Beaufort, NC to The Bahamas, er... Florida
The Plan
While waiting for Steve to rejoin the cruise in Beaufort, NC I continued to plan the remainder of the journey.  As I've done for every passage through or in the vicinity of the Gulf Stream I contracted with Jenifer Clark for her analysis of the stream.  I use her analysis as the initial tool for developing routing for the voyage.
Jenifer distributes her analysis in the form of a JPEG chart image.  I import this image into Fugawi and use that software package for the route planning.  The image on the left is Jenifer's chart overlaid with Fugawi routing.  Steve and I were still planning a direct sail to the Bahamas.  Our preferred route was the one in yellow, crossing the Gulf Stream directly from the Beaufort Inlet, then wending our way between two cold water eddies, sailing east of the Abacos and entering the Bahamas at Eleuthera.
The alternate route was to stay between the U.S. East Coast and the Gulf Stream until mid-way down the Florida coast then crossing the stream and entering the Bahamas in the Abacos.
With a viable route developed from Jenifer's Gulf Stream analysis I then used NOAA RNC charts to refine the route.
Both of these routes will take 4-5 days, depending on the weather.  On all passages of more than 48 hours one must expect that the weather will not be favorable for the entire passage.  There are no guarantees with weather forecasts, however this was a pleasure trip and we were not going to start on a route that had little chance of being fun.  Hence the alternate route down the coast.  Even if we started on the alternate route we would have the option to cross the Gulf Stream  north of the Abacos anytime during the first 2 days of the passage.

A few days before Steve returned I began monitoring the weather forecasts for our potential routes.  My main tool was the NOAA GRIB files distributed on the Internet.  These are the raw output of one of the weather prediction computer models, normally the GFS model which is NOAA's world-wide model.  While connected to the Internet I use the Ugrib application to download and display the GRIB data.  When on a passage, out of range of the Internet, I download the GRIBs from the Saildocs library using either Winlink or SailMail.
On the left is a screen capture of the Ugrib display of a GRIB received the day before our departure.  The specific display is the model forecast for Tuesday, Nov 4 at 00z, about 1-1/2 days into our planned passage.  This display shows a developing storm system off the U.S. East Coast. 
This development had been forecast by the model for several days so it appeared to be a real phenomenon.  This forecast put a real crunch on our planned routes as they both would have put us in a difficult position.
Steve arrived on Saturday, Nov 1 and we discussed the potential situation.  While this was still a forecast (the storm system still did not appear on any weather analysis charts), it was not something we really wanted to sail into.
So once more, as we did in 2004, we decided to head down the coast inside on the ICW while we monitored the weather situation.  Our next opportunity to head off-shore would be at Cape Fear, NC about 3 days down the ICW from from Beaufort.
Beaufort to Cape Fear
We departed Beaufort, NC around 8:30AM and headed down the ICW.  We had no specific destination for the day, just to get as far down the ICW as possible.  We stretched that maybe a little too far as we cleared the Surf City bridge just before dark and began looking for some place to anchor for the night.  We finally anchored just off the ICW and the channel into Surf City, as shown in the screen capture on the right.
This was not a great anchorage as we were only a few inches from going aground at low water.  There is supposed to be a good anchorage in Surf City, but it was just too dark for us to continue down the channel.
The next morning we got underway just after dawn.
While anchored near Surf City I updated the routes for a Cape Fear Inlet departure (chart on the left).
I also continued to monitor the development of the storm system off the SE coast of the US.  It was clear that storm system would not be safely north of us within the next two days and we were only one day from the inlet.  So we needed to find a place hole up for a few days to let this storm move out of the area.
We were about 40 miles from the major yachting center of Wrightsville Beach, NC so we got underway at dawn for that destination.
