Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Nov. 16-22, 2010 (Week 7, Day 43-48)

Tues. Nov. 16, 2010 (Week 7, Day 43): Destination: Savannah, Turner Creek Weather: cloudy with sunny periods, white & grey clouds, rain predicted Winds: suddenly the wind gen started whirling at 0530 hrs. & the SW winds built as the day went on to 15-20K with frequent gusts.

We were woken by the the sudden increase in the wind velocity. Graeme thought we were dragging but not & stayed up observing while I went back to bed & dozed in & out of sleep till 0730 hrs. The near derelict boat beside us had 2 bow & 2 stern anchor lines & he did not swing like the rest of us with the tides & the winds; at times we felt too uncomfortably close, especially if the winds picked up more. We were still approaching low tide. Breakfast & housekeeping. A boat behind us left leaving a more favourable spot so we relocated & in 11 ft. water. Then we dinghied over to Hogan’s Marina, paid our tie up fee & walked to Publix to buy fresh fruit & vegetables. Once back to the boat I packed the groceries away in their storage spots & the winds were now gusting to 20K. Graeme decided to dinghy me to shore so I could walk to the library & work away for several hours while he stood guard. Numerous emails, charged my camera battery, downloaded another memory photo card onto my laptop, formatted 2 memory cards for future use. Suddenly my brother emailed with some very sad news--- one of my nieces hockey teammates committed suicide at the age of 15! Why? How devastating! I was late for my arranged pick up time. Now the skies were very grey & the winds had increased gusting > 20K & only a few drops of rain. The Morrows called that the new refrigeration module had been installed successfully & they would be on their way tomorrow. We both read for a while; I couldn’t stop thinking of the tragic news from home. Supper= meatballs in vodka sauce with spaghetti noodles + fresh beans--> yummy! Bed at 2130 hrs. Slowly the winds decreased overnight but the sky remained cloudy; in the middle of the night the clouds started breaking up & the moon was visible. It was warm again tonight.

Wed. Nov. 17, 2010 (Week 7, Day 44): Destination: Savannah (Mile 585.5) to Redbird Creek (Mile 606.8) Departure: 0930 hrs. Arrival: 1315 hrs. Mileage: 21.3 SM Weather: clear, sunny, blue skies, no clouds, T= 60’sF Winds: more settled today with a few gusts during the night & the wind gen whirling at times; during the day winds W at 6-10K

There was no hurry to leave as we were not doing too many miles today & the low tide trend was till late in the morning (1115 ish). Banana pancakes, boat shower & dinghy motor raised. When the anchor was up the chain was completely clean but the anchor was heavily muddy--- hosed down. We slowly crept out of Turner Creek because of low tide, out into the Wilmington River & unfurled some jenny on a broad reach to help us against the current. We weaved back & forth through Skidaway Narrows (low tide) but sufficient water. The Skidaway Narrows Bridge (bascule) opened on request. The Morrows called us on the VHF & they were just 2 hrs. behind us. Good depths through Burnside River & Vernon River, a wide river leading to North Ossabaw Sound. It was a rising tide through Hell’s Gate (Mile 601.4-602.4) but still a little skinny (6.2-9.0); this is the cut around Ossabaw Island into Ogeechee River--- Georgia’s 2nd largest river with known strong ebb tides. At R98 we turned into Florida Passage entrance & very soon afterwards turn to starboard before G99 into Redbird Creek. We dropped the anchor in a flooding tide & an opposing & gusting W wind. A group of dolphins were playing in the grasses on the east shore---going nuts in fact especially one who seemed to be nosing into the muddy shore for the longest time; apparently they are known to do this to force small schools of fish into the mud. The Morrows arrived almost 2 hours later. And the Skipper’s meeting was held here to decide our destinations for the next few days. It looks like we must push on each day with good mileages & miss Thanksgiving in St. Mary’s in order to make it to Ft. Lauderdale by Dec. 3; clean boat, laundry, reprovision in time for the Hunts’ arrival on Dec.6th. We were so looking forward to celebrating US Thanksgiving with other cruisers, a tradition the community of St. Marys puts on; 300 people are expected this year. Supper= meatballs with vodka sauce for G & tilapia fish & fresh beans for moi. Mileage planning, journal writing, then to bed. An early start tomorrow in order to put in big miles. Quiet, calm, clear, stars+++, ¾ moon; possible frost predicted in some inland areas, but we were very comfortable.

