C'est la Vie is a 1966 Charlie Morgan 34.

Her home port is Everglades City, FL. Our typical cruising area is Southwest Florida, the Florida Keys, the Southeastern Atlantic Seaboard, and the Bahamas. We are C'est la Vie's third owners and purchased her in 2005. We continue to maintain and update this classic vessel. Please post any questions or comments about C'est la Vie or our travels via the comment links below.

Saturday, July 31, 2010


We woke early to find an anchored boat next to us. Its sails were prepped and ready for the wooden boat race held today in Southport. We toyed with the idea but I felt that we had promises to keep and the race was to take all day. I did not want to fight the tide so that meant either leave at 8 am and ride the tide to Wilmington arriving around noon or wait till the next ebbing tide 12 hours later and I did not want to roll into an unknown place at midnight. I guess we could have fought the tide but it does lend about 2-3 knots. When we go on average 5 knots fighting that much current seems to me a bit crazy. Jeff wanted to stay and we probably could have done the race stay another night and then roll in tomorrow. The Lovett’s had said that they were arriving on Saturday afternoon and I didn’t want to have them waiting on us. So, with hesitation we decided to leave. Just as Jeff was releasing the lines Robert came down the dock to check in on us. It was at that point I was really regretting pushing our departure. He had on a tee shirt from a previous boat race. He has a cape dory that he was going to have in the race. Could we really do both? No, we have promises to keep…right?
Robert said good bye to us and took on the responsibility of mailing my post cards. He gave us a healthy shove as Jeff slipped C’est la Vie into reverse. She eased into the harbor and as cruised by the stationary yellow boat awaiting the race. I took over the helm as Jeff cleared the lines and put up the fenders. There are still limitations of my shoulder and coiling lines is a motion that is a bit agonizing. Another port to our stern, on to Wilmington!
I turned on the grill and cooked our dinner from Charleston. That’s right-potatoes, chicken and steak for lunch. Bud and Muriel found on their trip great circular metal skewers that I string red skinned potatoes and garlic cloves, drizzle with olive oil and speckle with salt and pepper. I have grilled potatoes a few times and its different each time.

We motored the whole way. The wind was on our nose at every turn. I took a video with my Ipod to prove it. We had clear skies and calm seas. It took us a little under 4 hours to get to our next dock. As it was in Charleston, 2 attempts were the call of the day. The first attempt ferried C'est la Vie into the dock not the slip Jeff was able to pivot off of it with nary a scratch. The next one was better. I got nervous as I was out of practice and did not quickly lash the line on the cleat so the side of the boat smeared along the rubrail of the dock. There were fenders on our boat and the dock so, no damage just an ugly black streak pronouncing the error in docking. Yuck. We would need some goof off pronto! We got all the lines secured and turned off the motor. Not a taxing day.
We hopped off the boat to meet some more of the Lovett’s friends, Hugh and Kathy on Joint Effort. They are the de facto dock masters of this area. They were not aboard their  boat. We will have to hail them later.
After lunch and a bit of a rest we received a phone call. It was the Lovetts and they brought along Carlie the dog! I ran up the dock to meet them. I spooked the little dog and she flinched and growled. I lowered my hands so she could sniff me and then she realized who I was and the tail was wagging and then off into spaz mode running in figure eights and if a dog could squeal that was the sound eminating from her body. It was good to be reunited with that little love.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Southport, NC

July 30 Southport FREE DOCK!
The Lovetts had made friends with a couple Robert and Kay aboard C-Life.  They lived close to the free dock and Jeff’s parents said to call them when we were close to see if the one free space was open.  So, At around 10 am I hopped on the cell phone to call up Robert.  Sure enough the dock was open.  We slipped into the basin and docked.  It was a good docking not our best but pretty good.   We had a chance to get all the dock lines arranged and this cute boy came over and asked us about fishing.  Then he asked us if this was our boat and if we had a tiny boat.  I told him that the thing that looked like a surfboard was our tiny boat.  He looked at me like I was crazy.  I told him that it unfolds into a boat.  He thought that sounded ok.  He told us how he traveled some with his grandparents on their boat C-life.  Ah, the connection.
 Robert and Kay came over to welcome us a moment later.   What super generous folks.  We told them we were a bit tired and thought we’d go have some lunch and then walk around town.  We really were pooped.
It took all we had to get dressed to walk around the basin to eat at the provision company.  We met a woman who was selling her jewelry outside the restaurant she was from Walpole, nh and used to live in Brevard, nc and just moved to Southport.  She had some neat things. I wish I had picked up her card so that I could link it.  
Alas, we meandered back to the boat and Jeff went to the V-berth to read and I remained in the cockpit under the super shade with my book.  Neither of us got very far in our novels.  ZZZZZZZ.
It was 5 o'clock somewhere and my phone rang. Robert invited us up to the porch for a cocktail.  Jeff and I rallied and brought up a couple of beers.  We met Robert and Kay's family and neighbors.  They welcomed us onto the porch and for hours we laughed and told stories.  It was a nice change of pace.  At boat midnight -9 pm- excused ourselves to head back to the boat and the party went on without us.  

