Fort Pierce to Savannah
12 April 2021 | Savannah, GA
We left the marina at Fort Pierce Thursday morning, April 1, at slack water (low tide) and promptlyy ran aground in the marina fairway. This was the first incidence of low tide grounding in that spot in a few years according to the marina staff, but they recalled from the last time that there was deeper water near the north side and we squeaked by in short order. Apparently the strong currents had deposited a sand bar there in the few weeks since we'd been out last. We made decent progress northward in the ICW against building north winds which were up to 20-25 kts by the time we anchored south of the causeway between Melbourne and Indialantic. This was a good spot to stay protected from the north winds which only increased overnight and remained in the 20-30 kt range for much of Friday. On Saturday, we got underway early and continued north inside of Cape Canaveral, past Titusville, and New Smyrna to anchor in Daytona Beach, with occasional sail assist along the way while the winds were NE 10-15 kts. By Monday, winds had calmed and we continued motoring northwards to reach St. Augustine by 14:30, where we had reserved a mooring for two nights. We once again enjoyed this town, where we took long walks and ate at a few favorite places.
Early Tuesday (Apr 6) morning we passed through the Bridge of Lions drawbridge before 07:00 and headed out the inlet for a day run up the coast. By this point the weather was in a very stable pattern of morning land breeze and afternoon sea breeze so we were able to sail much of the way about 5 miles off the coast. The inlet currents were with us as well and got a good push as we headed into St Mary's inlet at the FL - GA border, then proceeded north to anchor off the national park docks at Cumberland Island, GA. We first visited here on our return trip north in 2017 and really love the place. The next morning we spent hiking the trails through the massive oaks with hanging moss and palmetto understory. We saw the wild horses near the ruins of the old mansion at Dungeness, and walked on the boardwalk over dunes to the vast beach and were the only ones there at the time. It was again a highlight of our travels along the East Coast. That afternoon, we departed for a short trip up to Jekyll Island where we anchored for the night to be able to navigate Jekyll Creek at high tide the next day. So Thursday we headed north with plenty of water under us. Tidal range here is approaching 9 feet, so it pays to get the timing right for our six foot draft and not try to get through shallow bits at low tide. After exiting Jekyll Creek into the Brunswick River and then into St Simons sound we passed the great wreck of the "Golden Ray". This ship is a huge car carrier that suddenly capsized in the ship channel approach to Brunswick, GA, in September 2019. There is a massive salvage effort that is now ongoing and the lift cranes can be seen across the marshes from miles away, and is quite a sight. See https://gcaptain.com/golden-ray-wreck-removal-returns-to-stubborn-section-seven-as-operation-drags-on/?subscriber=true&goal=0_f50174ef03-c5ce681b24-139833921&mc_cid=c5ce681b24&mc_eid=d3189fcd4c
North from St Simons Sound we wound our way through the natural waterways to anchor at midday in Buttermilk Sound to wait for a tide change. The next section involved the Little Mud River which reportedly has only 3.6 ft at low tide, so we were sure to be passing through that on a rising tide. By 16:00 we had +3.0 ft so started our way north with a following tidal current. During the trip we saw nothing less than 8.7 ft following the latest Bob423 long track and it was mostly greater than 10 ft. This took us across Doboy Sound and up Old Teakettle Creek to an anchoring spot on the Crescent River. One notable feature of this trip so far was the lack of boat traffic of all kinds, no overtaking power boats, very few fishermen. We did encounter one sailboat that actually seemed to have sailed the whole way from St Simons Sound through the same Little Mud River to anchor in the same area with us that night.
Friday (Apr 9) was calm and peaceful while we hoisted anchor and proceeded northwards. This took us down the Sapelo River, across Sapelo Sound and up west of St Catherines Island. From there it was across St Catherine's Sound, up the Bear River then off the ICW for a mile up Kilkenny Creek. This was again all natural waterways through marshlands dotted with hammocks (clumps of land with trees and scrub). We found our intended anchorage at midday on Kilkenny Creek where we stayed the night after a dinghy ride ashore to find a good restaurant there. The small settlement along the creek there was the only real development we encountered since starting out in the morning. Saturday morning (Apr 10) we made a short day of it (29 nm) to get to the marina at Thunderbolt on the outskirts of Savannah. This took us down the Ogeechee River, through Hell Gate (a non-issue especially at mid tide), and up the Vernon River, Burnside River, Skidaway River and upper reaches of the Wilmington River. We stayed at the long face dock at the Hinckley Yacht Service yard there which was nice, for two nights in order to do some exploring in Savannah on Sunday (Apr 11). A frontal passage came through Saturday evening with some winds and T-storms, so it was good to be secure at the dock for a time. We enjoyed the day in Savannah, taking the tourist trolley and walking between the many squares with massive oaks and lunch at a pub in an old stone structure near the waterfront. Monday AM we were off early and across the Savannah River into South Carolina. Crossing this deep narrow river was interesting with the oncoming container ship and dredging operation at the entrance to the waterway on the north side.