Saturday July 31 – Tuesday August 3
Saturday we are up early to catch the 7 AM opening of the bridge, as we call in to the bridge tender at 6:50 he advises us that before 7 it is on demand so he opens right away for us and we are motoring back out the St. Augustine inlet heading up to Fernandina Beach on the Florida / Georgia border. By 10:30 we are passing the Jacksonville skyline. By 1 the winds pick up enough to turn the motor off and have some quiet sailing. Then we get a short boost from an inland storm causing the winds 5 miles out at sea where we are to increase getting us up to 8 knots. By 3 we turn west into the St. Mary's inlet, sure wish all inlets could be so wide & deep and well marked. I am sure that the Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base has a lot to do with that. We turn south out of Cumberland Sound into the Amelia River passing one of the 2 huge paper mills as we go down the river to get closer to the town. We had planned to anchor but as we approach the mooring field it is almost empty and with a 7 foot tide swing along with the current we decided to pick up a mooring. See a jumping ray & learn later of sightings of flying manta rays. By 4:30 we are secured, call the marina check in & say we will be in the next morning to pay. Relax with a drink then get the dinghy out & ready before dinner on board. Sunday we go ashore around 11 stop by the marina office get a map of the Island & “downtown” area. Not that you could get lost, basically a one street town along the waterfront. Some beautiful old homes and buildings with huge oak trees covered with Spanish moss. We find a neat little restaurant Jack & Diane's with some unusual dishes and a couple of dark ale beers that Steve had never tasted (which is saying a lot). Walk around a little more and back to the boat by 3 to head up river about an hour to Cumberland Island on the Georgia side of the inlet. Even though it is only an hour trip, we put up the main sail, when we are rolling it back up the furling line (only old line left) snaps. We are at the anchorage so we anchor with the main sail out loose. After anchoring we manage to get the sail in. Now for the fun part switching out the furling line on a roller furling in mast main is not an easy job. 4 hours later the job is done and the new line works great, the old swollen line could have been part of the problem causing the main sail to jam. With the new line(s) it rolls in & out easily & by 8 all the tools are put away, so much for a relaxing afternoon. Monday morning while it is calm Steve goes up the mast with a tape measure to take exact measurements of the height above the water, since we think it is 66’ and we have a 65’ bridge we plan to go under the next day. The measurements show the tip of the VHF antenna is 65’9”, but it can bend easily without breaking, and the next tallest thing is the lightning dissipater at 64’10”, so we think we’re OK, but will plan to be at the bridge at low tide just to be safe. We take the dinghy over to Cumberland Island National Seashore, the island used to be owned by the Carnegie family. First we take a short hike over to Dungeness, the ruins of the old family mansion. All of the kids got their own mansion when they married and there are several still scattered around the island, now used as museums or Inns. They have done a great job of keeping the island in its natural state the dunes leading to the beach are tremendous, the beaches pristine the forest area mid island with its greenery was beautiful. The wildlife from feral horses, wild turkeys & armadillos to the sea life of dolphins, crabs & turtles were all to be seen. We rented bikes to go further out around the island and one thing I would recommend they DO change is their roads. NONE of the roads are paved, they are not even dirt roads that would pack down & smooth out, they are soft SAND roads that have a few hard spots but are mostly soft and rutted like a washboard making for very difficult bike riding. They had a brush fire and were bringing fire fighters over via the ferry then out to the fire site by park service trucks. These big, strong firefighters are complaining about the rough ride in the trucks on these roads can you imagine how I felt riding a bike on them. Needless to say by the end of the day at 4 o’clock I was exhausted and so glad to be off that bike. We stopped at the park ranger station / dock where we rented the bikes drinking more water & sitting in an A/C room watching a film about one of the museums while I rested before walking the 15 minutes back to the dock where our dinghy was. Steve offered to go get the dinghy and bring it up & the ferry captain said we could ride the ferry down to the other dock but after the bumpy bike ride the walking felt good, back to the boat to clean off the days dirt by 5. Tuesday we are underway by 7:30, as we will be doing a leg up the intracoastal waterway (ICW). Passing by the Submarine Base, but no submarines home, would have been so cool to see one. We decide to do 1 hour shifts since we will be hand steering the whole way as we wind our way up through the ICW. We come up to this one very tricky spot that both the paper charts & GPS show us going left of a couple of red marks which you would normally take on the right. We slowed way down, thought about it a bit. There was a lot of room on the left side, but not much on the right side, since they were close to the bank. Finally we decided to take them on the right as their color indicated, despite what the charts indicated, and crept around them close to the poles. We went from 18 to 12 to 5 feet real quick and went aground. Got off easy enough, and decided to try the left side where the charts said we should be. No luck, went suddenly aground there too. Three or four more tries on either side and further out from the markers ran us aground too. Finally a small power boat came by on the right side of the marks, and we asked where the deep water was and he said to the right where all the charts show dry land and a shoal. We were a little dubious about the quality of the information, since he drew probably only 1.5 ft, and anything over that was deep water to him. Just then a large trawler called Slow Dancer came up behind us and called us on the radio, politely asking what our intentions were. I’m sure he’d been baffled watching our slow dance in circles around the marks. We told him that we were having trouble finding the channel. He replied that he drew 5.5' and kindly offered to lead the way and give us depth readings. He took the marks close to the right, and promptly went aground in the same spot we did. We called him back and gave him the advice the small boat gave us, and after pulling himself off, he went much farther to the right, practically on the bank, and found 20’ of water where the dry land was supposed to be. Obviously they had done some dredging there and the charts do not reflect it. Slow Dancer then kindly adjusted their cruising speed to ours, and ran ahead of us for the next 20 miles looking for more thin water, but we didn’t see anything less than 15’. As we are slowly making our way we are being attacked by horse flies, and we trade off, one steering and one swatting We must have killed 30 -40 flies. By 11 we are passing thru St Andrew sound and it does have a pass out to the Atlantic, but a long one going south so we continue with our original route inside Jekyll Creek where we have a 65' bridge to go under with our 65’9” mast. By 11:15 we are at the bridge wanted to get there at low tide but it was mid tide and it is impossible to tell from the deck of the boat if it looks like you will clear, it is a scary sight & feeling ! We cleared !! no problems good thing to know. By 12:30 we are past Jekyll Island and entering St. Simons Sound, we had originally thought we might anchor off & go onto Jekyll Island for a visit but between the constant monitoring of depth, hand steering and horse flies we have had as much as we can stand of the ICW. We pull over & throw the anchor down and re check the maps, we think we can make it to St. Catherine's Sound & inlet by dark, IF not plan C could be to continue overnight up to Hilton Head. We go off shore at St. Simmons, heading east 3 miles before turning north hoping we have enough daylight to cover the 45 miles. We do get to the inlet & are heading in as the sun starts to set, it is a long entrance very wide & deep but with several shoal areas with just a few markers. We are in the channel and approaching the northern tip of the island at dusk and round the island with just barely enough light to see the entrance to the Walburg Creek. We had thought we would go up the creek a ways for better protection but it is too dark. We can see another sail boat in closer to the creek, winds and the water are calm so we anchor right where we are before the entrance to the creek. A long & stressful day ends in a great quite isolated anchorage, that has a completely unexpected Wi-fi connection from an unprotected router on shore and several TV channels we can pick up. Life is good. Wednesday we will head up to Hilton Head South Carolina.
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