Thursday, July 29, 2010

July 29, 2010 Tempestuous voyage

July 29 Transition between Charleston, Sc to Southport, NC
Good Morning! We woke up rested and ready for another transit outside. We listened to NOAA no storms were predicted. The winds were to be light and the waves 1-2 ft. Perfect for our overnight. We needed to have this kind of day out in the ocean. I didn’t want to be beat up again.
We rode the out going tide feeling so set up for our 100+ mile transit to Southport. We hailed a boat that was incoming and checked to see if NOAA was correct. Sure enough they reported the same. With smiles on our faces we were out into the Atlantic ready to transit Bulls Bay and Long Bay on our way to Southport. We are on our way to NC!
I was on the helm out of the inlet. It was noon and we decided to switch so that we could be on our previous schedule. We get Otto set up and began the 4 hour watch routine. This is great. We have the Genoa up and the main sail set. It is not nearly as humid out on the water as it was on land. The sun is out and we have a hazy horizon but with Otto on we are making great time.
Jeff was on watch and he just did not like the look of the horizon. I did not know what he was talking about. “Anne, look at the clouds. Do you see the column there and then the one over there? They might have rain but what is in front of us is massive and might be a huge thunderstorm.
We tried to get NOAA on the radio. It was picking up Jacksonville, fl weather and we needed Myrtle Beach, SC. This was not helpful. Back to listening to Charleston weather. We were too far away for Wilmington. The fact that we could not raise the Myrtle Beach weather fueled Jeff’s fears that what I thought was just haze was in fact something we needed to be aware of. So, we dropped the Genoa and then proceeded to put 2 reefs in the sail. I really thought this might be crazy as we were only feeling 5-10 knots of wind. Really light air. I kind of resented it as our speed went from 6 knots to 3.5 knots.
At around 7 pm Charleston weather came on with warnings of severe storms and this warning would remain until 8:45pm. Uggh. That is when I learned again not to second guess Jeff when it comes to reading weather.

