Thursday, April 1, 2010

Snowbirds Fly North

I think that is an apt title, as that is what snowbirds do, and although I didn't exactly fly south, my trip down was hampered by cold weather which brought on a lot of stops, but in comparison it does seem like I am flying north. Or as my friend Sven would say, zooming.

Over the course of the past few days I have put some miles behind me, some over new territory, I avoided the interior of Georgia on the way down, but could not avoid it on the way north, thanks to the weather, and some of it tracking back over the course I followed south. On Saturday I left Dernandina Beach and put Florida behind me. I set off a bit late after walking Spook and refueling, and I was in the company of Galena, a Beneteau 36 out of Ontario, that was one of the boats in the pack I sailed with out of St Augustine. We made for Georgia, and held a fairly good pace for the early part of the day, motor sailing through the southern part of Georgia, and winding up and across as the ICW does there. Larry and Roberta were some where behind me having stopped the night before 10 miles shy of Fernandina, but I figured they would catch me sooner or later.

By early afternoon we were at Jekyll Creek, and Galena pulled off, expecting thunderstorms, but I kept on going as the weather seemed to be holding and thanks to the wind and current I was making good headway. Jekyll Creek is one of those areas on the ICW that sailors dread, and one of the reasons I skipped Georgia on the way down, at low tide the channel there gets very narrow, and, extremely shallow. As fate would have it, what time do you think I arrived there? At low tide of course. I was still under sail as I entered the creek, and as I made my way through it, I could feel the rudder vibrate the way it does when the boat is in very shallow water and the prop seems to cavitate. I was watching the depth guage, and keeping my fingers crossed. Its not like it would have been a disaster if I got stuck, the tide goes out, and it comes back in, so refloating would have happened, but, the question would have been when. That would be the big problem if I were to get stuck, just how much time would I waste waiting on the tide to float me free. All that worry was for naught, even though I felt the boat ooze through the silty bottom a few times, I never did get stuck, just slowed a bit by the mud, and then I was into deeper water. Well, ok, I was actually floating and not sitting in pudding.

Out of Jekyll Creek and into the St Simon sound, where another familiar boat, Patina out of Annapolis, pulled off for the night. They asked if I was stopping, but there was 4 or 5 more hours of daylight, and the rain hadn't started yet. So I sailed on. 40 minutes I heard Roberta on the radio calling the marina on St Simons Island, and shortly after that she called me on the phone. I told her I was going to keep going until I either ran out of daylight, got caught in a downpour, or made it to the anchorage I had picked out on the chart further on. As it turned out, it never rained, I made great time, and I didn't stop at the primary anchorage, I made it further, in daylight, to an anchorage about 6o nautical miles from where I started. What a day.

I drifted on anchor that night in a creek that had a strong current, and I figured that the Bruce was having trouble holding in the mud, even though I knew it should do really well in the thick bottom goop. Aftetr the alarm went off for the 10th time I went up and dropped the CQR, wich does not do so well in mud, but I figured just by sheer weight of the anchor and the all chain rode I would hold, and I did. When I got up in the morning I had a beautiful sunrise, and I was soon hauling up the Bruce anchor, and what a suprise I found. Out there in the middle of nowhere, in a forgotton creek in the center of Georgia, my anchor had dropped right onto an abandoned crab pot and got fouled. No wonder I dragged, who would have figured that there would be something like that right where I decided to drop the hook. It took a bit to get it untangled, and then I pulled the CQR and was off again.

