You do WHAT? HOW?

Living life on a boat can be, in many ways, similar to life on land.  But if you are actively cruising (or planning to be, as we are) and have no car, certain otherwise simple activities can get a bit more, well, interesting.20180305_083538 crif Lying in the sun here is as good as it gets, according to Scully, but simple chores like doing the laundry or going shopping take on a whole new dimension of difficulty and thought from what we were used to back in Colorado.

Take, for example, a simple food run to the grocery store. We’re blessed to have a large Kroger (South Carolina’s version of what we call King Soopers back home) located just down the way from our marina.  But without a car, we have to open the lazarette (a large hatch for storage under the aft deck), pull out a bike or two (our folding Dahon “Mariners”, made for just such a time as this), and assemble and adjust them.  In earlier posts to this blog you’ve seen the ramps up and over to the land; riding along a dock and up a steep ramp on a 20 inch wheeled bike is entertaining.  Then down the paths, through the parking lots, and over to the store, where we limit our acquisitions to those that can be placed in the store’s smallest carts.  “Why?”, you ask.  Because whatever we purchase must go into a backpack or be hung on our bikes for the ride home.MVIMG_20180222_111124 crif.jpg  The result can take on quite a Beverly Hillbillies appearance, often leaving us singing “So they loaded up the bikes, And they moved to Hilton Head. Tug boats, Dolphins…

Going shopping for other essentials (as Captain Jack Sparrow despairs, “Why is the rum always gone?”) or larger items can involve longer rides or, with a bit of good luck and a lot of gratitude, we borrow a friend’s car. We are very blessed to have two of Niki’s cousins living here on the island, and Nancy and Shari have been more than gracious in helping us out when we needed to transport larger things from farther away.

Another adjustment we’ve made is not having laundry equipment on board.  Joy Girl used to have a washer/dryer, but it was removed and never replaced.  The overwhelming majority of boaters we’ve queried have opined that most all-in-one, non-vented laundry units end up being used for storing extra bedding or keeping pet food away from hungry mouths and radar-like noses, at best, or for getting clothes more wet than clean and almost never drying them, at worst. So, we gain a cabinet and dodge a potential headache.

Our marina, Shelter Cove, has wonderful laundry facilities, which are free to use by boaters in the harbor.  And, they’re only about 250 feet from our boat.  That’s a short walk if you’re Jesus, but since I’m not able to walk on water (my wife will gladly confirm this), it’s right at a two mile footslog out and back as we circumnavigate essentially the entire 175 boat harbor.  So, rather than schlep our well loaded laundry sack that distance or attempt to balance it on a bike, we take the nautical route: a kayak!MVIMG_20180308_133915.jpgLaunch the little orange baby bateau, toss in the laundry tote, and a few quick paddle strokes later we’re at the marina and ready to get to work! It looks a bit bizarre, but it beats going treking without a sherpa.

The other big adjustment to which we’re still attempting to acclimate is the rapidity with which the owner of a boat can go through “boat units”.  Several things on Joy Girl were not quite as they should have been (in my opinion) and some maintenance had been a bit deferred.  And things on a boat seem to have a way of going awry at the darnedest of times, much more than I had ever realized.  There’s probably not much another “boat unit” or two, or some time contorting an old body into a small space or spending some time in the engine room won’t correct. MVIMG_20180320_170828 crif.jpg Still, keeping the boat even close to shipshape and Bristol condition is certainly an ongoing process at best and a sleep stealing headache at worst.

What’s a “boat unit”?  You can find that on Google… 😉

Nessie The Marina Monster


A heretofore undiscovered sea monster reminiscent of Nessie the Loch Ness Monster has been sighted in Shelter Cove Marina. The large sea creature appears intermittently, rising from the depths, then disappearing again underneath the harbor waters. A local boater was able to photograph the beast as it briefly rose to the surface.

Sightings occur in close proximity to this gnarly machine, which rumbles from 6am to 6pm, 7 days a week.

Area yachtsman say they are careful to avoid the machine as it lumbers from one slip to another on its ponderous journey through the marina. Surprisingly, they also report that the historically high pluff mud that has plagued the marina in recent years is suddenly gone after the machine, and the mysterious Nessie Marina Monster that follows behind it, leave a slip.

If you have any additional information about this rare discovery, please contact this office by using the Comment link below.

How Lowwwww Can You Go?

As an inland lake sailor who grew up sailing the waters of Wisconsin and then those in and around Colorado and the Caribbean, the word “tide” to me mostly referred to the laundry detergent my mom preferred (and that kids now allegedly eat).  The idea of water getting noticeably deeper and shallower twice every day simply was not part of my boating background.

Now we’re living on a boat less than a mile from the Atlantic Ocean as the seagull flies and about 5 miles by water, so tides are very much a part of our lives.  Our tides here at Shelter Cove Marina average about 7 feet, twice each day.  That means the view from our boat of the ramp to the wharf on land typically varies from something like this:20180201_090645

to something about like this about every 6 hours and 15 minutes:20180201_152725

Occasionally the full moon teams up with Mr. Sun to exaggerate the high and low tides, and yesterday we had a pair of exceptionally low tides.  One took place in the middle of the night as we lay sleeping, the second occurred mid afternoon to share with us all its (in this case, rather ugly) glory.  Here was the view we suffered off our stern at low tide:20180302_145551.jpg

The surface you see exposed is a nasty, gooey muck called “pluff (or plough) mud”, accurately described on one website as “a Carolina Lowcountry entity — the slippery, shiny brown-gray, sucky mud, with a distinctive smell like none other”.  I couldn’t begin to better describe this disgusting stuff myself!

Things tend to sink into this slop as if it were quicksand, but if enough of it is present and the water recedes far enough, even a 35,000 pound boat can be pushed up out of the goo.


