Tuesday, March 20, 2018:
We were visited on the dock by David, the harbor master. He’s an English dude that professed to full knowledge of our vessel and our intended next stop at the Jacksonville City free dock at Sisters Creek. He was gracious enough offering us the use of their dock for another night since there was a big storm approaching. David advised us against going to Sisters Creek as the dock there is always packed with sailboats that don’t leave ignoring the 72 hour maximum tie-up. We took it all in with a shaker of salt and then called the AGLCA harbor host for Jacksonville, Browne Altman. Browne said he was about to drive right by the Sisters Creek dock and would call us back with info about what space might be available. Soon enough, he called back to report that only one sailboat was at the dock. So we untied from Queen’s Harbour at 0930 and spun around in the narrow basin to head out their channel. The weather appeared to be holding off for a few hours and Sisters Creek was only four miles including crossing the St. John’s River. As we exited the channel back to the ICW, I spotted Nellie Mae chugging along just ahead of us. We found out over the radio that they are headed to Amelia Island. As we approached the St. John’s, green buoy #7 appeared to be out of place. It was way over to the west side. Nellie Mae was ahead and kept it to starboard, but radioed me and advised that it may have been displaced. Keeping an eye on the depth sounder, I kept my heading as if that was the case. I had no issue and plenty of water under keel. I’m sure we will encounter more situations like this and staying alert is imperative as soon we will be cruising in unfamiliar waters. At 1005 we docked at Sisters Creek with help from Loopers, Kurt and Barbara Jean Walter (In His Time). We were the fourth boat to dock and met Captain Rodger & Lorrie Swink (Reality) and Dale and Debbie Montgomery from the sailboat Prosperity. I spent the rest of the day catching up on the blog and had technical difficulties moving pictures from our phones to the computer. Later, two other sailboats came in to dock and we met Peter and Kathy from Gentle Presence and Stefan and Jojo from Gibraltar in their 22 ton sailing vessel, Radiant Spirit.
They were most interesting to talk to during spirited docktails aboard In His Time. We enjoyed hearing about their Atlantic crossing and they loved learning about our American culture and expressions. We turned in around Looper Midnight (9:00 PM), but with the wind howling, the dock lines groaning and the water drumming on the hull, sleep was fitful until I remembered to use my earplugs.
Wednesday, March 21, 2018:
We stayed in bed well after 8:00 am. The wind is continuing to blow and there are whitecaps in the creek from 30 to 35 mph gusts.
Due to the forecast of continuing high winds, we elect to stay put for another night and then move on up to a mooring ball at Fernandina tomorrow. Reading the AGLCA forum this morning, Jane noted that a member boat, Hearken, was just beginning their loop today from Jacksonville. I saw them passing our dock and tried to radio with the handheld, but me thinks the captain was too busy trying to maintain steerage in the high winds. It reminded me of our first day on Charlotte Harbor. I wanted to cheer them on and welcome them to looping and let them know that we understand that when you’re ready to go, you go. The rest of the day was route planning and readjusting fenders to accommodate the winds that were pushing us onto the dock. The wind got to a point where I tied the burgee up to keep from losing another. Evening time was spent with the same group this time on Reality. Staying here, we relished in getting to know our co-loopers and the sailboaters.
Thursday, March 22, 2018:
We escaped the dock with help from Stefan and Jojo at 1005. The wind was pushing us into the dock, but once I got the stern moving to starboard and the portside bow away from the dock (thanks to Jojo’s fending), all was well. We turned left coming out of the creek and encountered a few boats occasionally, but pretty much had the waterway to ourselves poking along on a crystal clear day. The forecast was for a moderate chop on the inland waterways, but the ICW was no problem. There was a bit of NW winds when we traversed Nassau Sound to make the sharp left at marker 46 to continue up the waterway. As we approached the A1A Bridge we noticed that the railroad bridge on the other side was closing.
No biggie, we get to see another train. After the freight train was gone the railroad bridge began to open. As I’m maneuvering in between the bridge fenders, I notice that there is a go-fast day cruiser coming up beside on my port. We look over and he motions that there’s three others with him and he barrels on under the bridge moving ahead with too much speed and way too much wake. Then the boats two and three (Livin’ the Dream) follow right up and pass us while we’re trying to negotiate the bridge and they’re rocking us violently while accelerating and the wakes bounce off the fenders. I’m too busy to call them on channel 16 and too stunned to think about photographing these SOB’s. Finally after I’m through the bridge without hitting anything, boat four (Indie), calls on the radio and asked for a starboard pass. We tell him to come on ahead and give us a slow pass and I cut speed for him to come on by. After he got by, I radioed him and thanked him for the slow pass and asked if he wouldn’t mind giving his friends a lesson in boating safety and etiquette. I was about in channel rage, but outwardly remained composed. It was the worst part of the day, so it’s a pretty good day.
We arrived to moor on buoy number 9 in Fernandina Harbor at 1310. Even though we had to wait about 20 minutes on the RR bridge, we still covered the 23 miles in less than 3 ½ hours. I got the dinghy ready to go and we packed our shower gear for land based showers. After checking in and getting cleaned up we putted back out to drop off our things and then came right back to the dinghy dock and walked up to the Palace Saloon for a much needed adult beverage. The Palace is Florida’s Oldest Bar and was the perfect spot to set free the tension that the four boats from Hilton Head caused.
