25 November, 2011

Cumberland Revisited

Position: N 30 45.924 W 081 28.323
Location: Cumberland Island, GA

You may recall how we always have nice things to say about Cumberland Island. Ten days of R & R at one of our favorite places has really hit the spot giving us plenty of time to enjoy our stay.

We first anchored on the Brickhill River right in front of Plum Orchard, a mansion built by Lucy Carnegie for her son and his family. It was donated to the park service in the 70s, was recently renovated, and has been opened to the public. We had a great guide who really knew lots of interesting information about the house and it's inhabitants. Since it was just the two of us, we had the guide to ourselves and really got the royal treatment.

Wild horses

Live oaks intertwined

After a few more days of long hikes through the live oak forests and along the beaches, we moved down to the southern anchorage near the ruins of Dungeness. At this end of the island there are more trails, boardwalks, and mansions to wander around. What a great time! We saw lots of wild horses, wandered under the wild oak canopies draped with Spanish moss, hunted for (and found!!) shark's teeth on the Raccoon Flats, etc etc. We never tire of this place.
Beach walking with good friends old and new

Before we left the Chesapeake in September we arranged with friends from the Chesapeake to meet at Cumberland Island for Thanksgiving. Luckily they all made it, plus a few more. The weather was great and we enjoyed a big Thanksgiving day potluck at the picnic tables ashore. What fun!

Thanksgiving dinner

On this Thanksgiving we have a lot for which to be thankful. We notice how, over time, the differences between friends and loved ones become less apparent and for this we are immensely grateful.

Happy Thanksgiving

15 November, 2011

The Georgia Marshes

Position: N 31 30.880 W 081 17.976
Location: Ridge River Mouth, Front River, north of Sapelo Sound

We have avoided traveling the ICW through South Carolina and Georgia since our first year out. Feeling harassed by morning fog, morning high tides, skinny water, and first year jitters, we found this section of the ICW to be beautiful but stressful. It's been easy to talk ourselves into giving it a miss and going south on the outside since then - until this year when we decided to give it another chance.

We've still had morning high tides, which can make it difficult to transit the numerous shallow spots later in the day, and some fog, but we also have much more experience and none of it seems nearly as scary to us as it was four years ago. And the scenery is still as wonderful as we remembered. Miles of golden marsh grasses with very few houses and lots of wildlife.

Yesterday is a good example. We had anchored the previous night behind Daufuskie Island, one of Georgia's outer islands, only accessible by boat or the ferry from Hilton Head. We were up early and hauled anchor at 6:30, barely daylight with just a hint of fog. High tide was at 11am and we wanted to get through a couple of potential problem areas before the tide got too low in the afternoon.

By 7:30 we'd already watched a spectacularly colorful sunrise and had dolphins playing around the boat, leaping completely out of the water right next to us. The sun was up and already warming the cockpit, and we knew we were in for a splendid day. After we'd been weaving our way through the marshes for a while, enjoying the colors and the wildlife, a huge bald eagle soared across in front of the boat just off the bow sprit! It was magnificent!

A bit later we turned a corner and were spat out into the Savannah River. This is the major shipping lane from the ocean up to the city of Savannah, GA, one of the busiest ports on the eastern seaboard. It's only about a quarter of a mile wide where the ICW crosses. Luckily, with our trusty new AIS equipment we already knew that a humongous container ship would be right there when we entered the river. We had a brief chat with the ship and made arrangements to pass each other safely. It's probably the closest we've been to a big ship that was under way, but no worries. We turned to starboard and paralleled the shipping lane until it was past, then scooted across the river and continued along our way.

The day was idyllic – warm, sunny, and calm. We saw a sea otter and many more dolphins, miles of grasses and trees, and loads of birds. Egrets, herons, wood storks, hawks, and kingfishers, among others. And the leaves on the trees were just starting to change color. Finally we dropped the hook just before sunset in a narrow, deep tongue just off the waterway. It had been a 10 hour day but we didn't feel stressed, nervous, or tired - just happy and relaxed. Times change as do we. But we're sure Georgia is just as beautiful as it was before the Spanish and English came here 100s of years ago. Great to know that some things remain the same.

Like our first trip down we continue to be intrigued and entertained by the names of places we pass. Places like Buttermilk Sound, Rockdedundy River, Wally's Leg, Dog Hammock Spit, Calibogue Sound, Runaway Negro Creek, Cat Head Creek, Cubbage Creek, Skidaway Narrows, and Burnt Pot Island. These names and many others give us insight into the places we're passing through and enrich our days as we transit the Georgia marshes.

Relaxed and enjoying ourselves “on the inside”.

11 November, 2011

Headin' Further South

Position: N 34 02.974 W 077 53.330
Location: Brickyard Creek, north of Beaufort, SC

A lot has happened since we last wrote and we've made good, albeit slow, progress further south.

After running aground (see last Khronicle) we stopped for a couple of days at Great Bridge, VA to visit w/ friends, buy some groceries, and top up the fuel tank.

Then we continued south through the Currituck Sound, across the Albemarle Sound, up the Neuse River, and on to Beaufort (Bow-furt), North Carolina. On the way we tested our new whisker pole and absolutely love it. We now finally have some down wind mojo!!

Tiger Lily, our 8 year old granddaughter whom we did not get to see during our visit to VA this summer, joined us at Belhaven, NC for a week aboard. We had a wonderful time with her, despite some not so perfect weather and unfavorable seas. She was a great crew member and we enjoyed cooking together, wildlife watching from the bow, teaching her navigation, helmsmanship, knot tying, VHF radio etiquette, and generally 'connecting'. What a special time together. She traveled over 100 miles with us and was a great sport.

Tigerlily learning to play the conch horn at sunset

A couple of days in Beaufort waiting for favorable weather (that never appeared) were followed by a few more days “on the inside” to Little River, South Carolina. We picked up a friend who used to cruise and she accompanied us from Little River to Charleston, SC “on the outside”. Another great sail, also making good use of our new whisker pole. This has proven to be a great addition to our cruising equipment. Julie & Yvonne had a “slumber party”, yakking away their watch in the cockpit, great fun!!

Then after a couple of weeks on the dock visiting friends and doing various boat jobs including a couple of carpentry projects (thanks to the availability of a friend's table saw – thanks, Jim!!) we were ready to continue south. Once again we didn't see any favorable weather in the near future, so we set off “on the inside” and made our way down to Beaufort (Byew-furt), SC where we currently sit.

A big front with 30+ knot winds is scheduled to blow through here tonight followed by what sounds like a good opportunity to get down to Cumberland Island, one of our favorite places on the East Coast. Except for one thing – it's supposed to get down to 35 F (that's just under 2 C) tomorrow night. Brrr. We don't have the luxury of a full enclosure on our cockpit,. That means it's wooly jumpers, knit caps, mittens, foul weather gear, and blankets while we're on watch.

So we're sitting here trying to decide whether we want to brave near-freezing temperatures outside on the ocean overnight or continue on down the inside where we can anchor and snuggle up at night.

Trying to stay warm,