Monday, April 1, 2013

Hello Georgia! Jacksonville to Jekyll Island

If you have never spent any time in coastal Georgia, YOU SHOULD!  Absolutely beautiful and so much history.  However, there is one drawback - sand gnats or "no-seeums" as they are also called.  They can annoy the dickens out of you.  We lived south of Savannah from 1984 to 1987 and we never really got used to them.  Our younger son, Scott, was born here so we have some great memories in this area but I'll cover all of that when we stop in Kilkenny, GA in a few days. However, I guess we should get out of FL first as far as the blog goes.  

We had an immediate concern when we pulled out of Harbortown and into the ICW.  We had lost our hydraulic steering!  You can maneuver the boat of course with just the engines but that's primarily used for docking, very slow speeds, getting in/out of tight spots, etc., but not for cruising speeds all day long.  About the time I was considering heading back to Harbortown, I realized I had inadvertently left the autopilot/hydraulic steering unit on all night (maybe 2 nights) and decided it was probably a loss of fluid or pressure or both.  Sure enough, a quick check showed only 5 PSI and we need 20.  A bicycle tire pump and a few minutes later and we were back in business.

We had a large container ship pass in front of us where the ICW and St. Johns River intersect.  It was from Majuro, a large coral atoll in the Marshall Islands of the Pacific Ocean.

Then a NAVY blimp running the coastline southbound.  Sorry about the pic, best I could do from such a distance.

Then we picked up some company running northbound just ahead of us.  They stopped at Amelia Island shortly thereafter.  Having company will become more and more common with spring and milder temps as more cruisers begin their trek northbound.

Fernandina Beach is the last FL town heading north out of the state.  We had planned to stop here but need to move on.

Lots of activity with the shrimp fleet and shipping industry.

Monrovia is the capital city of the west African nation of Liberia.  I just think the home ports on all of the ships are interesting.

And before we left Fernandina, we managed to get our culture for the day.  (That's a joke for those of you from Rio Linda.)

Entering GA waters, you have to plan more than in FL.  The tides are about 7 feet twice a day.  With so much current movement, the waterways tend to change in some areas over time and shoaling becomes a concern for deep-draft boats.  We are usually very cautious and we'll do most of our travel through GA on a rising tide and at high tide.  High tide is all you can ask for and rising tide at least gives you a good shot at getting off of the bottom if you do run aground.  If those don't work for you, then there's always TowBoat US to come pull you off, but we obviously prefer not to have to make that call.  We planned our day to leave JAX right after low tide and to arrive St. Marys, GA at exactly high tide.  Arrival/departure from a location is also easier at slack tide with the absence of the swift current movement during those times.  Here's St. Marys and sure enough, perfect arrival time with no tidal current at all.

One of the main tourist attractions in this area is Cumberland Island.  If you're interested, Google it and read tons of history there. The island is accessible by boat only and there are several tour boats leaving St Marys daily to the island.  We could have anchored there and taken the dinghy over but we really enjoy seeing the coastal towns also.

We docked at Lang's Marina.  Mr. Lang's name is on several waterfront establishments - the marina, Lang's Restaurant, Lang's Seafood, etc.. 

Mr. Lang has lived in St. Marys all of his 85 years.  We did not meet him, but we did enjoy our conversation with "Nat" who runs the marina, also a life-long resident of St. Marys at age 82.  He and Mr. Lang have been life-long friends.  Nat says he still "feels pretty good" and attributes his years and health to staying busy.  He works 7 days a week, 365 days a year.  "Never missed a day of work" and says if he needs to see a doctor he goes on his lunch break!  I asked him what he likes about St. Marys - "It's just peaceful here."  And it is.  Note the cigarette in his hand.  He smokes a lot.  I'd love to be a fly on the wall when his doctor recommends that he should quit smoking!

We loved talking with him for another reason also - he is "geechee" and speaks "gullah."  The names refer to descendants of slaves in SC and GA.  We visited a museum in town later in the day and they had actual pages from a gullah Bible.  Reading this page from the Book of Luke will give you a good sense of the language.

The city was like many others we have visited recently.  Here's the main town square.

Lots of churches.  Our favorite was the Presbyterian Church.

There was a cemetery, much like what we saw in Palatka, but not nearly as many infant deaths.

Here's one of the oldest tombstones we found, from 1815, Captain James Baird, a native of Scotland, age 46.  We suspect there were much older tombstones - those that were laying flat over the gravesites had weathered over the years so much that you could not read them.  On a few that were readable, we found lengthy and moving eulogies.

As always, interesting signs that make you wonder.  Interesting wording on line 2 - "no living beings after dark."  And a line for those that want to go there and dig a grave without permission!  Oh yeah, don't abuse the water service. 

A typical street in St. Marys has beautiful old homes, live oaks, moss hanging from the trees, etc.  And many of the older homes have signs in the front yard noting the date of construction and the owner (bottom left corner).

The Cumberland Island Museum was very interesting, documenting the history of the island.  In addition to the Geechee Bible previously noted,  the modes of transportation displayed were pretty cool.  These were the real thing, not replicas.

There were displays of clothing, cooking utensils, tools, boats, etc. (typical museum stuff), and navigation instruments have clearly progressed over time as well.

Things have changed just a little bit over the years and our boat is minimally equipped!  Chartplotters, depthfinders, autopilots, and just dial in google earth if you want to see a satellite view before you arrive.

We had some ice cream at one of the local shops and headed over to the city park, also right on the waterfront.

And if you've never seen it before, here's Georgia's marsh mud exposed at low tide - it's serious stuff!

More of St. Marys waterfront, just a really nice coastal town.

Time to move on for Jekyll Island.  On the way, we passed King's Bay, home to a fleet of Navy submarines.  We did not see any docked as we passed by, but there was no doubt that we did not want to intrude on their area.  You can decide which shot is most convincing.

A typical stretch through Georgia's coastal waters is vast areas of marshland as far as you can see.

And back to Cumberland Island - the family that purchased and developed the island before it became a national park raised horses and willed that they be allowed to roam free on the island forever. We were fortunate to catch some of those in the marshland and beach areas on the northern tip of the island as we passed by.

We had more company on the way from St. Marys to Jekyll - 4 sailboats and a powerboat.  Here's "Carolina" headed for Little River, SC.

And a 55' Selene, I believe from RI or Maine.

We docked shortly thereafter at Jekyll Island Marina for Easter weekend.  I'll cover the details of Jekyll in the next blog but would like to note what a wonderful Easter Sunday we had.  We normally walk or ride our bikes to church, but in this case all of the churches were about 4 miles away so Rhonda called the Baptist church on Friday before we arrived to see if we could catch a ride with someone.  Jeff and Iris Shadrick were gracious enough to do that and then invited us to lunch that they had already planned with about 15 others from the church in one of the member's home.  What a wonderful group of folks.  Here's the church building.

After a very special Easter Sunday, we were blessed with an awesome sunset to end the day.  God's creation is so beautiful and we are truly blessed to be able to enjoy it in so many ways on this trip.

We'll have more pics and details about Jekyll Island later, gonna be here for 3 days.


reality said...

Wayne and Rhonda,
I am glad to see you guys are on the move. Looks awesome.
We are heading out hopefully the end of April heading towards Florida.
I am sure we will meet again on our journeys.
Lorrie & Rodger Swink
on Reality

Wayne and Rhonda said...

Lorrie and Rodger,

Really good to hear from you. You gonna do a blog? Keep us posted on your travels.