Then we walked around a bit and did some window shopping and settled into Café Karibo for an early dinner on the patio until we decided that it was too cold and moved inside. We had eaten here a couple of times before on previous trips and they did not disappoint. Great food. We eased on back out to the boat well before sundown and hung out on the fly bridge reading.
Friday, March 23, 2018:
We cranked up at 1045 and eased over to Port Consolidated Fuels just north of the marina. I put Jane in the engine room to watch the sight glass and let me know just before the starboard tank was full. This keeps our fuel from sloshing up and out the vent tube. That took 87 ½ gallons, so we also put 87 ½ in the port tank. This is the first time we have refueled and having covered over 520 miles, I’m delighted with our consumption. The friendly attendant, Bob informed us that the cost was only $2.80 per gallon and we wouldn’t be subject to Florida Sales Tax if we completed the form that we were leaving the state. We bid Bob a fond farewell and good to our word, crossed the Florida-Georgia line less than 45 minutes later. As we cruised up between Cumberland Island and the ICW, we spotted 3 USCG high speed chase boats headed out the St. Mary’s Inlet. The first two had what appeared to be 50 caliber machine guns on the bow with a gunner at the ready.
We arrived and set anchor in about 13 feet of water with only 125 feet of rode at the Cumberland Island anchorage just west of the Sea Camp Dock. Again we ran onto our friends on the Gentle Presence. We dinghied into the dock and and checked in with the ranger on duty. We are welcomed to the Cumberland Island National Seashore without cost showing our National Park Senior Passes. These things have already proven to be a great purchase. We had thought about bringing the folding bikes on the dinghy, but figured that would be too much trouble and opted to walk. The ranger let us know that a sub would be coming in soon and I realized that’s why the chase boats went out. During our walk down the River Trail to the Dungeness Ruins we spotted the submarine coming in flanked by two war ships and being escorted by a sundry of smaller attack boats for additional security.
During our hike, we encountered the wild horses by the Dungeness Ruins. Dungeness was built in the late 1800’s by Thomas Carnegie. They really did it up right. They had lots of recreational buildings and even a heated pool. We also visited the original grave of General Henry “Light-Horse Harry” Lee III. He died here in 1818, but the remains were later removed to Virginia.
We crossed the sizable dunes and walked back up the beach without anyone else around and made it back to our dinghy around 4:45. We used the grill for the first time for cooking potatoes and grilled eggplant. Jane outdid herself in the little boat galley whipping up a gourmet dinner including sautéed asparagus.
Kings Bay Submarine Base is across the water from our anchorage and at sundown, I could hear them play colors.
Saturday, March 24, 2018:
We slept in a little but up at 0800 and could clearly hear the National Anthem coming from the Navy Base prompting me to stand at attention and salute, knowing the flag was being raised.
It was a perfectly clear day with flat water and we pulled anchor at 1020 delighting in the lack of mud. We had the waterway mostly to ourselves and a southerly wind so we went right across St. Andrews Sound and avoiding the extra time of the meandering Floyd Creek.
As we exited Jekyll Creek into the Brunswick River I could see the top of a cargo ship coming into harbor. As Patriot neared, I kept well clear of the channel in ample water to avoid this behemoth.
We docked at Morningstar Marina at Golden Isles at 1500 with assistance from Chic Candler. We negated any issues with the current since high tide was at 1514. After checking in for three nights, we cleaned up the boat and Jane did three loads of laundry and by then it was time for the showers. We were excited to be hosting our old friend, Kathy Swift and her new husband, Craig Hall aboard for libations. They arrived at 6:00 and after our time on board, we were chauferred by Craig to the island for a drink at their local watering hole, Marsh Point, and then on to Travici Restaurant which is managed by Craig’s brother, Galen. That’s right. This guy’s name is Galen Hall. If you’re not an SEC football fan, it might not mean anything to you, but apparently, he has used this to win a few bar bets and may have received hotel room without charge. We got the primo table and great service. Craig had caught a bunch of Red Fish that afternoon, so that’s what we had. Fried for appetizer grilled over pasta for entrée. It was simply fantastic. We caught an Uber back to the boat.
Sunday, March 25, 2018:
Found on the deck first thing in the am: the Florida Times Union newspaper and two blueberry muffins all wrapped up in a plastic bag. This is a very nice and unexpected lagniappe indeed. Jane made grits and then we headed out on our bikes the 2.5 miles to St. Simons Community Church. It was a large church and we both enjoyed the service. Then it was on to the Harris Teeter Grocery Store where we got some needed items and ate lunch from their hot bar at a table out front. When we got back on the bikes the wind started to blow and the temperature dropped. There’s a storm acomin’ and who’s gonna grab Toto? We pedaled back as fast as we could and made it to the boat before getting soaked.
Craig picked us up at 6:00 for dinner at their house and it was a fun time getting to know him better and catching up with Kathy. We celebrated our second month on America’s Great Loop.
Monday, March 26, 2018
With the wind whipping and the temperature dropped to 55 with pelting rain, we’re happy to just stay aboard at the dock. We route planned, Jane finished all our laundry and I worked on this blog. We had left the aft curtain off the fly bridge enclosure and the north wind had blown the rain in and soaked most of it. The wind took my hat while I was trying to dry things up. Jane made a big pot of yummy soup and we’re looking forward to better weather tomorrow. The Intra Coastal Waterway through the Georgia coast meanders mazelike through the of marsh of the low country. It’s best to only travel on days with the fairest weather and a rising tide avoiding shoals and bars.