Saturday, May 25, 2013

Hello Georgia! Mile Marker 677

St. Augustine was a comfortable two night stop. We ate at a local favorite, The Floridian, a great little farm to table place near the college. Rivers Edge Marina was adequate and a ten-minute walk to downtown or groceries. From there we moved to Palm Coast Marina. We selected it as part of tide/bridge planning, and while it fit the bill for location, the marina and its eight foot approach were highly overstated. The channel was frighteningly narrow and but we managed to fuel up and get tied to the face dock. When low tide set in, we were in trouble. We sucked mud into our heat pump system and had to shut her down. In the morning, we left at first light which was high tide and we crept out of the channel. Despite their hospitality to include us in their annual slip holder picnic, we cannot recommend the marina to any cruising friends, it’s just too shallow to be safe.

Our run in Florida ended in Fernandina Beach on Sunday May 19. It was a four hour run and we timed our arrival carefully so there was a slack tide for docking. Rick hired a guide to take him fishing Monday morning and I picked up a rental car for two days of exploration. Monday dawned grey and breezy, a front complete with fog dominated the next twenty four hours. We could tolerate it because: Miracle of miracles, our intake valve cleared itself and we had air conditioning without a repair bill!

We went out to Amelia Island to see how the other half lives, checked out real estate, sifted for shark teeth on the beaches, toured historic Fort Cinch and found the lighthouse. While antiquing at the edge of town I discovered a new quilt shop near the bakery. In all, we had a good two days on land. But wait, it was too good to be true, right? Our shower and AC sump pump failed the morning of our departure. Not to worry, there are mechanics in every port, or so we thought.

On Wednesday May 22 we motored a whole five miles to St. Mary’s, Georgia. Insurance was now one less thing to worry about. We always wanted to see the town and this was the only place to catch the National Park Service ferry to Cumberland Island. So, two nights at Lang’s Marina it was- but never again. To other cruisers, this place is almost unsafe. They have limited power and an aging infrastructure. Current made docking a challenge and our propeller screamed all night. To add insult to injury, we hired a mechanic who never showed up to replace our pump. Town is pretty but small. Oh, well, we don’t need to return there.

A check of the weather and winds convinced us we could not anchor this week off of Cumberland so the day trip on the ferry was a taste of the island we couldn’t pass up. The island is carry-in-carry-out, so we schlepped backpacks, camera and bathing suits in to see the ruins, wild horses and the most gorgeous beach on the Atlantic.  We were exhausted by 92 degree heat and bright sun but so happy we made the trip. We can’t wait to return in the fall to spend a few days at anchor.

The lure of wooded Cumberland Island is that Thomas and Lucy Carnegie (of the Carnegie Brothers, Ltd.) built a mansion here to raise their nine children as an oasis from the Pittsburg winters. They eventually lived and farmed the 7,000 acres full time. Thomas died a year after they built the home but Lucy remained until her death. She engaged in the high society social scene, her contemporaries all had summer “cottages” at Jekyll Island, a half day’s sail up the St. Mary’s River and across Jekyll Sound. Upon her death, she willed her horses be allowed to roam free and they still do today. There is rich history here from the days Indians lived on the island as well as the history of slavery and servants, lumber farming, and then the fall of the untaxed millionaires. Lucy’s children eventually had to give the island up, save a few rights they hold today. PS This is where John Kennedy married his beautiful bride in a tiny chapel adorned with Spanish moss and candle light.

We left the town of St. Mary’s and made our own passage up to Jekyll but did not stop, electing to move at high tide through skinny (5-10’) waters and  make way across two rough sounds before pulling into Morning Star Marina in St. Simons. By now the winds (15-25 knots) caught up to us and we could tell the predicted front from the west was moving though. Hence, we chose to take a lazy two night stay here until winds shift to the east/southeast and drop to a modest 10-15.

THIS is a marina. Courteous staff, clean conditions, a newspaper and muffins delivered in the morning. We’ve had a great dinner at the Coastal Kitchen (on site), caught up on chores, chatted with lots of nice people today, everyone letting the wind blow out. They had a wonderful mechanic from the Catalina dealer on site to replace our pump and sell us a spare within an hour of docking. How lucky were we?

In the morning we cast off for Sunbury Crab Company and Marina. The adventure continues on to Hilton Head, SC. We are no longer able to get into Harbour Town as the entrance and harbor have silted to four feet at low tide. Instead, we’ll try Hilton Head Harbor Mariana for two nights. Then, on to Port Royal Landing near Beaufort, SC., for a night with friends. By then it will be Wednesday and we are due in Charleston. Yeah . . . These days are a little longer than we would like but the Chesapeake is calling, and high boating season is here in the south making reservations a little hard to get in some marinas. A week of cooler, drier air is before us so we will take an opportunity when we can get it.
We'll share some photos on a second post.