Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Monday, November 18,2013

We weren’t sure whether we were staying or leaving Jekyll Island this morning.  What a dilemma!  Before we did anything, I needed to haul Chuck back up the mast…in the fog.  We noticed yesterday morning while anchored in the fog, that the anchor light wasn’t on!  How many times will this make Chuck riding to the top of the mast?? I think brother Rick jinxed Chuck last night!!! With Al’s help, it was an easy up and down.  The problem….the one-month- old festoon bulb burnt out! I think Chuck’s really getting  into checking out the view from the top of the mast!

Once that job was completed, we decided to have breakfast and then make our decision for the day…do we stay and do some exploring of the Island or head out for Florida.  I think the decision was made when a slew of boats came down Jekyll Creek and through the bridge beside where we were docked.  What a sight!  One right after the other and the leader of the pack was Craig and Donna on mv/Mighty Fine and behind them, Brian and Jane on sv/Mar-a Lago.  They spotted us and yelled over that we needed to move out with them.  Everyone was heading for Fernandina Harbor Marina, Fl and grabbing mooring balls in preparation for the bad weather setting in that night. 

The four of us looked at each other and in the spur of the moment said, ‘let’s go’.  What a day this turned out to be!!  The fog was lifting nicely and with us in the lead, we thought it was going to be an easy day especially since we were following the sv/Still Crazy.  And it did start out to be a pleasant ride until we reached St. Andrews Sound.  The  ‘On the Water, Chart Guides’ warned about the water depths at R32 marker in this sound.  The depths change rapidly at this point and there is shoaling  to the west and to the east.  Everything would have been okay if it weren’t for the fog bank that very quickly rolled in.  One minute we could see sv/Still Crazy and next all we saw was fog!  I had been talking to Colette on the cell about dockage when visibility turned to zero. NIL!!  Time for a switch.  With Al’s radar, Euphoria passed us and took the lead…and we stayed on his stern not wanting to lose sight of their sailboat.  Yes we have a chart plotter but so many of the day markers have been moved to mark the frequently changing shoals. With the fog, it was impossible to see the green or red markers until our boats were almost bumping into them!  The fog stayed with us until the ICW headed back inland to the Cumberland Dividings.

Eventually, the sun started to poke out, our visibility increased, and we discovered that there were 3 other boats in our general vicinity….big boats….yachts.    I’m sure they had radar and knew right where we were located at all times.  Chuck pulled out ahead and we continued on our exciting journey.  Motoring through the Cumberland River was very scenic.  The Cumberland Island was off to port, east, and we spotted some wild ponies grazing near the shore.   Life is good…..and then the skies to the west started to look dark and menacing.  We were hoping the weather would hold until we got into Florida. 

The next area that could prove to be a bit challenging was Kings Bay.  Kings Bay is an active nuclear base and has many areas surrounding it that are ‘security zones’.  We were hoping to sneak through this area without anyone intercepting us.  Supposedly, if a naval vessel is coming or going in the channel, a patrol boat or helicopter will contact the pleasure boats.  Boats will then be instructed to come to a complete stop , bow facing the shore, and not to make any erratic moves!!  Oh boy.  How do you do that when the winds are howling and the current is strong?  Luckily we made it through without mishap and were into the Cumberland Sound. 

The rains came as we passed St. Mary’s River which made it difficult at times to see out of our eisenglass windows.  At this point, we knew we were very close to the Florida border.  The only problem now is that there is ‘no room in the inn’ for us!  All the mooring balls and all the docks at Fernandina Harbour Marina were all reserved.  No one wants to anchor with the predicted winds expected for tonight.  The marina did have face docks available but the dockmaster did not recommend sailboats staying there with the direction of the winds and waves.  He did recommend continuing about 5 miles south to the very protected Amelia Island Yacht Basin.   We were all okay with this but the marina didn’t want us until 4:30.  Why 4:30?  Low tide was at 3:30.  They said a 5 foot draft wouldn’t have any difficulty motoring through their channel an hour after low. 

Well if we couldn’t get into the Yacht Basin at low tide, we knew we’d have problems going the 1.5 miles down the Rayonier Reach which is immediately before the marina!  Fernandina Harbour Marina was gracious enough to let us tie up at their face dock for a few hours while we waited once again for more water.  This was cool!  By now it was pouring rain, but we docked and took advantage of the marina’s hospitality by exploring the town of Fernandina.  Rain was not about to stop our walk into town!  We had our foul weather jackets on and our hoods up.  At least with the weather, we didn’t have to fight the crowds!!  The town was very cute, clean, and compact. There were tourist shops up and down both sides of the street for about 6 blocks.  Even though we didn’t buy a thing, it was good just to get off the boat and stretch our legs.

Fernandina Shipyard

We decided to leave the dock at 4:00 to finish our trek down the ICW to the Amelia Yacht Basin.  Of course not long after we were back on the water, Happy Hours II found land, not once but twice!  Luckily we were able to back off the shoals.  Euphoria was behind us, closer to shore, and in deep water.  Al took over the lead and pushed on very slowly down Kingsley Creek(Rayonier Reach) searching for deep water.  At one spot, we could see a huge shoal creeping from the west bank almost out into the center of the canal.  Slowly but surely, we inched our way to the entrance of the Amelia Yacht Basin.  It’s entrance was clearly marked but hardly deep enough.  When we were told this place was very protected, they were right!  It was so protected, we almost couldn’t even get in!!!  Poor Happy Hours….her engine worked so hard plowing through the muddy bottom…1000+  feet  and this was 1.5 hours after low!   I suggested to the dockhands that we shouldn’t have to pay for the night because we just dredged their marina.  I wouldn’t be surprised if at low tide tonight, our keel will be sitting in the MUD!!!

 Pictures from Amelia Island
            Yacht Basin
 The only thing this marina has in its favor that we could see, is the all around protection from the wind. The restrooms and showers weren’t very nice and A1A runs beside the marina as well as a train….very noisy. 

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