21/11/2007/7:13 pm, Fernandina Beach, FL
In between the towns and cities, we have stayed in several beautiful anchorages. Today, having spent the last three nights in such places, seems like a good time to tell you about some of them.
These are not like the anchorages we were used to in the Thousand Islands, or Maine - surrounded by rock and trees - nor are they like the first few we encountered in the ICW - in a bight just off the channel. They are tucked away in the marshes. We motor along a little channel up a creek or down a narrow river. There is usually a significant tide (7 -8 ft) so we check to see just where the tide is when we stop, making sure that we don't go aground when it goes down, and that we have enough chain out to hold us when it goes up. There is rarely enough high vegetation to protect us from wind, but then again, it's been awhile since we had any real wind overnight.
These marshes are all golden and teeming with life. There are pelicans and egrets, blackbirds and grackles, terns and gulls, fish, dolphins, alligators (we hear about although we haven't seen any more since our first one). The water and sky are blue, the mud a rich brown. It smells marshy - not unpleasant - just earthy. There are a few fishing buoys, little boats carrying fishers with their rods and reels, and large shrimp boats with their net laden arms stretched wide and masses of birds flying around or perched on every line or rail. Some fast little boats go speeding by with a man and a dog off for a day's hunting and gathering. When we do find trees, they are massive live oaks, pecans, palmettos, pines - often dripping with Spanish Moss. It is not a parasite, and does not damage the trees. It survives on moisture from the air.
We stopped in the Wahoo River on our first night after leaving Isle of Hope, and enjoyed a very fine happy hour on Strathspey. Paul, Deb and Ginny (Deb's adventurous mother) (Werplayin), Jim (Bees Knees), Nancy and Bruce (Seabird) and Jim and Jeannie (Estelle), and Jim and I joined Mary and Blair in their spacious cockpit. Blair produced his guitar and we all sang a rousing rendition of Johnny Mercer's Moon River in honour of our crossing it earlier in the day. We picked up Jim and Jeannie on the way over, and it didn't take more than a minute and a half for Madcap Jim (Bissell) and Jeannie to discover that they were both at Mount Allison during the same years, and they both carry lingering negative memories of one particular fellow student. It was really too funny for words and Jim (Lea) and I rolled our eyes as the stories flew.
The next morning, Bees Knees and Seabird departed first, very kindly radioing back information on depths for those of us with deeper keels. Not for the first time, we decided to delay our departure till the tide rose a bit and we would be able to move without quite so many anxious looks at the depth sounder. The updated information in our 2007 copy of Dozier's Waterway Guide proved to be accurate and was supported by the findings of our fellow sailors.
We explored parts of Fort Frederica at the next day's stop - along the bank of the Frederica River. There is not much there in the way of buildings any more - the remains of the magazine on the bank of the river, some tabby walls and outlines of where buildings used to be. Tabby - not as in cats. Tabby is the enduring substance used "back in the day" to build houses and walls around these parts. It is a mixture of oyster shells, lime (made from burning piles of shells), sand, and water that was poured into molds. It was usually covered with stucco and whitewashed. Now, it looks like a porous jumble of shells but in many places, has had the staying power to last through hurricanes, floods and fires.
Pecan trees abounded and we picked up handfuls to munch as we walked. They took serious man-fingers to crack open. There were also heavily laden orange trees and Bruce (Seabird) generously peeled one and offered it to Nancy and me. Just as I was about to pop a section into my mouth, his kind nature overcame his mischievous side and he said, "Just try one little bite at a time." These beautiful little oranges were SOUR. One would have to be very concerned about scurvy to eat them - or use up a good portion of the sugar ration. Jim (Bees Knees) told us that the purpose of the trees was not to provide fruit, but so that the fragrant blossoms would overpower the less than fragrant scent of unwashed bodies and primitive sanitation systems.
