Sometimes You Win
04 January 2011 | Brunswick, GA
Two days ago we set out without a definite plan and ran into problems trying to plan on the fly. Today, I had everything worked out, we decided we would push hard to make the next listed marina, Two Way Fish Camp. We were concerned about two things. The first was getting through Little Mud River, which had reported shoaling, and it sounded like at low tide we might not be able to get through. The second was having time enough to make the 54-mile run between the two marinas. The solution to both seemed to be to get an early start. High tide where we were was at about 8:30 in the morning. Low tide where we stayed would be just before 3 PM. The problem is, the time of the tides varies by more than an hour, so we weren't sure of the time of low tide for Little Mud River. It seemed best to start early and try to beat the low tide, though. So that's what we did.
It's hard to judge how well you'll do because the current changes as you go. The ICW in this area goes from one sound to another along interconnected rivers and creeks that wind through the low country. As you pass from one sound to another you first go west, then south, then east. If the tide is flowing out, you will be going against the current when you are going west. Somewhere along the southern part the current will switch, and as you head east, you will be going with the current. It's the opposite if the tide is coming in. Since the currents can add or subtract up to a bit over 2 knots to your speed, if your engine will push you along at about 6 knots your speed over ground can be from 4 knots to 8 knots. We can see this easily, because the knot meter measures our speed relative to the water and the GPS and chart plotter show our speed over ground.
So we started out right at 7 AM, which is actually before sunrise. It was easy to see, though, and even the crab pots showed up well. We had already gone several miles when I took this picture of the sun rising over the low country. We are heading into St. Catherine's Sound and you can see the ocean on the right.
We continued on steadily. Little Mud River was towards the end of our planned run, so we were pushing all day to make it before low tide. There is not much you can do except to run the engine as fast as you're comfortable (and we are very conservative with the old Lehman Peugeot, parts are hard to come by). In any case, we came to Little Mud River at about 12:30 PM. We were just past maximum current, the tide was still rolling out and the current was with us for this part. The river itself was fairly narrow, so there weren't many channel markers. Bud tried to keep to the center and used the depth finder to tell him if he was getting too far over. At one point he did get out of the channel a bit and the depth dropped to 3' 10". Since our depth finder is on the bottom of the hull, next to the keel, you need to add a couple of feet to that for the actual water level. Bud said when we touched the bottom in the Hudson, the depth finder read 2' 7". Still, anything less than 6 feet on the depth finder makes us nervous. Bud had the engine slowed, but with the current we were still moving through there fairly quickly. In about a half hour we were through.
We talked about pushing right through to Brunswick, but didn't think we could do it. I called Two Way Fish Camp to make sure they could take us. They couldn't! It's a marina subject to strong currents, so they only like to put sailboats on the "T" ends of the docks where you can tie alongside and don't have to pull in. The "T" ends were all full, so we were out of luck. It was a good thing we'd made such good time so far, because now we had to go another 13 miles to the next marina. We weren't sure we could make it by 5 when the light starts to go.
The engine was running cool, so Bud sped it up by a couple of hundred RPM. At first the current (still ebb tide) was against us and we were doing less that 5 knots. Almost immediately we cut into a smaller creek and the current dropped and our speed increased to about 5.6 knots. Before too long we passed the high point on that part of the route and for the last 12 miles we had the current with us. At one point we were doing 9.3 knots. We ended up getting all the way to Morning Star Marina just outside of Brunswick by 3:30. We had gone 60 nautical miles.
We called the Platt's, who live only about 5 miles from this marina, cleaned up the boat and ourselves a bit and had a nice visit with them aboard. And we thought we'd have a hard time getting to Two Way Fish Camp. So much for plans.