This is the stern (back) of Joy Girl, sitting nearly a foot higher than she normally would (the normal waterline is just below the red “boot stripe”).  She is so stranded that the stern thruster (the tube under the swim platform) which is normally totally under water is now almost fully exposed.  The water intake for our heating and cooling units is just forward of that on the other side of the boat, so they were totally unusable for about 3 hours.  Providentially, we were blessed by glorious weather that required neither heat nor AC that day.

Fortunately, dredging operations to deepen the entire harbor are proceeding 7 days a week, and last night the boats on the other side of our dock were moved to make way for the dredging crew.  Our side of “K Dock” is on deck after that, so with any luck we should be in deep water (the best kind!) in about a week!



Beautiful Beaufort

Road trip! Our friend Shawna visited last week so we decided to take her on a day trip to Beaufort, South Carolina, a three hour boat ride. Rumored to be a pretty coastal town with antebellum homes, it sounded perfect.

And, oh, it was! The beauty of this little town took our breath away. Before the war (pronounced wa – ra) the cotton plantation owners built their summer homes in Beaufort to take in the cool breezes from the water. We enjoyed those breezes during lunch, facing the May river.

Waterfront Park

Founded in 1711, this is where the secession was born, where 600 year old Live Oak trees sway, where Spanish Moss falls in languorous strips, entire streets are filled with graceful antebellum homes, and where the Prince of Tides, The Big Chill and The Great Santini were filmed.

Typical street draped with Spanish Moss
Antebellum Home now the Cuthburt House Inn, built in 1770
Antebellum Home Gardens
Cemetery from the Civil War till now
Antebellum Home

The day was topped off with fantastic dolphin sightings as Shawna leaned over the bow (the front of our little ship) and several of them swam next to us, then rolled on their sides and looked up at her from the deep. There’s something thrilling about making a connection with a dolphin!

Our dear friend Shawna & Joy Girl

My only disappointment was that we couldn’t stay long enough. We definitely plan to go back and spend another day in Beaufort!

Georgia On My Mind

This past Saturday we took our first real trip aboard Joy Girl, heading south to Savannah, GA.  By car the drive would be less than an hour, but in our trawler it was over three hours.  Yes, that’s slow, but the comparative level of relaxation more than makes up for the speed differential.  Adding to the lesson of not being too committed to a schedule, dredging operations in our home marina (to make it deeper) delayed our planned early morning departure by well over an hour.  Still, the tides and weather were more than cooperative for a smooth journey to the south. Niki’s cousin Shari joined us for the trip and served as our tour guide and concierge ashore, having been there many times before.20180217_110949 crif.jpgUpon arriving at our destination, we docked at the Westin Savannah Harbor.  Joy Girl looked so proper, sitting right there in front of the grand hotel.  Directly across the Savannah River from the heart of the old city, the Westin is a more secure place to leave one’s boat than the city docks on the other side, and a short and free ferry soon took us right to where we wanted to be.

As we crossed the river, we were greeted to the sight of the Georgia Queen, an immense, four story tall paddle wheel boat, docked near the golden dome of Savannah’s City Hall. Maker:S,Date:2017-9-17,Ver:6,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar02,E-YThis grand lady made Joy Girl look pretty tiny by comparison.  But considering that Savannah is a busy port (the fourth busiest in the county!) and a city proud of its long history and heritage, the Georgia Queen seemed to fit right in with her surroundings.

A bit later the three travelers were savoring lunch at Tubby’s (which is what I would quickly become if I ate food of that quality and quantity often).  Suddenly we heard the booming blast of a horn.  The waitress announced “ship shots, everyone!”, and an enormous container ship came into view, making her way down the river toward the ocean.  20180217_122347 crifLook just in front of the big ship’s bow and you’ll see Joy Girl, looking way too much like a tiny minnow about to be swallowed up.  As she sailed majestically by, I was reminded of that old drawing of a little fish about to be eaten by a bigger fish, who in turn was about to be ingested by an even larger fish.  I have no idea how many containers these monsters can carry, but the larger containers (such as the red “K-Line” at the top of the sixth or seventh row) could each probably contain nearly our entire vessel and are stacked in rows 15 or more across and 6 layers high. Yikes!

Due to low tides, we took a slightly different route home, including a brief foray into the Atlantic.  Then as we headed back toward Calibogue Sound (at the south end of Hilton Head Island) we were met by a small bank of fog. MVIMG_20180217_164408 crif.jpgOur radar is somewhat antiquated and your author is thoroughly untrained in its use, but using the screen for guidance, combined with the hawk like vision of Niki and Shari, we successfully piloted our way back to clearer skies and safe arrival back home just before sunset.

The Bitter End

We’ve reached the bitter end. It was a struggle, and we worked very hard, but we’ve reached the end of our rope.

If you speak nautical, then you know I’m referring to the end of our anchor line, which is called “the bitter end”.  In the old days, anchor lines were tied to “bitts” on the deck, hence the name. Our bitter end is housed in a cabinet at the head of our bed.







Yesterday, we untangled our anchor line and spray painted it every 30 feet so we know how far it’s plunging into the water when we “anchor out”. Since Joy Girl is fully self sufficient we can drop our anchor instead of docking at a marina every night.






Since the anchor weighs 45 pounds and might damage the boat as it swings aboard, we slathered bright red paint on the last five feet of chain so I know when it’s about to be hauled onto Joy Girl.  Poor little Niki is responsible for dropping and weighing (pulling back in) the anchor…yes, I’m really that strong!

Actually, it’s all electronic and I simply step on a black pad that controls the “windlass”, which is from the Old Norse vindáss, literally meaning ‘winding pole.’


So, mateys, indeed we are at the bitter end, but our journey has just begun!