Hello virtual crew members and fellow adventurers!
I would like to welcome Tomwintexas@….. aboard as a virtual crew member. Welcome aboard Tom! Hope you enjoy the adventure.
Since leaving Jacksonville on Thursday, our crew has found themselves in the midst of a mighty big windstorm. Seems there is a low pressure area out in the Atlantic that has caused 20 mph north-north east winds hammering the southern seaboard. This has caused some rough water as the crew has crossed the sounds of Georgia. In fact, crossing one sound, the crew encountered the biggest waves to date on this adventure. But more on that later.
Some virtual crew members have asked if there is a way to follow the route more accurately on a map. I am proud to let you know that there is an app for that. Not really sure what an app is but the skipper informs me that you will know. When I was a captain and cruising we did not have all this fancy electronic gizmo’s. My how times have changed.
But back to the app. In nautical lingo we call them charts not maps. Go to your app store and search for Avenza PDF Maps. Download the free app. Within the app there is a store. You can go to the in app store and download free charts of the areas the crew is passing thru by putting the chart number in the search window. Even has a pretty magenta line that shows the travel path through the water. On travel days, the skipper updates the 2016 travel map link. The skipper will provide you the chart numbers along with a short summary of the day’s cruise in the travel map link.
Now to catch up on the wanderings of our crew.
As I already mentioned the crew left Jacksonville on Thursday, April 14, 2016. They did get about an hour late start because the dry cleaners, who promised they would return the items in need of cleaning by Wednesday, failed to return all items. The cleaners said the late items would arrive Thursday morning. The Admiral went to pick them up and the items still were missing in action. The owner made another promise that they will mail the items to the Admiral once the articles arrive.
Once the Admiral returned empty handed, the crew shoved off at 0955 to head to Fernandina Beach. The trip from Ortega to the Atlantic ICW is about 26 miles. It was low tide when they left Ortega, so the water was, well, low which made for a slow go in the misty morning. The water is only 5-7 feet deep in the marked channel until you get to the St Johns River. With the misty rain it was hard to find and see the markers.
Once the crew found the Fuller-Warren Bridge they had to idle speed thru the 5 Jacksonville downtown Bridges. Finally, at 1106, the crew passed under the last bridge and could set some speed on the engines.
The crew found their first ICW marker at flashing red 88 at about mile 740 and made a turn to port up Sisters Creek. As a reminder, the mile markers count down the mileage to Norfolk, Virginia. So the crew is 740 miles from their destination for this first leg of the journey through Florida and Georgia.
The skipper has started using a crowd sourced program called ‘Active Captain’. He was not sure how it worked and had trouble getting it to run on the iPad so he did not use the program during the 2015 adventure. However, Greg has since taught him how to use the program and the skipper has it running on a small android tablet. While running the program, the ‘Active Captain’ talks to you and warns the skipper when there is a known hazard ahead.
So about 1330, while still in Sisters Creek, the ‘Active Captain’ voice came on and warned of a shoaling hazard in the middle of the channel between green 73 and red 74. The skipper picked up the tablet and reviewed a few of the comments and noticed that as boaters approached green 73 that the depth went to 5 feet at low tide. As the crew actually got within 50 yards of green 73 the depth began to change and eventually got to 4.5 feet before returning to 13 feet. The skipper said he really likes this new set up with ‘Active Captain’. Thanks Greg for taking the time to show the skipper how to be safer on the water.
At 1600 the crew docked at Fernandina Harbor Marina. Luckily the dock master put them inside the breakwater just opposite a couple of large 58 foot boats on the outside of the breakwater. The two boats blocked the wind and the breakwater stopped the wave action. Those two big boats on the outside were not so lucky. They rocked and rolled all night in the high winds and waves.
The crew could only stay one night in Fernandina so they made the best of the situation. First stop was the Fudge Factory for desert and then to the Marina Seafood Restaurant for supper.
The Marina Seafood Restaurant Building has a rich history. Major William B.C. Duryee completed the building in the mid 1880’s. The building was the first US Customs House in the United States. The Customs House occupied the building into the early 1900’s.
The building then housed the oldest newspaper (the Florida Mirror) in the state of Florida. The restaurant also began to share the building with the newspaper in the early 1900’s. The restaurant was also the first Five Star Restaurant in Northeast Florida. The skipper reports that the food was delicious.
Friday April 15, 2016
The crew departed from the marina at 0900 with strong winds and worsening conditions projected. Winds were around 20 mph with gusts 25-30. At 0935 the crew crossed into Georgia as they crossed the Cumberland Sound. This section of Georgia Coast is a series of small islands. In between each Island is an inlet and sound.
