Thursday, April 30, 2015

Delegal Creek to Port Royal, SC

Hours today: 8
Miles today: 65               Total Miles: 3, 439

Knowing that tide was crucial on today’s route, we untied our lines at 0630 and headed out, along with Sweetwater and Serenity. It was our turn to lead, and we knew it would be a challenging day. We planned to travel 65 miles, which meant an eight hour day. We also had to leave the marina at high or rising tide in order to get back on the ICW. We needed to pass under a bridge at falling or low tide, and navigate through Fields Cut at nearly high tide. Fields Cut was the most nerve-wracking. It is on the north side of the Savannah River- a nail-biting experience in itself due to high current and ocean-going cargo ships. We made it through the Cut and saw 4.7 feet of water-- .7 more than we have to have. The weather was perfect, and the scenery was fun.

This shrimper isn't doing very well.

We chose not to stop in Savannah, since we visited there by car two years ago. We also by-passed Hilton Head and its resorts.  

Houses on Hilton Head Island

We are tied up at Port Royal, and love it here. There is so much to see- Parris Island, Beaufort, Fripp Island, Lady’s Island, Cat Island…. I know we will be back here in the Fall.

We had dock tails on Sweetwater this evening. Pam and Tim will be heading on tomorrow while we plan to spend several days here. Can't wait to explore more of the Low Country!

We hadn't seen one of these for ages!

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Duplin River to Delegal Creek

Day 175
Miles Today:  55      Total Miles:   3,374
Hours today:   6.8

We spent a tranquil night at our anchorage on the Duplin River off Sapelo Island, sleeping soundly in spite of the 7 foot tide swinging us around 180 degrees. The wind switched around to the north around 2:45 a.m. and woke us up briefly.  The American Cruise lines ship Independence arrived and anchored near the island dock just before we pulled our anchor.  American Cruise  ships are smallish ships that travel the rivers and some coastal areas.  The Queen of the Mississippi is one of their ships that we have seen at home. Independence does cruises between Jacksonville and Charleston, and spends a day at the Sapelo Island National Estaurine Research Reserve. (In case you are wondering- an estuary is a body of water formed where freshwater from rivers and streams flows into the ocean, mixing with seawater. ) There are a LOT of them around here. Anyway, a week-long cruise along this section of the Atlantic ICW costs $3985- $6870 per person! Wow!

Photo from ACL website

Our group (Serenity, Fruitcakes, and Sweetwater) covered 55 miles today to reach Delegal Creek Marina. We have to time each day’s travel very carefully because of the 6-7 foot tides in this part of the ICW. Hell Gate, for example, has just three feet of water at mean low tide. Most of us draw close to four feet, so we need to pass through there at mid to high tide.  As I mentioned earlier, the current switches direction with the tide, either giving us a boost or slowing us down.  I appreciate the Mississippi more than ever! We passed through Old Teakettle Creek, Front River, Sapelo Sound,  Johnson Creek, North Newport River, St. Catherine’s Sound, Bear River, Florida Passage, Ogeechee River, Hell Gate, Vernon River, and then up Delegal Creek to the marina on Skidaway Island.

Slowly and carefully through the shallow spots

We arrived in time for docktails in the marina’s screened porch.  Phat Cat with Dave and Di and Room With a View with Larry and Gail were here already and joined in the fun. Then dockmaster Billy arranged rides for 10 of us to the Village Bar and Grill for dinner.  Six people drove in two golf carts (a 20-minute ride) and Billy drove the other four of us in his car. Skidaway Island is an exclusive, planned and gated community. Everything was perfectly manicured and beautiful.  (Except for the snakes- more on that later.) I prefer unspoiled natural beauty, but I appreciate this type of beauty as well. I would not want to live here- too many rules. Most of the island’s residents are seasonal.

I had fantastic shrimp and grits for dinner- delicious! Then we all walked a block or so to Publix to pick up a few groceries. Billy came back to return us to the marina while the others silently glided along in their electric carts- no gas engines allowed.

Yesterday Kathy and I went for a long walk, while John and Mark took a shorter route. I caught a glimpse of a brown snake slithering into some bushes along the sidewalk. My heart only fluttered for a moment.  As Kathy and I continued, we encountered another snake, and this one had no intention of moving off the path.  I become immobile and unable to form words when I unexpectedly see a snake, which probably alarmed Kathy more than the reptile. She did jump just a bit. At least I was able to recover enough to snap a photo of this 18 inches of pure terror.  I know it’s a garter snake, not a green mamba, but, EEEWW! Still, it was a great walk.

Nice home for a snake??

Skidaway Island is mostly surrounded by marshes- West Marsh and Romerly Marsh. That makes for interesting wildlife.

We  of course had docktails again last night, joined by David and Di on their Lagoon catamaran, Phat Cat. We are spending three nights here at Delegal Creek due to Wednesday’s rainstorms. We will be moving out before daybreak tomorrow, to take advantage of the tide as we move north.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Brunswick, Georgia

Travel Day: 173
Miles today:   38     Total Miles: 3,281
Hours today: 5.7

On Thursday (April 23) we traveled from Cumberland Island to Brunswick, both in Georgia. This trip involved several miles of tricky, skinny water, so we timed our passage to coincide with the rising  tide. It felt like we were in a parade led by Sweetwater, then Serenity, Mara Beel, and Field Trip. We even followed Zama Dawn, a sailing vessel, for awhile, since they draw more water than we do. We also crossed Jekyll Sound and St Simon's Sound. These are inlets, or places where the Intracoastal Waterway is open to the Atlantic. It makes for crazy currents and confusing ATONs, or aids to navigation. The trip was uneventful, thankfully. Our destination was Brunswick Landing Marina, where we took on 116 gallons of diesel and had our waste pumped out. This marina is a great place! 14 floating docks, a new clubhouse, free laundry, a huge library, free wine 3 nights a week.... what more could a Looper want??