Soon, the squall line was upon us. It looked like a gray portabella mushroom cap from Alice in Wonderland. Under the cap it was dark and scary with flashes of light, the top was not much better at least there was no caterpillar. There were layers of clouds on this front. I have never seen anything like this. It was huge It went from light behind us to darkness in front and to the side of us. I began to get a bit nervous. Clenching my teeth and looking to Jeff for directions.
Jeff took the helm and then the winds began to blow. The clouds were sucking all the air up and growing in size. Lightning was next. Finally, the rain hit-cold, hard, driving rain. We were in the mix of weather for about 4 hours. The most intense of it lasted about and hour. I was in shear panic mode. All I could do was hold onto the hand held VHF with at death grip in case our boat was struck by lightning and broken and half and we were swept out to sea at least I could push the distress button. It made sense in my head at the time. Jeff made me put it down as it was made of metal.
The flashes went from flashes like getting your photo taken and far off growling noises to rips of light across the sky and a CRACK and vibrations that I felt at my core. I was scared. If I had to be on the helm I don’t know if I could have done it. I was stiff, my lower lip was quivering and I tried so hard not to hyperventilate. Tears were streaming and I just kept thanking Jeff under my breath for being so damn brave and so together and so focused and ….Thank you.
As the storm let up and I moved a bit Jeff asked me to go downstairs get warm and dried off. It would be light rain from now on and if I did that then I could take the helm so he could do the same. I did not want to go away from him. I was afraid that he would be swept away or hit by lightning or something else just as terrible. I was really in a negative spiral.
I reluctantly agreed and went downstairs. I found a mess. My plants had fallen over during the worst of it so dirt and basil was all over the floor. I mopped up rainwater and sea spray that came in through the vents. We had taken on some water and it was pooling in the lockers under the quarter berth so it was seeping out through the floor near the stove. It was not as bad as it could be since every basket was in place and all of our food and books and pelican cases were on their shelves.
As I dried myself off and changed clothes an alarm went off. Again to panic mode. What was this noise, what was happening, Jeff!? “Push the button on the white panel”, he shouts over the roar of the engine. I have no idea what he is talking about. I shoot out of the cabin and into the cockpit and tell him he has to take care of it. Down he goes and in an instant the alarm is silenced. He yells up to me” it’s the high water alarm.” Oh shit. I begin to go into worst case disaster mode. Have we been struck by lightning and we have a hole in the boat? Is the hull broken from the waves? Why can’t the bilge pump get all the water? Where is this water coming from?
Jeff opens the engine compartment; I stay at the helm and remain calm as the light show is still quite impressive, mostly cloud to cloud creating spider web designs. If it didn’t frighten me so much I might be able to appreciate the beauty of the designs the electricity was making.
Jeff figured out that the filter on the lower bilge pump was clogged and was not keeping up with the rain and sea spray. He removed it and the pump did it’s job and the alarm dried out and stopped howling. Phew.
The rest of the voyage, 7 hours, was a piece of cake. Can you believe that the wind died and we had to motorsail the rest of the way? We actually were able to ride the flooding tide into Southport and arrive at the free dock for slack tide as if we had planned it that way. It took us just about 23 hours to go 124nm. That’s pretty darn good for the sailboat!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

July 28 a restful day in Charleston, SC

After a super night sleep we awoke and we were ready to tackle the heat index of 114. NOAA repeated often on the radio to check in on the elderly and that visitors needed to drink plenty of fluids. So, with water bottles full and in hand we set off to find a book store. *back story- I gave Jeff a book by a Florida author, Bob Morris prior to leaving on the trip. When we were in Marathon we found his second novel in the free lending library at Boot Key Harbor. I love lending libraries! Well we are in search of his third novel called Bermuda Schwartz. Harder to find his work the further north we travel.*
There is a great bookstore called Blue Bicycle Bookstore on King St. We have no idea where that is or how far but we are going to find it. Let the walking on land begin! As we exited Origami, we start to make a plan. We walk the plank that leads from the dock to land. This guy passes us and as we exchange good morning greetings Jeff asks, "can you tell us how to get to King St.?" Yes, it runs parallel to the water a few blocks up. Oh, good-not too far I think. He asks us what are we looking for- a book store I pipe up. Oh, he knows of the Blue Bicycle but not sure which way to go but he thinks his girlfriend would know. They are about to go on a road trip and she is at the gas station. He asks us if we would like a ride to the store. “Sure”, we said in unison. He looks at us and then says sheepishly maybe I should ask my girlfriend first. Yes, that is a good idea! She says yes and we were on our way. I love marina people. They drop us off and we began a super town day.
Bookstore, lunch at a pizza shop, handmade chocolates for dessert, half moon outfitters and then another bookstore, mailing postcards, home. All along our walk we were delighted with beautiful architecture, wonderful shop windows to peer into and shade! On our way back home we pass a bar called Salty Mikes with a sign outside announcing that they make yummy dark and stormy drinks- one of my favorites that Cameron Hilton introduced to me. We decide that we should go back to the boat for a bit and then come in for happy hour and have dinner aboard. Perfect idea.
Such ideas are meant to be altered. We were there for happy hours instead of one. We had fried dinner and were entertained by some great karaoke. Great in its awfulness as well as good singers. We used our phones to text friends and ask questions about stories that we had mixed up and made new friends.
It was a fun evening.
Another great night of sleep.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

July 27- oh, what a day!

