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The First Mate's Journal
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Great Lakes to The Bahamas
Who: Wayne & Pat
Port: Jackson
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Onward to Florida
12/06/2008, Wright River SC to Fernandina Beach FL

124 miles at 6 knots/hr should put us in Fernandina Florida in roughly 21 hours, at 5 knots we figured about 24 hours going through the cut, down the Savannah River.

We raised anchor at 10:30 and slowly wound our way out of the River amongst the shallows, crab pots, birds that were fishing and porpoises that were competing with the birds for the fish. It was an amazing morning watching the porpoises jumping, diving and snatching fish away from the various seabirds. It was like watching an action movie of acrobatics in the water, all around us, as they swam under us and next to us. Wayne could have reached over the side and touched the beautiful creatures several times. Their speed in the water is amazing. Watching their graceful movements, then watching the pelicans diving head first into the water made me feel sorry for the pelicans. Splash! Head first, with wings flapping... Pelicans must get headaches (and wingaches) from smacking into the water. They always seem to come up looking disoriented, groggy maybe... What a way to make a living - especially if you come up with an empty bill. It made for an interesting and entertaining departure from S. Carolina this morning.

We had the tide and current running against us as we went through Fields Cut to the Savannah River and out to the Atlantic. Our engine speed read 6 knots but our course over ground read 4 to 5 depending on our position in the current and the flow of the rivers and creeks as we crossed them. We had an escort of dolphins following the fishing boats, and us, and one poor boat was covered birds trying to swarm them for their shrimp. It looked like a dark cloud surrounding the boat only it was a cloud of birds.

The ocean was very benign as we started out with waves 1 ft or less and winds less than 5 knots. It was kind of strange to think that we were out over 4 - 5 miles off shore and yet had a depth of 25 ft. We could anchor here on the continental shelf if need be. I couldn't believe how calm it was, specially knowing that it was going to build during the night as a weak cold front was approaching to be pushing off shore sometime after midnight. I love the rhythmic swaying of the ocean swell when it's like this. It's like the water is breathing in and out as we rise up and down. It lulls you into a false sense of well-being. It's a very gray day out. The water and sky seem to merge into the same gray color pallet to the southeast making it difficult to distinguish where sky and ocean merge. A thin band of dark to the northwest breaks up the gray, letting me know that Georgia is there - to the northwest, buried in the gray mist. There's a line of shrimp boats or long line fishing boats with their nets heading NE as we head SW that adds splashes of color to the gray tones that surround us. A white hull stands out with green nets here. Next a blue hulled vessel, then another white with green trim. Time to turn on the radar to make sure it works tonight.

Wayne's next to me napping as I watch the boats. He'll probably have the first night watch so we'll catch naps as we can. I watch another sailboat that's heading eastward and wonder where it's heading. It's sprinkling out now and the sailboat I was watching is harder and smaller to see, barely visible as it disappears into the gray on the horizon. At 4pm the ocean is still benign. Looking at the swells and waves reminds me of blue/gray silk fluttering about. Very pretty - molten, flowing silk...beautiful.

Crunch time at the bridge
12/04/2008, Factory Creek, E. of Lady Island Bridge (N32*25.202, W80*39.251) to Wright River Anchorage, SC (N32*04.254, W80*55.119)

Thursday, December 4, 2008

We raised anchor at 9am and left at idle speed toward the bridge to make sure we had the 10am opening. I radioed the bridge tender our vital statistics and the other boats that followed us out of the creek did the same. We could see a large barge and tug waiting in the channel with 5 other sailboats behind it. I called the bridge tender back to ask her if there was a preferred order to go through the opening, since if we pulled into the channel we'd be ahead of the barge (not a good idea since they move pretty much faster than us), and she said the barge first, then sailboats behind - so the sailboats behind us went around us and fell in line behind the others that were waiting in the main channel. We idled in forward until the bridge opened, then followed the other boats, but when we got to the bridge, the two boats that we were behind were in the opening and started colliding with each other. The current was pretty fast there and and we had to really crank it into reverse (hard) to avoid being boat number 3 going crunch in the opening... Something happened to one of the boats - Julie Ann - she looked like she was being towed by a much smaller boat (Mistrell). It looked like the current moved Julie Ann at a faster pace than Mistrell could keep up with. I'm so glad we didn't end up in that entanglement. We all made it through with the bridge tender looking on. I kidded her about getting muscles from all the manual openings and asked her about how much longer before the bridge would be fixed - Another week at least...

We ended up anchored in between Jones and Turtle Island in a seabed/marsh area in the Wright River with two other sailboats in about 12 ft of water between a couple of crab pots. We'll be here for tonight and tomorrow since the winds are picking up and a low-pressure system is moving in bringing rain and possible thunderstorms (cold front moving offshore). We're right off of the Savannah River where we'll be leaving the ICW and going back out into the Atlantic so we need a weather window and to get the boat ready to go out (stow stuff, put the dingy on deck, etc...).

Critters & Crabpots
12/03/2008, S. Edisto River Anchorage (N32*37.218, W80*23.87) to Factory Creek, E. of Lady Island Bridge (N32*25.202, W80*39.251)

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Up early again (what else is new) and while looking out of the window, making coffee, it looked like a picture morning so I took my camera up top and was shooting pictures of the docks in the early morning light with fog when I heard a very loud snorting and thrashing of the trees and brush on the shore. It scared the bejabers out of me. I couldn't see anything but could definitely hear it storming through the underbrush - branches snappings and leaves being crunched. I scouted out all the pathways to the water but couldn't see anything. I must have scared whatever it was that came down to the water to drink when I came up and it must have stood still for a while before clamoring off into the woods and grassland. Originally I thought it might have been a large buck, but that wouldn't have made the noise and ruckus I heard. Next thought was bear - that would make a lot of noise running through the trees/grasslands. While meandering back to the ICW I saw some large wild boar moving along the water into the brush and a gray coyote. One boar was huge! Probably what I heard earlier this morning. Didn't know they could snort so loud or break branches!

We also saw more dolphins today - they seem to be more numerous the farther we go! Speaking of which - the swing bridge we're coming up to has been broken since before Thanksgiving (Lady Island Bridge). It only opens at 10:00 am and 2:00 pm. People had been saying it was closed, but it does open twice a day to let boat traffic through - they need to open and close it manually until the parts to fix it come in - so we'll be anchoring in the creek next to it since we missed the 2:00 opening by 20 minutes. We could hear boats giving the bridge tender their names and hailing ports an hour before hand and it sounded like their were a lot of boats waiting for the 2pm opening of the bridge. It was amazing as we pulled up - you could see cars backed up for miles waiting for the bridge to let them cross. I hailed the bridge to make sure they were still opening at 10 am the next morning then we set about looking for somewhere to anchor in the creek right next to the bridge.

We ended up anchoring across from some houses next to the grassland across the creek. It was strange to watch the grass get taller than the boat as the tide lowered us in the water. You could see the black mud the grass was growing in get taller and thicker. One minute you see us, the next - from down river - all you see is our mast LOL.

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