There were several familiar boats anchored here and we all took advantage of the opportunity to stroll around. Estelle, Bees Knees, Werplayin, Strathspey and Madcap dinghies made their way to the dinghy dock. We decided to row rather than put the motor on so Jim could have a little upper arm exercise. He ended up with more than he planned. We had parked ourselves up river a bit, but thought that the trip home would be easy since Jim was rowing against the current for the 10 minute trip to shore. We forgot about tides turning and by the time we left Strathspey after a post walk visit, Jim had a very strenuous 20-minute row to get us back home.
On Monday morning, we lingered once more in the anchorage, allowing that 7-foot tide to rise before we started off. It was a good thing, because we would never have been able to clear some of the "shoaly" bits at dead low tide. I have been frustrated by the lack of wifi and cellphone coverage in the evenings so we dropped the anchor temporarily off Jekyll Island to do some updating and get some messages. Our winlink position reporting system is still not working reliably either, so it is difficult for folks to know where we are.
We decided to check out Brickhill River that takes a winding course along Cumberland Island, parallel to the ICW route, and find an anchorage in there. This turned out to be another of those perfectly wonderful decisions. Estelle was there, and a small boat was just leaving their side as we came closer. Jeannie called to pass on the information the boater had given them - not to anchor too close to the bank because of significant mudflats at low tide, and his invitation to show them around part of the island the next morning. They came over to Madcap for an evening visit, after which we settled down for another quiet night in the marshes. Quiet until morning that is, when birds arrived to chirp and do "other things" as they perched on our spreaders and life rails.
On Tuesday morning, Jim and Jeannie arrived to pick us up and, because the phone wouldn't work, we went off in search of Thornton, their friendly boater. We wound in and around great muddy banks and shoals - and it was a very good thing they had relocated the night before - to a dock where the familiar boat was secured. As we wandered around the empty property, with Jeannie finally getting a phone connection, Jack came along on his 4-wheel drive to check on the strangers. He had a gentle way of letting us know that we were on private property, but was reassured that we had a local contact and stayed around while we waited for Thornton to arrive. Because we had to leave by noon hour, and Thornton had an 11 o'clock lunch engagement, we ended up piling into his open vehicle - along with Edouard - his little white dog, and bouncing along the woodland trails to his house. We all laughed at his answer to Jeannie's query about whether this was the main road, "No - this is a tributary!" I have to say there was not a lot of difference between tributary and main road.
This island is a National Seashore Park with thousands of acres deeded to the Park Service back in the 1960's by various members of the Carnegie family. A few properties are still held by family members, and the rest is available to shelter wildlife and careful visitors. Wild horses roam freely; turtles, alligators and birds have safe homes, and visitors are able to go ashore at the southern end of the island. Greyfield Inn, once a Carnegie home, Plum Orchard Mansion, and the ruins at Dungeness can all be seen there. Thornton Morris, who acted as counsel for the families who approached the park Service with the proposal to safeguard the island in its natural state, and who is a founding member of the Cumberland Island Conservancy, proved to be an absolutely delightful host as he opened his lovely home to us, shared his stories, his pictures and clear love of the island with us.
Other writers have written about "thin places" those places in Celtic tradition where the tangible world we know comes close to another less tangible one - the world of spirit. It is where we can sense something greater than ourselves and it can be a place or an experience. I think Thornton knows thin places. He gifted us with such an experience that day and gave us a brief introduction to such a place. One just never knows what experiences await in tucked away corners of this world. We would love to have spent another night or two at Cumberland Island, exploring the southern section, but we had to get closer to the Jacksonville airport for reasons I'll get to in a minute. This is one more place to put on our "must visit" list for the spring trip north again.