We were pooped. 4 hour watches and inclement weather will really wear a woman down. We anchored the boat across the river from the city marina the home of the mega dock. Our first anchor was not where we wanted so Jeff hoisted the 100 ft of chain and I motored to a better location and down went the anchor and chain. After riding out storms in the Dry Tortugas we are quite gun shy about anchoring too close to other boats. We could not raise one boats on the radio that we were near to ask them about their ground tackle so we just decided to move. After contacting the marina to find out if they had a dingy dock or not we rested our eyes for just a minute.
Several hours later…
We rushed into the marina 10 minutes till they were about to close. They were not interested in giving us passes they had already closed out the register. Slackers. You can take that as either us for being so late or them for not wanting to write our names on a piece of paper. I think it applies to both. Ha! We decided to eat on the boat and forget trying to get into town. We were exhausted.
It was a good thing that we decided to stay on board as a storm- yes another storm-if you can believe it, fueled by the hot asphalt formed inland and swept across the anchorage with such intense lightning that all the hairs on my arms and back of my neck stood on end. It had really strong winds that blew us all around. Jeff started the motor and we were ready. Dry Tortugas really prepped us for the unplanned squall at anchor. As soon as it was over I asked Jeff if he felt as fuzzy as me. What? He had no idea what I was talking about. You know when all the hairs are at attention- fuzzy. Not good Anne, he informed me. He then explained the ions, negative-positive that are seeking attraction forming in the clouds….It was good information and now I know that if I feel fuzzy that I am super attractive.

Otto our champion

Despite consistently diminishing hull speeds the first night of our passage passed uneventfully.  In response to shifting winds we jibed onto a more northerly heading as we passed Cape Canaveral about 50NM to our west.  Daybreak on the 26th found us on a port tack making 8 knots on a heading of 8 degrees under our genoa.   Our estimated time enroute to Cape Fear had increased dramatically due to our new heading and slower velocity.  Faced with the possibility of two to three more days offshore to Cape Fear we adjusted our landfall westward to Charleston, SC.   The adjustment would match our current heading, worked well with forecasted winds, and provided an all weather inlet at which we would arrive in around 24 hours. 

Giving up on our original goal of a non-stop Lake Worth to Cape Fear River passage left us a little bummed, but our spirits were buoyed by the achievement of covering 204NM in 24hours.   This new record for us aboard C’est la Vie meant that we averaged 8.5 knots during the entire period.

Otto, our Cape Horn windvane autopilot (see image included), proved to be our champion during this crossing.  After the repair on day one of our passage, Otto, maintained the helm for the majority of our remaining time at sea.  This made life aboard much more enjoyable for Anne and I as we were able to share meals together, read books on our watches, and avoid the taxing job of constant hand steering.  It has taken us a long time to work through all the adjustments, fine tuning, and nuisances required to realize the full potential of the windvane, but during this passage Otto has really performed up to our expectations and beyond.

By evening on the 26th we were approximately equidistant, 100NM, from Jacksonville, FL & Charleston, SC.  While unable to view land we were able to witness towering thunderstorms building as sea breezes met the warm southeastern sea board from Saint Augustine, FL north and eastward to Charleston, SC.  Near sunset we counted nine towering cumulonimbus spanning our horizon from 240deg off our port side across our bow to 45deg off our starboard.  NOAA out of both Jacksonville & Charleston informed us that the storms were moving northwestward.  We were free to view the display of backlit storms without fear of their approach. 

Still on our four hour watches with Otto at the helm we slipped silently into our second night at sea.  

As we closed in on coastal Georgia and South Carolina during the early morning hours of July 27th. We encountered confused seas and variable winds left over from the previous evening’s thunderstorms.  These conditions finally brought to an end Otto’s 36+ hour command of the helm and eventually our ability to rely on wind power alone.   The final 6 hours of our approach to Charleston was made motor sailing under the main.

Just afternoon on Tuesday, July 27, 53 hours after leaving Lake Worth, we dropped anchor across the channel from the Charleston City Marina.   Time for a late lunch and a nap.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Outward Bound from Lake Worth

Inspired by an enthusiastic dinner invitation from Rick & Cynthia, the crew of SV Reverie, we decided to spend a night at the Riviera Beach City Marina.   The marina is located on the west side of Peanut Island on the mainland of Florida.  The marina facility gets an overall thumbs down from Anne and I.  The docks are fixed (not floating); the current in the area can run over 2 knots; and the slips have only partial fingers.  If it were not for the friendly and amazingly helpful dock master, Ernie, we would have likely moved on after sizing up the slip.  On the positive side the marina has just completed a new bathhouse/laundry facility and the Tiki Bar on site is welcoming.  The marina does not have any internet access; they charge $7/day for power hook-up; but the potable water is free.  The marina has a dinghy dock for a daily fee.   In the future I think we would choose to remain in the Lake Worth anchorage and dinghy into the marina. Enough about the marina… we were able to take some long showers and clean our laundry prior to Rick arriving to pick us up for dinner.