It had started raining by the time we cleared the bascule bridge at Wrightsville Beach.  There is a nice anchorage just off this town, but I didn't want to spend two days or more at anchor without getting ashore.  My dinghy was secured on deck for the off-shore passage and I didn't want to have to re-secure it so I took a berth at the Dockside Restaurant Marina on the ICW in Wrightsville Beach.
While anchored off Surf City I discovered my electric bilge pump was not working and needed to be replaced.  There is a West Marine in Wrightsville, but not within walking distance of the marina.  Fortunately a friend from the SSCA happened to be visiting Wilmington at the time and offered to drive us to West Marine and a local grocery store.  We stayed two nights in Wrightsville Beach during which time the storm system finally moved north toward Cape Hatteras.  It was bringing gale force winds to Hatteras and the lower Chesapeake Bay, but our weather was clearing out.  So we departed Wrightsville Beach with a new bilge pump installed and additional food stocks.
 During the motor trip to Cape Fear I downloaded an updated GRIB file and checked the NOAA websites for additional information.  On the NOAA site the first thing I noticed was the formation of Tropical Depression (TD) #17 off the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua.  This TD was forecast to intensify into Hurricane Paloma before passing over Cuba and heading for the Bahamas.
On the left is a Ugrib screen capture of the GRIB forecast for Nov 6 at 1200Z or 7:00 AM the next morning.  The GRIB shows the old storm system off the Mid-Atlantic coast and a NW-NE wind pattern off shore from Cape Fear all the way to Florida and the Bahamas.  By this time we had given up on the route directly across the Gulf Stream, as that storm system to north must have created some very rough seas in the stream, which will likely take several days to lay down.  So we were planning to head down the coast for at least 24 hours and then determine if crossing to the east side of the stream and the Bahamas was feasible or prudent.
However, now Paloma had to be included in our plans.  The forecast for Paloma was for it to weaken while crossing Cuba then dissipate in a few days over the southern Bahamas.  Late season storms like Paloma are notorious for not performing as forecast, so a sail to the Bahamas, even just the Abacos, did not seem prudent for a number of days.
So we decided to hug the coast and try to get as far south as possible while Paloma was still a threat.  From Cape Fear we would have the choice of jumping back inshore at a number of major inlets including Winyah Bay, Charleston, Savannah and Jacksonville.  To give ourselves one more look at the weather before heading outside we stopped for the night at Southport, NC near the Cape Fear Inlet.
The GRIBs downloaded that evening continued to show NW winds for the next 48 hours.
The next morning we headed out the inlet into the ocean.   I monitored the winds reported by several off-shore weather buoys, including the one near Frying Pan Shoals just south of Cape Fear.  All of the buoys reported NW-WNW winds at about 15 knots.  However as we headed out the inlet our winds were definitely from the WSW.  I assumed this might be due to a sea breeze effect near the coast and we continued to our departure point at the sea buoy at the end of the inlet.
During our transit of the inlet I discovered that my Navionics charts running on the Raymarine C-120 were either out of date or just in error.  I've documented that error in the Error in Electronic Chart page in the Bahamas menu on the left or just click here.
Cape Fear to Beaufort, SC
We reached the sea buoy, but the winds were still WSW.  This put us on a close reach on our intended route down the coast.
We raised the mainsail with a double-reef and unfurled about 60% of the Genoa, but kept the motor running to help Sarah punch through the seas that were still running from the south.  It was bumpy ride, but we were finally on our way off-shore.
That evening I re-heated one the pre-cooked meals I had prepared for the trip and we settled in for the night watches.  I took the first watch from about 00z to 03z and then was relieved by Steve.  Before going to sleep I sent out a trip email and a position report via SailMail.