We encountered a shoal at the southern end of the Brickhill River where it joins Cumberland Divides. Because we had to make Fernandina Beach that afternoon, we left when the tide was a little lower that we preferred, and sure enough we bounced lightly over shoals. Fortunately we had enough momentum to keep moving through it, and it didn't cause us any delays. We tied up to a mooring ball off Fernandina harbour Marina (very reasonable rate of $15.00 plus taxes per day) and were happy to encounter Sally and Steve on Sea Duck and Kathleen and Rich on Wind Drum. We went over to catch up on the news with Wind Drum over drinks, ended up staying for dinner and came home after a thoroughly enjoyable evening with them. Our community of wonderful boating friends is growing wider and richer.
Another sort of shoal is affecting us right now. My mother has been in the hospital with circulation problems. She had surgery a week ago in which a bypass graft was created to bring blood flow to her foot, and is doing reasonably well. My dad continues his excellent care of her - in the hospital now rather than at home. Mary Beth visits almost daily. The anxiety is taking its toll on me however, and I finally decided I just cannot stand being this far away when my mother is ill. So - I am in the process of flying home to Nova Scotia for a week, while Jim stays in Fernandina Beach for a few days and then will perhaps try single-handing. He will not be lonely though, as he joins friends for American Thanksgiving and Mary's birthday celebrations. He will certainly have to find time to make a posting or two about all that!
I'll rejoin the ship next week after spending well-needed time with Mum and Dad, and Mary Beth. I get to see her new apartment and snuggle with the dogs too. I am very grateful that I can make this trip, and increasingly aware that traveling budgets need to be built with room for such events.
Happy Thanksgiving to all our American friends, and also to our Canadian friends who celebrated Thanksgiving in October. We have so very much for which to be thankful.
19/11/2007/12:48 pm, Isle of Hope, GA, Mile 590
We pulled into Isle of Hope Marina late on Friday afternoon after a very windy trip from Beaufort. The wind blew 15-20 all day long with frequent gusts to 30. I was longing to put up even a bit of sail but the ICW twists and turns so much, and is so narrow in places that it just wasn't worth it. Besides if a gust caught us and pulled us sideways in one of the narrow bits, we'd be aground in a flash.
Just as we were coming out of Fields Cut into the Savannah River, we saw a huge container ship go plowing by. I wish I'd had the camera handy - it would have been a good picture to see the ship completely covering the channel. We slowed a bit to let him clear and then proceeded out. The city of Savannah is upriver from the ICW route so we decided not to go up to the city itself with the boat, but to find a marina where we could safely leave the boat while we went exploring. We didn't end up doing quite as much exploration of Savannah as we had planned, but it was a magical stay nonetheless.
The Isle of Hope Marina was a very pleasant place - in a sweet bend in the river - and mercifully, well protected from the wind so docking was easy. Along with bicycles, there are also cars to borrow for 2 hour time periods. Mary signed one out for 6-8 and Jim took the 8-10 block (the last one of the evening) so we were able to drive to the Driftaway Restaurant for dinner and then go into Savannah in search of music. Our meals were excellent - I had shrimp and grits again - this time with crispy onion rings as part of the presentation. Jim's grouper was delicious too.
Enroute to Savannah, the oil light came on in this well-used Lexus we were driving so we made a quick stop to dump in a quart of oil and continued on our way. Mary's excellent navigation took us right down to River Street where we took an evening stroll to the Irish Pub. A good musician/good raiser of toasts/not-so-good-joke teller was entertaining there and we spent an enjoyable couple of hours. It was interesting that he played a couple of Eric Bogle songs (we have loved Bogle's music ever since we first heard him at the Winnipeg Folk Festival 20 years ago), and even one of Terry Kelly's (a musician from Halifax, NS!)
On Friday morning, Jim spent a profitable few hours hooking up a cable from GPS to the NMEA-Out terminals in the Raymarine Seatalk box. Translation: that enables the GPS to transmit latitude and longitude of the vessel in the event of a Mayday, and to send position reports to other boats who know the MMSI number assigned to Madcap. Further translation: in the event of an emergency, all we have to do is press one button which will broadcast a Mayday with our exact location. Friends can also locate us more easily.
