Fort Matanzas , by which we anchored (link to Googlemap) and visited. Above you can see the sentry box at left, the cannons aimed over the wall, and the building which housed the soldiers & the magazine. One of the items on display is an old chart of the inlet & river. In the lower photo, you can see the cannoneer's view and imagine approaching enemy ships. The inlet is bridged by Highway A1A but in olden times it was wide & deep, with the main channel somewhat north of the modern inlet.
(link to Fort Matanzas history)

From this anchorage, we headed north along the winding Matanzas River to the town of Saint Augustine.

hurricane damage? carelessness? a sunken boat along the San Sebastian River

Yesterday in Saint Augustine we officially closed the Great Loop, since we bought & christened the Winnie W. here in 2002, and then cruised from here to our home in North Carolina. We have both sentimental & practical reasons for stopping here. It's a great cruising port, with good shelter (weather forecasts are grim), nearby stores, and interesting sights to see.

Among the first sights we saw in St. Augustine.

We're not serious birdwatchers, for example neither of us could tell you the difference between a Heron and an Egret. However we love to spot & observe wildlife & nature; Kathie has gotten pretty good at snapping quick photos.

So now we are restocking (bought a new camera; the old was dropped one too many times!) and waiting for a cold nor'easter to blow itself out. We're also meeting interesting people including fellow cruisers. It turns out to be a small world; the couple on the boat behind us at the dock are from a town very close to us in NC.

Best wishes to you all- Doug & Kathie