ICW Waterway: Turner Creek-->Wilmington River-->Skidaway Narrows-->Burnside River--> Vernon River-->Hells Gate-->Ogeechee River-->Florida Passage--> Redbird Creek

Thurs. Nov. 18, 2010 (Week 7, Day 45): Destination: Redbird Creek (Mile 606.8) to Wallys Leg (Mile 666) Departure: 0730 hrs. Arrival: 1600 hrs. Mileage: 59.2 SM Weather: magnificent sunrise to full sun, blue skies, no clouds, cool am temp= ? upper 30’sF or lower 40’sF Winds: light in am to 8-10K in pm from the west

As the dark of night was turning to light, the red sky hovering over the salt marsh grasses was breathtaking! I think that the Doucet’s especially Diane could attest that it would be similar to the sunrises in the Prairies. It was crystal clear & a bit cool-->scarf but no tuque & socks with my sandals. I have just broken my cardinal rule--- socks & sandals! Pulling up anchor is so easy now with an electric windless--- 150 ft. 3/8” chain + 150 ft. rode. The chain & anchor came up clean (I now even have a pressurized hose to clean the bow etc.). We passed through 4 sounds today & so we were constantly moving with or against the current depending on our position to each sound. It was so calm today that instead of the usual sandwiches & salad for lunches, I made us hot dogs, a nice change (some may not think so). We started the day at near low tide & shortly after noon the tide was on a rising cycle. We met some skinny water on one of the many curves of the Front River & at G185, the Rockdedundy River, when we met a powerboat followed by a tug. A rising tide was perfect for this next passage through the worst section of shallow water on the entire Atlantic ICW from Norfolk to Florida, the Little Mud River (Mile 653-656.4); now 1400 hrs., 2 hours into a rising tide, we crept through, averaging 7.5-8 ft. depths; Graeme was at the helm & I was antsy so tried to read. Phewf! We were also lucky in that a powerboat followed by ‘Twomorrows’ were in front of us giving us a blow by blow commentation as they passed. Dolphins gracefully broke through the water surface near all the Sounds close to our bow or off to our sides. I couldn’t help to think of my niece’s friend--- if she could have only seen through her bleakness to see all this beauty! And I would think about Art Bird, a friend who just a week ago lost his fighting battle with ALS. Oh, how my heart aches! We anchored in Wallys Leg at 1600 hrs. in 14 ft. (80 ft. chain). We rowed over to the Skipper’s Meeting on ‘Twomorrows’ with much assistance from the current. We will head to Brunswick Landing Marina tomorrow to do laundry (free), free WiFi, oil change, fill our diesel tank & water tank for our trek down to Ft. Lauderdale. The Morrows have blown their marina budget with their stay in Hilton Head with their fridge problems, so they will hang out & anchor in the Frederica or Lanier Rivers. Then Sat. we will meet up on our way back up the Brunswick River to St. Simon Sound then tackle the dreaded passage through Jekyll Island--- no government money spent to dredge this constantly shoaling area in many years especially G17 & 19 (favour green side). It must be passed in high tide only! We have encouraged the Morrows to go to St. Marys for their US Thanksgiving. I feel that I am being repetitive, but the sunset tonight was just as spectacular as the sunrise this morning & for so many of our sunrises & sunsets for most of days thus far; we certainly have been lucky with our weather. Slack tide assisted us for our row home. Supper= sloppy joes & broccoli. Journal writing & reading & then bedtime.

ICW Waterway: Florida Passage (G99-R102, Mile 605.9-608.5)-->St. Catherines Sound-->(Mile 618) best at low water slack when sea is calmest & currents most favourable-->North Newport River (Mile 620)-->Johnson Creek, a serpentine, deep channel (saw a sailboat whose bow was in the marshy bank)-->South Newport River-->Sapelo Sound (Mile 632)-->Sapelo River-->Front River, narrow & deep but 1 corner only 6.4 ft.-->Creighton Narrows (Mile 642)-->Crescent River-->Old Teakettle Creek which widens into--> Doboy Sound (Mile 649)-->North River-->Little Mud River (Mile 653-656.4)-->Buttermilk Sound, interesting cloudy mud brown water-->MacKay River-->Wallys Leg

Fri. Nov. 19, 2010 (Week 7, Day 46): Destination: Wallys Leg (Mile 666) to Brunswick Landing Marina (Mile 680) Departure: 0815 hrs. Arrival: 1125 hrs. Mileage: 14 SM Weather: same amazing sunrise, sun, clear blue sky, comfortable cool temp about 50F with a predicted high of 72F Winds: E, calm <5-8k