I borrowed the marina's van and went shopping, returning with a full load of groceries and some fresh Georgia shrimp.
There were infrequent buses into Savannah, but we caught a midafternoon one - a whole hour-long experience in itself. I had a thoroughly good time listening in on all the conversations around me, trying to hear the differences in dialect, and enjoying the interaction of people; there was none of this silent, mind-your-own-business stuff that is often found on northern buses. It must have been a regular crowd because many of the folks knew each other, but it wasn't just that. At one stop, a woman was sleeping, and a voice called from a few seats back - "Wake her up! This is her stop!" The man sitting beside her complied, and off she went. A young woman and her boyfriend were on the way to the Greyhound station. She said Savannah was just too small for her. There was lots of conversation with the woman across the aisle who patted her arm and wished her well as she got off. I didn't manage to catch where she was going. A fellow got on board and discovered that the boyfriend was a fellow cook. High fives followed and an animated discussion followed on burns and expectations of managers and stories of meals returned because of allergies or diabetic diets that the diners had not mentioned before ordering. A young fellow with dreadlocks and piercings and a hood over his head accidentally stepped on my backpack, and surprised me by flashing a big smile with his "Sorry" and wished us Happy Thanksgiving!
We found a T-Mobile store on Bay Street where we bought some more minutes for our cell phone, took pictures of the Cotton Exchange building - built over an existing street - and then wandered along the waterfront to see if any of the boats tied up there were familiar ones. To our delight, we spied Ripple Effect from Nyak, NY, and this is where the synchronicity part of this tale begins.
We had last seen Jane and Lou in Beaufort and had wanted to talk more with them, so we called down a Hello! They promptly invited us and the other couple standing along the wall near us, down for drinks. The "other couple" - friends neither of us had met before - turned out to be Phil and Margaret on Sunshine (a PDQ) from Indiana. We had a very fine time sharing stories there, but this story gets even better. Phil and Marg were planning to meet their friend Dan at a sushi restaurant and generously invited the rest of us to join them. More animated conversation, and some very good sushi followed. Phil and Marg had offered to drive us back to Isle of Hope (about a 20 minute drive from Savannah - unless you are on a bus) as they went off to McAllisters Point, but Marjorie, Dan's friend, turned out to live right in Isle of Hope and so offered us a ride. How wonderful is that?
As we walked down the street with Marjorie, we met friends of hers. One 25ish young man has a brother in Toronto, is a surfer and has Nova Scotia on his list for future destinations. This young man is just back in college, focused and determined, while at 20 he was still exploring options and discovering himself and his place in the world. This was reassuring news for parents of a 20 year old who is doing the same thing!
We kept marveling for days about all the connections and similarities we found among this little microcosm of the cruising community. This is what it is like! How absolutely beautiful to encounter, and all it takes is a willingness to say, "Yes" when opportunity presents itself.
14/11/2007/12:33 pm, Beaufort, SC, Mile 536.5
It can be a little tricky to remember whether one is talking about Bo-furt in North Carolina or Bu-furt in South Carolina - both spelled Beaufort. Our tour guide in Bu-furt said "Just remember: Beautiful Beaufort by the Sea". That works for us. We left here with fond memories and if our "memories" were a little better, we would be able to relate some of the dozens of stories and historical facts we learned.
Strathspey and Seabird were anchored here along with us so we all got together on Tuesday evening for a pot-luck dinner aboard Strathspey. Mary and Blair roasted some most delicious jerk pork and squash, Nancy and Bruce (Seabird) brought mashed potatoes and brownies, Jim and I provided a broccoli/cauliflower salad and champagne. Champagne you say? Yes indeed, it was an opportunity for celebration. Our son, Liam, told us that morning that he and his girlfriend, Amy, are engaged to be married! No wedding until after we get back - that was one of the "rules" of this trip, but we will have lots of excitement to look forward to. Liam, Amy and Amy's delightful 2-year old daughter, Olivia, make a lovely family and it is fascinating to watch our Liam evolving into this new role of family man!
