Monday, February 7, 2011

Monday, February 7, 2011

The fog kept us from seeing more than 0.1 mile ahead. That is a daymark appearing out of the gloom less than 50 yards ahead of us. Scary.

This is all that remains of the fort at Fort Frederica. There are foundations of a walled town of about 800 inland of the fort.

We walked on the bicycle path from the marina to the historic area of Jekyll Island. Along the way we saw deer and birds as we passed through woods and marshes.

Across the croquet court is the Millionaires Club Hotel on Jekyll Island. We stopped at their bakery for breakfast sweets.

Outside Jacksonville the Star Wars like USS Independence was undergoing repairs. This assault ship trimaran can travel at better than 40 knots. Odd looking isn’t it?

Florida at last! We crossed the Georgia-Florida line yesterday about noon. It is warmer but still not warm. In the last few days the primary word ‘Cold’ has been replaced with the word ‘Fog’.

We left Little River after a wonderful two night visit with my family. The sun was shining and while it was a bit warmer it was still cold. The trip down the Waccamaw River was uneventful but easy. We anchored behind Butler Island for the night. Friday morning was again sunny but still cold. We scooted down the waterway to Price Creek north of Charleston. Price Creek was a lovely place to anchor amid the marshes with not a person or house in sight.

At sunrise I woke up (note: woke up, not got up) to the sound of gunfire. The duck hunting season was in full swing. There were decoys and hunters all along our creek. One john boat passed us with a collar of marsh grass tied all around its edges and with a black Labrador retriever in a camouflage life jacket standing in the bow. Rafts of decoys were arranged where flocks of birds had been the evening before. There seemed to be hunters behind every knot of spartina grass. It was sunny, windless, and fairly warm as we passed through Charleston. I took my coat off for a little while. We anchored in the South Edisto River at sunset which was quiet and very pretty.

This stretch has the most delightful names for the islands, rivers, and creeks we pass through. Let me just rattle off a few of them. Wapoo Creek, Stono River, Wadmalaw River, North Edisto River, Dawho River, Whooping Island, Jehossee Island, Watts Cut, South Edisto River, Fenwick Cut, Ashepoo River, Ashepoo-Coosaw Cutoff, and Coosaw River.

With only 10 gal of fuel left and exhausted from pronunciation, we stopped at the Beaufort, SC Downtown Marina for the night. The dock helper greeted us in a short sleeved shirt. I still had on long underwear but quickly began to shed layers. Great! Bill and I each took a shower and then strolled around downtown Beaufort. We went to a book store where Bill bought a book about game wardens and I bought postcards for the grandchildren. Dinner was at Luther’s and then a fairly early bed time. The two-lane highway bridge south of Beaufort was becoming four-lane. The Coast Guard had closed the waterway from 9 to 12 and 2 to 5 so the contractor could put the bridge beams in place. We passed through as work started at 8.

For once the current was in our favor, and we made excellent time. We went by Hilton Head Island and crossed the Savannah River uneventfully. The bridge at Cranston Bluff opened for us without our ever even slowing down. I always like to look at the cemetery that sits above the water near the bridge. It is really pretty, but this year it went by in a hurry.

Two of the shallow spots in Georgia are aptly named Hell Gate and Florida Passage. Both are south of Savannah. The tide was going out, and afraid of running aground, we anchored in the Vernon River just off the ICW to await the morning’s high tide. (Last year we met the folks on Oo-La-La, a motor boat, while we were in Florida. They told us we had anchored in front of their house in the Vernon River. This year Oo-La-La was tied to a dock, and the house behind it was dark.) In the morning we got both high tide and fog. We traveled less than a half mile before we re-anchored not being able to see two shrimp trawlers also anchored less than a tenth of a mile ahead of us. In an hour the fog lifted a little, the shrimpers appeared, and we started again. Bad move. The fog came back worse than ever and there was no good place to stop. We pressed on; passing through Hell Gate by GPS, radar, and prayer unable to see any of the daymarks, lights, or buoys until they jumped out of the fog only yards in front of us. At the southern end of the Florida Passage the ICW turned right; we turned left and anchored. Although the fog went away in the afternoon, we stayed put. Hidden in the marshes we watched the movie ‘The African Queen’ again.

In the morning after we started we got fog again but not as bad as the day before, and with the radar on, we continued. The weather turned partly sunny and warm enough to take off our coats but not all the under layers. Late in the day we passed through the shallow and narrow Creighton Narrows just before low tide and arrived at the (again aptly named) Little Mud River at low tide. It was again time to stop and wait on the next morning’s high tide.

It was a good thing we waited for high tide. We saw depths in the Little Mud River as low as 8 feet and that just shy of high tide. With a four foot tidal range, at low tide the water would have been as shallow as 4 feet! Irish Eyes needs 5 feet to float. The weather was once again, cloudy and grey. We took a little detour from the ICW and went down the Frederica River along the west side of St. Simon’s Island passing the Fort Frederica National Monument. The British defended the island from the Spanish at this site. We anchored off the ruins of the fort even though it was only noon.

The National Park Service has a dock for boating visitors with a ladder that reaches down to the ground below the dock. We anchored close to the shore planning on rowing to the dock thus saving us the trouble of putting the outboard on the dinghy. We inflated the dinghy, hopped in, and Bill began rowing. He was going half the speed of the current. The dock and more importantly our boat were receding ahead of us. By going over to the edge of the river where the current was slower, Bill slowly ever so slowly crept up to the dock and its ladder. The falling tide left three feet of mud between us and the ladder. Bill stepped into it and covered his boot in mud. He stuck one of the paddles into the mud. It had no bottom. We had a muddy boot and a muddy paddle. Bill rowed back to the boat, and I managed to catch it as he rowed forward, the dinghy went backwards, and the boat rushed by.

In the morning, after breakfast, at high tide and with a slack current, we again rowed over to Fort Frederica. This time the water was up to the top most rung of the ladder. We paid our admission fee, watched the video about the Fort, and wandered around the ruins. The folks who came from England were a hardy lot; oysters on their plates, oyster shells in their walls, bugs eating them alive, and Spaniards trying to kill them. I don’t think I would have made the grade.

The Park Service had planted orange trees along the remains of the central street. Oranges were plentiful on the ground, so we stole a couple and left for the boat before the falling tide reviled the mud again. Who says stolen fruit is best? The oranges were horrible. There was a reason Anita Bryant never sang about Georgia orange juice.

We left St. Simons Island for Jekyll Island and its Jekyll Island Harbor Marina planning on spending one night there but actually spending two to avoid traveling in the second day’s fog. We twice walked the mile and a half bicycle path to the historic area of the island to explore the hotel and shops. We borrowed the marina’s car to drive to the grocery store and explore the northern end of the island. The grocery store had a cake for Bill’s 60th birthday. Catching up on missed bathing, we both took three showers in two days. Smelling especially sweet, we had dinner both nights at Seajay’s Restaurant having low country boil off the buffet the first night and crabcakes and steamed oysters the second. The entertainment there was great… a one-man-band-guitar-playing-Bob-Dylan-type who was far better than his audience. He was the reason we came back the second night.

With a forecast one day break in the weather, we motored across St. Andrews Sound, along the back side of Cumberland Island, into Florida at the St. Mary’s River, through Fernandina Beach, anchoring in the St. George River in front of the Kingsley Plantation. Today we had planned to run through St. Augustine and anchor in the Matanzas River near the fort, but the rain, wind, and limited visibility made the day un-fun. Tonight we are anchored just north of the St. Augustine Inlet out of the way beside the ICW. If it is pretty tomorrow, we may be in Daytona Beach; if not…

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