I guess St. Simon & Jekyll Island will have to wait till Spring, although Graeme doesn’t see the attraction to visit these spots. Lynn & Larry will anchor off Lanier Island by the coast guard but will wait a few hours before departing till temp warms up & some of the dew evaporates off the windows. And we were off to Brunswick. After turning at the red shipping channel marker in St. Simon Sound we were forced to motor out of the channel because of a practice exercise whereby a helicopter lowered a rescue worker by wire into the water to perform some kind of rescue maneuver. Sherry, dockmaster, was on hand to catch our mooring lines at Brunswick Landing Marina. Ouch, marina fees were up from 2 yrs. ago to $2.00 per ft., competitive with marinas in the area apparently, but with all the above mentioned amenities. Graeme had his list of necessary tasks & I got started immediately at mine as soon as we had shore power established & happy with dock tie up. Two loads of wash on while I took a shower, then 2 loads in the dryer & 2 more loads of wash on; lunch & back to the dryer; met a nice lady from Pickering, Ont. on their way to Turks & Caicos possibly BVI’s. By lunch Graeme had boat’s water & diesel tanks filled, garbage removed & after lunch the engine oil changed & refilled the jerry cans of water & diesel. By 1600 hrs. we had the chores done. It was time now to explore this small community before it totally closes up & darkness is upon us. It seems the economy has hit this area; on Newcastle Street many businesses were closed down. We did not venture too far from this street. A beer ($2.00 each) at Brewburger Pub where we again met 2 Canadians from B.C. then home to make supper with the near full moon staring me in the face through the galley port. Supper= sausage, fresh beans & potatoes. We will rendezvous with the Morrows in the am by St. Simon Sound & Jekyll Island River by both of us leaving our ports by 0630hrs. & by so doing also take advantage of the very early morning high tide to make passage past Jekyll Island, as bad as Little Mud River. Graeme suddenly remembered that Sherry did not collect the money for the diesel he purchased & so he left a sealed envelope with boat card, money & note & pushed it through the drop box to the office. More journal writing then off to bed. I am having fun doing this diary, but boy is it ever cutting into my novel reading time. Quiet night, calm, near full moon, stars but some cloud cover & a low temp of 50F. Although it was quite warm tonight we had the electricity & put the heater on to keep the cockpit warmer & drier & therefore less moisture on the windows. By the way, this was our last night in “Golden Isles” region of Georgia.

ICW Waterway: Wallys Leg-->MacKay River-->St. Simon Sound-->Brunswick River-->East River

Sat. Nov. 20, 2010 (Week 7, Day 47): Destination: Brunswick (Mile 680) to Bells River, Fernandina Beach, Florida (Mile 716.5) Departure: 0630 hrs. Arrival: 1305 hrs. Mileage: 36.5 SM Weather: cloudy to South, cloudy with clear patches elsewhere in am but then occupied the skies with grey clouds in the East, maybe rain, warm Winds: light E 3K, St. Simon Sound calm; in pm ENE winds increased to about 9K after we had anchored; wind gen doing it’s thing

Alarm went off at 0500 hrs., shower, breakfast & departed as planned. A shrimp boat led the way under the 185 ft. high Sidney Lanier Bridge. We met a huge tanker on the SE side of the bridge. We turned to starboard at R2 into Jekyll Creek (Mile 681) at absolute high tide (0730-0800 hrs.), sticking to the green side as advised, especially at G17 & G19--- sometimes only 3 ft. at low tide! But we had good depths of 11-14 ft. except at R20. The Morrows were right behind us as we communicated the depths to each other. We entered Jekyll Sound (Mile 686) followed by St. Andrew Sound. To avoid extensive shoals the ICW cuts East for a short distance out the sound’s inlet channel. It can be rough especially if the winds & tides are opposing. Then the passage turns SW into more sheltered water at R32 which is shoaling badly, therefore we had to turn immediately to the western side on passing the mark; perhaps better would have been turning west AT the mark. We were now in the Cumberland River. Just a little ways out into the inlet we could see the breakers. As we were motoring down the western shore of Cumberland Island we saw wild horses walking the beach. And the dolphins made their appearance several times today everywhere. Kings Bay (Mile 708) was to starboard & is a submarine home--> security patrol boats. After R78 & G79 the marker colours reversed (pass red to port & green to starboard) & followed the large ship’s channel to St. Marys Inlet. There are 2 approaches & anchorages to Cumberland Island; more than wonderful, protected in it’s primitive state island! In 1972 it was declared a National Seashore Park; thus it will be spared modern development---> it will be a stop in the Spring as we did Spring ’09. At 1215 hrs. we crossed the “Golden Isles” region of Georgia into the “First Coast” region of Florida as we crossed the mouth of St. Marys River in Cumberland Sound, rounding G29. Here we entered the Amelia River passing Fort Clinch & the seaport of Fernandina Beach on port. At G10 we turned to starboard anchoring in the Bells River. The Morrows had difficulty getting their anchor to set confidently & therefore reluctant to dinghy the long distance to Fernandina Beach. Skipper’s meeting was held on VHF, reservations made for St. Augustine for Nov. 22. Despite the clouds we still had a lovely sunset. The winds settled & boat direction changed according to the current. We were both very lethargic today. Can we wait till 2100 hrs. before going to bed?