On Wednesday morning, Jim and I decided to take a walking tour from The Spirit of Old Beaufort - a most fortuitous decision because we were the lucky beneficiaries of Carolyn Clark's marvelous storytelling abilities. Beaufort is the second oldest town in South Carolina, and the whole downtown area is on the National Register of Historic Places, having more antebellum homes per block than any other American town. In the familiar pattern of the south, indigo, rice and cotton plantation owners built splendid houses here, and it is referred to in some sources as the "Newport" of the south. In 1861, a Union armada invaded Beaufort, the landowners fled, and Union soldiers occupied the town. Carolyn showed us many houses that had been used as hospitals and offices during the Civil War. Harriet Tubman worked in one of the hospitals for contraband - the name given to people in that state of limbo between slavery and the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation.
Next time we come here, I want to explore the Sea Islands - where highly prized Sea Island Cotton was grown, and where many of the freed slaves settled, maintaining their Gullah culture and language. There is a whole other aspect of the Civil War story involving Union promises to the freedmen and women, bitterness between the former owners and former slaves. We saw a few houses that had been bought for taxes owing by men who had once lived there as slaves. Robert Smalls bought one property and then gradually bought other small houses and had them moved onto the property for the use of his fellow freedmen.
There were some great stories about this man, who ended up sitting in the US Congress for at least two terms. While still a slave, he was sent to Charleston to earn money and send it back to his owner. One of his jobs was on a tender servicing the Confederate Naval vessels in Charleston Harbour. On one night when the Confederate officers failed to return to the ship after a party, he seized the opportunity. He spread the word to his fellow blacks to round up their families and join him on the "Planter"- the vessel he commandeered. Smalls dressed in the Captain's working clothes, adopted his manner of walking, and stuck his corn cob pipe in his mouth. Since it was dark, they all appeared as silhouettes, and what little attention they gathered from those ashore was complimentary - "My, that crew is working long hours." They fooled the sentries, escaped in this daring move with the vessel to the southern Union headquarters in Beaufort, where he handed it over.
This town has hosted a fair share of movie stars too, as the Big Chill, The Great Santini, Prince of Tides, and Forrest Gump were all partly filmed here. Many of the houses were used as sets and many others were rented to the stars. Carolyn had a very funny Barbara Streisand story. Barbara wanted a house with a swimming pool - and got it. She was annoyed that the fighter jets from nearby US Marine airbase kept doing exercises over the town, disturbing her peace. She called the commander and demanded that the exercises be stopped. She didn't get that. Instead the intensity picked up. Apparently Carolyn used to just point out the house Streisand had rented until one day, a tour member said, "Don't you know the rest of the story?" He was the commander who took the call and made the decision to increase the flights. Another star story involved Tom Hanks who was in his limo on the way to Lady's Island for a run when he encountered a wedding party. He consented to have his picture taken (in T-shirt and running shorts) with all the wedding party and said if they wished to send him the pictures later, he would autograph and return them. Such a contrast.
We learned that Spanish Moss was the cause of the first recall of automobiles. It was used as the stuffing in the seats of Henry Ford's cars. Somebody missed the fact that the moss is full of chiggers (red bugs) and caused some discomfort among the sitters.
We ate crispy fried shrimp at Nippy's, the Beaufort version of fast food - where the seafood was light and tasty and the beer was cold. We strolled along the lovely wide waterfront walkway and sat on the big swings to watch the ships pass. We met Lou and Jane of Ripple Effect - a boat we had seen several times in anchorages (you'll hear more about them in Savannah) and saw a fellow wearing a Rideau Waterway t-shirt.
We had planned to leave there in the early afternoon, but we were having such a nice time that we stayed another night at anchor and left at crack of dawn on Wednesday for a one day run to Isle of Hope - the marina we had booked into for our visit to Savannah, Georgia.