Fourteen of us walked a few blocks and ate together at Fox's Pizza Den that evening. The group included old friends and new ones. 

We put women at one end of the table and men on the other since we ladies find detailed discussions of engines less than stimulating.

Friday was busy. We did our laundry staring about 6:30 am. Kathy, Pam, Mary and I did yoga in the clubhouse just before Roger and Mary on Ta Ta left town. It was wonderful to see them again after several months! Meanwhile Mark and John tackled changing the oil in their respective boats. 

Mary, Kathy and me

Andy drove Julie, Kathy and I to Publix for much-needed groceries in the mini-van we all rented. After a quick lunch six of us drove a short distance to St. Simons Island to see the sights. This island is very developed with beautiful homes, golf courses, shops and restaurants- night and day compared to Cumberland. It was fun to see, but I prefer the unspoiled beauty of Cumberland.

Today we went to the nearby Farmers Market. Miss Earlleen's crab cakes and sweet potato pie are every bit as good as advertised! Mark continued with the oil change process. He did both engines, both transmissions, and the generator. Whew! That is a total of eight gallons of oil.

This evening eight of us gathered on Mara Beel for dock tails and delicious snacks.We will be leaving with the tide tomorrow and heading to an anchorage.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Cumberland Island

Travel Day: 172
Miles today: 10       Total Miles: 3,243
Hours today: 1.2

Yesterday was a short cruise from Fernandina to Cumberland Island, GA.  Mara Beel has now left Florida waters for the first time since December 1st!  While we love Florida, it feels great to be moving on.

Cumberland Island is amazing! It is part of the National Park System and has a rich history.  I’ll skip over the Native American, Spanish, and American colonial eras which are fascinating, and go right to the (almost) 20th century.  Andrew Carnegie’s brother Tom and wife Lucy (mainly Lucy) owned most of this 18 mile-long island and built a huge 59-room mansion called Dungeness on the south end.  This replaced a home of the same name built by Nathaniel and Caty Greene on the same spot. (He was a Revolutionary War hero and a friend of George and Martha Washington.)  That home burned after the Civil War.

Tom and Lucy Carnegie had 9 children and Lucy built mansions here for the 4 who wanted to live on the island.  The second Dungeness also burned down in a fire thought to be set by an angry poacher. Hardly anyone lives here now, but a few descendants still own their property and are not excited about selling to the government. The only way to get here is by boat, and a ferry carries visitors here and back several times a day. A few primitive campsites are available. This is the least-visited national park.

Cumberland is synonymous with strong women and wild horses.  The women I have read about so far are Caty Greene, Lucy Carnegie, Lucy Furguson, Carol Ruckdeschel (a naturalist who lives here), and Janet “Gogo” Ferguson, who arranged JFK Jr. and Caroline Bessette’s secret wedding on the island.

Back to the island: there are miles of pristine beaches on the Atlantic side and dense tropical forests in the interior. We dinghied to shore to explore.

Wildlife includes the famous wild horses, feral pigs, gators, birds, and, yes, snakes.

This one refused to leave the area for at least an hour.

These horses are not as cute as Misty of Chincoteague, if you remember that book. They are mangy and muddy from living on their own. Although we saw a few on the beach, they seem to prefer the easy grazing around the Dungeness ruins.

Grand Avenue

 We hiked 4-5 miles with Julie and Andy around the southern end of the island to see Dungeness. It must have been incredible in its heyday.

 Some environmentalists want the horses thinned out because of the damage they cause, and some think the historic mansions should be allowed to crumble.  Some property owners are interested in selling to commercial developers. There is plenty of controversy on this island!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

St. Augustine to Fernandina Beach

Travel Day:    170-171                    Hours both days: 8.1
Miles both days: 57                        Total miles: 3,223
Locks today: 0                              Total Locks: 39

We intended to make this run in one long day, with Plan B being to tie up at a free dock in Sisters Creek near Jacksonville if the weather proved ugly. 
Sunset in St. Augustine
We left St. Augustine before sunrise, early enough to catch the lighthouse with its light turned on.

The tides make travel interesting. Running at the same RPM, the tidal current either gives us a boost up to 10 mph or slows us down to about 6 mph depending on whether the tide is going in our out, or is slack. The current is also influenced by the nearest inlet to the Atlantic. It's crazy! We did well for several hours, but the threatening weather inched ever closer. So Plan B it was. We pulled into Sisters Creek in a fierce current on the outgoing tide and tied up to the dock. Since it is a free dock, there was no power or other amenities, but no problem. A bit later another boat asked if they could raft up with us, since the dock was full. We agreed, but as they tried to approach, the current drove them into Mara Beel, causing damage to our starboard quarter. <sigh> We will get it fixed when we leave the boat for the summer. We were all happy to be secure when the wind and rain arrived.

Yikes! Serenity and Fruit Cakes in front of us.

 8 of us gathered for docktails in spite of the rain.

This morning we continued on to Fernandina Beach on Amelia Island, only 22 miles away. We arrived in time to enjoy lunch at the Marina Seafood restaurant, a short walk up the street. This restaurant has been family-owned since the 1960's and serves home cookin'. After lunch we found plenty of cute shops for us ladies to browse! 

Colorful stairs

The time was incorrect

Pulp wood is a major industry here

This evening's dock tails were actually imbibed on the dock for a change since the weather was ideal. The snacks and ice cream from Fantastic Fudge Ice Cream Parlor  comprised our supper. 

Kathy, Becky and Julie

Another amazing sunset!