About halfway through my off-watch I was awakened by an alarm from the cockpit.  Steve was trying to determine the source of the alarm and noticed that the engine temperature guage was reading 210 degrees F.  We quickly shut down the engine and I removed the engine box cover.  The containment pan under the engine was full of nice pink coolant.  Clearly the engine had dumped all its coolant.  The most likely source for such a leak was one of the coolant hoses, but Steve and I could not find any leak from the hoses.  We let the engine cool for about 30 minutes and then Steve started to examine the engine.  He found a loose valve cock near the bottom of the engine that was still dripping coolant.  Steve re-tightened the valve cock and then we re-filled the engine heat exchanger with a mixture of coolant and distilled water.  By this time the engine temperature was back below 180 deg F and we restarted the engine.  We ran the engine for about a half hour and verified that the temperature had stabilized at a normal 175 deg.  We shut down the engine once more so Steve could re-check the valve cock and we added coolant mixture to the reservoir tank.
The problem was clearly the valve cock that somehow came loose after about 60 hours of motoring from Beaufort, NC.  A continuing concern was how long the re-tightened valve cock would hold before it dumped the coolant once again.  I did not have sufficient coolant to refill the heat exchanger if that happened.  While we could just refill the exchanger with tank water, we both felt it would be prudent to have a mechanic look at the engine before going too much further.  By this time we were about 15nm SSE of the inlet at Winyah Bay so we turned NNW toward that inlet.  The winds had continued to build into the SW and we not all that unhappy to be able put the wind and seas on our quarter for awhile.  We arrived off the inlet shortly before dawn and it was light by the time we were inside the breakwater.  The closest port with any hope of finding a mechanic was Georgetown, at the head of Winyah Bay on the Pee Dee River.  We were fighting a 2 kt current in Winyah Bay and it took us nearly 3 hours to cover the 12 nm miles up the Bay to Georgetown.
When we arrived at Georgetown we discovered that there was no mechanic immediately available nor any source of Yanmar parts (we wanted to replace the valve cock in case it was defective).  By this time we were reasonably confident the valve cock was holding and there were no other significant issues with the engine.  So we just topped off the fuel tank at Georgetown and heading back down the ICW while we evaluated our options for getting to the Bahamas.
Late that afternoon we found a delightful anchorage in Awendaw Creek, just off the ICW.
Awendaw Creek was approximately 20 miles from Charleston Harbor, our next potential jumping out spot.
By this time Paloma was a category 4 Hurricane heading for Cuba, but it was unlikely to cause any problems for the U.S. East Coast.  If it did we would have plenty of time to jump back inside.
So our main concern for an off-shore trip was just the winds.  The offshore forecast called once again for NW winds off Charleston.  The winds would be gradually turning W then SW and finally S over the next 3 to 4 days, but it looked like we could get in a couple of days of sailing and possibly get to the Florida coast before the winds might force us back inside again.
So the next morning we quickly got underway and entered Charleston Harbor by mid-morning.
We turned past Fort Sumter and headed out the inlet.
On the way out the inlet we had to give this Navy cargo vessel a wide berth.
Well, guess what?  Off Charleston the winds were still out of the SW.  We went far enough out the inlet to assure ourselves that this was once again not a sea breeze effect, then turned around and headed back into the harbor.  That evening we took a berth at the Ashley Marina, then the next morning headed down the ICW once again.
That evening we anchored off the ICW in Rock Creek not far from Beaufort, SC.
The next morning we stopped in Beaufort to take on fuel then tied to the free day dock to run a few errands.
Beaufort, SC to Jacksonville, FL
We departed Beaufort around 18z and headed out of Port Royal Sound in a near calm.  At least we didn't have head winds and we had enough fuel to motor all the way to Fort Pierce, FL if necessary.  Given that Paloma was still in the area we planned to once again hug the coast in case we needed to abort our passage.  By this time I was resigned to re-entering the US in Florida and waiting for a good weather window to cross to the Abacos from where I would work myself down to Eleuthera and the Exumas.
Unfortunately this likely meant that Steve would have to return to work before we arrived in the Bahamas.
By mid-afternoon we took our departure off the Port Royal Sound sea buoy and headed south for the coast of Florida.