Around noon ‘Active Captain’ warned of shoaling ahead at mile 704. The skipper reviewed the comments and determined that they needed to steer wide of the red markers and favor the green markers as they rounded the approaching curve. With the boat at green 63, the Admiral targeted green 59A and then moved further to the green side of the channel. Even with these precautions, the depth sounder began to show 7, 6, 5 and then 4 feet of water. The props were churning the mud up bad so the skipper took the helm and backed her up. He moved the boat further outside the green line and still found 4 foot water. He backed out again, scooted over some more and still could not get past the shoal. The crew decided to back up to 10 feet of water, drop anchor and wait for the rising tide to give them some more depth.
After dropping the anchor, a big Cat approached and radioed the crew to see if they needed help. The crew explained their dilemma and the Cat captain responded that he knew the way and said, “follow me.” The skipper watched as the big Cat continued past green 63 following the shore line. When the Cat had green 59A off his port side about 9 o’clock he made a hard turn to port and motored past the shoal in 13 feet of water.
Our skipper pulled anchor and executed the same maneuver and also cleared the shoal. The skipper also updated ‘Active Captain’ to give other boaters more info how to get past this tricky curve at low tide.
While in the Cumberland River a south bound Captain hailed the skipper on the radio and asked if they were headed to Jekyll Sound. The skipper answered in the affirmative. The captain of the south bound vessel mentioned that they had just crossed and it was very rough. He cautioned going into the sound into the wind. The skipper thanked him for the warning and pressed on. As the crew got closer to Jekyll Sound the waves began to build. They were growing to 3 footers and making for an interesting ride.
Click on the pic above to take a two minute ride on Still Waters II as she enters Jekyll Sound and rides 2-3 foot waves. The waves continue to build and get larger as the video runs.
The skipper increased speed to get the vessel up on top of the waves to smooth out the ride. As the south bound captain had warned, the sound was very bad. The worst our skipper has seen on this adventure. The bow of Still Waters II is 7 feet out of the water. It is not a pretty picture when the waves are as high as the bow of the boat. But Still Waters II has proved her sea going strength and handled the waves much better than the crew. With a little persistence all was better at 1443 as the crew finally made it to mile 685 and into a narrow creek.
At about 1611, the crew took a small side trip up the Frederica River. The crew dropped anchor across from Fort Frederica National Monument at 1657 and were glad to get some rest.
Saturday April 16, 2016
At 0900 the crew launched the dinghy and tried to get to the dinghy dock at the Fort. Unfortunately, the current was strong and working with the wind to push the dinghy the wrong direction. The dinghy finally made it close to shore where the skipper then headed her into the wind and current. The Admiral took over steering the dinghy while the captain assisted the little motor by paddling. The crew finally reached the dinghy dock and took a walk around the grounds of the National Monument. Interesting place.
The Fort was established by the British on lands claimed by the Spanish. Then the British claimed that the lands south of the Fort but north of the Spanish Fort at St Augustine were disputed lands. As expected, the Spanish disputed these claims and went to war to reclaim their land. The short of it is the Spanish lost and the British took control of what we now call Georgia.
There was also a small town that was started to support the Fort. John Wesley actually visited and preached at the town and Fort. But the most interesting character was a crazy lady described below.
After spending the morning at the Fort, the crew headed back to the mother ship. The current was still headed in the direction of Still Waters II so the crew just drifted down to her. Once they got beside her the skipper tried to grab the railings, but the speed of the dingy just about pulled him out of the dingy. Plan B was quickly devised and the crew turned the dinghy behind the mother ship and managed to fight the current to get back on the stern swim platform.
After the dinghy was secured, the crew pulled anchor and went 23 miles north to anchor in the Crescent River. The crew had anchored here back on November 3, 2015 and found the same peaceful surroundings.
Sunday April 17, 2016
The winds started out strong but began to weaken as the day went on. The cloudy skies also began to break up and the sun finally showed itself for the first time since leaving Jacksonville. By early afternoon, the skies were clear and the wind was down to a more manageable 15 mph. The crew had an easy day of cruising and pulled into the Isle of Hope Marina (ICW mile 590) on the edge of Savannah.
The marina was very nice. Had loaner cars and bicycles. The crew used a car and made a Wal-Mart run to restock on a few items.
Monday April 18, 2016
Finally, calm seas and sunshine. Weather report was for only 5-10 mph winds today with a high in the low 70’s. The crew only planned a short 26 mile cruise today to Hilton Head Island. They decided to take on fuel before leaving the marina. However, the fuel dock was full of boats tied up for the night. About 0930, the fuel dock cleared and the crew maneuvered over to get fuel.
After fueling, the next 10 miles were a slow go at mostly idle speed due to the number of marinas in the area. At 1140, the crew crossed the Savannah River and entered South Carolina.
At 1214, the first of many Coast Guard radio calls went out about a 38 year old male who was missing. Seems he went out kayaking last night and still had not returned. The Coast Guard was asking people in the area of the Savannah River to keep an eye out and report any sightings of a blue kayak. Grim reminder that this is not all fun and games.
The crew pulled into Harbor Town at the Yacht Basin. The plan is to spend two nights here and explore Hilton Head Island and prepare for the second leg of this journey through South Carolina in route to Norfolk, Virginia.