Our last day in Florida, tied to the mooring ball in Fernandina Beach, was a rocky one. We were unable to leave via dinghy, as the waves would have crashed over us. One fellow in a sailboat made at least 6 attempts to secure to a mooring ball, to no avail. He reported winds at 39 knots. The Nina and Pinta departed, and the American Glory cruise ship came in. We passed her earlier at the railroad bridge in the St. John’s River in downtown Jacksonville.
Since we could not get off the boat, it became a day of cleaning, especially the fly bridge. Green pollen left a film on the windows, cover, and sliding glass doors. I cleaned inside the cabin as well, dusting all the floors and giving the parquet salon a shine of polish.
The next morning, in much less windy conditions, we left the mooring ball and headed north up the ICW. Our goodbyes said to Florida, we were anxious to see what Georgia had to offer, and we both decided we loved it! Our cruise that day of 31 miles took us into and out of 3 ocean inlets. The scenery along the way was spectacular, with salt marshes bordering the many rivers of the ICW, and forests deeper amid the barrier islands.
We passed Cumberland Island, the southern most barrier island in Georgia, and I tried to spot the wild horses that roam here, but did not see any. At times the tidal currents were swift against us, slowing us from 10 knots to 6; at others it was reversed. I am trying to learn more about the tide and the current and the effect it will have as we travel north. The tides are getting bigger as we go north; now approaching 9 feet. When the tide is low there are spots in the channel where our depth sounder recorded 3.6 feet, and I’m surprised we didn’t see more boats run aground.
Jekyll Harbor Marina was our first stop in Georgia, and it did not disappoint. The staff was extremely gracious and accommodating, one drove us to a small local grocery store where we did some re-provisioning (expensive)! Later we toured most of Jekyll Island via loaner bicycles from the marina.
The island is full of interesting history, being the playground of the very rich in the early 1900’s. The founders of the Federal Reserve built “cottages” here, among them the Rockefeller’s. Our bicycle tour took us through the historic district on paths, then under huge pines (in days past I would have been scavenging the giant pine cones), past golf courses which Jim checked out longingly, to the beach side.
Here the well-preserved sand dunes created a border from the crashing surf, and many endangered turtles lay their eggs.
Back at the boat we took advantage of the shower facilities, then Jim drafted a letter to the Florida Dept. of Revenue and to the Dept. of Boat Enforcement. We had to prove that we had repairs done to the boat, and that we had left the state of Florida by providing fuel receipts in the state of Georgia. It was a relief to get that done and sent off in the mail. That evening after sunset I had a great encounter with a dolphin who kept surfacing near the boat. I like to think we were communicating telepathically.
On Thursday we had about a 40 mile stint on the ICW. Again there were many ocean inlets we had to navigate in and out of; and at one point we had to wait for the passage of a ship coming in to port. I joked that we saw more lighthouses than boats on the ICW that day. Again, the scenery was beautiful – very flat with many creeks and rivers winding their way along to the ocean sounds. Salt marsh grass was everywhere along the waterways, and the views went on an on in the flat country.
That evening we anchored out in the Crescent River, one of the many that join up with the ICW. Our spot fluctuated from 17 to 26 feet because of the tidal change, but our anchor held fine. It’s a little eerie because the boat swings 180 degrees when the tidal current changes, and luckily we have a pivoting anchor so we don’t have to re-hook. Our only concern was a nearby crab pot, but we encountered no troubles.
Friday we traveled about 40 miles to Delegal Creek Marina on Skidaway Island. It is off the ICW up a little creek with a tricky entrance, but I would highly recommend it, as it is much cheaper than anything else around the area. Before arriving we made it through Hell Gate, a very narrow section with bad shoaling, low water depths, and fast current.
Marinas here look like southern homes, with their raised front porches and shuttered windows. Again, the people were very welcoming, assisting us with our lines, and lending us the use of a golf cart. This barrier island was more beautiful than the last. Mature trees were everywhere, in the neighborhoods and along the boulevards. It is Springtime here, with flowering crabs and early flowers in full bloom. The oaks here all lose their leaves in the Spring, and many people were out raking up last year’s foliage. Paths wind their way along most of the streets, and we toured around, admiring the beautiful wooded and landscaped properties and golf courses.
We decided to spend 2 nights on Skidaway Island, as the weather has turned once again. The winds are now howling in from the northwest, but we are tucked in safely on a floating dock in the marina. We will have to play it by ear and see how the morning looks. It is supposed to be sunny in the high 60’s, but our concern once again, is the wind.
Today was another fun day here. After a late breakfast, hot shower, and laundry, we ventured out on the golf cart again, and toured all around the island. It was a short’s day, (yeah!) near 80 degrees. Cart paths and boulevards alike are lined with oaks dripping in Spanish moss, cypress trees, magnolias, giant pine, and palms. We climbed to the top of the look-out here with its telescope, hoping to spot some of the wild pigs over the marsh, but did not see any. New spring growth is popping out everywhere, and the people are very friendly. Southern charm abounds.
If the winds die down a little, we will venture out tomorrow, and say goodbye to Georgian hospitality, and hello to South Carolina. Because we stopped in Savannah in November on our way to Florida to go boat shopping, we have decided to bypass it. Also, the Savannah River has very swift currents, a narrow channel, and very busy boat traffic. Our first expected stay will be in Hilton Head. So, until next time, Ariverderci!