By dark we were into our normal 3 hour watch schedule.  Finally sufficient breeze came up out of the NE and we started sailing under full main, mizzen and Genoa.
By 07z the wind had picked up to 15 kts and swung to the ENE.  we reefed the main.
By dawn the wind had swung to the ESE and we were once again close reaching to the south.  We started the engine to provide some additional power into the head seas that were starting to build.
We motor-sailed most of that day as the seas continued to build into very steep and short waves.  The boat motion was not very comfortable and neither of us got much sleep during the day.
Around noon we changed course slightly to the east to clear Cape Canaveral.  Now we were nearly on a beat.  The winds were still mostly around 15 knots with occasional gusts to 20.  If it weren't for the steep seas this would have been a comfortable, even pleasant sail.
By late afternoon the winds shifted more to the south and we were no longer holding a course that would safely clear Cape Canaveral.
We had two choices, harden up some more and motor-sail into these seas for another 24 hours to Ft. Pierce or turn back to the NW to the St. Johns River and the port of Jacksonville.  With the expectation that the winds would continue to shift to the south making further progress in that direction very slow and uncomfortable, we reluctantly changed course for Jacksonville.
Entering the St. Johns River around midnight was not an easy task.  As we got closer to shore the winds died to around 10kts, but the steep 4' - 6' seas continue to roll in from the east.  The St. Johns' Inlet runs East-West and we arrived off the inlet about 1-1/2 hours after the maximum ebb of 2.3 kts.  So there still was a lot of current running out of the inlet straight against the seas.  It was a slow, rolling approach to the breakwaters on the inlet.  At times Sarah was rolling 20 degrees, side to side.  Eventually we arrived inside the breakwaters and the seas immediately flattened out.  Jacksonville is a very busy port and we were lucky there were no outbound or inbound freighters or tugs at the time we transited the inlet.
Jacksonville, FL to Melbourne, FL
Once we were in the St. Johns River we still didn't have a plan for where we would go.  As far as I knew there are no viable anchorages in the lower St. Johns (I subsequently learned of a few) and only a few marinas, all of which were closed.  The ICW crosses the St. Johns very near the entrance.  We decided to head down the ICW as soon as it got light, but that was over 4 hours off.  So we slowly motored up and down the St. Johns waiting for daylight.  During these period we each were able to catch up on some sleep.
At first we thought to anchor shortly after entering the ICW, but we discovered we were not as tired as we thought and continued down the ICW to St. Augustine where we took a berth at the municipal marina.
The next day we continued down the ICW to Daytona Beach.  I had wanted to anchor in Daytona Beach in the large anchorage off the sewage treatment center.  However the wind had been strong out of the south the entire day and that anchorage is wide open to the south.  I saw that the already anchored boats were bouncing quite a bit and called the Hallifax Harbor Marina for a berth.
The next day we had a very long, tedious and boring motor trip down the Mosquito Lagoon.  On the way I contacted several marinas in Melbourne and arranged for a berth for a month at the Melbourne Harbor Marina.  Steve would leave the boat in Melbourne and return to work.  I would also depart after a week to spend Thanksgiving with my brothers in Michigan.
That evening we anchored just north of the Titusville bridge.  The bridge causeway provided just enough protection from the south winds and it was also a great vantage point to watch the last night launch of the Space Shuttle.

Below is a short video of the shuttle launch.  CAUTION, my friend and crew, Steve, got very excited by this launch.  You may want to turn down the sound, if not mute, to avoid his excited commentary.
The next day we berthed Sarah in Melbourne Harbor.  Steve rented a car to take himself to the Orlando Airport the following day and we used his car to do some shopping.
I thought since Melbourne Harbor was right in the downtown district of Melbourne it would be convenient to shops, but this is a very touristy area and the only shops in the area carry mostly tourist stuff.  The closest grocery store is more than a mile away.  Looks like I'll get a little exercise over the next month.
In December I will attempt to once more cross over to the Bahamas with or without a crew.