After getting to know cruisers on the water it is interesting to visit them at their terrestrial residences.   In 2008 we spent time with Reverie’s crew while in the Abacos.  We had a great time catching up on sailing and other travel stories.  Dinner; a medley of grilled veggies, grilled fish, and stuffed clams; was delicious.  Thanks Reverie – hopefully we return the favor when you pass through our home port.

During the 24 hours we spent in the Lake Worth area the offshore winds decreased into the 15 knot range becoming more favorable for us to sail northward on the outside.  We were up early on the 25th to take advantage of a slack tide in our escape from the marina’s docks and exit the Lake Worth Inlet.  

Despite our timing and favorable winds the inlet was rougher than either Anne or I expected.  We motor sailed under a full main until the confused seas of the inlet were behind us.  The northward flowing Gulf Stream runs close to shore at Lake Worth.  By the time we had the genny up, the sails trimmed, and the motor silenced our GPS reported C’est la Vie was making a consistent 10 knots northward.   Wow, we were expecting a push from the stream, but averaging 10 knots with bumps up into the 12 knot range filled Anne and I with a sense of awe at the possibilities of covering vast distances riding the “stream”.

After setting up our Cape Horn Autopilot, “Otto”, we plotted a course for the Cape Fear inlet along the coast of North Carolina.  By 09:39 our GPS reported that the 429NM to Cape Fear would take 53H37m.  We established a schedule of 4 hour watches.  Otto was deftly handling the steering but we must also maintain a crew on watch.  The crew on watch is responsible for monitoring the autopilot, our course, and for other hazards (i.e. other vessels, storms, etc.)   Despite suffering from mild bout with seasickness, Anne took the first watch.  

With our speed continuing to average around 10 knots, I began my watch at noon.   High on the power of wind to propel and steer C’est la vie the first hour of my watch passed blissfully; then something went bump in the lazurette. 

Anne and I were both in the cockpit when it happened.  “What was that?”  It was a sound not only heard by also felt.  We quickly searched around, but found nothing amiss.  Perhaps we struck a submerged object or a large fish?  Not able to find any damage or cause we settled back into our bliss.  But our bliss was short lived.  Now Otto was refusing to hold a steady course.  Hmm, must be struggling with the weather helm created by carrying a full main in 15 knots on a close reach.

 I reefed the main to reduce the weather helm.  Otto continued to struggle to hold a course.

Back to hand steering – bummer.  When we switch back to hand steering, one of us leans over the transom to remove the wooden steering oar.   It is not a dangerous maneuver and it saves wear and tear on the auto pilot steering system.   While removing the steering oar I discovered the source of the mysterious bump.

From the exterior, the vane seemed loose.  Opening the lazurette, I discovered that after 10+ years of stress and salt exposure the stainless steel screws attaching the starboard mount to the hull sheared.   Anne assumed the responsibility of hand steering while I began to size up the repair. 

A couple of trips between the tool locker and the lazurette confirmed that we had the tools and materials aboard to facilitate the repair. 

A couple of minutes hanging upside down in the lazurette combined with some trips to the tool locker and I was feeling seasick.  I do not succumb to motion sickness often, but now all the symptoms – sweats, tremors, nausea were upon me.  I struggled through the repair always noting the quickest path to the railing in anticipation of seeing my lunch for a second time.  Despite the setback of shearing a third bolt, the repair took about 90 minutes.  I was below decks stowing tools when my nausea overcame me.  Fortunately I had already cleared a flight plan for the sink.   I felt much better.

In short order we had Otto back on the helm and my green was down to a light shade of swiss chard. 

20:12 the log reports a large ship to our starboard and 2220 feet of water under our keel.  Our speed is down to 8 knots.

By sunset the winds are backing to the south so we drop the main to adjust to a broad reach.    So begins our first night on this offshore passage.