The morning was beautiful, and as I sailed along I got a bit of sun, and had a pretty uneventful day. I put down some miles, but due to some adverse currents I did not have the pace of the day before. But what I did have was luck, even if I didn't have the tide. I came to the second choke point in Georgia, another shallow, narrow cut in the ICW aptly called Hell's Gate. It was low tide again, and I used the same logic as before, if I get stuck the tide will come in and float me free. The channel in Hell's Gate was not well marked, one of the channel markers had come free of it mooring and was washed up on shore, and I shot the middle of the channel as best as I could figure it to be. I was really pushing through mud, and I could feel the tiller stiffen up as I pushed through the slop that made up the bottom of the channel. I came really close to getting stuck, but as before Arden pushed through, and then the tiller freed up as I cleared the worst of it. Off again, and before long I was having to decide if I was going to try and catch the draw bridge at Causton Bluff and get to the border before dark, or if I was going to stop and anchor with an hour or so of daylight. Common sense prevailed, and I pulled in to Herb Creek and dropped the hook.

I had a great night on the anchor, this had to be one of the best anchorages I have been in on this trip. Good holding, extremely protected, the only thing I was lacking was internet. Oh well, sometimes you can't have it all, and this night I did have it pretty good.

In the morning my dad called for the 5am wake up, and at day break I was off again. As luck would have it that was all for nothing, I was 7 minutes late for the Causton Bluff Bridge opening, and I had to waste 53 minutes anchored waiting on the next one. Once the bridge opened I was off, and on my way again. There was nothing really remarkable about the trip this day, I motorsailed, made pretty good time, and by 1030 I was clear of Georgia and into South Carolina. Up through the ICW, several rivers, the Calibogue Sound and then up to the Port Royal Sound and the Beaufort River. Beaufort, SC was the next stop, and I pulled in to the municple marina around 430 to top off on fuel and go out on the hook. The dockmaster there was great, as as they weren't too busy, he let me stayed tied up while I got Spook off for a walk, and then gave me the passcode for the facilities there. As I went up to shower he and I talked a good bit, mostly about Beaufort history and the Civil War, and before I knew it, he basicly tols me to stay over night. As`I was walking back from my shower I bumped into the crew from Galena, they were tied up there, and then I got a call from Larry and Roberta, they had sailed outside from St Simons and were just getting in.

This morning I got another wake up call, and I had to get moving quick to make the last opening of the Lady's Island Bridge, if you don't get through before 7 you're not getting through until after 9. I made it through the bridge at 0645, and day was breaking as I sailed for the Coosaw River. I didn't see the bridge open for Roberta and Larry, so I figured they did not get through before 7. Lo and behold, about an hour later I saw that familiar catamaran nose around the last bend behind me, and here comes Symmetry. They trailed me all the way until 1030, when Larry was finally able to overtake and pass me. I was travelling over familiar ground now, alot of memories on this leg of the trip for me, past Sam's Point where I had anchored before and gpot great pictures of Arden, past Ross Marine where I refueled, got stuck on the dock and baked bread while I froze. We pulled up short in Wappoo Creek, the current that we fought all day shorted us on the bridge opening by 20 minutes, and we were going to have to wait 2 1/2 hours until the next one.

I made popcorn as I waited, read my book and got a bit more sun. I knew that once the bridge opened I was going to have to boogie, I needed to get across Charleston Harbor and up to the Ben Sawyer bridge before dark. Once again it is a matter of restricted hours, the bridge is closed from 7 to 9, and there was no way I could get up in time and underway to make a 7 mile run for the bridge before 7am. So I plowed on, and slipped into the ICW on the north side of Charleston harbor just as the sun set. I made it to the bridge and was through by 8pm, just as darkness fell, and then I was picking my way to Isle of Palms in the dark by my GPS track from the trip south. I was in and tied up at the dock by 930, tired, sunburned and ready to call ity a day.

Over the past 4 days I have made 244 miles north, from the top of Florida to the lower 1/3 of South Carolina. It has been a long 4 days, but easy sailing for the most part. I feel a bit driven to get north, and try to figure out what I will do once this trip of mine is over. Tomorrow I set out early again, the goal is Georgetown, maybe even Buskport if I am lucky and ride the tides, and maybe, if the weather is good, Friday will be an outside day taking me all the way to North Carolina.