Sun. Nov. 21, 2010 (Week 7, Day 48): Happy Birthday Mom way across the world in NZ & Australia! Destination: Fernandina Beach (Mile 716.5) to Pine Island (Mile 765) Departure: 0800 hrs. Arrival: 1520 hrs. Mileage: 48.5SM Weather: sun, blue skies, almost hot & dew+++ in the am; did I mention that we have been in shorts for several days now Winds: ESE to SE 4-10K

Ten hours of sleep & woke up to this warm beautiful day. No, we did not make it till 2100 hrs. last night; only 2030 hrs. On leaving Bells River Graeme spotted ‘Artful Dodger’ anchored in the anchorage in front of Fernandina Beach Marina. He did not respond to our hail on VHF so we circled his boat & yelled Patric Collins; he responded & after a short chat agreed to meet in Pine island tonight. Larry then pointed out all the Canadian boats in the anchorage & in the marina; watch out, we are taking over! From the Amelia River we entered Kingsley River; once again I hardly recognized the topography because it was high tide. We all broke our cruising rule re travelling on a weekend in Florida especially on such a beautiful day--- all the crazy power boaters were out. We were pushed across the St. Johns River right after the Sisters Creek Bridge (bascule); often the crosscurrents are as strong as 4-6K! Then heavily against the current as we proceeded through Pablo Creek; the current was particularly bad crossing under the Atlantic Beach Bridge, the Pablo Creek Bridge & the McCormick Bridge. Our jenny was in & out on a beam reach & sometimes on a beat in an attempt to assist our progress against the current. The falling tide continued through Jacksonville Beach, Palm Valley Cut & into the Tolomato River. Pine Island was a very popular anchorage tonight---14 boats. The clouds rolled in from the south therefore it was impossible to see the launch scheduled between 1700-1900 hrs. We did see a sunset & there was some red sky. We dinghied over to ‘Twomorrows’ after unsuccessfully hailing ‘Artful Dodger’. I supplied snacks & Larry cooked our first meal ever of shrimp & grits with some smoked sausage added--> good, & even Graeme indulged in this popular southern dish! A very calm, peaceful night as a full moon guided us back home.

ICW Waterway: Amelia River-->Kingsley River-->South Amelia River--> Nassau Sound-->across St. Johns River-->Pablo Creek-->Palm Valley Cut-->Tolomato River.

Mon. Nov. 22, 2010 (Week 7, Day 49): Destination: Pine Island (Mile 765) to St. Augustine (Mile 778.1) Departure: 0750 hrs. Arrival: 1045 hrs. Mileage: 13.1 SM Weather: warm, ?60F, sunny with some white clouds & an apparent mist on the salt marsh grasses & no dew this am Winds: S & variable 2-8K

The anchorage was clearing quickly. But shortly into the ICW there was a sudden smell of smoke; it was more pronounced in the cockpit rather than the cabin. Nevertheless we shut everything down & lowered the anchor by manually operating the windlass (40 ft. of chain), but Graeme was not seeing any smoke problems except he did notice that the domestic battery was not charging. Up ahead the Morrows called with the same smell; a catamaran behind us said there were fires in the vicinity. We started the motor, raised the anchor & moved on. The odour did get worse but now it was more distinguishable as wood smoke. The non charging domestic battery caused Graeme concern & the checking & testing of wires etc. began. Under the Villano Bridge & I had some confusion as to how to round R60--- GPS & charts indicated one way whereas every other boat & the number & colour marker system indicated the other way. The tide was rising to near high, hence the current against us to this point, then a push. We just missed the 1000 hrs. opening of the Bridge of Lions so we were all doing donuts, a good time to contact the marina & get our assigned mooring balls in the south field-->M54. Once through the bridge we motored through the mooring field to locate our ball & were attached to the mooring ball at 1045 hrs. While Graeme worked on problem solving the domestic battery problem, Larry & I went to the marina office to register, pay, collect our dinghy tags & bathroom passes; Larry showed me the laundry facilities & we walked into the Ship’s Store that was recently under new management (poor), & to the tour office for bus schedule. Clouds had moved in. Graeme & Larry both worked on the battery mystery & even phoned Ian at Norton’s. They suddenly discovered that the domestic battery was now charging. We dinghied over to see Lynn & were soon joined by Graeme & Karin & Patric Collins. Supper= J.P. Henley Pub, thenwe walked around the Old Market, Plaza & Lightner Museum--- all the trees dressed with Christmas lights & decorations. The night sky was lightly cloudy & the full moon was visible, the wind & water was calm & quiet.

ICW Waterway: Tolomato River-->St. Augustine Inlet-->Matanzas River

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